Beginning with the paradoxes of zombie twins, we present an argument that dualism is both true and false. We show that avoiding this contradiction is impossible. Our diagnosis is that consciousness itself engenders this contradiction by producing contradictory points of view. This result has a large effect on the realism/anti-realism debate, namely, it suggests that this debate is intractable, and furthermore, it explains why this debate is intractable. We close with some comments on what our results mean for metaphysics (...) and philosophy, in general. (shrink)
I aim to clarify the relationship between the success of a theory and the truth of that theory. This has been a central issue in the debates between realists and anti-realists. Realists assume that success is a reliable indicator of truth, but the details about the respects in which success is a reliable indicator or test of truth have been largely left to our intuitions. Lewis (Synthese 129:371–380, 2001) provides a clear proposal of how success and truth might be connected, (...) comparing a test of success of our theories to medical tests with low rates of false positives and false negatives. But, contrary to what Lewis claims, I argue that it is not enough for the realist to undercut the claim that success is not a reliable indicator of truth. Rather, the realist must show that our current best theories are likely true. Further, I argue that tests in science are unlike medical tests in a number of important ways. (shrink)
Open future is incompatible with realism about possible worlds. Since realistically conceived (concrete or abstract) possible worlds are maximal in the sense that they contain/represent the full history of a possible spacetime, past and future included, if such a world is actual now, the future is fully settled now, which rules out openness. The kind of metaphysical indeterminacy required for open future is incompatible with the kind of maximality which is built into the concept of possible worlds. The paper discusses (...) various modal realist responses and argues that they provide ersatz openness only, or they lead to incoherence, or they render the resulting theory inadequate as a theory of modality. The paper also considers various accounts of the open future, including rejection of bivalence, supervaluationism, and the ‘thin red line’ view (TRL), and claims that a version of (TRL) can avoid the incompatibility problem, but only at the cost of deflating the notion of openness. (shrink)
Anti-realism is a doctrine about logic, language, and meaning that is based on the work of Wittgenstein and Frege. In this book, Professor Tennant clarifies and develops Dummett's arguments for anti-realism and ultimately advocates a radical reform of our logical practices.
At a time when the analytic/continental split dominates contemporary philosophy, this ambitious work offers a careful and clear-minded way to bridge that divide. Combining conceptual rigor and clarity of prose with historical erudition, A Thing of This World shows how one of the standard issues of analytic philosophy—realism and anti-realism—has also been at the heart of continental philosophy. Using a framework derived from prominent analytic thinkers, Lee Braver traces the roots of anti-realism to Kant's idea that the mind (...) actively organizes experience. He then shows in depth and in detail how this idea evolves through the works of Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault, and Derrida. This narrative presents an illuminating account of the history of continental philosophy by explaining how these thinkers build on each other's attempts to develop new concepts of reality and truth in the wake of the rejection of realism. Braver demonstrates that the analytic and continental traditions have been discussing the same issues, albeit with different vocabularies, interests, and approaches. By developing a commensurate vocabulary, his book promotes a dialogue between the two branches of philosophy in which each can begin to learn from the other. (shrink)
This paper compares Kant's transcendental idealism with three main groups of contemporary anti-realism, associated with Wittgenstein, Putnam, and Dummett, respectively. The kind of anti-realism associated with Wittgenstein has it that there is no deep sense in which our concepts are answerable to reality. Associated with Putnam is the rejection of four main ideas: theoryindependent reality, the idea of a uniquely true theory, a correspondence theory of truth, and bivalence. While there are superficial similarities between both views and Kant's, (...) I find more significant differences. Dummettian anti-realism, too, clearly differs from Kant's position: Kant believes in verification-transcendent reality, and transcendental idealism is not a theory of meaning or truth. However, I argue that part of the Dummettian position is extremely useful for understanding part of Kant's position - his idealism about the appearances of things. I argue that Kant's idealism about appearances can be expressed as the rejection of experiencetranscendent reality with respect to appearances. (shrink)
The basic question of ontology is “What exists?”. The basic question of metaontology is: are there objective answers to the basic question of ontology? Here ontological realists say yes, and ontological anti-realists say no. (Compare: The basic question of ethics is “What is right?”. The basic question of metaethics is: are there objective answers to the basic question of ethics? Here moral realists say yes, and moral anti-realists say no.) For example, the ontologist may ask: Do numbers exist? The Platonist (...) says yes, and the nominalist says no. The metaontologist may ask: is there an objective fact of the matter about whether numbers exist? The ontological realist says yes, and the ontological anti-realist says no. Likewise, the ontologist may ask: Given two distinct entities, when does a mereological sum of those entities exist? The universalist says always, while the nihilist says never. The metaontologist may ask: is there an objective fact of the matter about whether the mereological sum of two distinct entities exists? The ontological realist says yes, and the ontological anti-realist says no. Ontological realism is often traced to Quine (1948), who held that we can determine what exists by seeing which entities are endorsed by our best scientiﬁc theory of the world. In recent years, the practice of ontology has often presupposed an ever-stronger ontological realism, and strong versions of ontological realism have received explicit statements by Fine (this volume), Sider (2001; this volume), van Inwagen (1998; this volume), and others. (shrink)
Here is one argument against realism. (1) Realists are committed to the classical rules for negation. But (2) legitimate rules of inference must conserve evidence. And (3) the classical rules for negation do not conserve evidence. So (4) realism is wrong. Most realists reject 2. But it has recently been argued that if we allow denied sentences as premisses and conclusions in inferences we will be able to reject 3. And this new argument against 3 generates a new response to (...) the anti-realist argument: keep 1 and 2, avoiding 4 by rejecting 3. My aim in this paper is to see how much work in the fight against anti-realism this new response can really do. I argue that there is a powerful objection to the response: 2 is in tension with the claim that denied sentences can be premisses and conclusions in inferences. But I show that, even given this objection, the new response has an important role to play. (shrink)
This essay argues that film as a medium breaks through the clearly delineated boundaries between realism and anti-realism that have been established by film theory. Film itself is basically indifferent to each. As an alternative to both, I put forward a thesis of indeterminism, which argues that films engender a unique event of sight and sound that does not have to be perceived to be a real event or an illusion of such an event.
It might be expected that it would suffice for the entry for “moral anti-realism” to contain only some links to other entries in this encyclopedia. It could contain a link to “moral realism” and stipulate the negation of the view there described. Alternatively, it could have links to the entries “anti-realism” and “morality” and could stipulate the conjunction of the materials contained therein. The fact that neither of these approaches would be adequate—and, more strikingly, that following the two (...) procedures would yield substantively non-equivalent results—reveals the contentious and unsettled nature of the topic. (shrink)
Realism and anti-realism about a domain of thought are metaphysical theses that involve the natures of the truthmakers in that domain and the truthmaking relation that is operant in the domain. Truthmaker theory is not exclusive territory for realists: anti-realist views are also best understood in terms of how they understand truthmakers and truthmaking. In particular, I explore the possibility of projectivist truthmaking, and show how it makes sense of quasi-realism. In addition to critically examining some extant accounts of (...) the relationship between realism and truthmaking, I offer an account that best captures the nature of the various realism debates. (shrink)
In 1967, after a talk Deleuze gave to the Society of French Philosophy, Ferdinand Alquiéé expressed concern during the question and answer session that perhaps Deleuze was relying too heavily upon science and not giving adequate attention to questions and problems that Alquiéé took to be distinctively philosophical. Deleuze responded by agreeing with Alquiéé; moreover, he argued that his primary interest was precisely in the metaphysics science needs rather than in the science philosophy needs. This metaphysics, Deleuze argues, is to (...) be done ‘‘in the style of Whitehead’’ rather than the style of Kant, and in developing this metaphysics Deleuze draws heavily on Spinoza. The present essay examines this Deleuzian-Spinozist metaphysics done in the style of Whitehead, the ‘‘metaphysics science needs’’, drawing on the writings of David Hume and Bruno Latour in the process. This discussion will in turn enable us to situate Deleuze's metaphysics in relation to contemporary debates concerning speculative realism and correlationism, and especially Quentin Meillassoux's critique of the latter. Our conclusion will be that the kind of metaphysics Deleuze pursues is neither correlationist nor straightforwardly realist, but rather charts a course between realism and anti-realism. (shrink)
I have argued that Wittgenstein's treatment of dreaming involves a kind of anti-realism about the past: what makes "I dreamed p " true is, roughly, that I wake with the feeling or impression of having dreamed p . Richard Scheer raises three objections. First, that the texts do not support my interpretation. Second, that the anti-realist view of dreaming does not make sense, so cannot be Wittgenstein's view. Third, that the anti-realist view leaves it a mystery why someone who (...) reports having dreamed such-and-such is inclined to report what she does. The Reply defends my reading of Wittgenstein against these objections. (shrink)
The anti-realist argument from underconsideration focuses on the fact that, when scientists evaluate theories, they only ever consider a subset of the theories that can account for the available data. As a result, when scientists judge one theory to be superior to competitor theories, they are not warranted in drawing the conclusion that the superior theory is likely true with respect to what it says about unobservable entities and processes. I defend the argument from underconsideration from the objections of Peter (...) Lipton. I argue that the inconsistency that Lipton claims to find in the argument vanishes once we understand what the anti-realist means when she claims that scientists are reliable. I also argue that collapsing the distinction between relative and absolute evaluations, as Lipton recommends, has its costs. Finally, I briefly examine Richard Boyd's influential defence of realism. (shrink)
Ruben Berrios Queen’s University Belfast Anti-realism and Aesthetic Cognition Abstract At the core of the debate between scientific realism and anti-realism is the question of the relation between scientific theory and the world. The realist possesses a mimetic conception of the relation between theory and reality. For the realist, scientific theories represent reality. The anti-realist, in contrast, seeks to understand the relations between theory and world in non-mimetic terms. We will examine Cartwright’s simulacrum account of explanation in order (...) to illuminate the anti-realist position. Science consists of phenomenological and theoretical laws. The former are concerned with appearances, or those phenomena that can be directly observed; the latter involve the unobservable reality that is alleged to underlie appearances, and are capable only of indirect confirmation. Phenomenological laws are said to be descriptive, whilst theoretical laws are understood as explanatory. Cartwright is concerned with the theoretical. She claims that the standard realist account of the explanatory efficacy of theoretical laws is faulty. The explanatory power of theoretical laws consists in their ability to provide an explanation of physical phenomena. According to Cartwright, the realist claims that laws explain phenomena by providing an abstract description of them, in terms of their micro-structural features, that is alleged to be true. On this view, explanatory power is entirely dependent on descriptive adequacy. As phenomenological laws describe appearances, so theoretical laws describe the fundamental reality that governs appearances. Cartwright rejects the preceding view and in its place proposes a simulacrum account of explanation. According to Cartwright, the explanatory power of theoretical laws is related not to descriptive adequacy, but rather to the construction of adequate models. To explain a phenomenon is to construct a model which best or most adequately accommodates the phenomenon to a theory. The model will consist of various posited objects that serve to explain the phenomena in terms that are consistent with a set of theoretical laws. Cartwright claims that theoretical laws are true of, or describe, the objects of the model. The objects of the model, however, are not descriptive of reality. They are simulacra. They have, that is, the form or appearance of things, without possessing their substance or proper qualities. In light of the foregoing account we can summarise the distinction between scientific realism and anti-realism as follows. The realist claims that theoretical laws literally represent real objects. The anti-realist claims that laws represent objects of a model that are simulacra of reality. Anti-realism has an aesthetic dimension. The movement from realism to anti-realism is also the movement from the mimetic conception of the scientist as holding a mirror to nature to the constructionist view of the scientist as engaging with nature through invention. There is a lot of the artist in the anti-realist’s view of the scientist. This is true for Cartwright as well as, for example, Van Fraassen in his doctrine of constructive empiricism. It would appear, then, that the philosophy of science has absorbed some concepts that are ordinarily housed in aesthetics. And it has done so profitably. The aim of this paper is to reverse the direction of disciplinary influence. Can art, in relation to its status as a cognitive enterprise, be illuminated by scientific anti-realism? I will argue that it can. In an unexpected reference to the Nicomachean Ethics, Cartwright draws a suggestive parallel between theoretical laws and general moral principles, on the one hand, and physical phenomena and everyday moral conduct, on the other hand. If we add to this the claim that a central component of art’s value is cognitive, then we have the basic materials with which to flesh out a broadly anti-realist view of art. In the production of art, artists can construct models that mediate between everyday ethical phenomena and general ethical tendencies. These models reveal the ways in which there are implicit consistencies or inconsistencies, conflicts or congruences and so forth, between the phenomena and the tendencies. On this basis art can contribute to the reflective understanding of ethical life. This constitutes to a large degree art’s status as a cognitive enterprise. To apprehend art cognitively as artist or critic is to engage in aesthetic cognition. (shrink)
[Abstract: Anti-realism – the denial that reality exists apart from our conceptions of it – is rampant, not just among Postmodernists and other literati, but also among many of the leading spokesmen of orthodox quantum theory – from Born, Bohr, and Heisenberg to Wheeler and Wigner. Undoubtedly they've done good physics. Why, then, do they indulge in bad metaphysics? This paper offers some answers.].
This article examines a somewhat neglected argument for the existence of God which appeals to the divine perspective as a way of reconciling the conflicting claims of realism and anti-realism. Six representative examples are set out (Berkeley, Ferrier, T. H. Green, Josiah Royce, Gordon Clark and Michael Dummett), reasons are considered why this argument has received less attention than it might, and a brief sketch given of the most promising way in which it might be developed.
The central premise of Michael Dummett's global argument for anti-realism is the thesis that a speaker's grasp of the meaning of a declarative, indexical-free sentence must be manifested in her uses of that sentence. This enigmatic thesis has been the subject of a great deal of discussion, and something of a consensus has emerged about its content and justification. The received view is that the manifestation thesis expresses a behaviorist and reductive theory of meaning, essentially in agreement with Quine's (...) view of language, and motivated by worries about the epistemology of communication. In the present paper I begin by arguing that this standard interpretation of the manifestation thesis is neither particularly faithful to Dummett's writings nor philosophically compelling. I then continue by reconstructing, from Dummett's texts, an account of the manifestation thesis, and of its justification, that differ sharply from the received view. On my reading, the thesis is motivated not epistemologically, but conceptually. I argue that connections among our conceptions of meaning, assertion, and justification lead to a conclusion about the metaphysics of meaning: we cannot form a clearly coherent conception of how two speakers can attach different meanings to a sentence without at the same time differing in what they count as justifying assertions made with that sentence. I conclude with some suggestions about how Dummett's argument for global anti-realism should be understood, given my account of the manifestation thesis. (shrink)
The article begins by distinguishing a number of theses which, in the past, have sometimes been lumped together under the heading of 'anti-realism'. One of the theses is that there is something wrong with truth-conditional theories of meaning (what a truth-conditional theory of meaning is a matter discussed at some length), another is what I take to be the central thesis of anti-realism, that all truths are knowable. Several writers on the subject, such as Wright and Prawitz, have (...) defended the latter thesis while jettisoning the former. I argue that this position is exactly the wrong way around. Given the 'meaning is use' principle, which is also called the 'manifestation requirement', a very powerful case can be made that true theory of meaning cannot be truth-conditional. But I argue that, given the current state of our logical knowledge, there is no good reason for concluding from this that a true theory of meaning must be of the 'verificationist' type, as Dummett seems to think, and still less for thinking that anti-realism follows. I end by examining theories of meaning against Dummett's criticisms. (shrink)
“Philosophical perspectivism” is surely one of Nietzsche's most important insights regarding the limits of human knowledge. However, the perspectivist thesis combined with a minimal realist metaphysical position produces what Brian Leiter calls the 'Received View': an epistemologically incoherent misinterpretation of Nietzsche which pervades the secondary literature. In order to salvage the thesis of perspectivism, Leiter argues that we must commit Nietzsche to an anti-realist metaphysical position. I argue that Leiter's proposed solution is (1) epistemically weak, and (2) inconsistent with much (...) of Nietzsche's views on truth, knowledge and the psychological make-up of human beings. I argue that we need to abandon the scheme/content distinction on which both the Received View and Leiter's anti-realist construal of perspectivism are predicated and instead construe perspectives as environments of power. (shrink)
Abstract Not much scholarly work is needed in order to stumble across many passages where Edmund Husserl seems to advocate an anti-realist attitude towards the natural sciences. This tendency, however, is not well-received within the secondary literature. While some commentators criticize Husserl for his alleged scientific anti-realism, others argue that Husserl's position is much more realist than the first impression indicates. It is against this background that I want to argue for the following theses: a) The basic outlook of (...) Husserl's epistemology as well as his more substantial comments regarding the natural sciences indeed result in a (sophisticated version of) scientific anti-realism which bears certain resemblances to Bas van Fraassen's constructive empiricism; b) This scientific anti-realism can be defended against the two most common objections raised in the secondary literature; c) It is only by means of this sophisticated version of scientific anti-realism that phenomenology can circumvent the problem of ?scientific objectivism? (shrink)
This article attempts to motivate a new approach to anti-realism (or nominalism) in the philosophy of mathematics. I will explore the strongest challenges to anti-realism, based on sympathetic interpretations of our intuitions that appear to support realism. I will argue that the current anti-realistic philosophies have not yet met these challenges, and that is why they cannot convince realists. Then, I will introduce a research project for a new, truly naturalistic, and completely scientific approach to philosophy of mathematics. (...) It belongs to anti-realism, but can meet those challenges and can perhaps convince some realists, at least those who are also naturalists. (shrink)
The paper considers Paul Natorp's Kantian reading of Plato's theory of ideas, as developed in his monumental work, Platos Ideenlehre, eine Einführung in den Idealismus (1903, 1921). Central to Natrop's reading are, I argue, the following two claims: (1) Plato's ideas are laws, not things; and (2) Plato's theory of ideas in the first instance a theory about the possibility and nature of thought - in particular cognitive and indeed scientific or explanatory thought - and only as a consequence is (...) it a theory about the nature of reality. Natrop thus argues that Plato's theory of ideas is at its heart a transcendental theory, and that Plato's metaphysics is built on this basis. The paper considers these claims - and their textual basis in Plato - in some detail, and attempts an initial evaluation of their plausibility as a reading of Plato. I am on the whole sympathetic to Natorp's reading, though a proper assessment goes beyond the present paper. The wider interest of this idealist or anti-realist reading of Plato ought to be obvious, especially in view of the commonly accepted assumption these days that both Plato and Aristotle, and indeed the Greeks in general, took realism entirely for granted (see e.g. M. Burnyeat). Natorp argues that this is true of Aristotle, but quite untrue of Plato. But he is quite clear that the idealism he ascribes to Plato is not Berkeleyan or metaphysical idealism, but a certain kind of transcendental or epistemological idealism. Natorp, however, is no uncritical follower of Kant, and the version of trascendental idealism that he ascribes to Plato is, I argue, very different from Kant's. (shrink)
For the anti-realist, the truth about a subject's past thoughts and attitudes is determined by what he is subsequently disposed to judge about them. The argument for an anti-realist interpretation of Wittgenstein's view of past-tense statements seems plausible in three cases: dreams, calculating in the head, and thinking. Wittgenstein is indeed an anti-realist about dreaming. His account of calculating in the head suggests anti-realism about the past, but turns out to be essentially realistic. He does not endorse general (...) class='Hi'>anti-realism about past thoughts; but his treatment does in some cases involve elements of anti-realism, unacceptable in some instances but possibly correct in others. (shrink)
It is often claimed that anti-realists are compelled to reject the inference of the knowability paradox, that there are no unknown truths. I call those anti-realists who feel so compelled ‘faint-hearted’, and argue in turn that anti-realists should affirm this inference, if it is to be consistent. A major part of my strategy in defending anti-realism is to formulate an anti-realist definition of truth according to which a statement is true only if it is verified by someone, at some (...) time. I also liberalize what is meant by a verification to allow for indirect forms of verification. From this vantage point, I examine a key objection to anti-realism, that it is committed to the necessary existence of minds, and reject a response to this problem set forth by Michael Hand. In turn I provide a more successful anti-realist response to the necessary minds problem that incorporates what I call an ‘agential’ view of verification. I conclude by considering what intellectual cost there is to being an anti-realist in the sense I am advocating. (shrink)
Lee Braver: A thing of this world: A history of continental anti-realism Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-10 DOI 10.1007/s11007-011-9210-9 Authors Paul Livingston, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA Journal Continental Philosophy Review Online ISSN 1573-1103 Print ISSN 1387-2842.
After sketching an argument for radical anti-realism that does not appeal to human limitations but polynomial-time computability in its definition of feasibility, I revisit an argument by Wittgenstein on the surveyability of proofs, and then examine the consequences of its application to the notion of canonical proof in contemporary proof-theoretical-semantics.
William Child has said that Wittgenstein is an anti-realist with respect to a person's dreams, recent thoughts that he has consciously entertained and other things. I discuss Wittgenstein's comments about these matters in order to show that they do not commit him to an anti-realist view or a realist view. He wished to discredit the idea that when a person reports his dream or his thoughts, or past intentions, the person is reading off the contents of his mind or memory. (...) Reporting what one dreamt or recently thought is not like reporting what one has just read. The language is different, and the criterion of truth is different. The anti-realist is able to explain why the reports of thoughts, for instance, are "guaranteed" to be true (PI II, 222) by stipulating that the character and existence of the past thought is constituted by an inclination to assert that one had that past thought so the assertion could not be false. This could not be Wittgenstein's view. What does "guarantee" the truth of such an assertion is the fact that the person himself is the principle authority on what he dreamt, thought, and intended, something which "stands fast" for us. I next consider Crispin Wright's account of Wittgenstein's ideas about intentions and point out that his assumption that person always makes a judgement as to whether his action conforms to his intention is clearly false. And he is wrong in attributing to Wittgenstein the idea that an intention does not have a determinate content prior to its author's judgement about whether the action conforms to the intention, an idea that is obscure. If this were accurate, it would be a mystery why we do anything, or, at least, why our actions ever conform to our intentions. (shrink)
Dummettian anti-realism repudiates the realist's notion of verification-transcendent truth. Perhaps the most crucial element in the Dummettian attack on realist truth is the critique of so-called realist semantics, which assigns verification-transcendent truth-conditions as the meanings of (some) sentences. The Dummettian critique charges that realist semantics cannot serve as an adequate theory of meaning for a natural language, and that, consequently, the realist conception of truth must be rejected as well. In arguing for this, Dummett and his followers have appealed (...) to a certain conception of linguistic knowledge. This paper examines closely the appeal to speakers' knowledge of linguistic meaning, its force and limitations. (shrink)
Abstract Street has argued that the meta-ethical realist is faced with a dilemma. Either evolutionary forces have had a distorting influenced on our ability to track moral properties or evolutionary forces influenced our beliefs in the direction of tracking moral properties. Street argues that if the realist accepts the first horn of the dilemma, the realist must accept implausible skepticism regarding moral beliefs. If the realist accepts the second horn of the dilemma, the realist owes an explanation of the fitness (...) producing nature of moral beliefs. As Street establishes the dialectic, the anti-realist’s explanation is better. I will argue that Street’s first horn is question begging then I will grasp the second horn of the dilemma and argue that only the realist can explain the role of moral beliefs in our evolutionary history. My argument will take the form of a dilemma. For our evaluative judgments to be fitness conducive, they must be responsive to the right sort of external world properties. The non-reductive realist can provide such a set of properties. On the first horn of the dilemma, the anti-realist cannot. The realist, unlike the anti-realist, can explain why our evaluative judgments are fitness conducive. The realist has won the explanatory battle. On the second horn of the dilemma, the anti-realist can provide a set of non-normative external world properties that our evaluative attitudes are responsive to. In doing so, the anti-realist has provided the heretofore-missing component of the reductive realist’s project. Again, the realist has won. (shrink)
This critical survey of recent work on Kant's doctrine of the fact of reason and his doctrine of the practical postulates (of freedom, God, and immortality) assesses the implications of these doctrines for the debate about realism and antirealism in Kant's moral philosophy. Section 1 briefly surveys some salient considerations from the first Critique and Groundwork. In section 2, I argue that recent work on the role, content, "factual" nature, and epistemic status of the fact of reason does not support (...) an anti-realist interpretation of Kant's ethics. In section 3, I argue that recent work on the derivation and epistemic and ontological status of the practical postulates does not support an anti-realist interpretation of Kant's ethics. (shrink)
I argue that Fitch’s ‘paradox of knowability’ presents no special problem for the epistemic anti-realist who believes that reality is epistemically accessible to us. For the claim which is the target of the argument (If p then it is possible to know p) is not a commitment of anti-realism. The epistemic anti-realist’s commitment is (or should be) to the recognizability of the states of affairs which render true propositions true, not to the knowability of the propositions themselves. A formal (...) apparatus for discussing the recognizability of states of affairs is offered, and other prima facie similar approaches to the paradox argument are reviewed. (shrink)
Crispin Wright offers superassertibility as an anti-realist explication of truth. A statement is superassertible, roughly, if there is a state of information available which warrants it and it is warranted by all achievable enlargements of that state of information. However, it is argued, Wright fails to take account of the fact that many of our test procedures are not sure fire, even when applied under ideal conditions. An alternative conception of superassertibility is constructed to take this feature into account. However, (...) it is then argued that when this revised concept of superassertibility is taken as the truth predicate of probability statements, statements whose test procedures are paradigmatically not sure fire, then any anti-realist theory of the sense of such probability statements cannot be compositional, in Dummett's sense of compositional. (shrink)
In this paper I attempt to clarify a relatively little-studied aspect of Michael Dummett's argument for intuitionism: its use of the notion of ‘undecidable’ sentence. I give a new analysis of this concept in epistemic terms, with which I resolve some puzzles and questions about how it works in the anti-realist critique of classical logic.
W. V. Quine describes himself as a “robust realist” about physical objects in the external world. This realism about objects is due to Quine's naturalism. On the other hand, Quine's naturalistic epistemology involves a conception of objects as posits that we introduce in our theories about the world. This conception of objects can be seen as anti-realist rather than realist. In this article, I discuss the questions whether there is a tension between Quine's realism and his epistemological conception of objects, (...) and how Quine's conception of objects should be understood if he is also to be regarded as a realist. I also address the question whether Quine should be placed on the realist or the anti-realist side of the current realism debate. I argue that Quine's conception of objects as posits is a general account of the nature of objects, and that this account does not conflict with Quine's realism as long as this realism is properly understood. I also argue that Quine cannot be placed on either side of the contemporary realism debate, since his realism is not metaphysical realism and his conception of objects is not an anti-realist doctrine according to which objects would be less than real. (shrink)
This article offers a critical perspective on two lines of thought in recent epistemology and philosophy of science, namely Michael Dummett?s anti-realist approach to issues of truth, meaning, and knowledge and Bas van Fraassen?s influential programme of ?constructive empiricism?. While not denying the salient differences between them (the one a metaphysical doctrine premised on logicolinguistic considerations, the other a thesis primarily concerned with the scope and limits of empirical inquiry) it shows how they converge on a sceptical outlook concerning the (...) realist claim that truth might always transcend the restrictions of some given (or indeed some future best-possible) state of knowledge. The author puts the case that such sceptical arguments, if followed through consistently, must involve giving up all claim to account for our knowledge of the growth of scientific knowledge. He also takes issue with Dummett?s idea of truth as nothing more than a matter of ?warranted assertibility? and with van Fraassen?s likewise verificationist conception of empirical warrant as the most we can have by way of epistemic justification. Thus it is wrong to suppose that the realist is merely indulging in a display of ?courage not under fire? when she assumes ontological commitments in excess of the observational data. This disavowal of realism in favour of a theory which ?saves the (empirical) appearances? has a less-than-distinguished prehistory in the range of compromise strategies adopted by upholders of a dominant metaphysics or world-view, starting out with the orthodox Catholic attempt to defuse the implications of the heliocentric hypothesis advanced by Copernicus and Galileo. Such theological motives are nowadays not so prominent although ? it is suggested fithey do emerge at certain points in Dummett?s writing. More constructively, this article presents a case for objectivism with regard to scientific truth and also for inference to the best causal explanation on both the micro- and the macrophysical scale as the only approach with an adequate claim to make sense of the history of advancements in scientific knowledge to date. (shrink)
I argue that the implementation of theDummettian program of an ``anti-realist'' semanticsrequires quite different conceptions of the technicalmeaning-theoretic terms used than those presupposed byDummett. Starting from obvious incoherences in anattempt to conceive truth conditions as assertibilityconditions, I argue that for anti-realist purposesnon-epistemic semantic notions are more usefully kept apart from epistemic ones rather than beingreduced to them. Embedding an anti-realist theory ofmeaning in Martin-Löf's Intuitionistic Type Theory(ITT) takes care, however, of many notorious problemsthat have arisen in trying to specify suitableintuitionistic (...) notions of semantic value,truth-conditions, and validity, taking into accountthe so-called ``defeasibility of evidence'' forassertions in empirical discourses. (shrink)
Some members of the Vienna Circle argued for a coherence theory of truth. Their coherentism is immune to standard objections. Most versions of coherentism are unable to show why a sentence cannot be true even though it fails to cohere with a system of beliefs. That is, it seems that truth may transcend what we can be warranted in believing. If so, truth cannot consist in coherence with a system of beliefs. The Vienna Circle's coherentists held, first, that sentences are (...) warranted by coherence with a system of beliefs. Next they drew upon their verification theory of meaning, a consequence of which is that truth cannot transcend what can be warranted. The coherence theory of knowledge and verificationism together entail that truth cannot transcend what can be warranted by coherence with a system of beliefs. The Vienna Circle's argument for coherentism is strong and anticipates contemporary anti-realism. (shrink)
I sketch an application of a semantically anti-realist understanding of the classical sequent calculus to the topic of mathematics. The result is a semantically anti-realist defence of a kind of mathematical realism. In the paper, I begin the development of the view and compare it to orthodox positions in the philosophy of mathematics.
Around the beginning of the twentieth century, John Dewey began his struggle to pave a way out of the impasses generated by the contending schools of realism and idealism. In the early twenty-first century, claims have been made that his thought can also help philosophy move beyond the contemporary realism/anti-realism debate. Dewey scholar David Hildebrand asserts that John Dewey's philosophy provides "a defensible alternative to both realism and idealism" and to contemporary realism and anti-realism in the philosophy of (...) history (Hildebrand 2000, p. 2). This is part of Hildebrand's larger project to demonstrate that "classical pragmatism—and any careful derivation of it" should be able to move beyond the .. (shrink)
On the Dummettian understanding, anti-realism regarding a particular discourse amounts to (or at the very least, involves) a refusal to accept the determinacy of the subject matter of that discourse and a corresponding refusal to assert at least some instances of excluded middle (which can be understood as expressing this determinacy of subject matter). In short: one is an anti-realist about a discourse if and only if one accepts intuitionistic logic as correct for that discourse. On careful examination, the (...) strongest Dummettian arguments for anti-realism of this sort fail to secure intuitionistic logic as the single, correct logic for anti-realist discourses. Instead, antirealists are placed in a situation where they fail to be justified in asserting monism (that intuitionistic logic is the unique correct logic). Thus, antirealists seem forced either to accept pluralism (i.e. one or more intermediate logic is at least as `correct’ as intuitionistic logic–an option I take to be unattractive from the anti-realist perspective), or they must be anti-realists about the realism/anti-realism debate (and, in particular, must refuse to assert the instance of excluded middle equivalent to logical monism or logical pluralism). (shrink)
Van Fraassen's constructive empiricism is presently the most influential and well-developed alternative to scientific realism. In this paper I argue that a reasonable condition on the distinction between belief and agnosticism prevents van Fraassen from claiming that we can be agnostic about what a theory says about unobservable entities while simultaneously accepting that theory. The upshot is that we must find some other way to do justice both to the argument for constructive empiricism and to van Fraassen's cogent criticisms of (...) scientific realism. I suggest that a highly attractive alternative is founded upon semantic anti-realism, and that empiricists should develop this alternative. (shrink)
This study is in two parts. In the first part, various important principles of classical extensional mereology are derived on the basis of a nice axiomatization involving ‘part of’ and fusion. All results are proved here with full Fregean (and Gentzenian) rigor. They are chosen because they are needed for the second part. In the second part, this natural-deduction framework is used in order to regiment David Lewis’s justification of his Division Thesis, which features prominently in his combination of mereology (...) with class theory. The Division Thesis plays a crucial role in Lewis’s informal argument for his Second Thesis in his book Parts of Classes. In order to present Lewis’s argument in rigorous detail, an elegant new principle is offered for the theory that combines class theory and mereology. The new principle is called the Canonical Decomposition Thesis. It secures Lewis’s Division Thesis on the strong construal required in order for his argument to go through. The exercise illustrates how careful one has to be when setting up the details of an adequate foundational theory of parts and classes. The main aim behind this investigation is to determine whether an anti-realist, inferentialist theorist of meaning has the resources to exhibit Lewis’s argument for his Second Thesis—which is central to his marriage of class theory with mereology—as a purely conceptual one. The formal analysis shows that Lewis’s argument, despite its striking appearance to the contrary, can be given in the constructive, relevant logic IR. This is the logic that the author has argued, elsewhere, to be the correct logic from an anti-realist point of view. The anti-realist is therefore in a position to regard Lewis’s argument as purely conceptual. (shrink)
Since the ground-breaking contributions of M. Dummett (Dummett 1978), it is widely recognized that anti-realist principles have a critical impact on the choice of logic. Dummett argued that classical logic does not satisfy the requirements of such principles but that intuitionistic logic does. Some philosophers have adopted a more radical stance and argued for a more important departure from classical logic on the basis of similar intuitions. In particular, J. Dubucs and M. Marion (?) and (Dubucs 2002) have recently argued (...) that a proper understanding of anti-realism should lead us to the so-called substructural logics (see (Restall 2000)) and especially linear logic. The aim of this paper is to scrutinize this proposal. We will raise two kinds of issues for the radical anti-realist. First, we will stress the fact that it is hard to live without structural rules. Second, we will argue that, from an anti- realist perspective, there is currently no satisfactory justi cation to the shift to substructural logics. (shrink)
Here the relationship between understanding and knowledge of meaning is discussed from two different perspectives: that of Dummettian semantic anti-realism and that of the semantic externalism of Putnam and others. The question addressed is whether or not the truth of semantic externalism would undermine a central premise in one of Dummetts key arguments for anti-realism, insofar as Dummetts premise involves an assumption about the transparency of meaning and semantic externalism is often taken to undermine such transparency. Several notions (...) of transparency and conveyability of meaning are distinguished and it is argued that, though the Dummettian argument for anti-realism presupposes only a weak connection between knowledge of meaning and understanding, even this much is not trivially true in light of semantic externalism, and that semantic externalism, if true, would thus represent a reason for rejecting the crucial assumption on which the Dummettian argument depends. (shrink)
Using a quantified propositional logic involving the operators it is known that and it is possible to know that, we formalize various interesting philosophical claims involved in the realism debate. We set out inferential rules for the epistemic modalities, ranging from ones that are obviously analytic, to ones that are epistemologically more substantive or even controversial. Then we investigate various aporias for the realism debate. These are constructively inconsistent triads of claims from our list: a claim expressing some sort of (...) common ground in the debate; a characteristically anti-realist thesis about truth and knowability; and a characteristically realist thesis about determinacy of truth value. Various patterns of reductio proof for these inconsistent triads are generated, so as to display their variety. The reductio proofs use only the inferential rules set out earlier. The philosophical utility of each aporia for the anti-realist is then assessed. This involves consideration of the acceptability of the premiss expressing common ground; the strength and plausibility of the anti-realist premiss; the strength of the realist premiss that is the ultimate target of the reductio; and the analytic status of the inferential rules applied within the proof. (shrink)
In Language, Logic, and Experience, Michael Luntley successfully employs a Kantian-style transcendental argument to refute Michael Dummett’s anti-realist view that we are incapable of grasping “recognition-transcendent” truth-conditions. But he also contends that his own purified version of antirealism is immune to thi s sort of attack. This version is purified because it is concerned solely with the question of whether a given statement possesses a determinate truth value, and thus with whether the reality it is about exists determinately. I show (...) that Kant’s original version of the argument (in the “Transcendental Analytic”) does in fact amount to a refutation of Luntleyan anti-realism. In particular, it demonstrates that the determinate existence of all past and present naturalistic states and events is a necessary condition of thought. Since Luntleyan anti-realism entails that many such states and events are indeterminate, it must be rejected. (shrink)
Bas van Fraassen has presented a most vigorous argument in support of an anti-realist interpretation of science. In defence of his view he revives the seemingly moribund 'observable-unobservable' distinction, and employs it in the attempt to show that science provides no grounds for accepting, as real, entities which it itself classifies as unobservable. Traditional arguments against the observable-unobservable distinction (which van Fraassen successfully counters) can be reinterpreted as arguments for the reality of what is unobservable to humans. The (...) argument is quite straightforward. We could create (or meet) intelligent creatures with a perceptual range of observation superior to that of humans. Granted that they are intelligent, we would accept them into the epistemic community. Once accepted their pronouncements should become belief-worthy for us. The aim of the paper is to defend this argument against van Fraassen's seemingly plausible charge that, roughly, it fallaciously assumes that we ought to admit merely possible evidence rather than actual evidence in the formation of our beliefs. (shrink)
Wittgenstein is generally supposed to have abandoned in the 1930's a realistic conception of the meaning of mathematical propositions, founded on the idea of tmth-conditions which could in certain cases transcend any possibility of verification, for a realistic one, where the idea of truth-conditions is replaced by that of conditions of justification of assertability. It is argued that for Wittgenstein mathematical propositions, which are, as he says, "grammatical" propositions, have a meaning and a role which differ to a much greater (...) degree from those of ordinary propositions than either platonistic realism or intuitionistic anti-realism would admit, and that is the tendency to assimilate the mathematical proposition to an ordinary descriptive proposition which confers on it an appearance of meaning independent of the possibility of proving it, and not, as Dummett would say, that it is a decision concerning the kind of meaning it has which gives it the status of a proposition describing a determinate objective reality. (shrink)
This paper takes issue with anti-realist views that eschew objectivity. Minimally, objectivity maintains that an objective gap between what is the case and what we take to be the case exists. Some prominent feminist philosophers and theorists endorse anti-realism that rejects such a gap. My contention is that this is bad news for political movements like feminism since this sort of anti-realism fosters radical relativism; feminists, then, must retain a commitment to objectivity. However, some anti-realist feminists, who take (...) truth to be a social construct that depends on one’s perspective or conceptual scheme (like Catherine MacKinnon), don’t intend to argue for relativism. This being so, the paper will explore whether there is something to be said for feminist anti-realism. In particular, I will explore whether Hilary Putnam’s ‘internal realism’ can help block relativism that anti-realist feminism appears to generate. Nonetheless, I will conclude that ‘internal realism’ cannot undercut relativism that threatens anti-realist feminism. (shrink)
Quentin Meillassoux has recently leveled a controversial attack on critical philosophy and the transcendental turn through his concept of correlationism. This critique is motivated by the attempt to move away from a philosophy of human finitude towards a speculative materialism. In this paper I argue that Meillassoux?s understanding of correlationism does not adequately depict the critical turn, especially in regards to the distinction between the epistemological problem of realism and the problem of materialism. I attempt to show that by reading (...) the critical turn as anti-epistemological one can think of its turn away from things themselves towards relation and mediation in ways that are not necessarily against either science or materialism. (shrink)
Where much contemporary philosophy seeks to stave off the "threat" of nihilism by safeguarding the experience of meaning--characterized as the defining feature of human existence--from the Enlightenment logic of disenchantment, this book attempts to push nihilism to its ultimate conclusion by forging a link between revisionary naturalism in Anglo-American philosophy and anti-phenomenological realism in recent French philosophy. Contrary to an emerging "post-analytic" consensus which would bridge the analytic-continental divide by uniting Heidegger and Wittgenstein against the twin perils of scientism and (...) skepticism, this book short-circuits both traditions by plugging eliminative materialism directly into speculative realism. (shrink)
Hilary Putnam has famously undergone some radical changes of mind with regard to the issue of scientific realism and its wider epistemological bearings. In this paper I defend the arguments put forward by early Putnam in his essays on the causal theory of reference as applied to natural-kind terms, despite his own later view that those arguments amounted to a form of 'metaphysical' realism which could not be sustained against various lines of sceptical attack. I discuss some of the reasons (...) for Putnam's retreat, first to the theory of 'internal (or framework-relative) realism proposed in his middle-period writings, and then to a commonsensepragmatist stance which claims to resituate this whole discussion on ground that has not been trorldden into ruts by the contending philosophical schools. In particular I examine his protracted engagement with various forms of anti-realist doctrine (Michael Dummett's most prominent among them), with Wittgenstein's thinking about language-games or meaning-as-use, and with a range of sceptical- relativist positions adopted in the wake of Quine's influential attack on the two last 'dogmas' of logical empiricism. My paper seeks to show that Putnam has been over-impressed by some of the arguments — from these and other sources — which he takes to constitute a knock-down case against the kind of extemalist and causal-realist approach developed in his early essays. It concludes by re-stating that position in summary form and relating it to other, more recent defences of causal realism in epistemology and philosophy of science. (shrink)
The indispensability argument for abstract mathematical entities has been an important issue in the philosophy of mathematics. The argument relies on several assumptions. Some objections have been made against these assumptions, but there are several serious defects in these objections. Ameliorating these defects leads to a new anti-realistic philosophy of mathematics, mainly: first, in mathematical applications, what really exist and can be used as tools are not abstract mathematical entities, but our inner representations that we create in imagining abstract mathematical (...) entities; second, the thoughts that we create in imagining infinite mathematical entities are bounded by external conditions. (shrink)
Responding to criticisms raised by Christopher Norris, this paper defends an anti-relativist reading of the work of both Davidson and Heidegger arguing that that there are important lessons to be learnt from their example - one can thus be an anti-relativist (as well as a certain sort of realist) without giving up on Davidson or on Heidegger.
This paper aims to describe and defend a Pluralistic Kantian, as opposed to a Tractarian, version of realism vis-à-vis the ontological basis of truthmaking relations. One underlying assumption of my position is that propositional truth is a robust property and, consequently, is normatively distinct from epistemic justification. Still, it does not follow from this realist contention that truth is generated ontologically, viz., independently of cognitive and intensional contributions of human agents. This point brings my view notably close to H. Putnam’s (...) peculiar blend of certain Wittgensteinian and Kantian themes. However, I argue that Putnam’s apparent denial of the in-itself reality with an intrinsic structure gives rise to a rather un-Kantian and problematic metaphysical picture. I suggest that the solution to the puzzle may be found in a synthesis of the best intuitions of Armstrong’s Tractarian realism and Putnam’s quasi-Kantianism. (shrink)
This paper sets out issues in the realist/antirealist debate in philosophy of religion. These include the existence of God and the meaning of prayer. The paper describes motivations for antirealism in religion such as the recognition of conflicting religious claims and a desire for tolerance. It explores instrumentalism and reductionism as possible antirealist strategies. Parallels between the debate in religion and the corresponding debate in philosophy of science are used to inform the discussion in the religious sphere. Shared aspects of (...) science and religion feature in a pragmatic argument suggesting that the advantages of realism outweigh those of antirealism for religion. (shrink)
In recent years a general consensus has been developing in the philosophy of science to the effect that strong social constructivist accounts are unable to adequately account for scientific practice. Recently, however, a number of commentators have formulated an attenuated version of constructivism that purports to avoid the difficulties that plague the stronger claims of its predecessors. Interestingly this attenuated form of constructivism finds philosophical support from a relatively recent turn in the literature concerning scientific realism. Arthur Fine and a (...) number of other commentators have argued that the realism debate ought to be abandoned. The rationale for this argument is that the debate is sterile for it has, it is claimed, no consequence for actual scientific practice, and therefore does not advance our understanding of science or its practice. Recent “softer” accounts of social constructivism also hold a similar agnostic stance to the realism question. I provide a survey of these various agnostic stances and show how they form a general position that I shall refer to as “the anti-philosophical stance”. I then demonstrate that the anti-philosophical stance fails by identifying difficulties that attend its proposal to ban philosophical interpretation. I also provide examples of instances where philosophical stances to the realism question affect scientific practice. (shrink)
This chapter surveys work in meta-ethics in the past fifty years which explicitly deals with issues associated with evil. It discusses two examples from secular discussions: the argument developed by Gilbert Harman on the explanatory role of moral facts, and the argument developed by Gilbert Harman and John Doris on the empirical inadequacy of the virtues. The chapter then turns to two topics related to theistic meta-ethics: the problem of evil and moral realism, and theological voluntarism and evil.
In this paper, the elaboration of the concept of practical realist philosophy of science which began in the author's previous papers is continued. It is argued that practical realism is opposed to standard scientific realism, on the one hand, and antirealism, on the other. Standard scientific realism is challengeable due to its abstract character, as being isolated from practice. It is based on a metaphysical-ontological presupposition which raises the problem of the God's Eye point of view (as it was called (...) by Hilary Putnam). Joseph Rouse's conception of science as practice, Sami Pihlström's pragmatic realism, and even Ilkka Niiniluoto's critical scientific realism are interpreted as practical realist conceptions. Pihlström suggests that the contemporary scientific realist should be prepared to accept the pragmatically naturalized Kantian transcendental perspective on realism. It is argued, however, that this realistically naturalized Kantianism can be nothing more than practical realism, as originated by Karl Marx. (shrink)
Aaron Ridley has concluded that “Collingwood’s global Idealism is really only a distraction from the much more important and interesting ideas that constitute his aesthetics.” My paper takes issue with this conclusion. Collingwood’s idealism is an integral part of his aesthetics, and it simply cannot be shucked off, leaving his aesthetics untouched and intact. A careful reading of Collingwood’s oeuvre in aesthetics reveals that it is his long-standing antipathy to realism that grounds both his critique of pseudo-art and his own (...) theory of art, particularly his idealist theory of the imagination. If Collingwood’s aesthetics are interesting and important, so is the idealism that grounds them. (shrink)
In 1950, Quine inaugurated a strange new way of talking about philosophy. The hallmark of this approach is a propensity to take ordinary colloquial sentences that all of us utter routinely when we are not thinking about philosophy, or (more often) other sentences that very directly and obviously logically entail such sentences, and treat those sentences (i) as having a clear content, calling for little or no elucidation, and (ii) as proper objects of philosophical controversy. Questions like ‘are there numbers?’ (...) and ‘are there tables?’ were now placed on a par with questions like ‘are there immaterial souls?’ and ‘are there sense-data?’. Of course philosophers have always had a propensity to say things that sound odd to vulgar ears. What was new with Quine was a systematic policty of privileging these kinds of formulations over more distinctively philosophical idioms. Jargon which had been central to the practice of metaphysics—’logical construction’, ’nothing over and above’, ‘reduce’, ‘ground’, ‘in virtue of’, ‘fundamental’, ‘consist in’...—were shifted to a much more peripheral role. The tradition inaugurated by Quine raises some hard interpretative questions for anyone who, like me and Dave, thinks that there is a range of different propositions that people brought up as English-speakers might be tempted to try to get across by uttering one of these sentences. On the one hand, Dave and I agree that the propositions that any ordinary, unphilosophical use of a sentence like ‘there are some free tables at the back of the café’ would be intended to get across are (in many cases) extremely obvious. The idea that when ontologists assert ‘there are no tables’, or treat this claim as calling for serious debate, they are intending to call into question propositions as obvious as that seems implausibly uncharitable. On the other hand, it is also a hallmark of the Quinean tradition that it claims to be using words in their ordinary sense, at least to the extent that (unlike its founder) it is willing to trafﬁc in talk of meanings at all.. (shrink)
A well-known proof by Alonzo Church, first published in 1963 by Frederic Fitch, purports to show that all truths are knowable only if all truths are known. This is the Paradox of Knowability. If we take it, quite plausibly, that we are not omniscient, the proof appears to undermine metaphysical doctrines committed to the knowability of truth, such as semantic anti-realism. Since its rediscovery by Hart and McGinn ( 1976), many solutions to the paradox have been offered. In this (...) article, we present a new proof to the effect that not all truths are knowable, which rests on different assumptions from those of the original argument published by Fitch. We highlight the general form of the knowability paradoxes, and argue that anti-realists who favour either an hierarchical or an intuitionistic approach to the Paradox of Knowability are confronted with a dilemma: they must either give up anti-realism or opt for a highly controversial interpretation of the principle that every truth is knowable. (shrink)
All eyes are turned towards genomic data and models as the source of knowledge about whether human races exist or not. Will genomic science make the final decision about whether racial realism (e.g., racial population naturalism) or anti-realism (e.g., racial skepticism) is correct? We think not. We believe that the results of even our best and most impressive genomic technologies underdetermine whether bio-genomic races exist, or not. First, different sub-disciplines of biology interested in population structure employ distinct concepts, aims, (...) measures, and models, producing cross-cutting categorizations of population subdivisions rather than a single, universal bio-genomic concept of “race.” Second, within each sub-discipline (e.g., conservation biology, phylogenetics), genomic results are consistent with, and map multiply to, racial realism and anti-realism. Indeed, racial ontologies are constructed conventionally, rather than discovered. We thus defend a /constructivist conventionalism/ about bio-genomic racial ontology. Choices and conventions must always be made in identifying particular kinds of groups. Political agendas, social programs, and moral questions premised on the existence of naturalistic race must accept that no scientifically grounded racial ontology is forthcoming, and adjust presumptions, practices, and projects accordingly. (shrink)
Species pluralism gives us reason to doubt the existence of the species category. The problem is not that species concepts are chosen according to our interests or that pluralism and the desire for hierarchical classifications are incompatible. The problem is that the various taxa we call 'species' lack a common unifying feature.
The paradox of knowability is a logical result suggesting that, necessarily, if all truths are knowable in principle then all truths are in fact known. The contrapositive of the result says, necessarily, if in fact there is an unknown truth, then there is a truth that couldn't possibly be known. More specifically, if p is a truth that is never known then it is unknowable that p is a truth that is never known. The proof has been used to argue (...) against versions of anti-realism committed to the thesis that all truths are knowable. For clearly there are unknown truths; individually and collectively we are non-omniscient. So, by the main result, it is false that all truths are knowable. The result has also been used to draw more general lessons about the limits of human knowledge. Still others have taken the proof to be fallacious, since it collapses an apparently moderate brand of anti-realism into an obviously implausible and naive idealism. (shrink)
In recent years methodological debates in the social sciences have increasingly focused on issues relating to epistemology. Realism and Sociology makes an original contribution to the debate, charting a middle ground between postmodernism and positivism.
An interesting recent reply to the Paradox of Knowability is Neil Tennant's proposal: to restrict the anti-realist's knowability thesis to truths the knowing of which is logically consistent. However, this proposal is egregiously ad hoc unless motivated by something other than the wish to save anti-realism from embarrassment. We examine Tennant's argument that his restriction is motivated by parallel considerations in cases that are neutral with respect to debates about realism. We conclude that the cases are not neutral, nor (...) the considerations parallel. The failure of Tennant's argument provides an opportunity to reflect on, among other things, the nature of Moore's paradox, and the role of idealization in doxastic logic. (shrink)
According to the argument from underconsideration, since theory evaluation is comparative, and since scientists do not have good reasons to believe that they are epistemically privileged, it is unlikely that our best theories are true. In this paper, I examine two formulations of this argument, one based on van Fraassen’s “bad lot” premise and another based on what Lipton called the “no-privilege” premise. I consider several moves that scientific realists might make in response to these arguments. I then offer a (...) revised argument that is a middle ground between realism and anti-realism, or so I argue. (shrink)