This paper explains the nature and origin of what I am calling Transgressive Realism, a middle path between realism and anti-realism which tries to combine their strengths while avoiding their weaknesses. Kierkegaard created the position by merging Hegel’s insistence that we must have some kind of contact with anything we can call real (thus rejecting noumena), with Kant’s belief that reality fundamentally exceeds our understanding; human reason should not be the criterion of the real. The result is (...) the idea that our most vivid encounters with reality come in experiences that shatter our categories, the way God’s commandment to kill Isaac irreconcilably clashes with the best understanding of ethics we are capable of. I explain the genesis of this idea, and then show it at work in Heidegger and Levinas’ thought. Understanding this position illuminates important aspects of the history of continental philosophy and offers a new perspective on realism. (shrink)
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 book outlines the realist and pluralist philosophy of John Anderson, Australia's most original thinker. His teaching at Sydney University and his arti6es have deeply influenced Australian intellectual life. Several main themes run through his work, but Anderson never gave an overall account of his views. This is remedied here: exhibiting the range of Anderson's thought from logic, epistemology and theory of mind, to language and social theory, this volume sketches realism as a systematic philosophical position, while showing something (...) of the history of ideas in Australia. (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.
Jean Baudrillard loved cinema and was fascinated by the collusions which occur between it and life. He also believed that technologies of virtualization and the pursuit of realism were deeply harmful to the quality of the cinematic image. Precisely at the time when cinema was subject to these forces he pointed out that it is coming to play a far more important role in the collective understanding of history than are the best scholarly histories. Because of the focus (...) he took concerning cinema his work will remain important to discussions of the intersections between film and philosophy well into the future. (shrink)
Duhem is commonly held to have founded his view of history of science as continuous on the ‘metaphsical assertion’ of natural classification. With the help of a strict distinction between formal and material characterization of natural classification I try to show that this imputation is problematic, if not simply incorrect. My analysis opens alternative perspectives on Duhem's talk of continuity, the ideal form of theories, and the rôle of ‘bon sens’; moreover it emphasizes some aspects of Duhem's realism (...) that play an important part in his philosophy of science. (shrink)
Summary: Responding to Laudan’s skeptical reading of history an influential group of realists claim that the seriously wrong claims past successful theories licensed were not really implicated in the predictions that once singled them out as successful. For example, in the case of Fresnel’s theory of light, it is said that although he appealed to the ether he didn’t actually need to in order to derive his famous experimental predictions—in them, we are assured, the ether concept was “idle,” “inessential,” (...) “peripheral” or worse. This view, developed by J. Worrall and P. Kitcher in the 1980s and subsequently supplemented by J. Leplin and by S. Psillos has received critical attention in the literature over the last decade, but more needs to be said on the subject—or so I suggest in this paper. I bring forward four converging argumentative lines to show how and why, from the days of Fresnel to at least the decade after the Michelson-Morley experiments, the ether functioned and was understood as an “essential” posit in physics. My first line draws Fresnel’s actual deployment of the ether concept and the way he and his circle understood the achievements of his theory. The second line draws is from epistemological assessments of surprising implication in theories and its impact on leading theorists in the last two-thirds of the century. The third line draws from discussions of the optical ether in end-of-century reports circa 1900. The fourth focuses on entrenched metaphysical assumptions that persisted in the practice of physics until the advent of special relativity. Pulling these four lines together shows, I think, (a) why attempts at synchronic identification of sound theory-parts (as advocated by Kitcher, Leplin and Psillos) are bound to fail, and also (b) how realists might try to meet the challenge this creates. (shrink)
The paper considers the two main challenges to scientific realism, stemming from confirmation holism and the underdetermination thesis as well as from semantic holism and the incommensurability thesis. Against the first challenge, it is argued that there are other criteria besides agreement with experience that enable a rational evaluation of competing theories. Against the second challenge, it is argued that at most a thesis of local incommensurability can be defended that is compatible with a minimal version of scientific (...) class='Hi'>realism, namely conjectural realism. However, in order to establish a fully-fledged scientific realism, one has to refute the local incommensurability thesis as well, showing how a comparison is possible on the level of the proper concepts of the theories in question. The paper examines the prospects for such a comparison, distinguishing three cases. (shrink)
Could an "ideal theory" be false? metaphysical realism requires an affirmative answer. The question has usually been discussed in terms of physical theory. I argue that if we shift ground to historical narrative, We can be virtually certain that some "ideal stories" not only "can" be false, But "will" be false. If this argument is correct, Metaphysical realism is almost certainly true.
Realists have responded to challenges from the historical record of successful but ultimately rejected theories with what I call the selective confirmation strategy: arguing that only idle parts of past theories have been rejected, while truly success‐generating features have been confirmed by further inquiry. I argue first, that this strategy is unconvincing without some prospectively applicable criterion of idleness for theoretical posits, and second, that existing efforts to provide one either convict all theoretical posits of idleness (Kitcher) or stand refuted (...) by detailed consideration of the very examples (optical/electromagnetic ether, caloric fluid) to which they appeal (Psillos). I also argue that available avenues for improving on these proposals are unpromising. (shrink)
Abstract Naturalized metaphysics remains a default presupposition of much contemporary philosophy of physics. As metaphysics is supposed to be about the general structure of reality, so a naturalized metaphysics draws upon our best physical theories: Assuming the truth of such a theory, it attempts to answer the “foundational question par excellence “, “how could the world possibly be the way this theory says it is?“ It is argued that attention to historical detail in the development and formulation of physical theories (...) serves as an ever-relevant hygienic corrective to the “sentiment of rationality“ underlying the naturalistic impulse to read ontology off of physics. (shrink)
The interview took place in Oxford on 10 September 1992. While working from the tape on the text of the interview, I decided to gather references to books and articles in footnotes so that the reader may have a sense of the flow of the conversation. I then divided the text into sections, according to the topics which were discussed. Some material has been edited from the original transcript.
Natural classification and continuity, science and history. Some Reflections on Pierre Duhem. Duhem is commonly held to have founded his view of history of science as continuous on the 'metaphysical assertion' of natural classification. With the help of a strict distinction between formal and material characterization of natural classification I try to show that this imputation is problematic, if not simply incorrect. My analysis opens alternative perspectives on Duhem's talk of continuity, the ideal form of theories, and the (...) rôle of 'bon sens'; moreover it emphasizes some aspects of Duhem's realism that play an important part in his philosophy of science. (shrink)
John Rist surveys the history of ethics from Plato to the present and offers a vigorous defence of an ethical theory based on a revised version of Platonic realism. In a wide-ranging discussion he examines well-known alternatives to Platonism, in particular Epicurus, Hobbes, Hume and Kant as well as contemporary 'practical reasoners', and argues that most post-Enlightenment theories of morality (as well as Nietzschean subversions of such theories) depend on an abandoned Christian metaphysic and are unintelligible without such (...) grounding. He also argues that contemporary choice-based theories, whether they take a strictly ethical or more obviously political form, are ultimately arbitrary in nature. His lively and accessible study is informed by a powerful sense of philosophical history, and will be of interest to both students and scholars of ethics. (shrink)
This is the third volume of Hilary Putnam's philosophical papers, published in paperback for the first time. The volume contains his major essays from 1975 to 1982, which reveal a large shift in emphasis in the 'realist'_position developed in his earlier work. While not renouncing those views, Professor Putnam has continued to explore their epistemological consequences and conceptual history. He now, crucially, sees theories of truth and of meaning that derive from a firm notion of reference as inadequate.
Scientific Realism is the optimistic view that modern science is on the right track: that the world really is the way our best scientific theories describe it to be. In his book, Stathis Psillos gives us a detailed and comprehensive study, which restores the intuitive plausibility of scientific realism. We see that throughout the twentieth century, scientific realism has been challenged by philosophical positions from all angles: from reductive empiricism, to instrumentalism and modern skeptical empiricism. Scientific (...) class='Hi'>Realism explains that the history of science does not undermine the notion of scientific realism, and instead makes it reasonable to accept scientific as the best philosophical account of science, its empirical success, its progress and its practice. Anyone wishing to gain a deeper understanding of the state of modern science and why scientific realism is plausible, should read this book. (shrink)
There is a long and storied history of debates over 'realism' that has touched literally every academic discipline. Yet realism- antirealism debates play a relatively minor role in the contemporary study of consciousness. In this paper four basic varieties of realism and antirealism are explored (existential, epistemological, semantic, and ontological) and their potential impact on the study of consciousness is considered. Reasons are offered to explain why there is not more debate over these issues, including a (...) discussion of the powerful influence of externalist versions of physicalist realism. Examples are given of approaches to consciousness studies that challenge contemporary versions of physicalist realism. (shrink)
Conventional wisdom has it that evolution makes a sham of morality, even if morality is an adaptation. I disagree. I argue that our best current adaptationist theory of meaning offers objective truth conditionsfor signaling systems of all sorts. The objectivity is, however, relative to species – specifically to the adaptive history of the signaling system in question. While evolution may not provide the kind of species independent objective standards that (e.g.) Kantians desire, this should be enough for the practical (...) work of justifying our confidence in the objectivity of moral standards. If you believe morality is an adaptation, you should be a moral realist. (shrink)
In this essay I examine various aspects of the nearcentury-long debate concerning the conceptualfoundations of quantum mechanics and the problems ithas posed for physicists and philosophers fromEinstein to the present. Most crucial here is theissue of realism and the question whether quantumtheory is compatible with any kind of realist orcausal-explanatory account which goes beyond theempirical-predictive data. This was Einstein's chiefconcern in the famous series of exchanges with NielsBohr when he refused to accept the truth orcompleteness of a doctrine (orthodox (...) QM) which ruledsuch questions to be strictly inadmissible. I discussthe later history of quantum-theoretical debate withparticular reference to the issue of nonlocality,i.e., the phenomenon of superluminal(faster-than-light) interaction betweenwidely-separated particles. Then I show how thestandard `Copenhagen' interpretation of QM hasinfluenced current anti-realist orontological-relativist approaches to philosophy ofscience. Indeed, there are clear signs that somephilosophers have retreated from a realist positionvery largely in response to just these problems. So itis important to ask exactly why – on what scientificor philosophical grounds – any preferred alternative(causal-realist) construal should have been ruled outas a matter of orthodox QM wisdom. Moreconstructively, my paper presents various arguments infavour of one such alternative, the `hidden-variables'theory developed since the early 1950s by David Bohmand consistently marginalised by proponents of theCopenhagen doctrine. (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)
Legal Realism Regained presents a comparison between the legal realists, a group of pragmatic legal theorists from the 1920s and 1930s, and critical legal studies, a movement of postmodern legal theory during the end of the twentieth century. The book argues for a return to legal realism and the classical pragmatism of John Dewey and William James and for a rejection of the postmodern critique of critical legal studies. It discusses the two movements with respect to three topics: (...) their view of history, their view of social science, and their view of language. Rejecting the claim that critical legal studies can be seen as the heir of legal realism, Legal Realism Regained argues that, with respect to each of these three topics, the realists still present a stronger argument than their more radical descendants. (shrink)
The original essays collected in this book offer a comprehensive evaluation of realism as a theory of international relations. Realism has been the subject of critical scrutiny for some time and this examination aims to identify and define its strengths and shortcomings. In the realist family there has been a flourishing of variants and interpretations, a fact that many critics of realism tend to obscure or dismiss. In the past decade and a half we have seen the (...) emergence of neo-realism, structural realism, security realism, and other readings. Now is a good time to reflect on the richness and diversity of the realist family of theories, compare the variants, examine the differences among them, explore what unites them, and elucidate the policy implications of each. This unique book makes an important contribution to the study of international relations. The essays collected within it offer an incisive analysis of the logic and history of theories in the realist family. They also demonstrate the value of scholarship that looks beyond fleeting intellectual fads to the enduring themes of life in a crowded and dangerous world. (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)
This paper explores themethodological consequences of AmericanPragmatism for the social sciences. It alsocriticises some rival perspectives onmethodology of social research, in particularfalsificationist, realist and someanti-naturalist views. It is argued thatAmerican Pragmatism shows striking affinitieswith the genealogical method of history and thereflexive turn in cultural anthropology. It isalso argued that Pragmatism forces us to thinkdifferently about the relationship betweentheory and empirical research.
Does a hard-headed realist approach to international politics necessarily involve scepticism towards progressive foreign policy initiatives and global reform? Should proponents of realism always be seen as morally complacent and politically combative? In this major reconsideration of the main figures of international political theory, Bill Scheuerman challenges conventional wisdom to reveal a neglected tradition of progressive realism with much to contribute to contemporary debates about international policy-making and world government. Far from seeing international reform as well-meaning but potentially (...) irresponsible idealism, progressive realists like E.H. Carr, John Herz, Hans J. Morgenthau, and Reinhold Niebuhr developed forward-looking ideas which offer an indispensable corrective to many presently influential views about global politics. Progressive realism, Scheuerman argues, offers a compelling and provocative vision of radical global change which - when properly interpreted, can help buttress current efforts to address the most pressing international issues. After recovering key subterranean strands in mid-twentieth century realism, Scheuerman underscores their relevance to contemporary international theory. Criticizing more recent realists for abandoning their tradition's best insights, he also demonstrates that reform-minded international theories - including versions of cosmopolitanism, constructivism, the English School, liberalism, and republicanism - could all benefit from taking Progressive Realism seriously. A major contribution both to the history of international relations and contemporary debates in international theory, The Realist Case for Global Reform concludes by considering how progressive realism informs the foreign policies of US President Barack Obama. (shrink)
Christian realism has provided a theological understanding of politics that identifies the limits within which all political choices are made. Those limits are set by a theological understanding of judgment, which reserves the ultimate meaning of history to divine judgment, and by a theological understanding of responsibility, which gives proximate meaning to the choices between greater and lesser goods that are available to human politics. The assessments of global politics offered by Reinhold Niebuhr and other Christian realists during (...) the Second World War and the Cold War which followed owe their influence partly to an astute and historically informed reading of events, but primarily, their influence is due to this basic theological understanding of politics. While the world has changed in ways that clearly reveal limitations in the original formulations of Christian realism, the theological principles of judgment and responsibility continue to provide an understanding of global politics adequate to the new realities of the twenty-first century. (shrink)
Recent mathematical results, obtained by the author, in collaboration with Alexander Stokolos, Olof Svensson, and Tomasz Weiss, in the study of harmonic functions, have prompted the following reflections, intertwined with views on some turning points in the history of mathematics and accompanied by an interpretive key that could perhaps shed some light on other aspects of (the development of) mathematics.
In this paper, I argue (i) that there are certain methodological practices that are epistemically significant, and (ii) that we can test for the success of these practices empirically by examining case-studies in the history of science. Analysing a particular episode from the history of medicine, I explain how this can help us resolve specific cases of underdetermination. I conclude that, while the anti-realist is (more or less legitimately) able to construct underdetermination scenarios on a case-by-case basis, he (...) will have to abandon the strategy of using algorithms to do so, thus losing the much needed guarantee that there will always be rival cases of the required kind. (shrink)