About this topic
Summary Internal realism was a position held between approximately 1977--90 by Hilary Putnam. This involved rejecting the "God's Eye Point of View" that Putnam thought was characteristic of metaphysical realism. For Putnam, internal realism always involved a commitment to the idea that truth is (somehow) epistemically constrained, and to (some version of) conceptual relativism. Certain positions adopted by other authors, which involve some commitment to one or both of these ideas, are sometimes also characterised as varities of internal realism.        
Key works Putnam's first statement of internal realism is in 'Realism and Reason' (1977, his address to the APA). Here he presented his model-theoretic arguments against metaphysical realism, a thumbnail of the brain-in-vat argument, and various reflections on conceptual relativism. Both this work and the (more technical) 'Models and Reality' (1980) emphasised the importance of "verificationist semantics". In Reason Truth and History (1981), Putnam developed internal realism in great detail, and probed the significance of his viewpoint for ethics and the philosophy of mind. This drew several famous reactions: Devitt 1983 maintained that internal realism was a version of idealism; and Lewis 1984 maintained that "realism needs realism". Putnam's subsequent defences of internal realism -- including The Many Faces of Realism (1987) and many essays in his Realism with a Human Face (1990) -- suggested a somewhat looser epistemic constraint, and placed the focus more squarely on conceptual relativism. By 1990 Putnam had abandoned internal realism (though not conceptual relativism) in favour of natural realism, a transition he describes in his 'Sense, nonsense, and the senses' (1994). Many of these themes -- including the transitions, and the legacy of internal realism -- are discussed in Button 2015.
Introductions Putnam 1977; Putnam 1980; Putnam 1981 (esp. chs.1-3)
Related categories

220 found
1 — 50 / 220
  1. Realism, Model Theory, and Linguistic Semantics.B. Abbott & L. Hauser - unknown
    George Lakoff (in his book Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things(1987) and the paper "Cognitive semantics" (1988)) champions some radical foundational views. Strikingly, Lakoff opposes realism as a metaphysical position, favoring instead some supposedly mild form of idealism such as that recently espoused by Hilary Putnam, going under the name "internal realism." For what he takes to be connected reasons, Lakoff also rejects truth conditional model-theoretic semantics for natural language. This paper examines an argument, given by Lakoff, against realism and MTS. (...)
  2. Putnam's Internal Realism and Kant's Empirical Realism.Paul Abela - 1996 - Idealistic Studies 26 (1):45-56.
    This paper challenges Putnam's claim that his internal realism is a revival of Kant's empirical realism. I agree with Putnam that there are good reasons to revive Kant's rather neglected empirical realist doctrine. However, internal realism is not the way this should be done. At the center of the following discussion lies the important difference between Putman's "real within a scheme" model and Kant's assertion of the independent existence of empirical objects. The strategy for the paper is as follows. I (...)
  3. Is Putnam's Causal Theory of Meaning Compatible with Internal Realism?Valer Ambrus - 1999 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 30 (1):1-16.
    Putnam originally developed his causal theory of meaning in order to support scientific realism and reject the notion of incommensurability. Later he gave up this position and adopted instead what he called ‘internal realism’, but apparently without changing his mind on topics related to his former philosophy of language. The question must arise whether internal realism, which actually is a species of antirealism, is compatible with the causal theory of meaning. In giving an answer I begin with an analysis of (...)
  4. What is Realistic About Putnam's Internal Realism?David L. Anderson - 1992 - Philosophical Topics 20 (1):49-83.
    Failure to recognize the "realistic" motivations for Putnam's commitment to internal realism has led to a widely shared misunderstanding of Putnam's arguments against metaphysical realism. Realist critics of these arguments frequently offer rebuttals that fail to confront his arguments. Simply put, Putnam's arguments --the brains in a vat argument as well as the model-theoretic argument -- are "reductios" that are intended to show that "metaphysical realism itself is not sufficiently realistic". If that claim can be substantiated then Putnam can go (...)
  5. Hilary Putnam (1926-2016): A Lifetime Quest to Understand the Relationship Between Mind, Language, and Reality.David Leech Anderson - 2016 - Mind and Matter 14 (1):87-95.
  6. Hilary Putnam's "Meaning and the Moral Sciences". [REVIEW]Kent Bach - 1979 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 40 (1):137.
  7. Putnam's Progress.Julian Baggini - 2001 - The Philosophers' Magazine 15:43-45.
  8. Reading Putnam.Maria Baghramian (ed.) - 2012 - Routledge.
    Hilary Putnam is one of the world’s leading philosophers. His highly original and often provocative ideas have set the agenda for a variety of debates in philosophy of science, philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. His now famous philosophical thought experiments, such as the ‘Twin earth’ and ‘the brains in the vat’ have become part of the established canon in philosophy and cognitive science. _Reading Putnam_ is an outstanding overview and assessment of Hilary Putnam’s work by a team of (...)
  9. Putnam and Metaphysical Realism.George Bailey - 1983 - International Studies in Philosophy 15 (1):11-14.
  10. Putnam on Truth: Metaphysical Realism Vs. Kantian Constructivism.Ann Michelle Baker - 1990 - Dissertation, University of Washington
    This dissertation concerns Putnam's objections to the realist conception of truth and his alternative, "internal realist," conception. I evaluate two main kinds of argument that Putnam advances against the realist conception of truth. First, the realist conception requires that we are talking about a kind of world we could never, according to Putnam, be talking about, namely a world that exists in itself, independent of minds. He argues that our powers of representation could never establish the right kind of connection (...)
  11. Is Putnam Inconsistent and Parochial?James Beattie - 1993 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 71 (3):316 – 324.
  12. Hilary Putnam.Yemima Ben-Menahem (ed.) - 2005 - Cambridge University Press.
    The richness of Putnam's philosophical oeuvre consists not only in the broad spectrum of problems addressed, but also in the transformations and restructuring his positions have undergone over the years. The essays collected in this volume are sensitive to both these dimensions. They discuss Putnam's major philosophical contributions to the theory of meaning, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of science and mathematics, and moral theory. But, in addition, tracing threads of change and continuity, they analyze the dynamics underlying the (...)
  13. Putnam on Skepticism.Yemima Ben-Menahem - 2005 - In Hilary Putnam. Cambridge University Press. pp. 125--55.
  14. Contemporary Philosophy in Focus: Hilary Putnam.Yemima Ben-Menahim (ed.) - 2005 - Cambridge University Press.
  15. Skolem and the Skeptic.Paul Benacerraf - 1985 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 59:85-115.
  16. The Absolute Conception : Putnam Vs Williams.Simon Blackburn - 2008 - In Daniel Callcut (ed.), Reading Bernard Williams. Routledge.
  17. Enchanting Views.Simon Blackburn - 1994 - In Peter Clark & Bob Hale (eds.), Reading Putnam. Blackwell. pp. 12--30.
  18. Review of “Hilary Putnam: Pragmatism and Realism”. [REVIEW]David Boersema - 2003 - Essays in Philosophy 4 (1):12.
    This book is the ninth volume in Routledge’s series, “Routledge Studies in Twentieth-Century Philosophy.” It is a collection of eleven essays, with responsesto each by Putnam. The first five essays focus on issues relating to Putnam and pragmatism; the remaining six essays deal withPutnam on realism. In addition there is an introduction to each of the book’s two parts.
  19. Method, Reason and Language: Essays in Honor of Hilary Putnam.George Boolos (ed.) - 1990 - Cambridge University Press.
  20. Putnam's 'Home Coming'.Stephen J. Boulter - 1997 - Philosophy 72 (282):595-601.
  21. Putnam's ‘Home Coming’.Stephen J. Boulter - 1997 - Philosophy 72 (282):595.
  22. Pragmatism and Internal Realism.Michael Bradie - 1979 - Analysis 39 (1):4 - 10.
  23. Internal Realism.Manuel Bremer - 2008 - In P. Hannah (ed.), An Anthology of Philosophical Studies.
    This essay characterizes a version of internal realism. In §1 I will argue that for semantical reasons we should be realists of a strong kind. In §2 I plead for an internalistic setting of realism starting from the thesis that truth is, at least, not a non-epistemic concept. We have to bear the consequences of this in form of a more complicated concept of truth. The ‘internal’ of ‘internal realism’ points to the justification aspect of truth. The ‘realism’ of ‘internal (...)
  24. Truth In Internal Realism.Manuel Bremer - 1999 - In Julian Nida-Rümelin (ed.), Rationality, Realism and Revision.
    This essay deals with the concept of truth in the context of a version of internal realism . In §1 I define some variants of realism using a set of realistic axioms. In §2 I will argue that for semantical reasons we should be realists of some kind. In §3 I plead for an internalistic setting of realism starting from the thesis that truth is, at least, not a non-epistemic concept. We have to bear the consequences of this in form (...)
  25. Internal Realism: Transcendental Idealism?Curtis Brown - 1988 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 12 (1):145-155.
    Idealism is an ontological view, a view about what sorts of things there are in the universe. Idealism holds that what there is depends on our own mental structure and activity. Berkeley of course held that everything was mental; Kant held the more complex view that there was an important distinction between the mental and the physical, but that the structure of the empirical world depended on the activities of minds. Despite radical differences, idealists like Berkeley and Kant share what (...)
  26. Realism and the Anthropocentrics.James Robert Brown - 1984 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1984:202-210.
    This paper examines the anthropocentric views of William Newton-Smith, Hilary Putnam, and Bas van Fraassen. It is argued in each case that the anthropocentric views in question are untenable and that the realist alternative is to be preferred.
  27. Von einem realistischen Standpunkt. [REVIEW]Alex Burri - 1995 - Erkenntnis 42 (3):403-404.
  28. Brains in Vats and Model Theory.Tim Button - forthcoming - In Sanford Goldberg (ed.), The Brain in a Vat. Cambridge University Press.
    Hilary Putnam’s BIV argument first occurred to him when ‘thinking about a theorem in modern logic, the “Skolem–Löwenheim Theorem”’ (Putnam 1981: 7). One of my aims in this paper is to explore the connection between the argument and the Theorem. But I also want to draw some further connections. In particular, I think that Putnam’s BIV argument provides us with an impressively versatile template for dealing with sceptical challenges. Indeed, this template allows us to unify some of Putnam’s most enduring (...)
  29. The Limits of Realism.Tim Button - 2015 - Oxford University Press UK.
    Tim Button explores the relationship between minds, words, and world. He argues that the two main strands of scepticism are deeply related and can be overcome, but that there is a limit to how much we can show. We must position ourselves somewhere between internal realism and external realism, and we cannot hope to say exactly where.
  30. Reading Putnam, Edited by Maria Baghramian.Tim Button - 2014 - Mind 123 (490):569-575.
    Reading Putnam consists largely of papers from the fantastic ‘Putnam @80’ conference (organised by Maria Baghramian in 2007) together with replies from Hilary Putnam. Given the diversity of Putnam’s work, the papers in this collection cover many different topics. This makes the collection difficulty to read but, ultimately, extremely rewarding. In this review, I focus on the contributions from Michael Devitt, Charles Parsons, Richard Boyd, Ned Block, Charles Travis and John McDowell, together with Putnam’s responses. My aim is to highlight (...)
  31. Dadaism: Restrictivism as Militant Quietism.Tim Button - 2010 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 110 (3pt3):387-398.
    Can we quantify over everything: absolutely, positively, definitely, totally, every thing? Some philosophers have claimed that we must be able to do so, since the doctrine that we cannot is self-stultifying. But this treats restrictivism as a positive doctrine. Restrictivism is much better viewed as a kind of militant quietism, which I call dadaism. Dadaists advance a hostile challenge, with the aim of silencing everyone who holds a positive position about ‘absolute generality’.
  32. Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology.Rudolf Carnap - 1950 - Revue Internationale de Philosophie 4 (11):20--40.
  33. Beyond the Internal Realist's Conceptual Scheme.Louis Caruana - 1996 - Metaphilosophy 27 (3):296-301.
  34. The heart of Putnam's pluralistic realism.Jennifer Case - 2001 - Revue Internationale de Philosophie 4:417-430.
  35. Putnam's "Pluralistic Realism": An Exposition and Defense.Jennifer Hegglin Case - 1995 - Dissertation, Washington University
    Philosopher Hilary Putnam maintains that a classical form of realism and a countervailing antirealist tendency are the components of an entrenched philosophical dichotomy. The dichotomy's realist component is metaphysical realism: its antirealist component is relativism. Within the context of a critique of this entrenched dichotomy, Putnam develops a philosophical picture that he has called 'internal realism'. ;Putnam's development of his philosophical picture may be regarded as consisting of a negative program and a positive program. This bifurcation does not correspond to (...)
  36. Hilary Putnam: An Era of Philosophy Has Ended.Sanjit Chakraborty - forthcoming - Philosophia:1-6.
  37. Hilary Putnam: Pragmatism and Realism.James Conant & Urszula M. Zeglen (eds.) - 2012 - Routledge.
    One of the most influential contemporary philosophers, Hilary Putnam's involvement in philosophy spans philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, ontology and epistemology and logic. This specially commissioned collection discusses his contribution to the realist and pragmatist debate. Hilary Putnam comments on the issues raised in each article, making it invaluable for any scholar of his work.
    No categories
  38. Internal Realism and Rationality in the Thinking of Hilary Putnam.R. Corvi - 2005 - Rivista di Filosofia Neo-Scolastica 97 (3):473-496.
  39. Goodman and Putnam on the Making of Worlds.Damian Cox - 2003 - Erkenntnis 58 (1):33 - 46.
    Hilary Putnam and Nelson Goodman are two of the twentieth century's most persuasive critics of metaphysical realism, however they disagree about the consequences of rejecting metaphysical realism. Goodman defended a view he called irrealism in which minds literally make worlds, and Putnam has sought to find a middle path between metaphysical realism and irrealism. I argue that Putnam's middle path turns out to be very elusive and defend a dichotomy between metaphysical realism and irrealism.
  40. Putnam, Equivalence, Realism.Damian Cox - 1997 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 35 (2):155-170.
  41. Concepts and Reality: An Examination of Realism.Margaret Ann Crouch - 1985 - Dissertation, University of Minnesota
    The issue of realism has been with us, in various forms, since at least the time of Plato. The dispute between realists and their opponents is currently attracting a considerable amount of attention in the philosophical community. However, there is often a lack of clarity in discussions of the dispute. This is due, in part, to the many ways in which the dispute and the positions involved are characterized. ;The dissertation seeks to understand the precise nature of the dispute between (...)
  42. Interpreting Putnam's Dialectical Method in Philosophy.Louise Cummings - 2005 - Metaphilosophy 36 (4):476-489.
  43. A Traveller's Guide to Putnam's “Narrow Path”.David Davies - 1996 - Dialogue 35 (01):117-.
    It is now over 15 years since Hilary Putnam first urged that we take the “narrow path” of internal realism as a way of navigating between “the swamps of metaphysics and the quicksands of cultural relativism and historicism” . In the opening lines of the Preface to Realism with a Human Face, a collection of Putnam's recent papers edited by James Conant, Putnam reaffirms his allegiance to this narrow path, unmoved by Realist murmurings from the swamps and laconic Rortian suggestions (...)
  44. Hilary Putnam, Words and Life.M. De Gaynesford - forthcoming - Radical Philosophy.
  45. Hilary Putnam.Maximilian De Gaynesford - 2014 - Routledge.
    Putnam is one of the most influential philosophers of recent times, and his authority stretches far beyond the confines of the discipline. However, there is a considerable challenge in presenting his work both accurately and accessibly. This is due to the width and diversity of his published writings and to his frequent spells of radical re-thinking. But if we are to understand how and why philosophy is developing as it is, we need to attend to Putnam's whole career. He has (...)
  46. Review of Tim Button's The Limits of Realism. [REVIEW]Lieven Decock - 2014 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (01.07).
  47. The Threat of Cultural Relativism: Hilary Putnam and the Antidote of Falibilism.Massimo Dell'Utri - 2008 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 4 (2):75-86.
  48. Le Vie Del Realismo Verità, Linguaggio E Conoscenza in Hilary Putnam.Massimo Dell'utri - 1992
  49. Choosing Conceptions of Realism: The Case of the Brains in a Vat.Massimo Dell’Utri - 1990 - Mind 99 (393):79--90.
  50. Tracking Down Putnam on the Realism Issue.Michael Devitt - 2012 - In Maria Baghramian (ed.), Reading Putnam. Routledge. pp. 101.
1 — 50 / 220