Robust Intelligibility: Response to Our Critics

Inquiry 42 (2):177-194 (1999)
Robust realism is defended by developing further the account in Inquiry 42 (1999), pp. 49-78 of how human beings make things and people intelligible. Incommensurate worlds imply a violation of the principle of noncontradiction, but this violation does not have the consequences normally feared. Given our capacities to make things intelligible, some things, like human action, are most intelligible when they are understood as contradictory (e.g. free and determined). Things-in-themselves need not have contradictory features for multiple orders of nature to make sense. We can coherently suppose that both Western and Chinese science give two incommensurable and complete accounts of the functioning of the human body. Since things do not have contradictory properties, we would then have to suppose that, in the case of bodies, there are two independent functional orders. If this can be true for bodies, it can be true for the orders of nature as a whole. John Haugeland's account of systems and interfaces shows us how to make sense of necessary functional components of the universe. Finally, multiple realism makes more sense than Rorty's deflationary pragmatism because it explains how things can matter
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DOI 10.1080/002017499321534
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