Essentialism, Metaphysical Realism, and the Errors of Conceptualism

Philosophia Scientiae 12 (1):9-33 (2008)

Authors
E. J. Lowe
Durham University
Abstract
Metaphysical realism is the view that most of the objects that populate the world exist independently of our thought and have their natures independently of how, if at all, we conceive of them. It is committed, in my opinion, to a robust form of essentialism. Many modern forms of anti-realism have their roots in a form of conceptualism, according to which all truths about essence knowable by us are ultimately grounded in our concepts, rather than in things 'in themselves'. My aim is to show that conceptualist anti-realism is an incoherent doctrine and how we can support metaphysical realism and robust essentialism, while still properly acknowledging the cognitive role of concepts in mediating our grasp of the nature of mind-independent reality.RésuméLe réalisme métaphysique est la conception suivant laquelle la plupart des objets qui peuplent le monde existent indépendamment de notre pensée et possèdent une nature indépendante de la manière dont nous pouvons éventuellement la concevoir. A mon sens cette position engage à admettre une forme robuste d'essentialisme. Beaucoup des formes modernes de l'anti-réalisme tirent leurs origines d'une forme de conceptualisme, suivant laquelle toutes les vérités que nous puissions connaître au sujet des essences sont en dernière analyse fondées sur nos concepts, plutôt que dans les choses « en elles-mêmes ». Mon but est de montrer que l'anti-réalisme conceptualiste est une doctrine incohérente, et comment nous pouvons soutenir le réalisme métaphysique et l'essentialisme robuste, tout en reconnaissant clairement le rôle cognitif des concepts en tant qu'intermédiaires dans notre appréhension de la nature de la réalité indépendante de l'esprit
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DOI 10.4000/philosophiascientiae.222
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