• Banno
    14.5k
    ...and anti-realism.

    I'm curious as to how these two approaches might be ...approached.

    Speaking very roughly, just to get started, realism holds that ...stuff... is independent of what we say about it; anti-realism, that it isn't.

    "Stuff", because the content makes a difference. For instance, if the content is aesthetic, then anti-realism is the view that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder; an aesthetic realist might hold that beauty and ugly are a part of whatever it is we are beholding; an anti-realist, that beauty and ugly are attitudes we adopt, or some such. An ethical realist might say god and bad are as much aspects of the world as matter and volume; and ethical anti-realist, that no observation of the world will reveal good or bad, because they are not 'out there' to be found.

    My attention was drawn to the realist / anti-realist distinction by several recent discussions concerning epistemology, ontology and logic, especially @Sam26's most recent thread on Private Language and @Athena asking what a fact is, but also @stoicHoneyBadger's positing that religion need not be factually correct, @Jack Cummins asking about belief and @Cidat's wondering about what reality is. I also found curious relations to my own foray into Logical Nihilism. It seems a topic of general, timely relevance to the community.

    While the notion has general use, it's metaphysics that is my main interest here. Stealing blatantly from my Rutledge Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, a realist may hold to things like that correspondence to the facts is what makes a statement true; that there may be truths we do not recognise as such, do not believe and do not know; that the Law of excluded middle holds for things in the world; and that the meaning of a sentence may be found by specifying it's truth-conditions. An ant-realist may in contrast hold that truth is to be understood in sophisticated epistemic terms, perhaps as what a "well-conducted investigation" might lead us to believe; that there can be no unknown truths; that we need include "unknown" as well as true and false in our logical systems; and that the meaning of a sentence is to be found in what it might assert.

    I've previously characterised my own view as realist. I've argued against typical examples of anti-realism such as pragmatic theory, logical positivism, transcendental idealism and Berkeley's form of idealism. I have however also defended a constructivist view of mathematics, an anti-realist position; and off-handedly rejected realism in ethics and aesthetics.

    I wonder also if Anscombe's direction of fit works here. It's the difference between the list you take with you to remind yourself of what you want to buy and the list the register produces listing the things you actually purchased. The intent of the first list is to collect the things listed; of the second, to list the things collected. The first seeks to make the world fit the list, the second, to make the list to fit the world. Is it that anti-realism applies to ethics and aesthetics because we seek to make the world as we say, while realism applies to ontology and epistemology because we seek to make what we say fit the world? , this is were I'm up to.

    Thoughts?
  • tim wood
    7.9k
    I'll bite. Broadly, there's what is, and there's what's made of it. And a big part of the confusion around abstract concepts. Beautiful? Ugly? What are the concrete criteria? Are there any - not that they're always easy to get to? If symmetry or balance, or the lack of, then measurement. That is, I suspect all anti-realism comes back to realism or is based in realism.
  • apokrisis
    5.4k
    Speaking very roughly, just to get started, realism holds that ...stuff... is independent of what we say about it; anti-realism, that it isn't.Banno

    Same old chestnut. Same old answer.

    Realism is wrong to the degree it neglects that all such speech acts have some pragmatic purpose. So the world isn’t understood in some mind-independent fashion. That wouldn’t even be useful.

    And anti-realism is wrong to the degree it might pretend there is no world independent of this minding, or mindfulness, or however you choose to describe a semiotic modelling relation.
  • darthbarracuda
    3.4k
    Is it that anti-realism applies to ethics and aesthetics because we seek to make the world as we say, while realism applies to ontology and epistemology because we seek to make what we say fit the world?Banno

    Very interesting, thanks.
  • Hanover
    7k
    Is it that anti-realism applies to ethics and aesthetics because we seek to make the world as we say, while realism applies to ontology and epistemology because we seek to make what we say fit the worldBanno
    Strange to posit a psychological basis, implying a subjectivity even in the theories we choose.

    I'd say simply that we are ontological realists by default because it is intuitively obvious the stair we just tripped on is actually there independent of us. Only through (too) much thought will we question that.

    As to why morality isn't the same, I'd say because we don't trip over good and evil and we realize we create all sorts of social norms. If the morally real is out there, where is it?
  • 180 Proof
    6k
    Is it that anti-realism applies to ethics and aesthetics because we seek to make the world as we say, while realism applies to ontology and epistemology because we seek to make what we say fit the world?Banno
    In so far as "the world" is real (i.e. mind/discourse-invariant), "anti-realism" as described here is incoherent (e.g. "maps = territory"). Otherwise, if "the world" is unreal, then "anti-realism" is an empty concept (e.g. "maps sans territory").

    I suspect all anti-realism comes back to realism or is based in realism.tim wood
    Presupposes it, no? Otherwise, "anti-realism" is not anti- anything.

    If the morally real is out there, where is it?Hanover
    Here, and wherever some one/thing suffers.
  • Shawn
    11.8k
    "Stuff", because the content makes a difference.Banno

    Is it that anti-realism applies to ethics and aesthetics because we seek to make the world as we say, while realism applies to ontology and epistemology because we seek to make what we say fit the worldBanno

    So, it's content that makes up stuff, yes? But, then we have facts and some kind of coherentism in how they can find their use in language, yes?

    In my view, if not overly simplistic, it comes down to a pragmatic understanding of how epistemic criteria or even what you describe as content determine use. I think, that makes sense.
  • Banno
    14.5k
    I suspect all anti-realism comes back to realism or is based in realism.tim wood

    Presupposes it, no? Otherwise, "anti-realism" is not anti- anything180 Proof

    I'm not following that. Anti-realism presupposes realism? Why? On one side we have that stuff is independent on what we say or think, on the other, that stuff is not dependent on what we say or think. How does stuff being dependent presuppose it not being dependent?
  • Banno
    14.5k
    Realism is wrong to the degree it neglects that all such speech acts have some pragmatic purpose.apokrisis

    Austin, who developed the theory of speech acts, argued extensively for realism using speech act theory.
  • Banno
    14.5k
    Very interesting, thanks.darthbarracuda

    But is it right?
  • Banno
    14.5k
    Strange to posit a psychological basis, implying a subjectivity even in the theories we choose.Hanover

    Well, there's subjective, and then there's subjectivity. Perhaps we might look for something more than your intuitions. I had assumed you would adopt an anti-realist approach, given you think
    "the false can be true"Hanover
  • Wayfarer
    13.8k
    Speaking very roughly, just to get started, realism holds that ...stuff... is independent of what we say about it; anti-realism, that it isn't.Banno

    I wrote this on the old forum and you more or less harrumphed at it:

    According to evolutionary biology, Homo Sapiens is the result of billions years of evolution. For all these thousands of millions of years, our sensory and intellectual abilities have been honed and shaped by the exigencies of survival, through billions of lifetimes in various life-forms - fish, lizard, mammal, primate and so on - in such a way as to eventually give rise to the mind that we have today.

    Recently, other scientific disciplines such as cognitive and evolutionary psychology have revealed that conscious perception, while subjectively appearing to exist as a steady continuum, is actually composed of a heirarchical matrix of thousand, or millions, of interacting cellular transactions, commencing at the most basic level with the parasympathetic system which controls one’s respiration, digestion, and so on, up through various levels to culminate in that peculiarly human ability of ‘conscious thought’ (and beyond!)

    Consciousness plays the central role in co-ordinating these diverse activities so as to give rise to the sense of continuity which we call ‘ourselves’ - and to the apparent coherence and reality of the 'external world'. Yet it is important to realise that the naïve sense in which we understand ourselves, and the objects of our perception, to exist, is dependent upon the constructive activities of the mind, major aspects of which are unconscious.

    When you perceive something - large, small, alive or inanimate, local or remote - there is a considerable amount of work involved in ‘creating’ an object from the raw material of perception. Your eyes receive the lightwaves reflected or emanated from it, your mind organises the image with regards to all of the other stimuli impacting your senses at that moment – either acknowledging it, or ignoring it, depending on how busy you are; your memory will then compare it to other objects you have seen, from whence you will (hopefully) recall its name, and perhaps know something about it ('star', 'tree', 'frog', etc).

    And you will do all of this without you even noticing that you are doing it; it is largely unconscious.

    In other words, your consciousness is not the passive recipient of objects which exist irrespective of your perception of them. Instead, your consciousness is an active agent which constructs reality partially on the basis of that sensory input, but also on the basis of unconscious processes, memories, intentions, and so on. And this is the sense in which idealist philosophy does indeed recieve support from modern science.
  • Banno
    14.5k
    So, it's content that makes up stuff, yes? But, then we have facts and some kind of coherentism in how they can find their use in language, yes?Shawn
    Maybe. If you are suggesting the anti-realist emphasises the content and the realist emphasises fact.

    Is that what you think?
  • Banno
    14.5k
    I wrote this on the old forum and you more or less harrumphed at it:Wayfarer

    May I presume to harrumph again? I still do not see what, in the account you give, is supposed to be problematic for realism. Or is that not your point?
  • Wayfarer
    13.8k
    realism holds that ...stuff... is independent of what we say about itBanno

    So, the role of the mind in creating the world should have some bearing on that, ought it not?
  • Banno
    14.5k
    Mathematics.

    By way of bringing in the logical implications of the topic, and where chatting about Fitch's paradox. InPitzotl was using code to explain the relation between truth and propositions in a novel way - quite cute - and EricH joined in with a roughly constructivist - and hence anti-realist - account of mathematics.

    On a constructivist account, a mathematical statement is true only if there exists a demonstration, a construction that shows that it is true. Until such a construction is produced the mathematical statement does not have a truth value.

    On a realist account - mathematical Platonism - mathematical statement are true or false regardless of their having been proved.

    There might be a space here to compare maths to Anscomb's shopping list. But what was interesting was how quickly the discussion of Fitch's paradox moved over to anti-realism.
  • Banno
    14.5k
    What is it in the account that you gave that you take to be incompatible with realism?
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    1.9k
    realism holds that ...stuff... is independent of what we say about itBanno

    So, the role of the mind in creating the world should have some bearing on that, ought it not?Wayfarer

    Is the mind creating it (like an artist), or is the mind discovering it (like an explorer)? We may never know the answer.
  • Banno
    14.5k
    Why should the choice be exclusively one or the other? It seems plain that we both create and discover stuff.
  • 180 Proof
    6k
    :chin: It seems to me ...
    If 'every X' is all that is dependent upon M,
    then M is not a member of 'every X';

    if M is not a member of 'every X',
    then M is not dependent upon M;


    therefore, M is R;

    and therefore, (at least) 'some ~X' are R.
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    1.9k
    Why should the choice be exclusively one or the other? It seems plain that we both create and discover stuff.Banno

    I can accept that. Then the question becomes, how much of reality is created, and how much is discovered? But the more important question is: how do we distinguish between the two?
  • khaled
    3.2k
    realism holds that ...stuff... is independent of what we say about it
    — Banno

    So, the role of the mind in creating the world should have some bearing on that, ought it not?
    Wayfarer

    Not really. Realism is the idea that there is stuff independent of what we say about it. It's not the idea that a specific object (say, the sky) is completely independent of our perceiving apparatus and that we are just passively receiving it.

    You admit that there exists stuff independent of what we say about it here:

    an object from the raw material of perception.

    This "raw material of perception" exists regardless of what we say about it correct?

    That we then add something to it to make a coherent world is not a problem for realism.
  • Wayfarer
    13.8k
    What is it in the account that you gave that you take to be incompatible with realism?Banno

    Can't you see how the account I gave of how 'mind constructs reality' conflicts with 'realism holds that ...stuff... is independent of what we say about it'? I can't see how you can't see that.

    Is the mind creating it (like an artist), or is the mind discovering it (like an explorer)?Merkwurdichliebe

    It's not one or the other. Both come into play.
  • Wayfarer
    13.8k
    This "raw material of perception" exists regardless of what we say about it correct?khaled

    Emphatically not.
  • khaled
    3.2k
    When you perceive something - large, small, alive or inanimate, local or remote - there is a considerable amount of work involved in ‘creating’ an object from the raw material of perception.

    So, when you perceive X, X was in large part created by you. But X was created from a "raw material of perception" as well.

    Are you saying even the "raw material of perception" is created? What's so raw about it then?

    Realism is not the view that X exists regardless of what we say about it. It's the view that something exists regardless of what we say about it. You admit this when you say that X is created partly by us, and partly by a "raw material perception".

    That you make a distinction necessarily means that the "raw material perception" was not created by us. Otherwise you wouldn't have mentioned it. You would have just said "When you perceive something, there is a considerable amount of work involved in making it up"
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    1.9k
    It's not one or the other. Both come into play.Wayfarer

    How do we distinguish between them? When I try to make sense of it, all I can think about is chicken and egg
  • Banno
    14.5k
    how much of reality is created, and how much is discovered?Merkwurdichliebe

    SO science is discovers, ethics created? And we can work our way on from there.

    But to make the job more interesting, language is created, yet is used to talk about what is discovered. I suspect that might have something to do with @Hanover's position.
  • Banno
    14.5k
    Can't you see how the account I gave of how 'mind constructs reality' conflicts with 'realism holds that ...stuff... is independent of what we say about it'?Wayfarer

    No. I think answers that. And sets up some interesting questions I'd lie to see you answer.
  • khaled
    3.2k
    I'm not following that. Anti-realism presupposes realism? Why? On one side we have that stuff is independent on what we say or think, on the other, that stuff is not dependent on what we say or think. How does stuff being dependent presuppose it not being dependent?Banno

    Does "whether or not stuff depends on what we think" depend on what we think? If it does, you're not really an anti-realist, as you admit realism is just as valid. If it doesn't you're a realist about something.
  • Banno
    14.5k
    If 'every X' is dependent upon M,
    then M is not a member of 'every X'

    I don't see why not - unless you want to add some arbitrary rule of exclusion. Why shouldn't M be dependent on M? that's just recursion, and there's ntohing inherently wrong with that - it's not contradictory...?
  • Merkwurdichliebe
    1.9k
    SO science is discovers, ethics created? And we can work our way on from there.

    But to make the job more interesting, language is created, yet is used to talk about what is discovered. I suspect that might have something to do with Hanover's position.
    Banno

    That makes sense. So then language and ethics being both created, does that mean that ethics is built into language, and that any time we speak there is an inherent ethic in the particular language used? Or that perhaps, various languages carry with them proclivities toward certain morals?
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.