• Janus
    8.3k
    That doesn't seem quite right. If someone were to stipulate that unicorns are real, would you just accept that without a challenge? It's through such challenges that concepts are revised and refined. And when it comes to the question of what is real/unreal there needs to be some non-ontological considerations that motivate the distinction or else you end up going in vicious rather than virtuous circles.Aaron R

    I think we may be talking at cross-purposes here Aaron, perhaps because my expression has been unwittingly ambiguous. I would not accept that unicorns are real, precisely because they are one of the kinds of things that general usage of the term 'real' rules out ( i.e. stipulates against) as a referent. So what I meant is that by examining what kinds of things (in this case mythical beasts) are stipulated to be unreal (imaginary) in common usage, we can establish the limits of reference for the idea 'real' and thus what is included as a constituent of reality. But when it comes to entities such as numbers then the provenance of the real is not so unambiguous.

    Sure, but there is a reason we are committed to the real existence of water and not, say, the real existence of unicorns, and it has to do with how claims about those things are justified. I didn't throw the water example out there as a matter of stipulation, it was meant to be hypothetical - if that claim qualifies, then we are committed.Aaron R

    I fully agree with you that we are committed to the reality of empirical (publicly perceived) things such as water, precisely because testable claims can be made about them. But again, what about numbers? Testable claims can be made about them, too.

    As for the ontological/ontic distinction, I don't really recognize it insofar as it is presupposes an equivocal conception of Being. Excising that presupposition collapses it into a more conventional distinction between formal and regional ontology, or the inquiry into Being as such and the inquiry into what kinds of beings there are. There's a lot more that could be said here, but I'll leave it at that for now.Aaron R

    Yes, I think I tend to somewhat agree with you, but it's a complex question. For Heidegger, as you are probably well aware, whether or not something exists is a merely ontic matter, and he tended to apply this even to the question of the existence of God(s). The inquiry into being as such, (or in other words, what it means to exist) on the other hand, is an ontological matter, and this question feeds into the inquiry about what kinds of beings, as distinct from the question about what beings there are (to the latter of which, being an ontic question, any answer would be subject to temporal change). So, I would say that 'what it means to exist' feeds into what kinds of beings we would say exist, but also that any answer we give to the question is informed by considering what kinds of beings we generally do say of them, that they exist.

    I think you're overlooking the fact that linguistic communities are defined as much by their disagreements as they are by their agreements, and I'd say that disagreements are what primarily drive the revision and refinement of what does and does not constitute correct usage. Correctness is therefore not primarily something that is determined by rarefied, post-hoc reflections upon usage (though it does have a role), but is something that evolves organically through acts of praise and censure as the members of a community respond to instances of actual usage.Aaron R

    I think the kind of "disagreements" you refer to are just the kinds of "equivocal" usages I was referring to earlier. And by "equivocal usage" I don't mean equivocation within a sphere of usage, so much as equivocation between different spheres of usage (or in Wittgenstein's terminology, 'different language games'). And I am in full agreement that the established usage (which is subjected by philosophers to "rarefied post hoc reflections") is itself established largely pre-reflectively by practice, which would certainly include both agreement and disagreement, as you noted..

    These are great questions, and to say that they're worth asking doesn't necessarily mean we're committed to the possibility of actually determining final, incontrovertible answers to them, but it does seem to imply setting that as the ideal goal such that we strive to achieve it even if we know that we never fully will.Aaron R

    Yes, I think we are actually substantially in agreement on these issues. I am certainly not in agreement with those who think that the impossibility of a final, incontrovertible answer to a question renders the question meaningless or even a waste of time.

    Anyway the conversation with you is always challenging and stimulating Aaron, and so may it continue, to be...
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    I think I understand what you're getting at, but I still think your criticisms are a bit off the mark. Wolfendale is specifically concerned with discourses that revolve around the making and justifying of claims. So Wolfendale's argument does not apply to any discourse that does not purport to make claims about anything. Of course, Wolfendale would say that the upshot is that those discourses are not rational, strictly speaking. Insofar as artistic, spiritual, ordinary, and public informational discourses purport to make claims about anything, they have entered into the "space of reasons" and fall somewhere within the architectonic of rational discourse based on their justificatory structure.Aaron R

    I don't understand how the rational sphere of discourse, as so defined, is somehow superior to other forms. I know you say in your next paragraph that you and Wolfenden don't claim this; nevertheless you seem to be saying that the nature of 'reality' can somehow be decided upon in the space of reasons and the news of that decision brought back to the other spheres - say to theatre, where the nature of 'reality' is constantly being brought into question but which can't be called upon because it doesn't make rational claims. That just isn't how I think about the world.

    That aside, I am still thinking about the basic ideas, and remain puzzled by the notion of a set of objects that are real without attitude. To me the 'real' is often an event, something that 'really' happened, in a way that can't be translated or reduced to talking about an object. When I think of objects I think of who talks about them where, in considering their 'reality'. My living-room rug for instance, is a real rug, really described by chemistry and physics, also used by children as a magic carpet in a game where one of them wears a sheet which becomes a royal cape and a crown made of cardboard. It is real when described in certain ways but a prop in make-believe games at other times. In this way the object is made real or otherwise *by* attitude, not made real by being attitude-free.
  • Aaron R
    195


    But the theatre can be a forum for entering into the space of reasons and for making claims. Claims do not have to be expressed verbally, they can be articulated through movements, gestures, dances, etc. Just think about what you yourself wrote:

    nevertheless you seem to be saying that the nature of 'reality' can somehow be decided upon in the space of reasons and the news of that decision brought back to the other spheres - say to theatre, where the nature of 'reality' is constantly being brought into question (emphasis mine)mcdoodle

    Calling something into question is a move in the space of reasons. I think you're getting hung-up in the formality of Wolfendale's style and falsely concluding that his position requires the belief that the only legitimate forum for asking and answering questions about the nature of reality is academic philosophy and science.

    In this way the object is made real or otherwise *by* attitude, not made real by being attitude-free.mcdoodle

    Do you believe that the chemical composition of your rug is dependent upon your attitudes toward it? Are you claiming that when you and the kids treat the rug as if it were a cashmere magic carpet that it literally becomes a cashmere magic carpet, and ceases to be the polyester rug that it previously was? If you answered "no" to either of these questions then I believe you are leveraging the very distinction that Wolfendale is trying to describe.
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    Do you believe that the chemical composition of your rug is dependent upon your attitudes toward it? Are you claiming that when you and the kids treat the rug as if it were a cashmere magic carpet that it literally becomes a cashmere magic carpet, and ceases to be the polyester rug that it previously was? If you answered "no" to either of these questions then I believe you are leveraging the very distinction that Wolfendale is trying to describe.Aaron R
    Having recently read 'Mind and World', though I confess I think I now need to reread it to get a proper grip, I think I am agreeing with the McDowell position mentioned in the paper, eventually to be disagreed with:

    A property is real iff we take some ascriptions of it to entities to be true. — Wolfenden, explaining McDowell

    So I take the ascription of chemical properties to the rug to be real, because I trust chemists' descriptions of it insofar as they're vouchsafed to me, and I take the ascription of magical properties to it to be, well, magical. In different contexts different properties matter to the participants in talk. When the children play using the rug and it very visibly and plausibly becomes a magic carpet, especially if I get swept up in the game of make-believe, nevertheless in my heart I know it's 'really' just a rug. When physicists explain to me that it's composed of minuscule fields of stuff that are unobservable, I call their descriptions 'real' on trust, knowing that another generation of physicists will probably revise how physicists describe it. I don't regard the descriptions derived from the physics and the chemistry as 'more real' than 'the rug we bought in Turkey'. They're plural ways of describing real properties in different contexts.

    I'm interested in how your narrowing down of the 'real' to a 'set of objects' deals with the notion of facts as events that 'really' happened. Take a detective's investigation or a statement in a court of law, for instance, where 'real' might be used. How is that to do with objects? (I think the 'entities' in Wolfenden's terse summary of McDowell's position is an attempt to summarise some ideas that also include events)
  • Aaron R
    195
    Hi mcdoodle. Sorry for the delayed reply. Here are some thoughts on what you wrote in your last post:

    I think I am agreeing with the McDowell position mentioned in the paper, eventually to be disagreed with:mcdoodle

    I hope this doesn't come off as completely dismissive, but literally the whole point of Wolfendale's paper is to explicate a legitimately "thick" notion of "reality" in contradiction to the McDowell claim. For Wolfendale, truth simpliciter isn't sufficient. He thinks objectivity is required as well and explains why.

    if I get swept up in the game of make-believe, nevertheless in my heart I know it's 'really' just a rug.mcdoodle

    Wolfendale is just trying to make explicit the logic that is implicit in this statement of yours.

    They're plural ways of describing real properties in different contexts.mcdoodle

    This could mean many different things, so I'm not exactly sure how to respond to it. Wolfendale, again, is not denying that the word "real" can have different meanings in different contexts. He's concerned with a particular context. Neither do i get the impression that he would claim that physics and chemistry have a monopoly on reality. I think he'd happily admit that other empirical disciplines such as biology, psychology, sociology, economics, political science, etc. or even swathes of "ordinary" discourse can have purchase on the real.

    I'm interested in how your narrowing down of the 'real' to a 'set of objects' deals with the notion of facts as events that 'really' happened. Take a detective's investigation or a statement in a court of law, for instance, where 'real' might be used. How is that to do with objects? (I think the 'entities' in Wolfenden's terse summary of McDowell's position is an attempt to summarise some ideas that also include events)mcdoodle

    It's important to understand that Wolfendale doesn't take himself to be doing metaphysics here (fwiw, I believe that Wolfendale actually subscribes to some kind of a Deleuzean process-based metaphysics). So the word "object" is intended to have a transcendental, rather than a metaphysical, function in the context of his discussion. It is rooted in the Hegelian concept of "natural consciousness" which, contra Hegel, he takes to be the best transcendental description of thought/consciousness available, for reasons he tries to make clear.
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    Sorry for the delayed reply.Aaron R

    I too am busy, Aaron, thanks for engaging me in a reply.

    I confess I'm confused, if W-dale is into a sort of process-based metaphysics, why he's focusing so heavily on 'objects', damned elusive things, 'just bloody slow events' as one engineer told me he called them, presumably a process-minded sort of a bloke.

    McDowell does work his own way carefully and painfully from his thin version of reality to a different route to 'objectivity', and before a reread which I don't have time for now, I found his struggle appealing.

    For the present I can see I'm deep-rooted in some sort of pluralist view of the real. I don't know why you think 'pluralist' needs some sort of unpicking, but that's where I'm stuck, till I read or think more about it.
  • Aaron R
    195
    No problem mcdoodle.

    As for Wolfendale's preoccupation with objects, you have to be able to appreciate the distinction he's making between the transcendental and the metaphysical in order to understand why he's not actually obsessed with objects. So one way to think about this is via the following question: how can we define the real without lapsing into vicious circularity? If we define the real in terms of something we already take to be real, then we will not succeed. So one of the purposes of his paper is to circumscribe a domain of discourse that is non-ontological (i.e. doesn't entail any ontological commitments) from which we can answer the question "what is it to talk about the real?" such that the answer that it provides entails that it itself does not qualify as talk about the real. That's one of the roles of transcendental discourse, to answer the question of what metaphysical discourse consists in without actually engaging in metaphysics.

    It's not that I think that your "pluralism" necessarily needs unpicking, so much as I am just trying to understand what you think "pluralism" means with respect to the real. You've sort-of explained it, but I've found the explanations you've so far provided to be somewhat unclear. It seems like you are really defending something like an "explanatory" pluralism rather than a metaphysical pluralism, but I'm not really sure. So I'm stuck too, which is fine. It wouldn't be philosophy if we didn't get stuck sometimes, would it?
123Next
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.