• Mongrel
    3k
    The problem that I see with this is that exiting the "reality bubble" has the effect of making all fictional claims seem like they are not truth-apt, not just the ones that we can't know the answers to. So at this point I'm not convinced that we can leverage that idea to support the notion that complete knowability is the criterion for unreality.Aaron R

    I claim that Moby Dick is a fictional whale (as opposed to a squid). That statement is true. But you're right.. I don't think the scientific community knows everything there is to know about whales, so there could be unknown truths about Moby.

    Yea, I think you killed my theory.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    Presumably, if one can assume they are in a rational state of inquiry (not dreaming, high, or hallucinating), then things that are perceived by the senses can be seen as real, as in existing.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    Presumably, if one can assume they are in a rational state of inquiry (not dreaming, high, or hallucinating), then things that are perceived by the senses can be seen as real, as in existing.darthbarracuda
    Yes. In fact, I won't ever deny the data of my senses. I saw what I saw. I heard what I heard. I will allow some flexibility with interpretation, though. Reason might conduct some negotiations where there's doubt.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    In fact, I won't ever deny the data of my senses.Mongrel

    What if you are on LSD and see a zebra prancing down the street? Is that zebra real?
  • Mongrel
    3k
    What if you are on LSD and see a zebra prancing down the street? Is that zebra real?darthbarracuda

    I cross myself like a Catholic when I relate some of the stuff I experienced on acid. Never saw a zebra, though. LSD isn't a so-called "true hallucinogenic." Datura is. It undermines a person's ability to tell the difference between what's real and what isn't. Conventional wisdom says only fools take it because nothing good comes from it.

    But to answer your question, if I saw a prancing zebra, I wouldn't deny what I saw. Deciding what it means that I saw it (whether it was real or not) would be an interpretation.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    But to answer your question, if I saw a prancing zebra, I wouldn't deny what I saw. Deciding what it means that I saw it (whether it was real or not) would be an interpretation.Mongrel

    What do you mean, "interpretation"? Sorry, I was confused with this part of your response.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    What do you mean, "interpretation"? Sorry, I was confused with this part of your response.darthbarracuda

    My theory of "experience vs interpretation" comes from the fact that I had dreams that came true when I was young. As an older teenager, I decided that it was my mind playing tricks on me. That was a nice theory, but committing to it set me on the course toward a crisis. If I accepted that my mind is dysfunctional, what was the basis for ever believing its testimony?

    My solution was to set a rule for myself. I won't ever deny what I experience. I experienced having dreams that came true when I was young. What I won't allow is inflexiblity of interpretation. I don't know what it means that I experienced that. Maybe there was something wrong with the chemistry of my brain. Maybe there's more than one way to experience events in time and a dream can be an alternate to the waking mode. I don't know.

    I note that some realists would be outraged by my flexibility. Bottom line is: it's not like I have a choice. Maintenance of my sanity is my responsibility. I've done a pretty good job. Unfortunately, that doesn't translate into a sturdy argument. :)
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k


    Are skeptical probabilities not enough to pragmatically determine if something is real or not? So being sober and fully rational would make experiences more probable of being true than experiences under the influence or while in an irrational mindset?
  • Mongrel
    3k
    Are skeptical probabilities not enough to pragmatically determine if something is real or not? So being sober and fully rational would make experiences more probable of being true than experiences under the influence or while in an irrational mindset?darthbarracuda

    Pragmatism is focus on outcomes. A pragmatist accepts a thing as real "for all practical purposes" and finds no value in trying to go beyond that. If you're driving down a highway, it's practical to accept that the road is real and will meet your tires as you speed along. If you lack sobriety, you shouldn't be driving a car... not because you might lose confidence in the reality of the road, though. It's because your ability to react appropriately is diminished.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    Pragmatism is focus on outcomes. A pragmatist accepts a thing as real "for all practical purposes" and finds no value in trying to go beyond that.Mongrel

    Is there any other way of determining the existence of something other than to directly observe it and assume all methods of rational inquiry are working?
  • Mongrel
    3k
    Is there any other way of determining the existence of something other than to directly observe it and assume all methods of rational inquiry are working?darthbarracuda

    Indirect observation is sufficient in many cases.... seeing evidence of X without directly observing X. Why do you ask this?
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    I was under the impression that you thought there were alternatives.
  • Mongrel
    3k
    Sorry, I don't understand what you're asking.
  • Postmodern Beatnik
    69
    "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."
    —Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    Your initial post on this thread argued that the word "real" has various meanings depending on what it is being contrasted against. You mentioned real/unreal, real/illusory real/imaginary and real/abstract. My initial thought in response is to deny that these truly designate different senses of the word "real" by claiming that the illusory, imaginary and abstract are simply different categories of the unreal. Claims about the illusory, the imaginary and the abstract all inevitably bottom out into claims about people's attitudes, though they will each do so in different ways. Or least, that's what seems prima facie reasonable to me at this point, without having devoted much serious thought to the matter. Perhaps you could comment on whether or not you agree before I spend more time thinking about it.Aaron R

    Sorry to take so long to reply, I'm doing a course and it leaves little time for reflection. I'm sorry too that I was rather slapdash with words and I quite accept your correction about 'claims' (which I think is in a later para than quoted but I didn't want to make the quote unmanageably long!).

    I don't feel these different alternatives to 'real' all bottom out as 'different categories of the unreal'. I think that's to assume your univocal, as it were, answer. I am thinking of Nelson Goodman's 'many worlds', each of which can be rigorously delimited. I think the boundaries of the 'real' overlap but are different, depending on the shared assumptions of the people communicating.

    Perception is the most 'scientific' example. My moment-to-moment experience I take for 'real'. But I accept that on closer scrutiny the world I inhabited at that moment had other features that I missed, and they are 'real' too. My 'old gits' philosophy group used to watch videos by Steven Novella in which one of his catch phrases was 'Whereas in reality' - which he would use to show you how things 'really' are compared to the 'illusion' of your perception, e.g. of everyone's blindspot. I regard both understandings as 'real' and reject his formulation, although he regards his formulation, as I understand it, as empirically-based, and I regard it as based on his attitude.

    Where biology and chemistry, say, don't coincide, or where physics and chemistry don't coincide, I take both formulations as 'real'.

    I take 'Don Juan' to be a fictional character but 'He's a Don Juan' to be an ok description of a person who seems real enough to me. Here I don't think the 'set of real objects' idea works: objects can be in a real set and an alternative set depending on context and attitudes.

    I hope this is a reasonable basis for response. Thanks for your thoughts.
  • Aaron R
    195
    Thanks for the response. I would agree that the boundaries of the real can vary depending on the shared assumptions of the people communicating in any given context, but the very fact that we can talk about "the boundaries of the real" seems to suggest that there is a common conceptual thread circumscribing all of the contextual differences. For example, the shared assumptions undergirding some discursive context might include a (perhaps implicit) commitment to the "reality" of abstract objects such as numbers. Now suppose someone who doesn't share that implicit assumption enters the discussion and starts saying things like "...but this only follows under the assumption that numbers are real, but I don't think they are real because...". The original discussion is now bracketed until the question of the reality of numbers is resolved, but the possibility of resolving that question is dependent on there being a shared concept of "reality" in play. In the absence of such, the discussion will inevitably shift to the question of reality itself (e.g. "what do you mean by 'real', anyway?"). That discussion now brackets questions about what particular things are or are not real and asks after what it means to attribute reality to anything at all.

    In other words, the ensuing discussion will set out to determine how we "ought" to think about the general formal structure of reality. So whereas you seem to be saying that the fact that the content of "reality" varies by discursive context precludes the possibility of there being anything like a "formal structure of reality", I would argue that it is actually a condition for its possibility. Discursive contexts are not hermetically sealed with respect to one another, anyone can come along at any time and challenge the shared assumptions undergirding any given context, and that is part of what makes the debate over the content of those underlying assumptions possible.

    If you're interested and have the time, check out Peter Wolfendale's "Essay On Transcendental Realism". It situates the argument that I have presented here in a broader dialectical context, which may (or may not) help clarify it.
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    So whereas you seem to be saying that the fact that the content of "reality" varies by discursive context precludes the possibility of there being anything like a "formal structure of reality", I would argue that it is actually a condition for its possibility. Discursive contexts are not hermetically sealed with respect to one another, anyone can come along at any time and challenge the shared assumptions undergirding any given context, and that is part of what makes the debate over the content of those underlying assumptions possible.

    If you're interested and have the time, check out Peter Wolfendale's "Essay On Transcendental Realism". It situates the argument that I have presented here in a broader dialectical context, which may (or may not) help clarify it.
    Aaron R

    Thanks Aaron. Your position seems related to 'ontic structural realism', insofar as I understand that, which is not an awful lot.

    I realise I am very minimalist in these debates. I am halfway through a first quick reading of the Wolfendale article - for which my thanks - and come up against fundamental statements where I know I will get stuck. I think it's because I've been a struggling dramatist most of my life, and drama is how the world(s) seem(s) to me. So I don't think that 'All discourse aims at truth', indeed I eschew absolute remarks like that as much as possible (but sometimes find I've made them!). Likely most discourse aims at communication of understanding, perhaps, though some of it is communication about and of power-relations, some about profound feelings, and some like the best art is not very definable in what it's about.

    I've grappled lately with McDowell and Haugeland in an effort to find a friendly way in which objectivity can make sense to me in the way, I feel, it does for you and Wolfendale. But I can't seem to get there. So much of this theorising seems, underneath, to be deeply in love with an idea of science and therefore blind to how people mostly talk. For me the empirical in the ordinarily real way of things is soaked in attitudes, and we have to drain events and objects of what they most importantly mean to us - my mother's jewel-box, the hill I look up at from my window every morning where I've walked countless hours, my friends and lovers and all our associations and memories - in order to arrive at this stripped-down attitude-free version of the 'real'.

    Anyway I'll carry on with the article when I have a bit of time over the weekend, but that's my first reaction, I hope it makes sense.
  • Janus
    8.3k
    Hi Aaron, what you write seems to be contending that the notions of reality, existence, materiality and so on, in various contexts, which we have are not deeply equivocal.

    The idea that there is a "common conceptual thread", which, as you seem to be using it, might be taken in the sense of an essence, is rather, for me and per Wittgenstein, better understood as a more or less loose association of conceptions, which certainly may be pre-critically understood as a threadlike essence, but which unravels on closer examination.

    You give an example of someone coming in and questioning the others' assumptions that numbers are real, and say that the discussion now devolves to considerations of what is meant in general by the term 'reality. In relation to what you go on to say of that situation, namely that "that discussion now brackets questions about what particular things are or are not real and asks after what it means to attribute reality to anything at all."; I would respond that this is misleading, because although the question of the reality of particular things may be bracketed, the question of what kinds of things are real could not be left out, or there could be no discussion at all.

    I have engaged in many discussion of the 'nature of reality' where the assertion has been made that numbers are real, but always, when the question of what is meant by the 'reality of number' is raised the answer is given as a denial of material reality along with an assertion of some other unspecified kind of reality. The issue I have is that if a postulated 'kind of reality' cannot be specified in any way other than as 'not material', what motivation could we have to take it seriously?

    Now I am not arguing that there is an ultimate 'nature of reality', but if we were to think there were, then the best candidate by far would be 'material reality'. On the other hand the idea of reality seems to be inextricably tied to the idea of existence, and I think it is reasonable to think there can be more than one kind of existence , fictional existence, functional existence, logical existence and so on. In the same way I think we can say there are fictional,functional and logical realities. In the end I think all realities, in one way or the other, can only be thought as material, (by which I definitely don't mean 'stuff') but that is another story.
  • Aaron R
    195
    I do have some sympathies with ontic structural realism, though I wouldn't endorse the manner in which it is typically motivated, and I'm not sure I'd be willing to endorse any particular brand of it. But it's a reasonable comparison in some ways.

    As for Wolfendale, yes, your critique does make sense to me. That said, I don't agree with it. The thing to keep in mind as you read Wolfendale is that he is not attempting to describe the way that human beings actually think, argue or communicate. He would say that that is the job of psychology, sociology, etc. Instead he's attempting to describe the normative structure of thought, or, what is sometimes called "transcendental psychology". What good is that? Well, it's an attempt to work out what we ought to be committed to solely in virtue of being rational subjects. To be a rational subject is to occupy a place within the "space of reasons", or to be the type of subject that intrinsically makes a claim about something. As such we have a set of responsibilities that we are bound to, regardless of whether or not we actually fulfill those responsibilities or even fully understand them. His goal is therefore to work out the implications of claiming itself, to explicitly identify what it means to make a claim, and what it means to be the type of subject that makes claims. He's not saying that this form of subjectivity exhausts what it is to be human, or that the actual interactions between human beings ever actually satisfy the ideal structure he has uncovered. In fact, he doesn't even think that rational subjectivity is real! Instead he is basically just saying, "insofar as you take yourself to be a rational subject, here is what you ought to be committed to".

    So, I'm not sure if that helps at all, but let me know if you want to discuss it any further.
  • Aaron R
    195
    Welcome John! So, I think there needs to be a distinction between the questions "what is real" and "what does it mean to say that something is real". The questions are obviously intimately related, but I think that we really ought to try to give an explicit answer to the latter before attempting to answer the former. My reason for saying that is that I believe that any answer we give to the former necessarily presupposes some kind of answer to the latter, and if we never attempt to ask or answer the latter question explicitly then our presuppositions will remain implicit, vague and, more likely than not, incoherent. I would say that this is precisely the kind of thing that you have encountered in your discussions. Someone has some half-arsed idea of what it means to talk about reality motivating their claim that numbers constitute a non-material reality. More than likely they haven't asked or explicitly tried to answer the latter question at all, and so their supporting argument is likely to be appeal to vague notions of existence, truth and reference without situating any of those concepts with respect to a fleshed-out concept of reality (i've been guilty of this myself).

    Now, I happen to agree that the concept of existence applies to, well, just about everything. This follows in virtue of having to use some form of the verb "to be" in order to discuss any object whatever, be it fictional, functional, logical, etc. However, I would not say that we are thereby committed to the real or actual existence of all those things, and that's because I think that the word "real" has a special role to play in the structure of rational inquiry. I've already attempted to explain that special role in previous posts, but if you don't find it convincing or feel that I have not responded adequately to something you've written so far let me know and I'll be happy to discuss it further!
  • Janus
    8.3k


    Thanks for your response Aaron. I have just two points regarding what you have said there.

    First, in attempting to answer the question "what does it mean to say that something is real, would we not have to make reference to "what is real", not in the sense of 'what particular things are real', but in the sense of 'what kinds of things are real'? (The "are" in each of these two sentences I would take to be equivalent to 'should we say are'). I can't see any way around having to make such references, and of course this is the same point I made in the earlier response.

    Second, in relation to your point that whereas the concept of existence applies to everything, the concept of reality does not, I would just like to highlight the fact that in the kind of arguments I was referring to about the reality of numbers; it is, usually and confusingly, the obverse point that is made by the proponents of numerical reality; namely that numbers are real but that they do not exist.

    And this last point feeds into my earlier note that all these terms 'existence', 'materiality' and 'reality' do not seem to be univocal at all, and I think this is precisely the difficulty faced when trying to ascertain any circumscribed ambit of applicability relative to them.
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    "transcendental psychology". What good is that? Well, it's an attempt to work out what we ought to be committed to solely in virtue of being rational subjects. To be a rational subject is to occupy a place within the "space of reasons", or to be the type of subject that intrinsically makes a claim about something. As such we have a set of responsibilities that we are bound to, regardless of whether or not we actually fulfill those responsibilities or even fully understand them. His goal is therefore to work out the implications of claiming itself, to explicitly identify what it means to make a claim, and what it means to be the type of subject that makes claims.Aaron R

    I will stick with it, though I'm afraid I only have time to pop in today. I am familiar with this sort of argument from McDowell. I try to go with it, but I can't. In a sense it becomes trivial: 'All discourse aims for truth because all the discourse I'm talking about aims for truth.' I don't feel that's so, even in the area of the philosophy of science where it might be most applicable: any given student essay, for instance, and its mark, is a ritual exchange based on currently approved wisdom, nothing to do with truth. So are many routine papers. Such an approach does seem to end up claiming that the philosophy of a certain sort of science is philosophy itself, because it demarcates the rest of thinking acting and feeling into another non-philosophical zone. But as I said, I'll stick with it!
  • Aaron R
    195
    Hi John. In regard to your first point, I think there's a difference. The first question is about discourse, and the second question is about the real. Prima facie, I'd say it's possible to answer the first question without answering the second, but only if the first is answered in a non-ontological way. How is this possible? Well, suppose we argue that talk about the real is talk that does not bottom out into claims about anyone's attitudes. This leaves unanswered the question of what the content of such talk actually consists in. Furthermore, it leaves open the possibility that that very claim itself does not qualify as talk about the real, in which case it also does not qualify as ontology insofar as ontological talk is a subset of talk about the real.

    To your second point, yes I have seen people make that distinction between existence and reality, but I've found that they'll often end up sneaking existence in the back door in order to explain what they mean by "real".

    To your third point, I'm not sure I understand what you mean when you say that there terms are not "univocal". Do you just mean that they are often used in different and inconsistent ways depending on context?
  • Aaron R
    195
    I still think you're kinda missing the point. Again, he's not describing actual practice, he's describing the norms of rationality. He's arguing that to talk about the real is, ideally, to justify one's claims in a certain manner, and he's trying to make explicit the rules that he thinks implicitly govern what we ought to be doing when we talk about the real.
  • Janus
    8.3k
    Yes, it probably would have been clearer if I had instead written: First, in attempting to answer the question "what does it mean to say that something is real, would we not have to make reference to "what we should say is real", not in the sense of 'what particular things we should say are real', but in the sense of 'what kinds of things we should say are real'?

    If I have understood what you have written about 'what qualifies as talk about the real', it seems to highlight the fact that we only ever talk about what we should say is real, and are incapable of talking about the Real itself since it is not an item of experience, but is rather an idea that expresses what we think about the ontological status of items of common sensory experience, based on the logical distinction we make between those items and, for example, fictional or imaginary items.

    To your last question the answer is 'yes', the fact that they "are often used in different and inconsistent ways depending on context" seems to preclude the possibility that an unequivocal meaning for such terms can be established. I am almost tempted to say that arguments about what is real, devolve to arguments about what the term means, which in turn devolves to arguments about what kinds of things we should say are real. The problem is that the purpose of any such discussion is to establish what the term 'real' means, but unless we can establish what 'real' means prior to any discussion, it seems that it must remain stuck in the hermeneutic circle.
  • mcdoodle
    1k
    whereas you seem to be saying that the fact that the content of "reality" varies by discursive context precludes the possibility of there being anything like a "formal structure of reality", I would argue that it is actually a condition for its possibility. Discursive contexts are not hermetically sealed with respect to one another, anyone can come along at any time and challenge the shared assumptions undergirding any given context, and that is part of what makes the debate over the content of those underlying assumptions possible.

    If you're interested and have the time, check out Peter Wolfendale's "Essay On Transcendental Realism". It situates the argument that I have presented here in a broader dialectical context, which may (or may not) help clarify it.
    Aaron R

    I have retraced my steps with Wolfenden, and then skip-read onwards.

    One core difficulty for me is that this entire strand of analytical thinking has a narrow view of 'discourses'. My account of discourses would included the artistic, the spiritual, the ordinary conversational, public information exchange (media), the historical and the social-scientific. I don't feel these are represented in Wolfenden's account of 'All discourses': no disrespect to him, it's what a lot of analytic philosophy focusses on too. Philosophy merges into philosophy of science.

    That means that I can only follow the argument up to a point.

    But it does also mean that I have a more-or-less opposite view: that scientific understanding is about intellectuals having attitude, not about not-having-attitude. Objectification requires determinedly riding roughshod over what makes the particular particular, and special, and requires a determined refusal of God-claims about explanations of experience and how we analyse that experience into perception and conception.

    Back at the op, I don't think that your/Wolfenden's view exhausts 'the real' as compared to its supposed opposites, in all sorts of discourse. I don't fully understand how this self-confessedly idealised view of particular discourses enables you to propose, say, that there is a certain set of 'real objects'. How do you make the connection from there to here, the ordinary world of language?

    I hope I'm making sense and not just sounding ornery.
  • Aaron R
    195
    In response to your first paragraph, I'm not sure the substitution of "kinds" for "particulars" makes a difference. I still think that the one question can be answered separately from the other. Knowing what distinguishes talk about the real from other kinds of talk does not, in itself, tell us what kinds of things are real any more than it tells us what particular things are real.

    In regard to your second paragraph, I don't agree that we cannot talk about the real itself. Basically I have been arguing that the concept of the real is a non-eliminable part of the normative structure of rational discourse. The upshot is that insofar as we achieve that ideal through actual practice we will find it impossible not to deploy that concept and thus talk about the real itself. That implies being committed to the reality of the things referred to by such talk. So for instance, saying that the claim "water covers roughly 70% of the earth's surface" qualifies as talk about the real implies commitment to the real existence of "water" and "the earth", etc.

    In regard to your third paragraph, I guess I am not sure what the appeal to contextual differences and different usages is intended to establish. Do you deny that communities can reach consensus on the correct usage of words through rational dialog? I would agree that absolute consensus is an ideal that cannot be reached. That said, I would say that to engage in rational discourse is to implicitly take aim at that ideal (and others as well), and so the fact that you have come here to toss around ideas finds you implicitly committed to the achievement of that goal.

    As for the hermeneutic circle, I agree with you in spirit if not in detail. As mentioned, I don't think that existence and reality are equivalent, and so I think that the concept of reality can be examined without having to bracket the concept of existence. This means we can employ the concept of existence in order to explain the concept of reality, if need be, without engaging in vicious circularity. More generally, I agree that we cannot think thought without thinking. Some see this as inherently problematic, but I'm not convinced it is. Arguments that attempt to show that we cannot think thought always seem to end up having to think thought in order to show that we can't think thought. So, in my experience those kinds of arguments are non-starters (not to imply that you're making that kind of argument).
  • Aaron R
    195
    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.

    I feel it's really important to understand that he's not arguing for the devaluation of non-objective forms of discourse. For Wolfendale "non-objective" does not mean "irrational". In fact, his own essay is an example of non-objective discourse by way of his own classification! He is simply arguing that people brandish the word "reality" without bothering to make explicit what they mean, and more often then not when you dig in you'll find that the notion being employed is more-or-less vague and/or incoherent. That might be good enough for ordinary discourse where the question of what is real just doesn't really come up very often, or for spiritual discourses in which everyone simply agrees to apply the word so that it includes their favorite deity or personal spiritual experience, but it's not good enough for philosophy where making things explicit is the name of game. So he argues for an explicit concept of reality that is to be understood in terms of a particular justificatory structure, and he thinks that it aligns well with the way the concept is intuitively applied in less explicit forms of discourse. If someone thinks that his concept is inadequate, incoherent or in some other way deficient then they are free to argue against it and propose alternatives, or else they are free to step off the stage of rational discourse. In my opinion, that's really all he's saying.
  • Janus
    8.3k


    OK, I don't mean to say that "knowing what distinguishes talk about the real from other kinds of talk... (tells)... us what kinds of things are real any more than it tells us what particular things are real." I meant to say the obverse which is that knowing (or more realistically, stipulating) what kinds of things are real (and not what particular things are real) tells us what distinguishes talk about the real from other kinds of talk. In other words, I don't see how any such distinction could be made without examples to clarify it.

    As to your second paragraph I do agree that, as per you example, talk of "water covering 70 % of the earth" commits us to the logical (which I think also entails the ontic) reality of water, earth and so on; but I am not convinced that it commits us to their ontological reality. But again it depends on what you take 'ontological' to mean, and that's not so easy to clarify with examples. The use of examples of kinds of things such as water and earth does seem to lend support to my contention that to clarify what we mean by 'real' we need to refer to examples.

    I don't believe so much that "communities ... reach consensus on the correct usage of words through rational dialog", as I think that community just is commonality of usage, and I think what constitutes 'correct usage' can only be established after the fact by thinking about examples of kinds of usage. It is thus more a matter of 'empirical investigation' than "rational dialogue". For me the upshot of this is that there is no perfectly correct use; we are not able to establish a point, but only a range.

    An investigation into the differences and commonalities between the ideas of 'existence' and 'reality' would be a very complex and interesting one, I think. Is it reality or existence for example that implies being, or is being another conceptual category again? Or conversely does being imply reality or existence or both?

    Or, to return to the example of argument about the reality of numbers; can they be thought to be real without being thought to exist, and if so should they be thought to be or not to be?

    Is being fundamental to reality or merely to existence? Or is (as with both Derrida and Deleuze) difference fundamentally real, with both being and existence being derivative? Is it possible to establish any particular way we should talk about these things?
  • Aaron R
    195
    Sorry for the delayed reply. Haven't had as much spare time over the last couple of days...

    I meant to say the obverse which is that knowing (or more realistically, stipulating) what kinds of things are real (and not what particular things are real) tells us what distinguishes talk about the real from other kinds of talk.John

    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.

    As to your second paragraph I do agree that, as per you example, talk of "water covering 70 % of the earth" commits us to the logical (which I think also entails the ontic) reality of water, earth and so on; but I am not convinced that it commits us to their ontological reality. But again it depends on what you take 'ontological' to mean, and that's not so easy to clarify with examples.John

    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.

    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.

    I think that community just is commonality of usage, and I think what constitutes 'correct usage' can only be established after the fact by thinking about examples of kinds of usage. It is thus more a matter of 'empirical investigation' than "rational dialogue".John

    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.

    Is being fundamental to reality or merely to existence? Or is (as with both Derrida and Deleuze) difference fundamentally real, with both being and existence being derivative? Is it possible to establish any particular way we should talk about these things?John

    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.
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