Disorder at the Border: Realism, Science, and the Defense of Naturalism

Philo 7 (2):176-202 (2004)


This paper concerns the conjunction of naturalism---the thesis that the methods of science, and those alone, provide the basic sources of evidence of what there is in the world-with various types of realism. First, I distinguish different forms of naturalist realism on the basis of their ontological commitments in terms of five existential presuppositions about the entities and processes which exist independently of the mind. I then argue that some of these presuppositions are in prima facie conflict with the naturalists’ endorsement of the methods of science, since certain current empirical theories could not be true if these metaphysical presuppositions are correct. Given that these ontological presuppositions have already been criticized by antirealists and supernaturalists on philosophical grounds, I suggest that realism may be more defensible from a naturalist perspective if the realist abandons, or remains agnostic about the truth of the problematic presuppositions and thereby minimizes commitment to mind-independent entities.

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Sophie R. Allen
Keele University

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