Anti-Realism in the Philosophy of Mind

Dissertation, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1985)
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Abstract

My purpose is to examine the realism/anti-realism issue in the philosophy of mind and to lay the foundation for its resolution. To that end I formulate the issue in terms of Dummett's semantic criterion of bivalence, and the question becomes one of whether or not statements about the mind are determinately either true or false. I shall signify this formulation by capitalizing: Realism or anti-Realism. One of the virtues of this approach is that it is a clear and unambiguous way of posing the problem in the philosophy of mind, where the traditional formulation in terms of a mind-independent reality is suggestive but inadequate. ;I then discuss two principal types of theories from the perspective of this issue, and examine in detail specific representative theories of these types. I find Quine's behaviorism to be Realist and Dennett's functionalism to be anti-Realist. I also show that Wittgenstein gives arguments against a certain kind of Realism about the mind which are similar to Quine's, but where Quine opts for a less problematic Realism Wittgenstein opts for anti-Realism. ;Finally, I offer some conclusions to the effect that it may not be determinately true or false that Realism about the mind is true or false, and so suggest the possibility of a second-order anti-Realism. To that end I try to make plausible the claim that there is no compelling reason to be a Realist with respect to the mind. A major motivation for adopting Realism in the philosophy of mind may be a belief in scientific Realism coupled with a tendency to import the same considerations into other areas of philosophy. Since I want to preserve the possibility of scientific Realism, I argue that the two issues are independent and that Realism about science does not entail Realism about the mind.

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Carolyn G. Hartz
St. Cloud State University

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