The Significance of Semantic Realism

Synthese 136 (2):191-217 (2003)
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This paper is concerned with the relationship between the metaphysical doctrine of realism about the external world and semantic realism, as characterised by Michael Dummett. I argue that Dummett's conception of the relationship is flawed, and that Crispin Wright's account of the relationship, although designed to avoid the problems which beset Dummett's, nevertheless fails for similar reasons. I then aim to show that despite the fact that Dummett and Wright both fail to give a plausible account of the relationship between semantic realism and the metaphysical doctrine of realism, the semantic issue and the metaphysical issue are importantly related. I outline the precise sense in which the evaluation of semantic realism is relevant to the evaluation of realism about the external world, a sense overlooked by opponents of Dummett, such as Simon Blackburn and Michael Devitt. I finish with some brief remarks on metaphysics, semantics, and the nature of philosophy, and suggest that Dummett's arguments against semantic realism can retain their relevance to metaphysical debate even if we reject Dummett's idea that the theory of meaning is thefoundation of all philosophy.



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Alexander B. Miller
The Catholic University of America

Citations of this work

Realism.Alexandern D. Miller - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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The Semantic Realism/Anti-Realism Dispute and Knowledge of Meanings.Panu Raatikainen - 2009 - The Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication 5:1-13.
Davidson’s antirealism?Alexander Miller & Ali Hossein Khani - 2015 - Revista de Filosofia Aurora 27 (40):265.

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References found in this work

Inquiries Into Truth And Interpretation.Donald Davidson - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Truth and other enigmas.Michael Dummett - 1978 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Essays in quasi-realism.Simon Blackburn - 1993 - New York: Oxford University Press.

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