Moral Realism is a systematic defence of the idea that there are objective moral standards. Russ Shafer-Landau argues that there are moral principles that are true independently of what anyone, anywhere, happens to think of them. His central thesis, as well as the many novel supporting arguments used to defend it, will spark much controversy among those concerned with the foundations of ethics.
Scientific Realism is the optimistic view that modern science is on the right track: that the world really is the way our best scientific theories describe it to be. In his book, Stathis Psillos gives us a detailed and comprehensive study, which restores the intuitive plausibility of scientific realism. We see that throughout the twentieth century, scientific realism has been challenged by philosophical positions from all angles: from reductive empiricism, to instrumentalism and modern skeptical empiricism. Scientific (...) class='Hi'>Realism explains that the history of science does not undermine the notion of scientific realism, and instead makes it reasonable to accept scientific as the best philosophical account of science, its empirical success, its progress and its practice. Anyone wishing to gain a deeper understanding of the state of modern science and why scientific realism is plausible, should read this book. (shrink)
The no-miracles argument for realism and the pessimistic meta-induction for anti-realism pull in opposite directions. Structural Realism---the position that the mathematical structure of mature science reflects reality---relieves this tension.
In , Peter van Inwagen asked a good question. (Asking the right question is often the hardest part.) He asked: what do you have to do to some objects to get them to compose something---to bring into existence some further thing made up of those objects? Glue them together or what?1 Some said that you don’t have to do anything.2 No matter what you do to the objects, they’ll always compose something further, no matter how they are arranged. Thus we (...) learned of the fusion of the coins in our pockets and the Eiffel tower. (shrink)
This paper provides a critical overview of the realist current in contemporary political philosophy. We define political realism on the basis of its attempt to give varying degrees of autonomy to politics as a sphere of human activity, in large part through its exploration of the sources of normativity appropriate for the political and so distinguish sharply between political realism and non-ideal theory. We then identify and discuss four key arguments advanced by political realists: from ideology, from the (...) relationship of ethics to politics, from the priority of legitimacy over justice and from the nature of political judgement. Next, we ask to what extent realism is a methodological approach as opposed to a substantive political position and so discuss the relationship between realism and a few such positions. We close by pointing out the links between contemporary realism and the realist strand that runs through much of the history of Western political thought. (shrink)
Publisher's description: The realistic spirit, a nonmetaphysical approach to philosophical thought concerned with the character of philosophy itself, informs all of the discussions in these essays by philosopher Cora Diamond. Diamond explains Wittgenstein's notoriously elusive later writings, explores the background to his thought in the work of Frege, and discusses ethics in a way that reflects his influence. Diamond's new reading of Wittgenstein challenges currently accepted interpretations and shows what it means to look without mythology at the coherence, commitments, and (...) connections that are distinctive of the mind. (shrink)
SummaryThe main argument for scientific realism is that our present theories in science are so successful empirically that they can't have got that way by chance ‐ instead they must somehow have latched onto the blueprint of the universe. The main argument against scientific realism is that there have been enormously successful theories which were once accepted but are now regarded as false. The central question addressed in this paper is whether there is some reasonable way to have (...) the best of both worlds: to give the argument from scientific revolutions its full weight and yet still adopt some sort of realist attitude towards presently accepted theories in physics and elsewhere. I argue that there is such a way ‐ through structural realism, a position adopted by Poincare, and here elaborated and defended. (shrink)
Scientific realism is the optimistic view that modern science is on the right track: that the world really is the way our best scientific theories describe it. In his book, Stathis Psillos gives us a detailed and comprehensive study which restores the intuitive plausibility of scientific realism. We see that throughout the twentieth century, scientific realism has been challenged by philosophical positions from all angles: from reductive empiricism, to instrumentalism and to modern sceptical empiricism. _Scientific Realism_ explains (...) that the history of science does not undermine the arguments for scientific realism, but instead makes it reasonable to accept scientific realism as the best philosophical account of science, its empirical success, its progress and its practice. Anyone wishing to gain a deeper understanding of the state of modern science and why scientific realism is plausible, should read this book. (shrink)
This is the third volume of Hilary Putnam's philosophical papers, published in paperback for the first time. The volume contains his major essays from 1975 to 1982, which reveal a large shift in emphasis in the 'realist'_position developed in his earlier work. While not renouncing those views, Professor Putnam has continued to explore their epistemological consequences and conceptual history. He now, crucially, sees theories of truth and of meaning that derive from a firm notion of reference as inadequate.
Following on from Roy Bhaskar’s first two books, A Realist Theory of Science and The Possibility of Naturalism, Scientific Realism and Human Emancipation, establishes the conception of social science as explanatory—and thence emancipatory—critique. _Scientific Realism and Human Emancipation_ starts from an assessment of the impasse of contemporary accounts of science as stemming from an incomplete critique of positivism. It then proceeds to a systematic exposition of scientific realism in the form of transcendental realism, highlighting a conception (...) of science as explanatory of a structured, differentiated and changing world. Turning to the social domain, the book argues for a view of the social order as conditioned by, and emergent from, nature. Advocating a critical naturalism, the author shows how the transformational model of social activity together with the conception of social science as explanatory critique which it entails, resolves the divisions and dualisms besetting orthodox social and normative theory: between society and the individual, structure and agency, meaning and behavior, mind and body, reason and cause, fact and value, and theory and practice. The book then goes on to discuss the emancipatory implications of social science and sketches the nature of the depth investigation characteristically entailed. In the highly innovative third part of the book Roy Bhaskar completes his critique of positivism by developing a theory of philosophical discourse and ideology, on the basis of the transcendental realism and critical naturalism already developed, showing how positivism functions as a restrictive ideology of and for science and other social practices. (shrink)
Debate on the nature of representation in cognitive systems tends to oscillate between robustly realist views and various anti-realist options. I defend an alternative view, deflationary realism, which sees cognitive representation as an offshoot of the extended application to cognitive systems of an explanatory model whose primary domain is public representation use. This extended application, justified by a common explanatory target, embodies idealisations, partial mismatches between model and reality. By seeing representation as part of an idealised model, deflationary (...) class='Hi'>realism avoids the problems with robust realist views, whilst keeping allegiance to realism. (shrink)
This paper distinguishes two kinds of realist issue -- the issue of whether the propositions of a given domain are factual and the issue of whether they are fundamental. It criticizes previous accounts of what these issues come to and suggests that they are to be understood in terms of a basic metaphysical concept of reality. This leaves open the question of how such issues are to be resolved; and it is argued that this may be done through consideration of (...) what grounds the facts of a given domain, when fundamentality is in question, and what grounds our engagement with the putative facts, when factuality is in question. (shrink)
Anti-realism is a doctrine about logic, language, and meaning that is based on the work of Wittgenstein and Frege. In this book, Professor Tennant clarifies and develops Dummett's arguments for anti-realism and ultimately advocates a radical reform of our logical practices.
In this major new work, Matthew Kramer seeks to establish two main conclusions. On the one hand, moral requirements are strongly objective. On the other hand, the objectivity of ethics is itself an ethical matter that rests primarily on ethical considerations. Moral realism - the doctrine that morality is indeed objective - is a moral doctrine. Major new volume in our new series _New Directions in Ethics_ Takes on the big picture - defending the objectivity of ethics whilst rejecting (...) the grounds of much of the existing debate between realists and anti-realists Cuts across both ethical theory and metaethics Distinguished by the quality of the scholarship and its ambitious range. (shrink)
This book is a systematic and constructive treatment of a number of traditional issues at the foundation of ethics, the possibility and nature of moral knowledge, the relationship between the moral point of view and a scientific or naturalistic world view, the nature of moral value and obligation, and the role of morality in a person's rational life plan. In striking contrast to many traditional authors and to other recent writers in the field, David Brink offers an integrated defense of (...) the objectivity of ethics. (shrink)
Since the publication of Roy Bhaskar's A Realist Theory of Science in 1975, critical realism has emerged as one of the most powerful new directions in the philosophy of science and social science, offering a real alternative to both positivism and postmodernism. This reader makes accessible in one volume key readings to stimulate debate about and within critical realism, including: the transcendental realist philosophy of science elaborated in A Realist Theory of Science ; Bhaskar's critical naturalist philosophy of (...) social science; the theory of explanatory critique, which is central to critical realism; and the theme of dialectic, which is central to Bhaskar's most recent writings. The volume includes extracts from Bhaskar's most important books, as well as selections from all of the other most important contributors to the critical realist program. It also includes both a general introduction and original introductions to each section. (shrink)
A century after the discovery of quantum mechanics, the meaning of quantum mechanics still remains elusive. This is largely due to the puzzling nature of the wave function, the central object in quantum mechanics. If we are realists about quantum mechanics, how should we understand the wave function? What does it represent? What is its physical meaning? Answering these questions would improve our understanding of what it means to be a realist about quantum mechanics. In this survey article, I review (...) and compare several realist interpretations of the wave function. They fall into three categories: ontological interpretations, nomological interpretations, and the sui generis interpretation. For simplicity, I will focus on non-relativistic quantum mechanics. (shrink)
Mathematicians tend to think of themselves as scientists investigating the features of real mathematical things, and the wildly successful application of mathematics in the physical sciences reinforces this picture of mathematics as an objective study. For philosophers, however, this realism about mathematics raises serious questions: What are mathematical things? Where are they? How do we know about them? Offering a scrupulously fair treatment of both mathematical and philosophical concerns, Penelope Maddy here delineates and defends a novel version of mathematical (...)realism. She answers the traditional questions and poses a challenging new one, refocusing philosophical attention on the pressing foundational issues of contemporary mathematics. (shrink)
This book expounds the transcendental realist theory of science and critical naturalist social philosophy that have been developed by Bhaskar and are used by many contemporary social scientists. It defends Bhaskar's view that the possibility and necessity of experiment show that reality is structured and stratified, his use of this idea to develop a non-reductive explanatory account of human sciences, and his notion that to explain social structures can sometimes be to criticize them. After a discussion of the uses of (...) critical realism in controversial areas of social science, Bhaskar's optimism about the prospects of human sciences is criticized. (shrink)
Early twentieth-century philosophers of perception presented their naïve realist views of perceptual experience in anti-Kantian terms. For they took naïve realism about perceptual experience to be incompatible with Kant’s claims about the way the understanding is necessarily involved in perceptual consciousness. This essay seeks to situate a naïve realist account of visual experience within a recognisably Kantian framework by arguing that a naïve realist account of visual experience is compatible with the claim that the understanding is necessarily involved in (...) the perceptual experience of those rational beings with discursive intellects. The resultant view is middle way between recent conceptualist and non-conceptualist interpretations of Kant, holding that the understanding is necessarily involved in the kind of perceptual consciousness that we, as rational beings, enjoy whilst allowing that the relations of apprehension which constitute perceptual consciousness are independent of acts of the understanding. (shrink)
Structural realism is considered by many realists and antirealists alike as the most defensible form of scientific realism. There are now many forms of structural realism and an extensive literature about them. There are interesting connections with debates in metaphysics, philosophy of physics and philosophy of mathematics. This entry is intended to be a comprehensive survey of the field.
This paper outlines an account of political realism as a form of ideology critique. Our focus is a defence of the normative edge of this critical-theoretic project against the common charge that there is a problematic trade-off between a theory’s groundedness in facts about the political status quo and its ability to consistently envisage radical departures from the status quo. To overcome that problem we combine insights from three distant corners of the philosophical landscape: theories of legitimacy by Bernard (...) Williams and other realists, Frankfurt School-inspired Critical Theory, and recent analytic epistemological and metaphysical theories of cognitive bias, ideology, and social construction. The upshot is a novel account of realism as empirically-informed diagnosis- critique of social and political phenomena. This view rejects a sharp divide between descriptive and normative theory, and so is an alternative to the anti- empiricism of some approaches to Critical Theory as well as to the complacency towards existing power structures found within liberal realism, let alone mainstream normative political philosophy, liberal or otherwise. (shrink)
We report the results of a study that investigated the views of researchers working in seven scientific disciplines and in history and philosophy of science in regard to four hypothesized dimensions of scientific realism. Among other things, we found that natural scientists tended to express more strongly realist views than social scientists, that history and philosophy of science scholars tended to express more antirealist views than natural scientists, that van Fraassen’s characterization of scientific realism failed to cluster with (...) more standard characterizations, and that those who endorsed the pessimistic induction were no more or less likely to endorse antirealism. (shrink)
Debates about scientific realism are closely connected to almost everything else in the philosophy of science, for they concern the very nature of scientific knowledge. Scientific realism is a positive epistemic attitude toward the content of our best theories and models, recommending belief in both observable and unobservable aspects of the world described by the sciences. This epistemic attitude has important metaphysical and semantic dimensions, and these various commitments are contested by a number of rival epistemologies of science, (...) known collectively as forms of scientific antirealism. This article explains what scientific realism is, outlines its main variants, considers the most common arguments for and against the position, and contrasts it with its most important antirealist counterparts. (shrink)
This paper formulates a general epistemological argument against what I call non-causal realism, generalizing domain specific arguments by Benacerraf, Field, and others. First I lay out the background to the argument, making a number of distinctions that are sometimes missed in discussions of epistemological arguments against realism. Then I define the target of the argument—non-causal realism—and argue that any non-causal realist theory, no matter the subject matter, cannot be given a reasonable epistemology and so should be rejected. (...) Finally I discuss and respond to several possible responses to the argument. In addition to clearing up and avoiding numerous misunderstandings of arguments of this kind that are quite common in the literature, this paper aims to present and endorse a rigorous and fully general epistemological argument against realism. (shrink)
Scientific realism is the position that the aim of science is to advance on truth and increase knowledge about observable and unobservable aspects of the mind-independent world which we inhabit. This book articulates and defends that position. In presenting a clear formulation and addressing the major arguments for scientific realism Sankey appeals to philosophers beyond the community of, typically Anglo-American, analytic philosophers of science to appreciate and understand the doctrine. The book emphasizes the epistemological aspects of scientific (...) class='Hi'>realism and contains an original solution to the problem of induction that rests on an appeal to the principle of uniformity of nature. (shrink)
Political realism is characterised by fidelity to the facts of politics and a refusal to derive political judgments from pre- political moral commitments. Even when they are not taken to make normative theorising impossible or futile, those characteristics are often thought to engender a conservative slant, or at least a tendency to prefer incremental reformism to radicalism. I resist those claims by distinguishing between three variants of realism—ordorealism, contextual realism, and radical realism—and contrasting them with both (...) non-ideal theory and utopianism. I then develop a version of radical realism as a form of debunking and vindicatory genealogy. Even though this new approach eschews both feasibility constraints (unlike non-ideal theory) and prescriptions about the ideal society (unlike utopianism), I show how it has more radical potential than morality-driven (and hence often ideological) political theory, and how it supports both open-ended, radical social critique and concrete forms of prefigurative political action. (shrink)
In recent decades, a ‘realist’ alternative to ideal theories of politics has slowly taken shape. Bringing together philosophers, political theorists, and political scientists, this countermovement seeks to reframe inquiry into politics and political norms. Among the hallmarks of this endeavor are a moral psychology that includes the passions and emotions; a robust conception of political possibility and rejection of utopian thinking; the belief that political conflict — of values as well as interests — is both fundamental and ineradicable; a focus (...) on institutions as the arenas within which conflict is mediated and contained; and a conception of politics as a sphere of activity that is distinct, autonomous, and subject to norms that cannot be derived from individual morality. For political realists, a ‘well-ordered society’ is rarely attainable; a modus vivendi without agreement on first principles is often the only practical possibility. Not only will ‘full compliance’ never be achieved, but also it is an assumption that yields misleading accounts of political norms. While realists offer a number of compelling criticisms of ideal theory, there are some lacunae in their stance. It is not yet clear whether realism constitutes a coherent affirmative alternative to idealism. Nor have realists clarified the extent of conflict that is consistent with political order as such. And because both sides accept ‘ought implies can’ as a constraint on the validity of political norms, much of the debate between realists and idealists revolves around deep empirical disagreements that are yet to be clarified. (shrink)
Non-naturalist realists are committed to the belief, famously voiced by Parfit, that if there are no non-natural facts then nothing matters. But it is morally objectionable to conditionalise all our moral commitments on the question of whether there are non-natural facts. Non-natural facts are causally inefficacious, and so make no difference to the world of our experience. And to be a realist about such facts is to hold that they are mind-independent. It is compatible with our experiences that there are (...) no non-natural facts, or that they are very different from what we think. As Nagel says, realism makes scepticism intelligible. So the non-naturalist must hold that you might be wrong that your partner matters, even if you are correct about every natural, causal fact about your history and relationship. But to hold that conditional attitude to your partner would be a moral betrayal. So believing non-naturalist realism involves doing something immoral. (shrink)
Many people accept, at least implicitly, what I call the asymmetry claim: the view that moral realism is more defensible than aesthetic realism. This article challenges the asymmetry claim. I argue that it is surprisingly hard to find points of contrast between the two domains that could justify their very different treatment with respect to realism. I consider five potentially promising ways to do this, and I argue that all of them fail. If I am right, those (...) who accept the asymmetry claim have a significant burden of proof. (shrink)
Realism and surrealism claim, respectively, that a scientific theory is successful because it is true, and because the world operates as if it is true. Lyons :891–901, 2003) criticizes realism and argues that surrealism is superior to realism. I reply that Lyons’s criticisms against realism fail. I also attempt to establish the following two claims: Realism and surrealism lead to a useful prescription and a useless prescription, respectively, on how to make an unsuccessful theory successful. (...)Realism and surrealism give the credit for the success of a theory to an appropriate factor and to an inappropriate factor, respectively. Finally, I point out that surrealism is vulnerable to my pessimistic induction :3–21, 2014a) against antirealism. (shrink)
A realistic and dialectical conception of the epistemology of science is advanced according to which the acquisition of instrumental knowledge is parasitic upon the acquisition, by successive approximation, of theoretical knowledge. This conception is extended to provide an epistemological characterization of reference and of natural kinds, and it is integrated into recent naturalistic treatments of knowledge. Implications for several current issues in the philosophy of science are explored.
In this paper we show how a realistic normative democratic theory can work within the constraints set by the most pessimistic empirical results about voting behaviour and elite capture of the policy process. After setting out the empirical evidence and discussing some extant responses by political theorists, we argue that the evidence produces a two-pronged challenge for democracy: an epistemic challenge concerning the quality and focus of decision-making and an oligarchic challenge concerning power concentration. To address the challenges we then (...) put forward three main normative claims, each of which is compatible with the evidence. We start with a critique of the epistocratic position commonly thought to be supported by the evidence. We then introduce a qualified critique of referenda and other forms of plebiscite, and an outline of a tribune-based system of popular control over oligarchic influence on the policy process. Our discussion points towards a renewal of democracy in a plebeian but not plebiscitarian direction: Attention to the relative power of social classes matters more than formal dispersal of power through voting. We close with some methodological reflections about the compatibility between our normative claims and the realist program in political philosophy. (shrink)
Are theories ‘underdetermined by the evidence’ in any way that should worry the scientiﬁc realist? I argue that no convincing reason has been given for thinking so. A crucial distinction is drawn between data equivalence and empirical equivalence. Duhem showed that it is always possible to produce a data equivalent rival to any accepted scientiﬁc theory. But there is no reason to regard such a rival as equally well empirically supported and hence no threat to realism. Two theories are (...) empirically equivalent if they share all consequences expressed in purely observational vocabulary. This is a much stronger requirement than has hitherto been recognised— two such ‘rival’ theories must in fact agree on many claims that are clearly theoretical in nature. Given this, it is unclear how much of an impact on realism a demonstration that there is always an empirically equivalent ‘rival’ to any accepted theory would have—even if such a demonstration could be produced. Certainly in the case of the version of realism that I defend—structural realism—such a demonstration would have precisely no impact: two empirically equivalent theories are, according to structural realism, cognitively indistinguishable. (shrink)
This paper elaborates on an argument in my book *Perception*. It has two parts. In the first part, I argue against what I call "basic" naive realism, on the grounds that it fails to accommodate what I call "internal dependence" and it requires an empirically implausible theory of sensible properties. Then I turn Craig French and Ian Phillips’ modified naïve realism as set out in their recent paper "Austerity and Illusion". It accommodates internal dependence. But it may retain (...) the empirically implausible theory of sensible properties. And it faces other empirical problems. Representationalism about experiences avoids those problems and is to be preferred. (shrink)
In a recent paper, Berger and Nanay consider, and reject, three ways of addressing the phenomenon of unconscious perception within a naïve realist framework. Since these three approaches seem to exhaust the options open to naïve realists, and since there is said to be excellent evidence that perception of the same fundamental kind can occur, both consciously and unconsciously, this is seen to present a problem for the view. We take this opportunity to show that all three approaches considered remain (...) perfectly plausible ways of addressing unconscious perception within a naïve realist framework. So far from undermining the credibility of naïve realism, Berger and Nanay simply draw our attention to an important question to be considered by naïve realists in future work. Namely, which of the approaches considered is most likely to provide an accurate account of unconscious perception in each of its purported incarnations? (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to revisit the phlogiston theory to see what can be learned from it about the relationship between scientific realism, approximate truth and successful reference. It is argued that phlogiston theory did to some extent correctly describe the causal or nomological structure of the world, and that some of its central terms can be regarded as referring. However, it is concluded that the issue of whether or not theoretical terms successfully refer is not the (...) key to formulating the appropriate form of scientific realism in response to arguments from theory change, and that the case of phlogiston theory is shown to be readily accommodated by ontic structural realism. (shrink)
Social constructionism is often considered a form of anti-realism. But in contemporary feminist philosophy, an increasing number of philosophers defend views that are well-described as both realist and social constructionist. In this paper, I use the work of Sally Haslanger as an example of realist social constructionism. I argue: that Haslanger is best interpreted as defending metaphysical realism about social structures; that this type of metaphysical realism about the social world presents challenges to some popular ways of (...) understanding metaphysical realism. (shrink)
Paul Abela presents a powerful, experience-sensitive form of realism about the relation between mind and world, based on an innovative interpretation of Kant. Abela breaks with tradition in taking seriously Kant's claim that his Transcendental Idealism yields a form of empirical realism, and giving a realist analysis of major themes of the Critique of Pure Reason. Abela's blending of Kantian scholarship with contemporary epistemology offers a new way of resolving philosophical debates about realism.