Article

Realism and Anti-Realism

Sven Rosenkranz

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online March 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0098
Realism and Anti-Realism

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The realism/anti-realism divide has its proper place in metaphysics, but it also has important implications for epistemology and for the philosophy of thought and language. Anti-realism is defined in opposition to realism, and so it is natural to ask first what realism is and to arrive at a characterization of anti-realism on this basis. Sometimes, however, the positions put forward as competitors to realism provide us with clues as to what realism involves. Realism is not a monolithic doctrine. For one thing, one may be a realist about this but not about that. So there are differences in scope, even if not all scope restrictions allow for sensible combinations of realist and anti-realist views. For instance, realism about chemistry does not sit well with anti-realism about physics. Besides differences in scope, there are also differences in kind. Thus we must distinguish between realism as an ontological thesis and realism as an epistemological thesis. The former is concerned with what there is and how it is and argues that there are certain things that exist mind-independently. The latter is concerned with how far our epistemic powers reach and argues that there may be parts of reality in principle beyond our ken. Note that the latter thesis does not merely say something about our epistemic powers. Like the former, it also says something about reality itself, and so is just as much a metaphysical claim as the former. The need to distinguish between these kinds of realism does not imply that there are no connections between them. On the contrary, under suitable interpretations of mind-independence there may be facts about mind-independent things that are in principle beyond our reach because of the mind-independence of those things.

Article.  12797 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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