Realism and Anti-Realism
Miller (Alexander)
Source: A Handbook of the Philosophy of Language (OUP, eds. E. Lepore and B. Smith), 2006
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. What is the relevance of issues in the philosophy of language to debates in metaphysics between realists and their antirealist opponents?
  2. Michael Dummett argues that the philosophy of language — in particular, the theory of meaning — is the foundation of all philosophy and that the debate in metaphysics between realism and antirealism has to be prosecuted within the philosophy of language. Dummett prosecutes the debate by developing and attacking a position we can call ‘‘semantic realism’’.
  3. This chapter questions whether, once the conception of metaphysics as grounded in the philosophy of language has been jettisoned, Dummett’s arguments against semantic realism can retain any relevance to the realist / antirealist debate.
  4. By focussing on realism about the external world as an example, we reach the conclusion that even without Dummett’s conception of philosophy as grounded in the theory of meaning, his arguments against semantic realism do retain a limited but nevertheless genuine significance for the metaphysical debate. It emerges, though, that a certain key assumption, connecting the notions of linguistic understanding and knowledge, and necessary if Dummett’s arguments are to have even this limited significance, is both under-explained and under-defended.
  5. The chapter concludes with some brief remarks on the cogency of the manifestation argument against semantic realism.

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