- The terms "realism" and "anti-realism" loom large in modern philosophy – indeed "anti-realism" is of very recent (probably Michael Dummett's) invention – but the metaphysical disputes which they have come to caption are as old as philosophy itself, and as stubborn. Why so little progress? Why does a broadly realist view about, say, ethics, or mathematics, or theoretical physics, remain so obdurately contestable and contested?
- One possible explanation, favoured by a number of recently influential writers, is that the debates are bad: that they reflect a confused hankering after a chimerical kind of objectivity, a kind of "sideways on" view of our thought and practices and their relation to what is external to them. Elements of this idea can be found in writers as otherwise diverse as John McDowell and Richard Rorty.
- Another suggestion is that the debates are sustained only by the inability, or refusal, of their protagonists to see that objectionable presuppositions, or oversights, are shared by both sides – that a clear-headed perception of, for instance, the permeation of all our thought by evaluations, even hard-headed, natural scientific thought, as Hilary Putnam has urged, or the far-reaching implications of Wittgenstein's discussion of following a rule, effectively deconstruct the contrast between the opposing views.
- Truth and Objectivity is written in reaction to these views. Its hypothesis is that, in seeking to explain the obduracy of the debates in question, we need not look further than the usual suspects: unclarity about how best to formulate the issues involved and consequential oversimplifications and misdirection of argumentative effort. I propose a framework for this kind of dispute which both proscribes, as misconceived, certain traditional anti-realist "paradigms" – ways of defining the anti-realist position – and allows that a plurality of distinct, though related, considerations may properly motivate – though perhaps to differing degrees – the kind of conception of a discourse to which realists are drawn: a conception which would view its characteristic claims as fitted for representation of aspects of a reality not of our making, and the characteristic intention of those who practise the discourse as being to succeed in such representation.
Footnote 1: Somewhat arbitrarily truncated!
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)