Thursday, 17 August 2006

Fewtril #114

How much of antirealist philosophy is a rebellion against authority? For reality may be thought of as being that which sits in judgement of our beliefs about it; such that, when the bug of rebellion is rife, even its authority may be rejected as a gross imposition.


dearieme said...

The question that used to be asked of lefty freshers: "Is it your parents or your school that you hate?" It used to bring forth gratifying floods of rage.

Cirdan said...

1. You’re confusing anti-realism and subjectivism here. The anti-realist might say that the truth of the cat is on the mat to be decided by our evidence for it, rather than the fact (if there is one) that tabby is now sitting on the rug. But evidently, that leaves room for a distinction between how things seem and how they are.
2. You’ve overlooked the two most plausible psychological motives for antirealism: fear of the unknown, and fear of the skeptic. They’re connected. Any serious form of realism guarantees that there are lots of things we don’t and can’t know. It also means the skeptic is basically unbeatable. Those are both pretty scary things.

Deogolwulf said...
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Deogolwulf said...

1. The term “anti-realism” is broad, describing any belief that material objects do not exist mind-independently, or can be known to exist so, such that, say, in a Rortyan-pragmatist form, we have no recourse to reality in informing our beliefs about it, a belief’s being “true” only insofar as it useful to a purpose, which may be individually or collectively determined. Subjectivism too is a species of anti-realism, holding that the nature and existence of objects is dependent on subjective awareness. If you believe my question is pertinent in no other regard than this, then it is still pertinent. Now, I appreciate, as best I can, the subtle difference between the many positions denying objective reality, but I require a term that covers all positions that in subtly different ways tell us that reality is ultimately no judge of our beliefs about it. That last is the point I am trying to cover. Do you think the term “subjectivism” adequately covers the same ground? Does it cover – or, importantly, does it clearly cover - Rorty’s pragmatism, for instance? If you have a better term, I would be glad to substitute it for mine (and I mean that most sincerely!). I appreciate your point, however – that I am covering too much ground –, and that I should narrow it down to something like “subjectivism”. I shall think about it.

2. You’ve overlooked that this fewtril is not a list of the psychological motives for anti-realism, but is specifically a question of how much is due to one particular psychological state - the rebellion against authority. I hate to bring up Rorty again, but when I read through his works, I get the feeling that many of his protestations against realism are due to an enfant terrible rebellion – and he is one of the more mature of the postmodernists!