Thu Oct 1, 2009
Howison Library, 4:10–6 PM
NOTE: New date
Bas C. van Fraassen (San Francisco State University and Princeton University)
Will the Real Anti-Realist Please Stand Up?
Empiricism, as a philosophical position, is associated first of all with a distinctive view of science as aiming at adequate representation of the phenomena rather than discovery of any deeper reality ‘behind’ the phenomena. What further views, on other philosophical issues, can be palatable to an empiricist? I’ll explore this with reference to philosophical naturalism, metaphysical realism, and the transcendence of the Self.
Common sense realism is just that such familiar objects as rocks, trees, and stars are real. Metaphysical realism adds that their existence is independent of what we may think or can conceive. But this slogan harbors a troubling ambiguity, and realist arguments tend to demolish only anti-realism as conceived from a realist point of view. My stalking horse here is David Lewis’ ‘menu of philosophical positions’ as explored by his student Mary Kate McGowan. Introducing the essential indexical, and an appreciation of Moore’s Paradox, may radically change the realist/anti-realist dialogue.
Lewis, David K. “Introduction”, pp. ix-xii in his Philosophical Papers, vol. 1. Oxford 1983.
McGowan, Mary Kate “Gruesome Connections,” Philosophical Quarterly 52 (2002): 21–33.
van Fraassen, Bas C. “Putnam’s Paradox: Metaphysical Realism Revamped and Evaded”, Philosophical Perspectives 11 (1997): 17-42 (= Supplement to Nous vol. 31) available at http://www.princeton.edu/~fraassen/abstract/PutnamParadox-published.pdf