Realist versus non-realist

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Realist versus non-realist

Postby Philosophic Caveman » Tue Aug 03, 2004 2:22 am

I am interested in the debate between realist and non-realist, between common sense and something else.

Ontological realism
Epistemological realism
Moral realism
Aesthetic realism
Metaphysical realism

What are the best counter arguements for each?
Does one need to choose to be an out and out realist or non-realist in order to not be philosophically inconsistent?
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Postby Logo » Tue Aug 03, 2004 5:02 am

Philosophic Caveman wrote:What are the best counter arguements for each?


What are the arguments for each? Let's start there.

Better yet, what's the argument for just one of them? There's no way to cover all five adequately in a single thread.
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Re: Realist versus non-realist

Postby hermes the thrice great » Tue Aug 03, 2004 5:23 am

Philosophic Caveman wrote:I am interested in the debate between realist and non-realist, between common sense and something else.

Ontological realism
Epistemological realism
Moral realism
Aesthetic realism
Metaphysical realism

What are the best counter arguements for each?
Does one need to choose to be an out and out realist or non-realist in order to not be philosophically inconsistent?


what do you mean by common sense? What do you mean by "realism"?
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Re: Realist versus non-realist

Postby shybard » Tue Aug 03, 2004 5:33 am

Philosophic Caveman wrote:I am interested in the debate between realist and non-realist, between common sense and something else.


What is the something else? And how are we defining common sense?

Philosophic Caveman wrote:Ontological realism
Epistemological realism
Moral realism
Aesthetic realism
Metaphysical realism


That's really way too much to cover in one topic. Pick one and then we'll go from there. I'm considered and consider myself a realist so I'm perfectly willing to help here, but I'm only versed in epistemological, metaphysical, and moral. I can't do much with the others (at least not with confidence).

Philosophic Caveman wrote:What are the best counter arguements for each?


By whose account?

Philosophic Caveman wrote:Does one need to choose to be an out and out realist or non-realist in order to not be philosophically inconsistent?


Probably not a bad way to go about it, though I suppose it "could" be done otherwise, though I'm not sure how. It'd be difficult to not encounter inconsistencies and/or outright contradictions otherwise, but I suppose it could be done.
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Re: Realist versus non-realist

Postby shybard » Tue Aug 03, 2004 5:55 am

hermes the thrice great wrote:What do you mean by "realism"?


From: <u>The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.</u> located at: http://www.bartleby.com/65/re/realism3.html
<i>in philosophy. 1 In medieval philosophy realism represented a position taken on the problem of universals. There were two schools of realism. Extreme realism, represented by William of Champeaux, held that universals exist independently of both the human mind and particular things—a theory closely associated with that of Plato. Some other philosophers rejected this view for what can be termed moderate realism, which held that universals exist only in the mind of God, as patterns by which he creates particular things. St. Thomas Aquinas and John of Salisbury were proponents of moderate realism. 2 In epistemology realism represents the theory that particular things exist independently of our perception. This position is in direct contrast to the theory of idealism, which holds that reality exists only in the mind. Most contemporary British and American philosophy tends toward realism. Prominent modern realists have included Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore, and C. D. Broad.</i>

I assume this is what he's meaning.

Also, you can check out: http://mb-soft.com/believe/txc/realism.htm for a brief overview (maybe a tad too brief).

And here: http://radicalacademy.com/adiphilnewrealism.htm is something a little better.

If you want more you should just look at the references of course. :)
"Thus the behaviour of the sense-data which represent the cat to me, though it seems quite natural when regarded as an expression of hunger, becomes utterly inexplicable when regarded as mere movements and changes of patches of colour, which are as incapable of hunger as a triangle is of playing football."-Bertrand Russell The Problems of Philsophy

"Cold lake, for thousands of yards, soaks up sky color. Evening quiet: a fish of brocade scales reaches the bottom, then goes first this way, then that way; arrow notch splits. Endless water surface, moonlight brilliant."-Zen Master Dogen On a Portait of Myself
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Postby Logo » Tue Aug 03, 2004 6:28 am

Hmmm...with all due respect to the Columbia Encyclopedia, I think medieval categories are a bit...well, outdated. Many people who would have been considered realists in the 13th century are actually anti-realists by today's standards.

I think the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's definition of "generic realism" is probably more in tune with the modern debate over realism:

Generic Realism:
a, b, and c and so on exist, and the fact that they exist and have properties such as F-ness, G-ness, and H-ness is (apart from mundane empirical dependencies of the sort sometimes encountered in everyday life) independent of anyone's beliefs, linguistic practices, conceptual schemes, and so on.


[full article here]

The anti-realist position (which includes empiricists like Bertrand Russell) is that there are no such things as essences...on the order of F-ness or G-ness...apart from the categories we create for ourselves.

Of course I don't have the first clue what caveman here means by realism. I suppose your guess is as good as mine.
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Postby shybard » Tue Aug 03, 2004 3:58 pm

Logo wrote:The anti-realist position (which includes empiricists like Bertrand Russell) is that there are no such things as essences...on the order of F-ness or G-ness...apart from the categories we create for ourselves.


Since when is Bertrand Russell (who is typically consider one of THE realists) an anti-realist? I'm wondering what you mean by "anti-realist." Perhaps you could expound upon this somewhat.
"Thus the behaviour of the sense-data which represent the cat to me, though it seems quite natural when regarded as an expression of hunger, becomes utterly inexplicable when regarded as mere movements and changes of patches of colour, which are as incapable of hunger as a triangle is of playing football."-Bertrand Russell The Problems of Philsophy

"Cold lake, for thousands of yards, soaks up sky color. Evening quiet: a fish of brocade scales reaches the bottom, then goes first this way, then that way; arrow notch splits. Endless water surface, moonlight brilliant."-Zen Master Dogen On a Portait of Myself
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Postby Logo » Tue Aug 03, 2004 8:09 pm

Yes, Russell is a realist by 19th century standards--which basically means he is an anti-idealist. But he is also an empiricist, and 20th century empiricism has come to be thought of as anti-realist position. Russell's theory of descriptions contributed greatly to the worldview of the logical positivists in the 1920's and 30's. But a new brand of realism, a reaction to positivism, took shape in the 60's and 70's--and this movement centered around a notion that Russell never would've condoned: essentialism--the idea that there is a deep, mind-independent structure to reality; that things have essential properties which make them what they are, independent of our capacity to name or describe them.

So in contemporary circles the debate is described as realism vs. empiricism--where a century ago, the two schools would've been compatible.
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Postby Impenitent » Tue Aug 03, 2004 10:44 pm

Logo wrote:Yes, Russell is a realist by 19th century standards--which basically means he is an anti-idealist. But he is also an empiricist, and 20th century empiricism has come to be thought of as anti-realist position. Russell's theory of descriptions contributed greatly to the worldview of the logical positivists in the 1920's and 30's. But a new brand of realism, a reaction to positivism, took shape in the 60's and 70's--and this movement centered around a notion that Russell never would've condoned: essentialism--the idea that there is a deep, mind-independent structure to reality; that things have essential properties which make them what they are, independent of our capacity to name or describe them.

So in contemporary circles the debate is described as realism vs. empiricism--where a century ago, the two schools would've been compatible.


now I have always understood existentialism to take the position that existence preceeds essence, and I agree with this standpoint...
would this be considered 'realist"?

this 'essentialism' sounds like a metaphysics to be superimposed over the kantian 'thing in itself' (which can never be known) ... it seems that in proving essentialism one must argue along the lines of proving god...
is this essentialism 'anti-realist'? or mere speculative metaphysics?
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Realist Definitions

Postby Philosophic Caveman » Wed Aug 04, 2004 12:29 am

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Realist Definitions

Postby Philosophic Caveman » Wed Aug 04, 2004 12:30 am

OK, my apology. I was not trying to venture far afield of traditional values for these terms. I actually thought these were fairly well defined terms within philosophical cirlces. I will try to define. This is what I understood them to mean but I could be wrong and please forgive any faults in my brief paraphrasing:

Realism - Universals exist independent of me. Progress is basically about discovery and acceptance of what actually is

Ontological realism - I exist and other things exist independent of my perception of them, or whether or not I percieve them. Exploration and discovery reveals existence to me. Reality is consistent across all space and time independent of my perception of it.

Epistemological realism - Truth and fact exist independent of my point of view. Opinion, theory, conjecture, and belief do not equal truth, fact or knowledge. Experimentation, testing and falsification are the tools for exposing error and discovering fact. Knowledge is possible.

Moral realism - Virtue and vice are not dependent upon my acceptance of them or upon the agreement of any community of people. They remain universally consistent across all space and time independent of social norms, cultural idiosyncrancies, or the passage of time.

Aesthetic realism - Beauty is not in the eye of beholder. Beauty is universally consistent characteristic whether one sees it or not.

Metaphysical realism - Certain perfect forms exist in some other part of reality that is beyond my perception, perhaps in the mind of God. Everything we perceive stems from and is a reflection of those perfect forms.

OK, now that I've tried to define realism, basically common sense, back to my questions.

What is the best contra arguements for each?
Does one have to be a realist across all these areas in order not to be philosophically inconsistent? Is it all or nothing? Or could one be a Ontological Realist but a Moral Relativist without being inconsistent?
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Re: Realist Definitions

Postby Impenitent » Wed Aug 04, 2004 2:54 am

Philosophic Caveman wrote:OK, my apology. I was not trying to venture far afield of traditional values for these terms. I actually thought these were fairly well defined terms within philosophical cirlces. I will try to define. This is what I understood them to mean but I could be wrong and please forgive any faults in my brief paraphrasing:

Realism - Universals exist independent of me. Progress is basically about discovery and acceptance of what actually is


the best argument against this is that the only thing that exists for the subjective mind/person is that which is percieved/thought/felt... if it isn't within the subjective consciousness, it doesn't exist.

Philosophic Caveman wrote:Ontological realism - I exist and other things exist independent of my perception of them, or whether or not I percieve them. Exploration and discovery reveals existence to me. Reality is consistent across all space and time independent of my perception of it.


same objection as above.

Philosophic Caveman wrote:Epistemological realism - Truth and fact exist independent of my point of view. Opinion, theory, conjecture, and belief do not equal truth, fact or knowledge. Experimentation, testing and falsification are the tools for exposing error and discovering fact. Knowledge is possible.


the thing in itself can never be known, all one has is the perception...
Nietzsche has some nice arguments against knowledge here:
h*tp://www.geocities.com/thenietzschechannel/diefrohl7c.htm

Philosophic Caveman wrote:Moral realism - Virtue and vice are not dependent upon my acceptance of them or upon the agreement of any community of people. They remain universally consistent across all space and time independent of social norms, cultural idiosyncrancies, or the passage of time.


morals are as fluid as "knowledge"... again, Nietzsche has good counter arguments in the geneaology

Philosophic Caveman wrote:Aesthetic realism - Beauty is not in the eye of beholder. Beauty is universally consistent characteristic whether one sees it or not.


what does it matter if everyone else thinks it's ugly? if it is beauty to you, it is beauty...

Philosophic Caveman wrote:Metaphysical realism - Certain perfect forms exist in some other part of reality that is beyond my perception, perhaps in the mind of God. Everything we perceive stems from and is a reflection of those perfect forms.


Plato was best refuted by Aristotle and Berkeley was best refuted by Hume and Nietzsche...

Philosophic Caveman wrote:OK, now that I've tried to define realism, basically common sense, back to my questions.

What is the best contra arguements for each?
Does one have to be a realist across all these areas in order not to be philosophically inconsistent? Is it all or nothing? Or could one be a Ontological Realist but a Moral Relativist without being inconsistent?


no, one does not have to be a realist in all the areas to be consistent. ontological realists could claim that things exist outside of themself while remaining morally relativistic...

-Imp
cogito ergo cogito
sum ergo sum...

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What's the difference between a liberal and Al Qaeda?
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"False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils, except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes....Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man." (Thomas Jefferson)

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Postby hermes the thrice great » Wed Aug 04, 2004 4:20 am

OK, now that I've tried to define realism, basically common sense, back to my questions.


This sense ain't so common, brother. "Common Sense" is simply another term for folk wisdom, that is, what the greater part of a group of people find to be agreable to them. Common Sense is the finest example of worldviews that I can think of. And worldviews are, well, never absolute out "there"
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Postby Logo » Wed Aug 04, 2004 5:51 am

Impenitent wrote:now I have always understood existentialism to take the position that existence preceeds essence, and I agree with this standpoint...would this be considered 'realist"?


Well Sartre has been considered a realist in the traditional sense...the sense in which he thinks there is no difference between things in themselves and things as they appear (i.e. that a thing simply is the series of its appearances). But I don't think he could actually be identified with the generic realism defined here in the Stanford Encyclopedia...simply because he doesn't believe in essential properties. To be honest, I don't know where he fits into the debate over realism. On the one hand, he wants to hint that things do have essences, but then he is not particularly clear on what separates one thing from another (or at least, it's not particularly clear to me from his writing).

As for the statement, "existence precedes essence"...I thought that only applied to consciousness (being for-itself)--which, unlike a thing in the world (a being in-itself) does not have an essence in the present tense. But I would say that it is an anti-realist statement to the core...even if it only applies to one mode of being. The idea behind realism is that essences are fixed and necessary attributes of an entity; and Sartre was vehemently opposed to that kind of thinking when it came to defining the self.

this 'essentialism' sounds like a metaphysics to be superimposed over the kantian 'thing in itself' (which can never be known) ... it seems that in proving essentialism one must argue along the lines of proving god...is this essentialism 'anti-realist'? or mere speculative metaphysics?


It's a realist positon--and yes, speculative metaphysics is a good word for it. If you ask me, it's a return to medieval theology, which is why I'm firmly on the side of the empiricists.
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Postby Impenitent » Wed Aug 04, 2004 3:53 pm

Sartre isn't the only existentialist (if he can be considered that considering his politics)... and no, "existence preceeds essence" can easily be applied to anything, not just consciousness... and I agree that sepculative metaphysics is a step backwards to be refuted just as the medievals were...
cogito ergo cogito
sum ergo sum...

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What's the difference between a liberal and Al Qaeda?
Oh, you don't know either?

"False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils, except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes....Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man." (Thomas Jefferson)

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Postby my real name » Wed Aug 04, 2004 10:18 pm

and I agree that sepculative metaphysics is a step backwards to be refuted just as the medievals were...


Impenitent, hi. Medieval fan here. Could we talk about what of the medievals was refuted and how (and by whom)? (Another topic heading would be fine in order to prevent the spread of the tangential posting syndrome.) Or were you referring to your arguments with Philosophic Caveman against Realism?
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Postby Logo » Wed Aug 04, 2004 10:48 pm

my real name wrote:Could we talk about what of the medievals was refuted and how (and by whom)?


The famous opening line of Kant's Critique is, "That knowledge begins with experience there can be no doubt." I'm not all that familiar with all the ins and outs of Scholasticism, but I'd think that a great deal of medieval thought must be rejected before one can affirm that statement.
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Re: Realist Definitions

Postby Philosophic Caveman » Wed Aug 04, 2004 10:49 pm

Impenitent wrote:Realism - Universals exist independent of me. Progress is basically about discovery and acceptance of what actually is

ANSWER: the best argument against this is that the only thing that exists for the subjective mind/person is that which is percieved/thought/felt... if it isn't within the subjective consciousness, it doesn't exist.

Ontological realism - I exist and other things exist independent of my perception of them, or whether or not I percieve them. Exploration and discovery reveals existence to me. Reality is consistent across all space and time independent of my perception of it.

ANSWER: same objection as above.

Epistemological realism - Truth and fact exist independent of my point of view. Opinion, theory, conjecture, and belief do not equal truth, fact or knowledge. Experimentation, testing and falsification are the tools for exposing error and discovering fact. Knowledge is possible.


ANSWER: the thing in itself can never be known, all one has is the perception...
Nietzsche has some nice arguments against knowledge here:
h*tp://www.geocities.com/thenietzschechannel/diefrohl7c.htm

Moral realism - Virtue and vice are not dependent upon my acceptance of them or upon the agreement of any community of people. They remain universally consistent across all space and time independent of social norms, cultural idiosyncrancies, or the passage of time.

ANSWER: morals are as fluid as "knowledge"... again, Nietzsche has good counter arguments in the geneaology

Aesthetic realism - Beauty is not in the eye of beholder. Beauty is universally consistent characteristic whether one sees it or not.

ANSWER: what does it matter if everyone else thinks it's ugly? if it is beauty to you, it is beauty...

Metaphysical realism - Certain perfect forms exist in some other part of reality that is beyond my perception, perhaps in the mind of God. Everything we perceive stems from and is a reflection of those perfect forms.

ANSWER: Plato was best refuted by Aristotle and Berkeley was best refuted by Hume and Nietzsche...

no, one does not have to be a realist in all the areas to be consistent. ontological realists could claim that things exist outside of themself while remaining morally relativistic...

-Imp[/quote]

Thanks for the responses.

What seems to fly in the face of common sense, is the idea that something does not exist until I discover it? If I don't perceive you, you still exist in reality. There are gases that cannot be perceived by any of our senses and yet will still kill you. Is this claim is linked to the claim that discovery is an act of creation?

For anyone to say confidently that knowledge is not possible seems to lack common sense also. Isn't that very statement a statement of knowledge? If Nitzsche knew that knowledge was not possible, how did he know it, and isn't he defeating his own arguement by claiming to know that knowledge is not possible? This seems to me to be the sort of negative scepticism that leads one to nihilism. To deny that knowledge is possible seems to me to be sophistry.
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Postby my real name » Thu Aug 05, 2004 4:09 am

Logo wrote:The famous opening line of Kant's Critique is, "That knowledge begins with experience there can be no doubt." I'm not all that familiar with all the ins and outs of Scholasticism, but I'd think that a great deal of medieval thought must be rejected before one can affirm that statement.


Sorry, Logo, but as Aristotle says: There is nothing in the mind that is not previously in the senses.
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Postby Logo » Thu Aug 05, 2004 4:24 am

But that's not the claim. The claim is that all knowledge centers around experience...which is why metaphysical entities cannot be known for Kant. That's why he couldn't bear to read the Scholastics.

Hume puts it best:

When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.


...of course Kant doesn't go quite that far because he believes that metaphysics is possible through a priori synthetic knowlege. However, for him there is still no such thing as knowledge of entities that are not observed.
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Postby my real name » Thu Aug 05, 2004 4:36 am

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Postby my real name » Thu Aug 05, 2004 4:37 am

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Postby Logo » Thu Aug 05, 2004 4:38 am

well I must say I've never heard that argument before...
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Postby my real name » Thu Aug 05, 2004 4:43 am

You thought that was an argument?

One can say that we have knowledge and you get the De Anima. You give up maybe because you don't llike the answers and you get Kant.

What evidence is on either side?

(Readers, please note how fast this exchange of posts is proceeding. I was going to edit when i cooled down later -- guess it's too hot a topic to leave. Sorry for the mini-rant. -mrn)
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Postby Logo » Thu Aug 05, 2004 4:55 am

my real name wrote:You thought that was an argument?


:lol: No. I thought it was an unduly emotional reaction to a very well-established, well-thought-out viewpoint in the history of ideas. If you can't handle a single paragraph by Hume, maybe philosophy isn't for you.

You give up maybe because you don't llike the answers and you get Kant.


Or maybe you realize that Aristotle needs serious revising...and you get the rest of the history of philosophy. These inane accusations won't get you anywhere.
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