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Contemporary philosophical realism is the belief in a reality that is completely ontologically independent of our conceptual schemes, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc. Philosophers who profess realism also typically believe that truth consists in a belief's correspondence to reality. We may speak of realism with respect to other minds, the past, the future, universals, mathematical entities (such as natural numbers), moral categories, the material world, or even thought.
Realists tend to believe that whatever we believe now is only an approximation of reality and that every new observation brings us closer to understanding reality. In its Kantian sense, realism is contrasted with idealism. In a contemporary sense, realism is contrasted with anti-realism, primarily in the philosophy of science.
- 1 Debates about realism
- 2 Other aspects
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 Further reading
- 6 Key texts
- 7 Additional material
- 8 External links
Debates about realism[edit | edit source]
Despite the seeming straightforwardness of the realist position, in the history of philosophy there has been continuous debate about what is real. In addition, there has been significant evolution in what is meant by the term "real".
The oldest use of the term comes from medieval interpretations and adaptations of Greek philosophy. In this medieval scholastic philosophy, however, "realism" meant something different -- indeed, in some ways almost opposite -- from what it means today. In medieval philosophy, realism is contrasted with "conceptualism" and "nominalism". The opposition of realism and nominalism developed out of debates over the problem of universals. Universals are terms or properties that can be applied to many things, rather than denoting a single specific individual--for example, red, beauty, five, or dog, as opposed to "Socrates" or "Athens". Realism in this context holds that universals really exist, independently and somehow prior to the world; it is associated with Plato. Conceptualism holds that they exist, but only in the mind, Moderate Realism holds that they exist, but only insofar as they are instantiated in specific things; they do not exist separately from the specific thing. Nominalism holds that universals do not "exist" at all; they are no more than words we use to describe specific objects, they do not name anything. This particular dispute over realism is largely moot in contemporary philosophy, and has been for centuries.
Platonic realism[edit | edit source]
Platonic realism is a philosophical term usually used to refer to the idea of realism regarding the existence of universals or abstract objects after the Greek philosopher Plato (c. 427–c. 347 BC), a student of Socrates. As universals were considered by Plato to be ideal forms, this stance is confusingly also called Platonic idealism. This should not be confused with Idealism, as presented by philosophers such as George Berkeley: as Platonic abstractions are not spatial, temporal, or mental, they are not compatible with the latter Idealism's emphasis on mental existence. Plato's Forms include numbers and geometrical figures, making them a theory of mathematical realism; they also include the Form of the Good, making them in addition a theory of ethical realism.
The Scottish School of Common Sense Realism[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Common Sense Realism
Scottish Common Sense Realism is a school of philosophy that sought to defend naive realism against philosophical paradox and scepticism, arguing that matters of common sense are within the reach of common understanding and that common-sense beliefs even govern the lives and thoughts of those who hold non-commonsensical beliefs. It originated in the ideas of the most prominent members of the Scottish School of Common Sense, Thomas Reid, Adam Ferguson and Dugald Stewart, during the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment and flourished in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Scotland and America.
Its roots can be found in responses to such philosophers as John Locke, George Berkeley and David Hume. The approach was a response to the "ideal system" that began with Descartes' concept of the limitations of sense experience and led Locke and Hume to a skepticism that called religion and the evidence of the senses equally into question. The common sense realists found skepticism to be absurd and so contrary to common experience that it had to be rejected. They taught that ordinary experiences provide intuitively certain assurance of the existence of the self, of real objects that could be seen and felt and of certain "first principles" upon which sound morality and religious beliefs could be established. Its basic principle was enunciated by its founder and greatest figure, Thomas Reid:
- "If there are certain principles, as I think there are, which the constitution of our nature leads us to believe, and which we are under a necessity to take for granted in the common concerns of life, without being able to give a reason for them--these are what we call the principles of common sense; and what is manifestly contrary to them, is what we call absurd.".
Naïve realism[edit | edit source]
Naïve realism, also known as direct realism, is a philosophy of mind rooted in a common sense theory of perception that claims that the senses provide us with direct awareness of the external world. In contrast, some forms of idealism assert that no world exists apart from mind-dependent ideas and some forms of skepticism say we cannot trust our senses. The realist view is that objects are composed of matter, occupy space and have properties, such as size, shape, texture, smell, taste and colour, that are usually perceived correctly. We perceive them as they really are. Objects obey the laws of physics and retain all their properties whether or not there is anyone to observe them.
Scientific realism[edit | edit source]
Scientific realism is, at the most general level, the view that the world described by science is the real world, as it is, independent of what we might take it to be. Within philosophy of science, it is often framed as an answer to the question "how is the success of science to be explained?" The debate over what the success of science involves centers primarily on the status of unobservable entities apparently talked about by scientific theories. Generally, those who are scientific realists assert that one can make reliable claims about unobservables (viz., that they have the same ontological status) as observables. Analytical philosophers generally have a commitment to scientific realism, in the sense of regarding the scientific method as a reliable guide to the nature of reality. The main alternative to scientific realism is instrumentalism.
Aesthetic realism[edit | edit source]
Aesthetic realism may mean the claim that there are mind-independent aesthetic facts, but in general discussions about art "Realism" and "realism" are complex terms that may have a number of different meanings.
Other aspects[edit | edit source]
- Aesthetic Realism, a philosophy founded by the American poet and critic Eli Siegel
- Australian realism or Australian materialism, a 20th Century school of philosophy in Australia
- Constructive realism, a philosophy of science
- Cornell realism, a view in meta-ethics associated with the work of Richard Boyd and others
- Critical realism, a philosophy of perception concerned with the accuracy of human sense-data
- Depressive realism
- Direct realism, a theory of perception
- Entity realism, a philosophical position within scientific realism
- Epistemological realism, a subcategory of objectivism
- Hyper-realism or Hyperreality, the inability of consciousness to distinguish reality from fantasy
- Legal realism
- Mathematical realism, a branch of philosophy of mathematics
- Moderate realism, a position holding that there is no realm where universals exist
- Modal realism, a philosophy propounded by David Lewis, that possible worlds are as real as the actual world
- Moral realism, the view in philosophy that there are objective moral values
- New realism (philosophy), a school of early 20th-century epistemology rejecting epistemological dualism
- Organic realism or the Philosophy of Organism, the metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead, now known as process philosophy
- Platonic realism, a philosophy articulated by Plato, positing the existence of universals
- Quasi-realism, an expressivist meta-ethical theory which asserts that though our moral claims are projectivist we understand them in realist terms
- Representative realism, the view that we cannot perceive the external world directly
- Speculative realism
- Transcendental realism, a concept implying that individuals have a perfect understanding of the limitations of their own minds
- Truth-value link realism, a metaphysical concept explaining how to understand parts of the world that are apparently cognitively inaccessible
See also[edit | edit source]
- Analytic philosophy
- Philosophy of social science
- Principle of bivalence
- Problem of future contingents
Critics[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
Further reading[edit | edit source]
Key texts[edit | edit source]
Books[edit | edit source]
- Alloy, L. B., & Abramson, L. Y. (1988). Depressive realism: Four theoretical perspectives. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
- Almeder, R. F. (1992). Blind realism: An essay on human knowledge and natural science. Lanham, MD, England: Rowman & Littlefield.
- Anderson, D. L. (2007). Consciousness and realism. Charlottesville, VA: Imprint Academic.
- Appleby, R. S. (2006). Conclusion: Reconciliation and Realism. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
- Arabatzis, T. (2007). Conceptual change and scientific realism: Facing Kuhn's challenge. New York, NY: Elsevier Science.
- Bain, A. (1880). Abstraction--The abstract idea. New York, NY: D Appleton & Company.
- Baker, L. R. (1995). Explaining attitudes: A practical approach to the mind. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
- Ben-Ze'ev, A. (1993). The perceptual system: A philosophical and psychological perspective. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.
- Bhaskar, R. (2002). From science to emancipation: Alienation and the actuality of enlightenment. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
- Blackburn, Simon (2005). Truth: A Guide, Oxford University Press, Inc.
- Burr, V. (1998). Overview: Realism, relativism, social constructionism and discourse. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
- Chesni, Y., & Zenk, J. P. (1987). Dialectical realism: Towards a philosophy of growth. Palo Alto, CA: The Live Oak Press.
- Collier, A. (1998). Language, practice and realism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
- Davies, B. (1998). Psychology's subject: A commentary on the relativism/realism debate. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
- Dennett, D. C. (2006). "Real patterns". New York, NY: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.
- Dolev, Y. (2007). Time and realism: Metaphysical and antimetaphysical perspectives. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Doris, J. M., & Plakias, A. (2008). How to argue about disagreement: Evaluative diversity and moral realism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Eucken, R., & Phelps, M. S. (1880). Realism--Idealism. New York, NY: D Appleton & Company.
- Fodor, J. (1991). Methodological solipsism considered as a research strategy in cognitive psychology. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
- Funder, D. C. (2001). Three trends in current research on person perception: Positivity, realism, and sophistication. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
- Harrison, S. (1989). A new visualization of the mind-brain relationship: Naive realism transcended. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press.
- Held, B. S. (1995). Back to reality: A critique of postmodern theory in psychotherapy. New York, NY: W W Norton & Co.
- Held, B. S. (2007). Introduction. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Held, B. S. (2007). Ontological point 2: A middle-ground realist ontology? Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Held, B. S. (2007). Ontological point 3: An ontology of situated agency and transcendence. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Held, B. S. (2007). Psychology's interpretive turn: The search for truth and agency in theoretical and philosophical psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Held, B. S. (2007). Situated warrant: A middle-ground realist epistemology? Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Ladd, G. T. (1897). Idealism and realism. New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons.
- Leiter, B. (2008). Against convergent moral realism: The respective roles of philosophical argument and empirical evidence. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Manicas, P. T. (2006). A realist philosophy of social science: Explanation and understanding. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
- Miller, A. (2006). Realism and antirealism. New York, NY: Clarendon Press/Oxford University Press.
- Montero, M. (1998). The perverse and pervasive character of reality: Some comments on the effects of monism and dualism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
- Niiniluoto, I. (1994). Scientific realism and the problem of consciousness. Hillsdale, NJ, England: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
- Orange, D. M. (1992). Subjectivism, relativism, and realism in psychoanalysis. Hillsdale, NJ, England: Analytic Press, Inc.
- Pawson, R., & Tilley, N. (1997). An introduction to scientific realist evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
- Pawson, R., & Tilley, N. (1997). Realistic evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
- Perry, R. B. (1912). A realistic theory of knowledge. New York, NY: Longmans, Green and Co.
- Perry, R. B. (1912). A realistic theory of mind. New York, NY: Longmans, Green and Co.
- Plakias, A., & Doris, J. M. (2008). How to find a disagreement: Philosophical diversity and moral realism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Potter, J. (1998). Fragments in the realization of relativism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
- Raftopoulos, A. (2005). Perceptual Systems and a Viable Form of Realism. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.
- Schwegler, A., & Seelye, J. H. (1856). Idealism and realism. New York, NY: D Appleton & Company.
- Strawson, G. (1994). Mental reality. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
- Strawson, P. F. (2002). Perception and its objects. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Suppe, F. (1989). The semantic conception of theories and scientific realism. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.
- van Hezewijk, R. (1995). The importance of being realist. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Co.
- Whately, R. (1854). Of realism. Louisville, KY: Morton & Griswold.
Papers[edit | edit source]
Additional material[edit | edit source]
Books[edit | edit source]
- Bloomfield, P. (2008). Disagreement about disagreement. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Boghossian, P. A., & Velleman, J. D. (1997). Physicalist theories of colors. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
- Bradley, F. H. (1922). Essay IX: A note on analysis. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
- Bradley, F. H. (1922). Essay VIII: Some remarks on absolute truth and on probability. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
- Brown, S. D., Pujol, J., & Curt, B. C. (1998). As one in a web? Discourse, materiality and the place of ethics. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
- Burkitt, I. (1998). Relations, communication and power. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Ltd.
- Chow, S. L. (1995). Criticisms of experimentation revisited. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Co.
- Foster, D. (1998). Across the S-S divide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
- Hamilton, E. J. (1899). Realism and nominalism. Seattle, WA: Lowman and Hanford.
- Hamilton, W., Mansel, H. L., & Veitch, J. (1859). Lecture XXI. The presentative faculty--I. Perception--Reid's historical view of the theories of perception. Boston, MA: Gould and Lincoln.
- Hamilton, W., Mansel, H. L., & Veitch, J. (1859). Lecture XXIII. The presentative faculty--I. Perception--Was Reid a natural realist? Boston, MA: Gould and Lincoln.
- Hamilton, W., Mansel, H. L., & Veitch, J. (1859). Lecture XXV. The presentative faculty--I. Perception--Objections to the doctrine of natural realism. Boston, MA: Gould and Lincoln.
- Hamilton, W., Mansel, H. L., & Veitch, J. (1863). Lecture XXIV. The presentative faculty--I. Perception--The distinction of perception proper from sensation proper. Boston, MA: Gould and Lincoln.
- Hamilton, W., Mansel, H. L., & Veitch, J. (1863). Lecture XXV. The presentative faculty--I. Perception--Objections to the doctrine of natural realism. Boston, MA: Gould and Lincoln.
- Hardy, A. G. (1988). Psychology and the critical revolution. Guiderland, NY: James Publications.
- Katz, S. (1987). Is Gibson a relativist? New York, NY: St Martin's Press.
- Loeb, D. (2008). Moral incoherentism: How to pull a metaphysical rabbit out of a semantic hat. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Loeb, D. (2008). Reply to Gill and Sayre-McCord. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Marras, A. (2005). Commonsense Refutations of Eliminativism. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
- Morawski, J. (1998). The return of phantom subjects? Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
- Muller, F. M. (1887). On Kant's philosophy. New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons.
- Murdoch, J. (1842). Pantheistic philosophy. Hartford, CT: John C Wells.
- Robinson, W. S. (1999). Evolution and self-evidence. Florence, KY: Taylor & Frances/Routledge.
- Royce, J. (1900). The independent beings: A critical examination of realism. New York, NY: MacMillan Co.
- Royce, J. (1900). Realism and mysticism in the history of thought. New York, NY: MacMillan Co.
- Royce, J. (1900). The unity of being, and the mystical interpretation. New York, NY: MacMillan Co.
- Sayre-McCord, G. (2008). Moral semantics and empirical inquiry. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Seigfried, C. H. (1993). The world we practically live in. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Sharpe, R. A. (1990). Making the human mind. Florence, KY: Taylor & Frances/Routledge.
- Stankov, L., & Kleitman, S. (2008). Processes on the borderline between cognitive abilities and personality: Confidence and its realism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
- Tuomela, R. (1994). The fate of folk psychology. Hillsdale, NJ, England: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
- Walter, J. E. (1879). The perception of extension by the sense of touch. Boston, MA: Estes and Lauriat.
- Walter, J. E. (1879). The true nature and process of our knowledge of matter. Boston, MA: Estes and Lauriat.
Papers[edit | edit source]
Dissertations[edit | edit source]
- Biehl, J. S. (2003). Immoral psychology: The cognitivist's conundrum. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences.
- Chase, K. S. (1981). Romance, realism, and the psychological aspect of the mid-Victorian novel: Dissertation Abstracts International.
- Grubbs, J. (1998). Real world, real conversations: Communication in an increasingly parasocial and pararealistic environment. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences.
- Huemer, M. (1999). A direct realist account of perceptual awareness. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences.
- Hulbert, M. C. (1993). Ideas as acts of perception: A direct realist interpretation of Descartes' theory of sense perception: Dissertation Abstracts International.
- Nlandu, T. (1997). Reality, perceptual experience, and cognition: A study in Charles Sanders Peirce's philosophy of mind. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences.
- Power, N. P. (1996). Intentional realism, instrumentalism and the future of folk psychology. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences.
- Pusch, D. (1996). The relationships between sociotropic and autonomous personality styles and perceptual biases in dysphoric and nondysphoric university students. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering.
- Ruttanachun, N. (1999). Style discrimination of non-art-trained adults: Decentration capacity and attention to manipulated visual elements. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences.
- Sabates, M. H. (1998). Mental causation: Property parallelism as answer to the problem of exclusion. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences.
- Scales, S. J. (1996). Values in ethics and science: A case against objective moral realism. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences.
- Schuber, S. P. (1977). From romanticism to realism: The intrusion of reality in Byron's Don Juan and Flaubert's Madame Bovary: Dissertation Abstracts International.
- Webster, S. (1995). The rhetoric of realism: American psychology and American literature, 1860-1910. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering.
- Woudzia, L. A. (1997). Psychological realism and the simulation theory of belief attribution. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences.
- Ziomek, R. L. (1979). An analysis of the relationships between philosophical attitudes and personality characteristics: Dissertation Abstracts International.
[edit | edit source]
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry
- An experimental test of non-local realism. Physics research paper in Nature which gives negative experimental results for certain classes of realism in the sense of physics.
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