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The Many Faces of Realism (Paul Carus Lectures) Paperback – December 19, 1988
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From the Back Cover
"The first two lectures place the alternative I defend -- a kind of pragmatic realism -- in a historical and metaphysical context. Part of that context is provided by Husserl's remark that the history of modern philosophy begins with Galileo -- that is, modern philosophy has been hypnotized by the idea that scientific facts are all the facts there are. Another part is provided by the analysis of a very simple example of what I call 'contextual relativity'. The position I defend holds that truth depends on conceptual scheme and it is nonetheless 'real truth'.
"In my third lecture I turn to the Kantian antecedents of this view, explaining what I think should be retained of the Kantian idea of autonomy as the central theme of morality, and extracting from Kant's work a 'moral image of the world' that connects the ideals of equality and intellectual liberty. In this lecture I defend the idea that moral images are an indispensible part of our moral and cultural heritage.
"In the final lecture I defend the idea of moral objectivity. I compare our epistemological positions in ethics, history, analysis of human character, and science, and I argue that in no area can we hope for a 'foundation' which is more ultimate than the beliefs that actually, at a given time, function as foundational in the area, the beliefs concerning which one has to say 'this is where my spade is turned'. In ethics such beliefs are represented in moral images of the world".
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He wrote in the Preface to this 1987 book, “When I wrote ‘Reason, Truth and History,’ I described my purpose as breaking the stranglehold which a number of dichotomies have on our thinking, chief among them the dichotomy between ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ views of truth and reason… The invitation to give the Paul Carus Lectures at the December 1985 meeting of the American Philosophical Association… provided me with the opportunity to further specify the alternative that I see to metaphysical realist views of reality and truth, on the one hand, and to cultural relativist ones, on the other. In the earlier book I described current views of truth as ‘alienated’ views, views which cause one to lose one or another part of one’s self and the world; in these lectures I have tried to elaborate on this remark…”
He says, “I asked… whether there is still anything … really new to say, about reality and truth. If ‘new’ means ‘absolutely unprecedented,’ I suspect the answer is ‘no.’ But if we allow that William James might have had something ‘new’ to say… if we allow that Husserl and Wittgenstein and Austin may have shared something of the same program, even if they too, in their different ways, failed to state it properly; then there is still something new, something unfinished and important to say about reality and truth. And that is what I believe.” (Pg. 17)
He observes, “Metaphysical realists to this day continue to argue about whether points … are individuals or properties, particulars or mere limits, etc. My view is that God himself, if he consented to answer the question, ‘Do points really exist or are they mere limits?’ would say, ‘I don’t know’; not because His omniscience is limited, but because there is a limit to how far questions make sense.: (Pg. 19)
He explains, ”My own view… differs from all these. These authors all assume we can make the distinction between what is ‘simply true’ and what has only ‘assertibility conditions,’ or the cut between what is already true or false and what is an ‘extension of previous use’ … or between what is a ‘projection’ and what is an independent and unitary property of things in themselves. I think that, epistemically at least, the attempt to draw this distinction, to make this cut, has been a total failure. The time has come to try the methodological hypothesis that no such cut can be made.” (Pg. 26-27)
He admits, “The idea that we owe respect to the untalented, and to those whose achievement is not significant---[Nietzsche] didn’t care about ‘social contribution’---is one that Nietzsche attacked vehemently, and it is because I regard it as fundamentally right that I do not fully share the current admiration for Nietzsche.” (Pg. 45)
He notes, “Robert Nozick reports being asked whether one could give an argument to show that Hitler is a bad man that would convince Hitler himself. The only answer to this demand---the demand that what is fact must be provable to every ‘intelligent’ person---is to point out that probably no statement except the Principle of Contradiction---has this property.” (Pg. 68)
He asserts, “In ‘Reason, Truth, and History’ I assumed that this appeal to ‘the scientific method’ is empty. My own view, to be frank, is that there is no such thing as THE scientific method. Case studies of particular theories in physics, biology, etc., have convinced me that no one paradigm can fit all of the various inquiries that go under the name of ‘science.’ But let me not presuppose any of this today.” (Pg. 72) He continues, “When [Rudolf] Carnap and I worked together on inductive logic in 1953-1954, the problem that he regarded as the MOST intractable in the whole area of inductive logic was the problem of ‘giving proper weight to analogy.’ No criterion is known for distinguishing ‘good’ fro ‘bad’ analogies, and a well-known argument of Nelson Goodman’s shows that a purely FORMAL criterion is ruled out.” (Pg. 73)
He suggests, “Our notions---the notion of a value, the notion of a moral image, the notion of a standard, the notion of a need---are so intertwined that none of them can provide a ‘foundation’ for ethics, just as we have come to see that there is no possibility of a ‘foundation’ for ethics. That, I think, is exactly right. We must come to see that there is no possibility of a ‘foundation’ for ethics, just as we have come to see that there is no possibility of a ‘foundation’ for scientific knowledge, or for any other kind of knowledge.” (Pg. 79)
He concludes, “rejecting the project of Epistemology with a capital ‘E’---the project of a Universal Method for telling who has ‘reason on his side’ no matter WHAT the dispute---will not put an end to all the interesting questions about knowledge in science and in ethics; instead it will direct our attention to other phenomena we have been trying to ignore … Above all, I hope it may redirect philosophical energy to one of its very traditional tasks---the one task philosophy should never abandon---the task of providing meaningful, important, and discussable images of the human situation in the world.” (Pg. 86)
This book will be of great interest to anyone studying contemporary analytic philosophy.