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Radical Realism: Direct Knowing in Science and Philosophy 1st Edition
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Edward Pols long ago established himself as a philosopher of the first rank. . . . His insight is rooted in a profound grasp of the processes of human knowing and in a rare metaphysical sense. . . .
Pols presents his own philosophy as a "radical realism." The core of his realism consists in the claim that, by virtue of a function he calls "rational awareness" or "rational-experiential engagement," our minds are capable of knowing directly (nontheoretically) both temporospatial beings, which we have not formed, and theories and other propositional structures, which we have indeed formed. Direct knowing of things of our own scale, such as other persons, must be supplemented by indirect (theoretical) knowing of such things as motivation and neurophysiology. But direct knowing of some things that are not of our own scale, such as the structure of the atom, is impossible, and so must be entirely indirect. On the other hand, direct knowing of the real is fundamental to all indirect knowing. Direct knowing operates in our dealings with commonsense things to get theory under way, in our understanding of the structure and meaning of a theory or even of a proposition put forward in an argument about a theory, and in our capacity to read instruments and to make other observations as we return to the commonsense world to test theory. More important, it is direct knowing exercised in philosophy that provides us with the assurance that science is, in principle, realistic.
Some things we know indirectly as postulates of a theoretical attempt to explain the things we know directly. Theoretical accounts are open to revision and it may be that certain postulated entities may not really be as we envisage them and that we will eventually find reason to discard erroneous or modify incomplete explanations, but this is to be expected in dealing with the microworld of contemporary physics. Pols's chief point is that knowing terminates not in propositions but in that which justifies the assertion of propositions. The articulation of what we know is not the same as the act of knowing. The entia rationis we form as a means of articulation will appear universal and static although the object which generates them be particular. The basis of the universal as found in the particular Pols calls "the U-factor." the U-factor, he says, is the universality of the unity of things; he takes it to be a principle of transcendence cognitively accessible as such, though immanent in each particular and so furnishing the matrix for all the universal terms we employ. . . .
In its principal features, Pols's radical realism may be as old as Aristotle, but it is nevertheless a fresh statement of an outlook that at once coheres with common sense and contemporary science. Pols is not the first to notice the contradiction between contemporary science and the old empiricisms which feed the linguistic movement. He is aware that accounts of knowledge which reduce it to "a function of language cum theory" lead to a relativism not only at variance with science but one that is dangerous in the realm of morality. If goodness and soundness are not determined by something real in the nature of things, if it is rather ourselves as a linguistic community that make a certain action good or a certain ethical system sound, then the cultural implications are far reaching. . . . -- Jude P. Dougherty, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 55, No. 3, Sept., 1995, pp. 723-25
From the Inside Flap
"Radical Realism is radical in two sense of the word. Negatively, it challenges the linguistic consensus in a way more intimate, detailed, and intrinsic than any other I know of. Positively, it provides a radical realist metaphysics as not simply a solution to the linguistic consensus, but also to the very problem of knowledge itself." (Kenneth L. Schmitz, University of Toronto)
"This is a clear-headed and forceful book about the nature and scope of rationality with particular focus on the issue of realism and antirealism. It offers an original and fresh approach to a subject that is central to many fields and styles of philosophy." (Eugene T. Long, University of South Carolina)
"Pols has made an unsettling case for current philosophers of science to answer. He shows that they carry their linguistic preoccupations to the point of making it doubtful how science can be connected to reality at the beginning of its development or at any later stage." (David Braybrooke, University of Texas at Austin)
In this eloquent and original book, Edward Pols challenges the linguistic consensus that has dominated Anglo-American philosophy in this century. Against the consensus assumption that the only reality question is about the relation between language and the real, he argues that philosophy is about the world and not merely about the propositional structures we use to interpret the world. The heart of his "radical realism" is that the relation between the knower and the real is prior to the relation between language and the real, and that in this prior relation we are capable of knowing directly a reality independent of the human mind.
Pols begins with a brief discussion of direct knowing and the function of rational awareness that achieves it. He next examines the linguistic consensus in detail, and then develops his positive thesis. He claims that direct knowing of independent reality is enjoyed not only in our ordinary dealings with other organic beings and with commonsense objects but also in our dealings with everything linguistic_theories, doctrines, and other propositional structures. Without losing its engagement with either the particulars of the temporospatial world or our linguistic constructs, direct knowing turns back upon itself to focus on the nature of this engagement. Such a reflexively intensified direct knowing, he shows, allows us a fresh approach to some of the traditional problems of first philosophy, particularly causality, substance, universality, and the ontological status of propositions. . . .
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