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Realistic Rationalism (Representation and Mind) Paperback – January 31, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Engaging and provocative.

(A.W. Moore Times Literary Supplement)

Many philosophers of mathematics have assumed that the metaphysical position, call it 'full-blooded Platonism,' is incompatible with the various sorts of 'naturalisms' that most of us are committed to. Here is a brave book illustrating that very claim: readers will find it (among other things) a full-scale assault on naturalism, a complex metaphysics of abstract, concrete, and composite objects, and a rationalist epistemology based on rich notions of Reason and intuition. Perhaps the strongest arguments available for such a position may be found here.

(Jody Azzouni, Department of Philosophy, Tufts University)

What is philosophy? The dominant view is that philosophy, where it is not the unravelling of linguistic confusions, is an inseparable part of empirical inquiry. Katz sharply challenges this. In clear and relaxed prose he advocates an earlier view: philosophy is the study of reality at the most general level through rational reflection. But he does not simply return to the position of a former age. Drawing on a mastery of twentieth-century analytic philosophy, Katz takes us one whole cycle higher up the helix of metaphilosophy, reconstructing our understanding of the relations between science and philosophy in the process.

(Marcus Giaquinto, Department of Philosophy, University College London)

In the waning of the twentieth-century the tension between the dominance of philosophical naturalism and the intrinsic recalcitrance of mathematics to such a philosophy is coming to a head. Professor Katz's new book furnishes the beleaguered mathematical realist with some powerful weapons in the form of detailed and novel arguments designed, for a change, to put the universal naturalist on the defensive. In particular, one finds here a breath of fresh air with regard to the problematics of realism made prominent by Benacerraf's influential writings on the philosophy of mathematics, a rare attempt to combine a highly articulate realistic ontology with a substantial rationalistic epistemology for all of the formal sciences.

(Palle Yourgrau, Department of Philosophy, Brandeis University)

Katz supplies a dazzling array of often fresh, sometimes daring, always vivid and cogent arguments that will become part of the armament of anyone down the road who seeks to develop a defensible nonreductive theory of abstract objects.

(Robert Tragesser, Class of '43 Professor in the History and Philosophy of Science and Mathematics, Connecticut College)

This book is certainly going to count as one of the most important contributions to the philosophy of mathematics of the last decades.

(Paolo Mancosu, Assistant Professor of Philosphy, University of California, Berkeley)

About the Author

Jerrold J. Katz is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Linguistics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

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Product Details

  • Series: Representation and Mind series
  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: A Bradford Book (January 31, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262611511
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262611510
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.6 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,299,910 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Do abstract objects exist? If so, can we acquire knowledge of them via nonsensory means (i.e., reason or rational intuition)?

To both these questions Jerrold Katz answers "yes." And his sterling account is on all counts a welcome relief from the interminable parade of militant empiricism that seems to have taken over the streets of modern philosophy.

Even at that, I suspect Katz has conceded a bit more to empiricism than I would. He holds, for example, that we need not "causally interact" with abstract objects in order to have knowledge of them. Well, perhaps we don't, but I don't see why the claim is objectionable; the contrary claim that timeless objects don't participate in temporal causal processes is a premise that surely deserves to be questioned. (I think it's false.)

Then, too, I don't see that Katz ever questions whether we can acquire even _sensory_ knowledge apart from reason. I don't think we can -- but I wish Katz had at least raised the issue.

Be that as it may, what Katz does offer is solid -- and dense; I despair of summarizing _any_ of his arguments in a short review. The skinny of it is that he thinks mathematical objects are real, and indeed that mathematics is a sort of testing lab for philosophy.

A note on the title of my review: I read this book two or three years ago and just now returned to it after reading David Koepsell's _The Ontology of Cyberspace_ -- a book in which there's darned little actual ontology, and what there is of it isn't very good. Katz's account of mathematical objects is a good cure, and it would have been nice if some "web ontologists" had read it.

(Hey, and maybe some "Objectivists" should read it too.
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Format: Paperback
This is vol. II of a "trilogy" that begins with "The Metaphysics of Meaning" and ends with the posthumous "Sense, Reference and Philosophy." Katz' work opens the door to a radical reconsideration of the "Platonic" intuition into the meaningfulness of a reality underlying language and serving as standard for the articulation of speech. However, Katz is at once critical of "easy" appeals to and readings of Platonism. For instance, as one reviewer here already suggests, Katz argues against causal links from experience to its metaphysical ground. No "easy" appeal to "recollection"/anamnesis stands to reason. Rather, "abstract objects" are to be understood as transcending any and all "experience" thereof, without, of course, being meaningless or irrelevant to our conduct, speech, and thought.

Much of the present volume and its sequel is dedicated to dispelling doctrinal obstacles (*errors* all-pervasive in high academic circles whence they "trickle down" into popular parlance) to a "return" to genuine reflection upon the grounds of our experience. Empiricism (including positivism), naturalism, pragmatism, psychologism, and historicism melt down under the fire of the author's rigorously sustained argumentation.

(Ten or so years ago, I asked "chameleonic" Hillary Putnam, under whom Katz studies at Princeton, if he thought Katz had not succeeded in critiquing the teacher's doctrinal orientation, or in offering a viable alternative to contemporary trends in academic "philosophy." The chameleon's tongue-in-cheek answer suggested that Katz could be simply ignored/avoided.)
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Format: Hardcover
"This book is certainly going to count as one of the most important contributions to the philosophy of mathematics of the last decades."--Paolo Mancosu, Department of Philosophy, University of California, Berkeley
"What is philosophy? The dominant view is that philosophy, where it is not the unravelling of linguistic confusions, is an inseparable part of empirical inquiry. Katz sharply challenges this. In clear and relaxed prose he advocates an earlier view: philosophy is the study of reality at the most general level through rational reflection. But he does not simply return to the position of a former age. Drawing on a mastery of twentieth-century analytic philosophy, Katz takes us one whole cycle higher up the helix of metaphilosophy, reconstructing our understanding of the relations between science and philosophy in the process."--Marcus Giaquinto, Department of Philosophy, University College, London
"Jerrold J. Katz's new book, Realistic Rationalism, constitutes a major development in philosophy of mathematics as a testing ground for fundamentally opposed philosophies. The project is to defend rationalism, in respect of both ontology and epistemology; empiricist naturalism is rejected, and the existence of numbers as particular objects is upheld against structuralist and semantic considerations. Whether or not Katz's powerfully developed position is ultimately accepted, the terms of the debate have been very significantly advanced."--Daniel Isaacson, Oxford University
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