Beyond Realism and Antirealism ---At Last?

Joseph Rouse


This paper recapitulates my four primary lines of argument that what is wrong with scientific realism is not realist answers to questions to which various anti-realists give different answers, but instead assumptions shared by realists and anti-realists in framing the question. Each strategy incorporates its predecessors as a consequence. A first, minimalist challenge, taken over from Arthur Fine and Michael Williams, rejects the assumption that the sciences have a general aim or goal. A second consideration is that realists and antirealists undertake a mistaken, substantive commitment to a separation between mind and world, which allows them to frame the issue in terms of how epistemic “access” to the world is mediated. A third strategy for dissolving the realism question challenges its underlying commitment to the independence of meaning and truth, a strategy pursued in different ways by Donald Davidson, Robert Brandom, John McDowell, John Haugeland, and myself. The fourth and most encompassing strategy shows that realists and antirealists are thereby committed to an objectionably antinaturalist conception of scientific understanding, in conflict with what the sciences themselves have to say about our own conceptual capacities.

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