Relativism and Reality: A Contemporary Introduction

Overview

Our thoughts about the world are clearly influenced by such things as point of view, temperament, past experience and culture. However, some thinkers go much further and argue that everything that exists depends on us, arguing that 'even reality is relative'. Can we accept such a claim in the face of events such as floods and other natural disasters or events seemingly beyond our control? 'Realists' argue that reality is independent of out thinking. 'Relativists' disagree, ...

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Relativism and Reality: A Contemporary Introduction

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Overview

Our thoughts about the world are clearly influenced by such things as point of view, temperament, past experience and culture. However, some thinkers go much further and argue that everything that exists depends on us, arguing that 'even reality is relative'. Can we accept such a claim in the face of events such as floods and other natural disasters or events seemingly beyond our control? 'Realists' argue that reality is independent of out thinking. 'Relativists' disagree, arguing that what there is depends on our point of view. Which is right?
Robert Kirk provides a crystal clear account of this debate from the Greek philosophers to Wittgenstein and Rorty. Along the way, he unpacks some of the more complicated issues surrounding ideas of objectivity, subjectivity, pragmatism and realism essential for those beginning any study of philosphy.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415208161
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 8/3/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface ix
1 Introduction 1
1 Myths 1
2 Theories 3
3 The first atomic theory 5
4 Can we get it right? 9
5 Plan 10
2 Truth 15
1 The sciences 15
2 The Core Scientific Story 16
3 Is the Core Scientific Story just another myth? 17
4 What if there are equally good alternatives to the CSS? 18
5 First thoughts about truth: correspondence 20
6 Building up to truth 22
7 Is truth redundant? 24
8 Conceptual autonomy 26
9 Second thoughts about truth: coherence 28
10 Third thoughts about truth: pragmatism 31
3 Relative to us? 35
1 Relativism 36
2 'Truth for me' 37
3 False beliefs and undiscovered truths 39
4 Is relativism inconsistent? 40
5 Coherence again 40
6 How is disagreement possible? 41
7 How can our statements mean what they do? 42
8 The existence of relativists undermines relativism 43
9 Another awkward question 44
10 The fundamental trouble with relativism 45
11 All our own work? 46
12 Are colours real? 46
13 More on 'constructing reality' 49
14 'Cosmic porridge' 52
4 Words and world: Wittgenstein 56
1 Wittgenstein 56
2 Undermining an ancient assumption 60
3 Language-games 63
4 Building up to meaning, truth and knowledge 65
5 Meaning, truth and knowledge 66
6 The state of play 68
7 Some difficulties 69
8 More on rule-following 70
9 The Odd Adder 71
5 Words and world: Quine 74
1 Quine's naturalism 74
2 Dispositions 75
3 Quine on language, knowledge and belief 76
4 Revising beliefs 77
5 Wittgenstein and Quine on science, language and philosophy 78
6 'Posits' 79
7 Quine's holism 79
8 Quine on meaning 82
9 Quine's doctrine of the indeterminacy of translation 85
6 Language-games v. realism 90
1 Realism, instrumentalism, anti-realism 90
2 Other varieties 94
3 The 'language-game' argument for anti-realism 97
4 Failure of the language-game argument 101
5 Is rationality relative? 103
7 Foundations for knowledge? 109
1 The idea of basing knowledge on foundations 109
2 Descartes's 'method of doubt' 109
3 Can knowledge be based on purely a priori foundations? 111
4 Can knowledge be based on foundations provided by experience? 112
5 Wittgenstein on private language 114
6 A general difficulty for foundationalist views: Neurath's boat 115
8 Dummett's anti-realism 119
1 Truth conditions, understanding and mathematical truth 119
2 Dummettian anti-realism 120
3 The case for Dummettian anti-realism 122
4 Possible realist replies 124
5 Dummettian anti-realism and theory 128
6 Anti-realist truth and reality 131
9 Rorty's 'postmodern' pragmatism 134
1 Rorty's pragmatism 134
2 Does the world have an intrinsic nature? 135
3 Does realism imply a God's Eye View? 139
4 Realists can keep out of the cosmic porridge 142
5 What's so special about science? 143
10 Science and the world of everyday life 144
1 The idea that science devalues the world of everyday life 145
2 Different descriptions of a single reality? 146
3 Does realism require a single true theory of the world? 149
4 Scientific theory and reality 153
5 Possible relations between theories. Reduction and 'strict implication' 156
6 Does science establish what is real? 160
7 Relating science and common sense: (a) theoretically 161
8 Relating science and common sense: (b) non-theoretically 163
11 A strong realism 167
1 The main apparently relativizing ideas 167
2 'To call a posit a posit is not to patronize it' 169
3 Realism and conceptual autonomy 172
4 Does the language-game idea make philosophy a waste of time? 172
5 Philosophical behaviourism 175
6 No reduction and no unity 176
7 Fact-stating and other language-games 177
8 Conclusion 179
Glossary 181
Bibliography 184
Index 188
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