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1 DEFINING REALISM
This chapter really just sets the stage, and I don’t have that much interesting to say about it. In the spirit of these posts being helpful for a study guide, I’ll: (1) give the definitions of the Realist Theses Braver considers, (2) give the logical relations between them that he discusses, (3) mention some other realist theses in the literature, and (4) raise a couple of minor issues that may come up again as we move further into the book.
 R1 Independence: “The World consists of some fixed totality of mind independent objects” (Putnam, 1981, 49)
[15-17] R2 Correspondence: “Truth involves some sort of correspondence relation between words or thought-sings and external things and sets of things” (Putnam 1981, 49).
[17-19] R3 Uniqueness: “There is exactly one true and complete description of ‘the way the world is’” (Putnam 1981, 49).
[21-21] R4 Bivalence: “The primary tenet of realism, as applied to some given class of statements, is that each statement in the class is determined as true or not true, independently of our knowledge, by some objective reality whose existence and constitution is, again, independent of our knowledge” (Dummett 1981, 434).
[21-23] R5 Passive Knower: “If, whenever I have to make a judgement, I restrain my will s that it extends to what the intellect clearly and distinctly reveals, and no further, then it is quite impossible for me to go wrong” (Descartes, PWD 2:43).
[Chapter 2] R6 Realism of the Subject: “In order that as a science metaphysics may be entitled to claim, not mere fallacious plausibility, but insight and conviction, a critique of reason must itself exhibit the whole stock of a priori concepts, their division according to their various sources (sensibility, understanding, and reason), together with a complete table of them. . . . Metaphysics alone can . . . be brought to such completion and fixity as to require no further change or be capable of any augmentation by new discoveries” (Kant PFM 105/365, 106/366).
2. Logical Relations between the Theses
[16-17] R1 Independence and R2 Correspondence go together pretty naturally.
 R1 Independence and R2 Correspondence jointly entail R3 Uniqueness.
 R1 Independence, R2 Correspondence, and R3 Uniqueness jointly entail R4 Bivalence (from this and the previous it follows that R1 Independence and R2 Correspondence jointly entail Bivalence)
 R1 Bivalence entails R3 Uniqueness.
 Sort of suggests that the denial of R5 Passive Knower entails the denial of R2 Correspondence.
 R5 Passive Knower again connected to R2 Correspondence and R1 Independence.
3. Other Realist Theses in the Literature:
3.1. Graham Harman’s R7-
The human/world relation is just a special case of the relation between any two entities whatsoever (from his review of the book and brief note at http://larvalsubjects.wordpress.com/2009/05/16/realism-through-the-eyes-of-anti-realism/#comments). This is contrasted with A7 which would say that the human-world relationship is the ground of all the others.
3.2 Dummett’s Epistemic Modesty-
There are unknowable truths. (Braver takes R1 Independence to entail this. It should also be noted that, as far as I can make out, Braver’s Empirical Directive from Hume and Kant just is the anti-realist thesis of Epistemic Hubris, or Verificationism.)
3.3 David Wiggins’ Five Marks of Truth-
These are from the paper “Truth, Invention, and the Meaning of Life” Proceedings of the British Academy; they are discussed in Michael Luntly’s, Contemporary Philosophy of Thought: Truth, World, Content (Wiley Blackwell, 1999).
3.3.1. Truth is the primary dimension of assessment for beliefs and for sentences that express them.
3.3.2. If x is true, then under favorable circumstances x will command convergence. (This clearly follows from some subset of Braver’s theses.)
3.3.3. For all x, where ‘x’ is a sentence expressing a belief, if x is true, then x has content, and it’s truth does not consist in x’s being believed, being hoped for, being wished for, etc. (Connected to Braver’s R5 Passive Knower).
3.3.4. Every true belief is true in virtue of something. (Braver’s R2 Correspondence)
3.3.5.If x1 is true and x2 is true, then x1 & x2 is true; all truths are compatible. (Arguably equivalent to Braver’s R3 Uniqueness)
3.4 Crispin Wright’s- Cognitive Command and Wide Cosmological Role.
These are from Truth and Objectivity (Harvard, 1992). In it Wright argues that there is a “minimal” sense of correspondence (Braver’s R2 Wiggins’ 4th Mark) that everyone can agree with, so that one needs to spell out what makes philosophically loaded senses of correspondence philosophically loaded. He also argues that convergence (Wiggins’ 2nd Mark) might be hold for reasons that have nothing to do with objectivity, such as social pressure to believe a certain way. This issue will certainly come to the fore in Braver’s chapter on Foucault.
Wright proposes that what differentiates robust correspondence from minimal correspondence and (as far as I understand him) objective/Socratic convergence from non-objective/Euthyphronic convergence is whether the following two claims hold of a truth predicate. These are a mouthful. For a clear handout with my take on Wright and realism/anti-realism go HERE . The handout explains the following, among other cool related things).
3.4.1 Cognitive Command- “A discourse exhibits Cognitive Command if, and only if, it is a priori that differences in opinion arising within it can be satisfactorily explained only in terms of “divergent input”, that is, the disputants’ working on the basis of different information (and hence guilty of ignorance or error, depending on the status of that information), or “unsuitable conditions” (resulting in attention or distraction and so in inferential error, or oversight of data and so on), or upward or downwards, or dogma, or failings in other categories already listed).”
3.4.2 Wide Cosmological Role- “Let the width of cosmological role of the subject matter of a discourse be measured by the extent to which citing the kinds of states of affairs with which it deals is potentially contributative to the explanation of things other than, or other than via, our being in attitudinal states which take such states of such affairs as object. . . [the issue is] not whether a class of states of affairs feature in the best explanation of our beliefs about them, but of what else there is, other than our beliefs, of which the citation of such states of affairs can feature in good enough explanations. (196-197)
4. A Couple of Issues
4.1. Bivalence versus the Law of Non-Contradiction
As a rule of logic, the law of bivalence just says that all propositions are such that they are true or false. So stated, this is consistent with the failure of the law of non-contradiction, which states that no proposition is both true and false. That is, bivalence does not say “every statement is exactly one of the pair, true or false.” This is stronger as it requires the law of non-contradiction to prohibit claims from being both.
It is not that Braver is making an elementary logical error. He’s just working with the background assumption that the law of non-contradiction should not be put on the table in these debates. But given how similar Kant’s antinomies and the affection argument against transcendental idealism are to strict paradoxes such as the liar paradox and Russell’s paradox (Graham Priest shows this in Beyond the Limits of Thought), I do think the law of non-contradiction should be on the table.
Take the issue of R3 Uniqueness. Uniqueness typically fails when there is more than one conceptual scheme or whatnot that are equally good. If you follow Goodman (and Kuhn in some voices) and think that there is no sense to the same content being organized by different schemes, then you get genuinely different worlds.
Braver takes this to be a failure in bivalence, on the assumption that if some proposition is true in one admissible world and false in another admissible world then it’s neither true nor false. But it could be a failure in the law of the excluded middle. Maybe being true in two admissible worlds means that the claim is both true and false?
There is actually a debate in the literature between gap (no truth value) and (more than one truth value) glut approaches to super-valuational semantics for vagueness that concerns this exact issue.
This does not mean that I think Bivalence is a law of logic (see- J. Cogburn, “The Logic of Logical Revision: Formalizing Dummett’s Argument,” The Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 83.1 (2005), pp. 15-32.). I just think we need to keep it distinct from the law of excluded middle. My next concern illustrates one reason why.
4.2. One Problem for Claimed Failures of R3 Uniqueness
Typically in science when there are two genuinely incommensurable theories, one or both has such explanatory deficiencies that no-one is likely to think that there is a challenge to uniqueness. In the one case where there were no deficiencies the two theories were proven mathematically inter-derivable (the wave and matrix equation versions of quantum mechanics). Every scientist I know says that what was proven was that there was one theory all along!
The problem is finding genuine cases of non-trivially incommensurable theories that both have equal right to be considered true. (1) Orgone theory and Relativity theory are non-trivially incommensurable, but don’t have equal right to be considered true. (2) The Wave and Matrix equation formulations of quantum physics have equal right to be considered true, but they are not really incommensurable in a non-trivial sense (and hence are the same theory just differently formulated).
When you look at things like ethics and it seems that our best theories in the limits of investigations might still disagree about important things. Examples might include: the amount of our obligation to the poor, or whether lying always involves violating a moral duty. If two theories really did disagree on what our obligations are and they have equal right to be considered true theories (say the best humanity could come up with in the limit of investigation), then my intuition would be that there is still one unique theory of the way the world is, but that it just contains true contradictions (see previous note about law of excluded middle).
4.3. Modality and the denial of R5 Passive Knower and R3 Uniqueness
Finally I worry in a lot of these debates that we end up following Hume and unduly characterizing what counts as a world. If a world is just thought of as a temporal progression of distributions of static property possessions across space, then all sorts of anti-realisms follow.
But once you put modal properties such as possibility and necessity in the world, a lot of supposed anti-realisms aren’t really anti-realisms but just different accounts of the modal nature of reality. Hume couldn’t make sense of the modal notions behind a robust sense of causality, and this led Kant to say causality was just a category shaping our experience. Yet at the same time the transcendental subject applying the categories really looks like it’s engaged in something causal. When you look at the whole thing “sideways” as McDowell puts it, you just have the same old world with some really surprising causal properties.
That is, for all of the neo-Kantian positions you’ve got some human oriented thing, paradigmatically some combination of culture, history, or the subject responsible for different versions of reality. But why doesn’t reality include the makers?
Here’s a better example. Pigeons have a different number of rods and cones in their eyes than do humans. The temptation is to either posit an intervening layer of sense data that is systematically different for Pigeons and humans or get all Goodmanesque and say that pigeons and humans “live in different realities.” But you don’t need to do either of these things. Maybe the ball really is red in itself, but red is just a color that only humans are equipped to detect (and we don’t have a vocabulary for all of the colors the pigeons detect). The real world instantiates all these properties but in a complicated and modally rich way. It’s only if you like Hume and Kant deny modal facts to the real world that you end up saying we live in different worlds (or even worse that we’re really looking at movie theaters inside our own heads).
So whenever one of these thinkers denies R5 Passive Knower as a way to get to the denial of R3 Uniqueness, it always puzzles me. If they use enough causal talk to make themselves clear, then they just seem to be describing one world with a different kind of causal richness than we’d suspected.
This is one of the reasons it is so important not to look at neo-Kantian positions in this “sideways” manner. The danger is you have reinstated all the stuff you were supposed to be wary of (i.e. modal properties like causality being part of the world) just in a weirder, less plausible way. In two chapters, Hegel will come in to try to clean all this up, but first we should get clearer about the the theses themselves, then go through the Kantian moment with Mikhail at the helm. I hope the above is enough to get some conversation started.