Mach on Realism


I came across this passage in the introduction to Mach’s The Analysis of Sensations:

It has arisen in the process of immeasurable time without the intentional assistance of man.. It is a product of nature, and preserved by nature.  Everything that philosophy has accomplished…is, as compared with it, but an insignificant and ephemeral product of art.  The fact is, every thinker, every philosopher, the moment he is forced to abandon his one-sided intellectual occupation…immediately returns to [realism].  Nor is it the purpose of these “introductory” remarks to discredit the standpoint [of realism].  The task which we have set ourselves is simply to show why and for what purpose we hold that standpoint during most of our lives, and why and for what purpose we are…obligated to abandon it.

Not very charitable, but an interesting comment nonetheless.  Procrastination is a funny thing, why am I reading Mach? It occurs to me, given the recent Realism Wars, that we have an anti-realist position and a realist position, but what about the status of the non-realist in all of this?  Back to grading student papers I suppose…

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3 thoughts on “Mach on Realism

  1. Davidson I believe came to classify himself as a non-Realist, after having been lumped in and used by Rorty in the Anti-Realist campaign (on the Analytic side involving the question of justification). Frankly, the Realism of continental yearnings just strikes me as a kind of wistful, “Back to the rough ground! Back to the terra firma!”, or “Let’s do metaphysics that is REAL”.

  2. I think you mean you’ll be having to compete with another dude on the corner selling mugs with a similar phrase like “Realizm Wars!” I say, let’s put it on toilet paper.

    Kvond, I will have to look into Davidson’s alleged non-realism. Hmmm..I can’t recall the name (and I’m pulling this from the recess of my brain), but there’s a philosophy of science guy that advocates a Natural Ontological Attitude or some such as a way to get out of the impasse of the realism/anti-realism. In my imaginary spare time I’ll have to dig it up to see if I can conveniently label it “non-realism.” My intuition tells me that it may be “realism light” (e.g. without the table pounding).

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