Coping with Things-in-themselves: A Practice-Based Phenomenological Argument for Realism

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Abstract:

Against Davidsonian (or deflationary) realism, it is argued that it is coherent to believe that science can in principle give us access to the functional components of the universe as they are in themselves in distinction from how they appear to us on the basis of our quotidian concerns or sensory capacities. The first section presents the deflationary realist's argument against independence. The second section then shows that, although Heidegger pioneered the deflationary realist account of the everyday, he sought to establish a robust realist account of science. Next, the third section develops two different sides of Heidegger's thinking. Resources developed by Thomas Kuhn are drawn on to work out Heidegger's account of plural worlds. This argument shows that it makes sense to talk about things-in-themselves independent of our practices, but falls short of the robust realist claim that we can have access to things as they are in themselves independent of our practices. So, secondly, Saul Kripke's account of rigid designation is drawn on to work out Heidegger's account of formal designation. On the basis of a Heideggerian elaboration of rigid designation, it is argued that we do indeed have practices for achieving access to things independent of all our practices. But this second argument leaves us unable to reject metaphysical nominalism. So, thirdly, it is proposed that the currently most persuasive philosophical argument for nominalism depends on a logico-mathematical space of possibilities. But the proto-theoretical space opened by the pre-scientific access practices has features that provide reasons for believing that the independent stuff to which we have access has a determinate structure and specific causal powers.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/002017499321624

Publication date: March 1, 1999

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