Metaphysical realism and antirealism: an analysis of the contemporary debate

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Metaphysical realism and antirealism: an analysis of the contemporary debate

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Title: Metaphysical realism and antirealism: an analysis of the contemporary debate
Author: Smith, Deborah Colleen
Abstract: The metaphysical realist asserts, while the metaphysical antirealist denies, that there are individuals that exist independently of the existence and workings of any mind or minds. I begin by distinguishing the thesis of metaphysical realism from other theses that are also called 'realism'. Of particular interest in this discussion is the relation between metaphysical realism and views such as moral realism and scientific realism.Metaphysical realism is commonly thought to be the default position in the debate since it is prima facie supported by our commonsense intuitions concerning the nature of reality. I develop several arguments to show that, when we examine our intuitions in detail, metaphysical realism is not the entirely commonsensical view that it at first appears. I argue that if metaphysical realism is true, it is difficult to see how semantic and epistemic access to the mind-independent world is possible and that, even if we do have such access, it will be difficult to rule out very bizarre ontologies. While none of these arguments constitute a decisive objection to metaphysical realism, they do suggest that the metaphysical realist should say something in defense of his view.I then examine Peter van Inwagen's attempted defense of metaphysical realism. This defense takes the form of a series of arguments designed to show that metaphysical antirealism is incoherent because incompatible with the existence of objective truth. I argue that his criticisms do not constitute an adequate defense of metaphysical realism because certain forms of antirealism, if otherwise philosophically viable, plausibly escape.This leads to a discussion of the extent to which an antirealist metaphysic can be considered a viable philosophical view. In this context, I examine the views of Hilary Putnam and Paul Grice. While the versions of metaphysical antirealism presented face serious difficulties of their own, I argue that it is a matter of philosophical judgment which view, metaphysical realism or metaphysical antirealism, has the more severe problems.
Description: Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Washington, 1996
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1773/5699

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