Book: Realism With A Human Face by Hilary Putnam. Part I: Metaphysics
May 1, 2016 8:33 AM - Subscribe

I'm starting the discussion about the first part of the Hilary Putnam book. The lengthy introduction discusses Putnam's influences, and the essays in Part I focus on metaphysics.

I've been enjoying Putnam's writing, but for all its clarity and lack of jargon, it still often leaves me at a loss to put my finger on just what he means. It seems he's content to define orthodox realism as consisting of three interrelated assertions:

1) The world consists of a fixed totality of of mind-independent objects
2) There is exactly one true and complete description of the way the world is
3) Truth involves some sort of correspondence

But he makes it clear that realism so defined is still problematic, and deals with objections raised by rival thinkers.

The introduction doesn't mention Hegel as one of Putnam's influences, but I couldn't help thinking that Putnam is trying to achieve a synthesis of concepts that have previously been considered contradictory. He deals with the ideas of objectivism/relativism and the fact/value dichotomy not to take sides, but to suggest that they're "pseudoquestions." Even his disagreements with Rorty and the postmoderns are treated as opportunities to find common ground.

Let me present some quotes I found interesting, perhaps they'll inspire some discussion:

"All disagreement presupposes an indefinitely large fund of shared beliefs." (p.125)

"The reason I do not regard either the "yes" answer or the "no" answer to the question "Is causation-as-explanation built into physical reality?" as acceptable is that I find the whole notion of being "built into physical reality" or of "really existing" in the metaphysician's sense without content." (p. 88)

"If objects are, at least when you get small enough, or large enough, or theoretical enough, theory-dependent, then the whole idea of truth's being defined or explained in terms of a "correspondence" between items in a language and items in a fixed theory-independent reality has to be given up." (p. 41)

Any thoughts? Feel free to jump in!
posted by Fritz Langwedge to Metaphysics and Entanglement
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