Can realism be naturalised? Putnam on sense, Commonsense, and the senses
AbstractHilary Putnam has famously undergone some radical changes of mind with regard to the issue of scientific realism and its wider epistemological bearings. In this paper I defend the arguments put forward by early Putnam in his essays on the causal theory of reference as applied to natural-kind terms, despite his own later view that those arguments amounted to a form of 'metaphysical' realism which could not be sustained against various lines of sceptical attack. I discuss some of the reasons for Putnam's retreat, first to the theory of 'internal (or framework-relative) realism proposed in his middle-period writings, and then to a commonsensepragmatist stance which claims to resituate this whole discussion on ground that has not been trorldden into ruts by the contending philosophical schools. In particular I examine his protracted engagement with various forms of anti-realist doctrine (Michael Dummett's most prominent among them), with Wittgenstein's thinking about language-games or meaning-as-use, and with a range of sceptical- relativist positions adopted in the wake of Quine's influential attack on the two last 'dogmas' of logical empiricism. My paper seeks to show that Putnam has been over-impressed by some of the arguments — from these and other sources — which he takes to constitute a knock-down case against the kind of extemalist and causal-realist approach developed in his early essays. It concludes by re-stating that position in summary form and relating it to other, more recent defences of causal realism in epistemology and philosophy of science.
Copyright (c) 2021 Chistopher Norris
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