[lit-ideas] Re: What Makes Realism Metaphysical

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 21 Feb 2015 07:41:21 -0500

Thanks to McEvoy for his elaboration on 'transcendental idealism', etc. 
In a message dated 2/21/2015 3:48:47 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:
What is falsifiable by observation falls  within science, so - using this 
criterion - metaphysical claims are never  falsifiable by observation. 
However, P does canvas an argument that idealism is  closer to being falsified 
than realism, and could be treated as falsified by  certain facts of 
experience, but idealists can always explain such facts away as  part of the 
idealist's dream - so rendering idealism unfalsified and  unfalsifiable. It is, 
part, this kind of evasive manoeuvre that makes  idealism a weaker 
metaphysical framework than realism. The abiding sources of  idealism are not 
metaphysical speculation but entrenched theories of  knowledge. Berkeley may be 
taken to have shown how empiricism of Locke's sort  leads to a form 
idealism, and Hume can be interpreted as showing something  similar. This kind 
empiricism P regards as a mistaken theory of knowledge and  P is clear that on 
no merely subjective account of knowledge can an objective  account be 
built, and that a merely subjective account [a la JTB-theory] is  vulnerable to 
collapse into a form of idealism. Kant is perhaps a different case  - here 
there is an issue that deserves deep consideration: to compare realism of  
P's sort against "transcendental idealism" of Kant's sort. For P's kind of  
realism accepts much of what leads Kant to his "transcendental idealism", and 
we  can even view "transcendental idealism" as a form of realism akin to 
P's.  Elsewhere P writes (iirc): "From the non-demonstrability of 
[metaphysical]  realism follows the irrefutability of [metaphysical] idealism; 
and vice 
versa.  But there is an all-important difference between them: metaphysical 
idealism is  false and metaphysical realism is true."

And then there's "Moderate Realism", for we may consider branches of  
realism that are not necessarily metaphysical in nature.
Moderate Realism holds that they exist, but only insofar as they are  
instantiated in specific things; they do not exist separately from the specific 
But, granted, Grice found moderate realism _boring_ (He quotes from  
Diogenes Laertius, "Lives of Eminent Philosophers", a booklet, Diogenes wrote  
a lady aristocrat: "Few philosophers have been moderate").
As for Kant's 'transcendental idealism' that McEvoy compares to Popper's  
'metaphysical' realism, it should be pointed out, that 
(i) Kant contrasted "transcendental idealism" to "transcendental realism",  
and there's an air of paradox (a veridical paradox, alla Quine?) in that 
Kant's  transcendental idealism is more akin to Popper's metaphysical realism 
that is  Kant's idea of transcendental realism (that Kant rejects).
(ii) in any, case, this ('transcendental idealism') is all part of Kant's  
REJECTION of metaphysics, a programme Popper is NOT into. The entry 
Grier, Michelle, "Kant's Critique of Metaphysics", The Stanford  
Encyclopedia of Philosophy  (Summer 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),  URL 
makes that clear, and note that both "Grier" and "Grice" start with "Gri-". 
Grier (not Grice) notes:
************************* BEGIN OF QUOTE
"To assume this, however, is to conflate “phenomena” (or appearances) with 
 “noumena” (or things in themselves). The failure to draw the distinction 
between  appearances and things in themselves is the hallmark of all those 
pernicious  systems of thought that stand under the title of “TRANSCENDENTAL 
REALISM”   Kant's TRANSCENDENTAL IDEALISM is the remedy for these. [O]n the 
assumption of 
TRANSCENDENTAL REALISM, both nature and freedom seem to be undermined. To  
avoid this, Kant appeals to TRANSCENDENTAL IDEALISM, which is supposed to 
rescue  reason from the conflict. Given 
TRANSCENDENTAL IDEALISM (with its distinction between appearances and  
things in themselves [*]) it remains possible that in addition to the mechanism 
of nature, or contingent existence, there is an intelligible causal power, 
or a  necessary being."
************************** END OF QUOTE
Grice was once fascinated with Kant's transcendental idealism, but started  
to find it boring when he moved to California.
("It was a good thing that my pupil, Sir Peter (as he then wasn't)  
Strawson, had educated the Oxonian masses on that [Grice is referring to  
Strawson's best seller, "The bounds of sense: an Essay on Kant's critique of  
reason", London, Methuen]. In a private note, Grice adds that he found it  
cruel that Strawson never cared to acknowledge Grice in that book, seeing that  
most of it developed from seminars given by both Grice and Strawson on the  
As a result, once in California, Grice decided to continue lecturing on  
Kant, but focusing on his (i.e. Kant's) moral philosophy ("I confess I found  
Kant's categorical imperative categorically fascinating -- and so did 
apparently  my graduate students" -- He never taught undergrads in California). 
[*] But in the distinction between 'appearances and things in themselves',  
Kant, unlike Grice, is underestimating implicatures:
i. That pillar box seems red to me.
(report of an appearance).
ii. Indeed, it _is_ red.
(report of a thing in itself).
Grice notes that there is a conversational maxim to the effect that,  
ceteris paribus, one should provide the strongest possible conversational move, 
and (i) "The pillar box seems red to me" sounds WEAKER than (ii) "The pillar 
box  is red". As a consequence, (i) implicates to someone perhaps other 
than Kant  that (iii) "the pillar box is NOT red", but merely _seems_ red -- 
i.e. the  negation of a report of a thing in itself. 
("Kant possibly ignored all these seeing that there were no red pillar  
boxes in Königsberg, while they are pretty common to Oxford philosophers").  

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