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Appears in Collections:eTheses from Faculty of Natural Sciences legacy departments
Title: Natural anti-realism
Author(s): Clark, Andrew John
Issue Date: 1984
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: The thesis defines and examines a position ('natural anti-realism') which combines an anti-realist semantics with an evolutionary epistemology. An anti-realist semantics, by requiring that a theory of meaning be also a theory of understanding, cries out for an explicit epistemological component. In urging an evolutionary epistemology as such a component, I seek to preserve and underscore the semantic insights of the anti-realist whilst deflecting the common criticism that the anti-realist must perforce embrace some form of noxious idealism. An evolutionary epistemology, I argue, can provide a distinctive content for the belief that reality is independent of human thought without needing to claim that anything we can say or think about the world can be conceived as being true or false in full independence of our capacity to know it as such. This content is to be secured in two ways. The first is to observe that language is best understood as a tool of minds which are themselves best understood as the products of a natural process operating in an independently real world. The second is to form a non-transcendent conception of transcendent facts. The accessible evidence concerning the form of the selective process, it is argued, warrants the claim that reality may exceed its humanly accessible contours. For it warrants the claim that man is probably cognitively limited and biased in ways rooted in our peculiar, and somewhat contingent, evolutionary past. The natural anti-realist thus conceives of reality as both independent of, and potentially transcending the limits of, man's particular mental orientation. A largely realistic metaphysics may thus accompany an anti-realist semantics without the lapse into vacuity or incoherence which some commentators seem to fear.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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