Thing of This World
A History of Continental Anti Realism
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: Northwestern University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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I must thank David Carr, who chaired the dissertation that was the seed of this work and who taught me so much about how to read, think, and write. John McCumber eased the process of publication greatly, and I have learned a lot about philosophy from him too. I want to thank John Koritansky and Rich Hall for reading and giving me helpful feedback on portions of this book. The two anonymous readers for Northwestern University...
List of Abbreviations
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Guide to Matrices
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Realism Matrix R1 Independence: “The world consists of some fixed totality of mind-independent objects” (Putnam 1981, 49). R2 Correspondence: “Truth involves some sort of correspondence relation between words or thought-signs and external things and sets of things” (Putnam 1981, 49). R3 Uniqueness: “There is exactly one true and complete description of...
Introduction: The Kantian Root
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Philosophy today faces a dilemma similar to the situation at the end of the eighteenth century. As we are now divided between analytic and continental branches, so philosophy was then split into rationalism and empiricism. Beginning from different assumptions and methods, the early modern schools grew farther apart as they developed. Starting from Descartes’ commitment to a few absolutely certain innate ideas and reason’s ability...
1. Defining Realism
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Most writers on the topic agree that, as the name suggests, anti-realism is defined in contrast to realism: anti-realism is not whatever realism is. In J. L. Austin’s phrase, realism wears the trousers in the pair,¹ so we must first understand it in order to grasp anti-realism. In this opening chapter I will draw on largely analytic sources to construct a definition of realism in the form of a set of theses (denoted R1–R6), or a Realism Matrix. During...
Part 1: The Kantian Paradigm
2. Kant’s Revolution
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When we examine the history of philosophy from the perspective of different issues, various philosophers take on greater or less weight depending on how directly, originally, and influentially they address the specific topic. For our topic of anti-realism, Descartes, for instance, recedes in importance. The basic structure of metaphysical realism prevalent throughout the history of philosophy continues in his thought, now just founded...
3. Hegel: The Truth of the Whole
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The method of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit—his first masterpiece and the work of his I will be using more than any other—is to examine an idea on its own terms, letting that idea present its best arguments and develop itself until it unwittingly exposes its own limitations and self-contradictions, thus overcoming itself. Rather than refuting a theory from the outside, employing external criteria it never intended to meet and would not accept,...
4. Nietzsche’s Will to Truth
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Nietzsche is perhaps the most enigmatic thinker I will be discussing. Although he discusses realism and anti-realism and their consequences for truth and reality extensively, he is notoriously difficult to pin down. Karl Jaspers got it right when he said that “one had not thoroughly read Nietzsche until, for every claim, he or she had also found the contradiction” (paraphrased in Solomon and Higgins 1988, viii). Derrida makes the similar...
5. Early Heidegger: Fundamental Ontology
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As anyone who has fallen under its spell can attest, Being and Time is an astonishing work.
Part 2: The Heideggerian Paradigm
6. Later Heidegger: “The Great Turning Around”
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Hegel, Nietzsche, and the early Heidegger were all engaged in the project of working out the implications of Kant’s anti-realism while simultaneously trying to break free of certain of his ways of framing the issue. I have argued that they only succeeded in liberating themselves from parts of it, while retaining much of its basic structure. For the thinkers of the Kantian Paradigm, the A5 Active Knower’s faculties partially constitute A1 Dependent...
7. Foucault’s History of Truth
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I can directly state the basic thesis of this chapter: Foucault works within the Heideggerian Paradigm the way that Hegel, Nietzsche, and to a lesser degree early Heidegger operate within the Kantian Paradigm. Just as Kant presented the first coherent and persuasive complete alternative to realism, so Heidegger’s later work marks the first genuine alternative to the Kantian Paradigm, even though it had already been significantly reformed...
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Jacques Derrida is certainly the most misunderstood and casually misconstrued philosopher of recent times, and the thinker who has provoked the strongest reactions across the analytic-continental divide. He presently holds the dubious position, occupied before him at various times by Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, of being the poster child for everything that’s wrong with continental thought, if not Western civilization as a whole.
Conclusion: Anthropology from Two Kantian Points of View; or, A Tale of Two Kants
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The hypothesis that has organized this book from the outset is that Kant, as the figure who precedes the analytic-continental split, could serve as a common ground on which the two traditions can recognize each other’s work as sufficiently similar or overlapping in nature to make a dialogue between them both practical and profitable. I have used Kant as a kind of Rosetta stone to cast continental thought in a vocabulary that would be...
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About the Author
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Lee Braver is chair of the department of philosophy at Hiram College in Ohio.
Page Count: 616
Publication Year: 2007