Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Projection, Detection, and the Relevant Reasons Account of Realism
by Johnson, Andrew A., Ph.D., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2011, 125; 3477560
Abstract (Summary)

Believing ordinary objects like tables and chairs to be real seems to be a matter of believing that they exist and are independent of our minds. However, the idea that realism about a domain is a matter of taking on certain mind-independent ontological commitments falters when we consider other domains. Realism about minds, for example, clearly does not require a commitment to mind-independence. And realism about morality does not seem to require believing in the existence of any special moral entities. The way to explain these varying intuitions, I believe, is to give up the idea that realism, at its heart, has anything to do with existence or mind-independence. I argue that believing a domain to be real is fundamentally a matter of forming one’s beliefs about the domain in a certain fashion. It is a matter of deeming certain kinds of reasons more relevant to the task of belief formation than others. I call this the Relevant Reasons Account of Realism. It explains why ontology and mind-independence seem crucial to some kinds of realism, and why they seem irrelevant to others. It also explains various other intuitions that we encounter along the way.

A number of philosophers have thought that the realist about a domain has to believe the domain to be detected rather than projected. I argue that the most promising attempts to pinpoint a detection/projection distinction (including the concept of response-dependence, Crispin Wright’s conception of judgment-dependence, and Kit Fine’s conception of non-factuality) all fall short of the mark, in one way or another. None of these proposals give us a distinction that is relevant to the question of realism. I then develop a new (and dialectically fruitful) way of making the projection/detection distinction. On my account, for a domain to be a projection of our epistemic practice is for our epistemic success with respect to the domain to be explained in a certain kind of way. I argue that, if a domain is a projection of our epistemic practice in this sense, it is less than fully real for us.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Lycan, William G.
Commitee: Bar-On, Dorit, Hofweber, Thomas, Lycan, William G., Neta, Ram, Roberts, John T.
School: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Department: Philosophy
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 73/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Metaphysics, Philosophy
Keywords: Anti-realism, Mind-dependence, Mind-independence, Objectivity, Projection, Realism
Publication Number: 3477560
ISBN: 9781124942421
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