Sunday, November 9, 2014

Wiki Catches Up a Bit
In 1976, when I delivered the John Locke Lectures at Oxford, I often spent time with Peter Strawson, and one day at lunch he made a remark I have never been able to forget. He said, "Surely half the pleasure of life is sardonic comment on the passing show".  This blog is devoted to comments, not all of them sardonic, on the passing philosophical show.
Hilary Putnam

Some good angel has revised the entry on me in Wiki that I described as badly out of date in my Post “What Wiki Doesn’t Know About Me”, 10/30/2014. The revision updates the description of my philosophy of perception and my current version of functionalism, and includes references to this blog and to three articles in Philosophy in an Age of Science.

 (I understand that wiki, reasonably, has a policy against subjects revising their own entries.)

Still to be updated is the description of my attitude to metaphysical realism. Here is some data!

As Mario DeCaro and David Macarthur point out in their introduction to Philosophy in An Age of Science ,
Putnam is famous for endorsing, at different stages in his philosophical career, a diversity of ‘realisms’ including scientific realism, Metaphysical Realism, internal realism, and common sense (or pragmatic or natural) realism. To make matters even more complex Putnam now distinguishes between being a “Metaphysical Realist” in the sense he gave to that term in his internal realist days and “being a realist in one’s metaphysics” in a broader sense:
As I explained ‘Metaphysical Realism,’ what it came to was precisely the denial of conceptual relativity. My ‘Metaphysical Realist’ believed that a given thing or system of things can be described in exactly one way, if the description is complete and correct, and that way is supposed to fix exactly one ‘ontology’ and one ‘ideology’ in Quine’s sense of those words, that is, exactly one domain of individuals and one domain of predicates of those individuals. Thus it cannot be a matter of convention, as I have argued that it is, whether there are such individuals as mereological sums; either the ‘true’ ontology includes mereological sums or it doesn’t. And it cannot be a matter of convention, as I have argued that it is, whether space-time points are individuals or mere limits, etc.
          To be sure, this is one form that Metaphysical Realism can take. But if we understand “metaphysical realist” more broadly, as applying to all philosophers who reject all forms of verificationism and all talk of our ‘making’ the world, then I believe it is perfectly possible to be a metaphysical realist in that sense and to accept the phenomenon I am calling ‘conceptual relativity.’[i]




[i] Philosophy in an Age of Science, chapter 2, “From Quantum Mechanics to Ethics and Back Again”, my closing lecture to the “Hilary Putnam at 80” Conference at University College Dublin, March 2007.

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