Projection, detection, and the relevant reasons account of realism Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Johnson, Andrew A.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy
  • 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.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy."
  • Lycan, William G.
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  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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