Critical realism - PDF-ebook by Roy Wood Sellars

Critical realism:

Critical realism
Critical realism - by Roy Wood Sellars

 a study of the nature and conditions of knowledge

The present work is an attempt to state systematically the essential problems of epistemology. These problems are real; they can be stated clearly, and they can, I am convinced, be solved. What do we mean when we say that we know a thing? What are the conditions of such knowledge? 

These questions and the numerous other questions to which they lead are as empirical as any questions to be found in the special sciences and, so far as I can see, just as susceptible to being answered in a satisfactory way. But the individual thinker who approaches them must rid his mind of prejudices and be prepared to spend some time in a preliminary survey of the facts. He must, moreover, be willing to regard his conclusions as tentative and of the nature of hypotheses. Such is the spirit that I have tried to maintain throughout the present work. 

The positions which I am setting forth in the following pages are the summary of many years of teaching and of hard and pretty constant thinking, inside the classroom and without. 

As time passed, I found myself drifting ever more decidedly toward realism and naturalism. I became increasingly aware of the realistic structure of the individual's experience and noted those distinctions and meanings in which this structure was expressed. Whether these distinctions and meanings could be justified was the question uppermost in my mind. While the pressure of my reflection was evidently toward realism, I was dissatisfied with the customary realism and felt that idealism had the better of the argument so far as generally accepted principles were concerned. It was at the very best a drawn battle between them. 

Every realist who wishes to justify the faith that is in him must meet the arguments of Berkeley, not only his more formal principle that to be for the sensible world is to be perceived but also his argument from content that all objects can be analyzed into sensations. Himie, and in our own day, F. H. Bradley, have also driven home to philosophy the psychical character of everything which is directly present in the field of experience. My knowledge of psychology and of logic made me realize the pervasive influence of mental activity; made me able to bear in mind the processes which made possible those apparently stable products which presented themselves to me so ready-made and external. 

The problem which was formulating itself was to reach a position that would do justice to both the idealistic motives inexperience and the realistic structure and meanings. Was there not some way out? Could not some more adequate standpoint be reached? I determined to analyze the nature of scientific knowledge to see whether it would give me a clue. A careful study of modem science in the light of my epistemological problem did give me a clue which it took some time to work out.

 Do not both Locke and Berkeley have essentially the same view of knowledge? For each of them — if there is to be knowledge of the physical world — it must be of the nature of direct or indirect apprehension. Either the physical world itself or a substitute copy must be present to the understanding when we think. Berkeley meets Locke on this ground and overcomes him. The physical world cannot be like our ideas; hence, we cannot know it. Therefore, there is no good reason to assume its existence. But is actual scientific knowledge an attempt to achieve images that faithfully copy the physical world? Does not this knowledge consist, instead, of propositions that claim to give tested knowledge about the physical world? 

I want the reader to get dearly in mind the difference in outlook that this suggestion involves. // involves a relinquishment of all attempts to picture the physical world. Science offers us measurements of things and statements of their properties, i.e., their effects upon us and upon other things, and their structure; but it consciously swings ever more completely away from the assumption that physical things are open to our inspection or that substitute copies are open to our inspection. 

I. The Setting of the Problem: Natural Realism. i
II. Natural Realism and Science 22
III. The Advance of the Personal 49
IV. The Field of the Individual's Experience . . 79
V. Distinctions within the Field . . . . . . . 104
VI. An Examination of Idealism .135
VII. The Insufficiency of Mental Pluralism. .'. 154
VIII. Mediate Realisms 182
IX. Is Consciousness Alien to the Physical? . . . 204
X. Truth and Knowledge 254

the book details :
  • Author: Roy Wood Sellars
  • Roy Wood Sellars was one of a generation of systematic philosophers in America the likes of which has not been seen before or since. He was born in Seaforth, Ontario in Canada, and spent most of his career at the University of Michigan where he continued working well into his 90s.  He was a fiercely independent thinker who resisted the fashions of the day in order to follow his own instincts.  He believed that the philosopher should be well-grounded both in the history of philosophy and in the sciences and that the philosopher should engage philosophically with the major moral, social, and political issues of the day. His central aims were to combine and harmonize the insights of science and common sense, to update religion with the scientific advances of the day, and to promote a science-grounded system of progressive humanistic values. Over the course of his long life, Sellars wrote and published prolifically. He is the author of 15 books, over 100 articles, 14 book reviews and several miscellaneous works. He is best known for his pioneering formulations of critical realism (roughly, the view that, first, human beings normally perceive independent objects with their sensations but do not perceive sensations, and, second, human beings must interpret their sensations), evolutionary naturalism (a naturalistic version of emergent evolution), the “double knowledge” and mind-brain identity theory (the view that human beings possess two modes of knowledge of single material reality), and a defence of religious humanism (the view that religion must be reinterpreted in terms of its role in improving humanity’s “this-worldly” existence).  He is the primary author of the Humanist Manifesto I of 1933.  Finally, he is the father of Wilfrid Sellars, a highly influential philosopher in his own right, many of whose views, allowing for the different vernacular and emphasis of the two periods, are continuous with his father’s views.
  • Publication date: 1916
  • Company: Chicago: New York: Rand, McNally and company

  • Download Critical realism 10.9 MB

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