Thursday, 13 December 2018

Michael J. Loux's Metaphysical Realism: Beyond Concepts and Representations

Michael J. Loux assumes that the “conceptual schemer” (as he calls him) won't have realised that his own concepts (or his own conceptual scheme) will need to be applied to

the conceptual schemer's account of conceptual representation”.

Loux sees this as being self-defeating on the conceptual schemer's part.

Simply because this may be (or is) the case, that doesn't also mean that there's nothing to account for. Neither does it mean that “we make it all up”. (This is how Loux describes “subjective idealism”, which he ties to anti-realism - as does fellow metaphysical realist, Peter van Inwagen.)

It's obviously true that a conceptual schemer can't have a metaphysically-realist position on his own conceptual scheme itself: that would indeed be somewhat self-defeating or even self-contradictory. However, if he doesn't accept metaphysical realism for an account of the world, then why should he accept it for an account of his own conceptual scheme? Instead, he'll apply the same logic to conceptual schemes as he does to the world. And that doesn't mean that he makes it all up or that “anything goes”. There's still a conceptual scheme to account for: even if meta-concepts or second-order concepts (as it were) are required for such an account.

The problem here is that metaphysical realist (or Michael Loux) simply assumes that

conceptual representation bars us from an apprehension of anything we seek to represent” .

That's not the case. Do the theories and models of physics deny physicists an apprehension of anything they seek to describe, understand or represent? 

The metaphysical realist makes the same mistake when it comes to the nature of the world (i.e., regardless of conceptual schemes). He assumes that anything other than a thoroughly metaphysically-realist position (or position from within “traditional metaphysics”) will bar us from an apprehension of anything we seek to represent. However, anti-realists are representing something something which has a causal affect on us. Despite that, there are many reasons for believing that we can't get that something in its pristine state. That something is causally responsible for our statements, theories, experiences, sense-events and models. However, that same something can bring about many different statements, experiences, sense-events, theories and models. And that's partly because of the mediation of various contingent factors: mind, language, concepts, prior theories and whatnot.

So it doesn't follow that we don't “get[] hold” of our conceptual scheme of the world simply because we don't get hold of the world itself. That's because getting hold of the world itself (i.e., with the mind alone) hardly makes philosophical or logical sense.

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