Realism and Antirealism

Throughout the past century, a debate has raged over the thesis of realism and its alternatives. Realism—the seemingly commonsensical view that all or most of what we encounter in the world exists and is what it is independently of human thought—has been vigorously denied by such prominent intellectuals as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Richard Rorty, Thomas Kuhn, Hilary Putnam, and Nelson Goodman. The opponents of realism, among them historians and social scientists who support social constructionism, hold that all or most of reality depends on human conceptual schemes and beliefs. In this volume of original essays, a group of philosophers explores the ongoing controversy. The book opens with an introduction by William P. Alston, whose writing on the subject has been widely influential. Selected essays then compare and contrast aspects of the arguments put forward by the realists with those of the antirealists. Other chapters discuss the importance of the debate for philosophical topics such as epistemology and for domains ranging from religion, literature, and science to morality.