Starmaking: Realism, Anti-realism, and Irrealism

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Peter J. McCormick, C. G. Hempel
MIT Press, 1996 - Philosophy - 218 pages

Starmaking brings together a cluster of work published over the past 35 years by Nelson Goodman and two Harvard colleagues, Hilary Putnam and Israel Scheffler, on the conceptual connections between monism and pluralism, absolutism and relativism, and idealism and different notions of realism -- issues that are central to metaphysics and epistemology.

The title alludes to Goodman's famous defense of the claim that because all true representations of stars and other objects are human creations, it follows that in an important sense the stars themselves are made by us. More generally, the argument moves from the fact that our right representations are constructed by us to the claim that the world itself is similarly constructed.

Starmaking addresses the question of whether this seeming paradox can be turned into a serious philosophical view. Goodman and Putnam are sympathetic; Scheffler is the critic.

Although many others continue to write about pluralism, relativism, and constructionalism, Starmaking brings together the protagonists in the debate since its beginnings and follows closely its still developing form and substance, focusing sharply on Goodman's claim that "we make versions, and right versions make worlds."


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Page 197 - They are only a man-made language, a conceptual shorthand, as someone calls them, in which we write our reports of nature; and languages, as is well known, tolerate much choice of expression and many dialects.
Page 197 - So many rival formulations are proposed in all the branches of science that investigators have become accustomed to the notion that no theory is absolutely a transcript of reality
Page 116 - problem I described above, a philosopher who agrees with me that there is no fact of the matter as to whether the occurrence of the neural event E in the right lobe of the split brain constitutes an occurrence of a visual sensation of blue
Page 65 - My interest here is rather with the processes involved in building a world out of others. With false hope of a firm foundation gone, with the world displaced by worlds that are but versions, with substance dissolved into function, and with the given acknowledged as taken, we face the questions how worlds are made, tested, and known.
Page 203 - Few familiar philosophical labels fit comfortably a book that is at odds with rationalism and empiricism alike, with materialism and idealism and dualism, with essentialism and existentialism, with mechanism and vitalism, with mysticism and scientism, and with most other ardent doctrines. What emerges can perhaps be described as a radical relativism under rigorous restraints, that eventuates in something akin to irrealism.
Page 55 - The verbalist theories of some modern philosophers forget the homely practical purposes of every-day words, and lose themselves in a neo-neo-Platonic mysticism. I seem to hear them saying 'in the beginning was the Word,' not 'in the beginning was what the word means.' It is remarkable that this reversion to ancient metaphysics should have occurred in the attempt to be ultra-empirical.
Page 126 - It is always science as a system of statements which is at issue. Statements are compared with statements, not with 'experience', 'the world', or anything else. All these meaningless duplications belong to a more or less refined metaphysics and are, for that reason, to
Page 119 - A version is taken to be true when it offends no unyielding beliefs and none of its own precepts"; but evidently this is not meant as a definition of 'true'. Goodman tells us that truth itself is only one aspect of a more general virtue he calls
Page 162 - independent of all versions. Whatever can be said truly of a world is dependent on the saying—not that whatever we say is true but that whatever we say truly . . . is nevertheless informed by and relative to the language or other symbol system we use. No firm line can be drawn between world-features that are discourse-dependent and those that are not.
Page 131 - The realist will resist the conclusion that there is no world; the idealist will resist the conclusion that all conflicting versions describe different worlds. As for me, I find these views equally delightful and equally deplorable—for after all, the difference between them is purely conventional!

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