Are Social Objects “Really Real”? There is an intuitive suspicion expressed in common sense, that certain kinds of objects – namely, objects that seem to be dependent upon social factors – aren’t “really, real”. The intuition is a skeptical one arising out of a default common sense empiricism. While there may be some nominal understanding or some social agreement about the reality of things like national borders or governments, they’re not “really, real” in the sense that, say, an airplane, or a boulder, or a dog, are “really, real”.
In a recent exchange between Douglas Murray and N. T. Wright on the Unbelievable? Podcast, Douglas poses the following conundrum: Is it the case that we are meaning-seeking beings, or, that we are meaning-seeking beings and there is meaning to seek? This, it seems to me, is the basic choice every man faces implicitly as a fundamental part of his maturation, and every philosopher faces explicitly as a fundamental part of his matriculation.
The following notes are an attempt at outlining my basic thought process, to document my progress in the study of metaphysical realism, and offer the reader some food for thought. I offer it, as is. If there are any actual arguments in this post, it is purely by accident. If there are any answers to the problem of realism within this text, the reader is free to take them. A (Very) Brief History of What Is
To recap and summarize, there are three different kinds of forms presented to us in the Parmenides, by Socrates: Relational: the subjective experience of qualities of things, relative to each other. For example, Bigness, Sameness, or Heaviness (and their oppositions: Smallness, Difference, or Lightness). Ontological: the model or exemplar of actual things. For example, Man, Animal, Fire, and Water (but, inexplicably, not things like sticks and stones and mud and sealing wax).
In this installment of the series on Plato’s Forms, we’ll have a brief look at the major conceptions of the theory, some of the key differences, and dig deep into the one formulation Plato seems to have favored the most. For those of you looking for a thorough discussion of Parmenides’ refutations, you’ll have to wait until the last installment. In keeping with the principle of the first post, the idea here is to just try to understand the theory itself, and the problem it was trying to solve, before we make any move to object to it.
“If I must choose between peace and righteousness, I choose righteousness” ~Theodore Roosevelt I have long held the belief that moral self-justification is both the engine and the doom of the world. Nobody does what they do thinking to themselves “this is the wrong thing, so I should do it”, or desiring to do wrong for its own sake. Even people as evil as Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot all had reasons for why they did what they did.
“What is truth?” ~ Pontius Pilate This is an interesting and surprisingly difficult question. If you look in the OED, what you’ll find there are entirely circular and self-referential explanations: “the quality or state of being true“, ” that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality“, and “a fact or belief that is accepted as true“. So, the poor souls that rely on the dictionary are left with, essentially, “truth is what’s true”, and “what’s true is what we agree are the facts of reality.