Invisible disagreement: an inverted qualia argument for realism

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Philosophical Studies, ISSN: 0031-8116, Vol: 174, Issue: 3, Page: 593-606

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Donhauser, Justin
Springer Nature
Arts and Humanities
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article description
Scientific realists argue that a good track record of multi-agent, and multiple method, validation of empirical claims is itself evidence that those claims, at least partially and approximately, reflect ways nature actually is independent of the ways we conceptualize it. Constructivists contend that successes in validating empirical claims only suffice to establish that our ways of modelling the world, our “constructions,” are useful and adequate for beings like us. This essay presents a thought experiment in which beings like us intersubjectively validate claims about properties of particular things in nature under conditions in which those beings have profoundly different personal phenomenological experiences of those properties. I submit that the thought experiment scenario parallels our actual situation, and argue that this shows that successes in intersubjectively validating empirical claims are indeed enough to claim victory for the realist. More specifically, I champion a variation of realism that marries Ronald Giere’s brand of ‘perspectival realism’ with Philip Kitcher’s ‘real realism,’ and posits that causal relations between ourselves and properties instantiated in nature ground our references to the relevant properties even though our conceptions of them are perspective relative (or filtered through, and distorted by, a perspective).