Realism, an Idea Whose Time Has Come…Again

Paul Nedelisky at The Hedgehog Review:

Realism is back. After several decades of denying there was anything beyond interpretation, thinkers in the postmodern tradition are returning to reality. A new cluster of Continental thinkers—including Maurizio Ferraris, Graham Harman, and Markus Gabriel—argue that realism was unjustly, and unwisely, abandoned. While part of their motivation is purely philosophical, they also see realism as a defense against a crude, Nietzschean style of politics exemplified by a crop of world leaders who act as though the truth is whatever they say it is. Even in sociology, the thin, metaphysics-free theorizing of rational actor theory has been joined by “critical realism,” a metaphysically heavyweight view that accepts that things have objective natures that make them what they are, and powers that enable real causal interactions between things.

Analytic philosophy, meanwhile, has remained predominantly realist since its inception, but it has also struggled with whether we can really be justified in claiming knowledge of a world outside our heads, or any knowledge at all. Lately, however, thinkers from its fringes have challenged this recurring skepticism, pointing to allegedly flawed but deep-seated assumptions in this Cartesian legacy—e.g., that our ideas of the world are radically separate from the external world itself—and reminding analytic philosophy’s adherents that we are thinkers embodied in the real world, even prior to conscious thought.

more here.