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Volume 8 Issue 1 (April 2000), Pages 1-138

Realism Detranscendentalized (pages 63-88)

John McDowell claims to find in Wittgenstein an approach to semantic notions which occupies a middle ground between antirealism and extreme forms of realism. The article sketches a proposal as to how to construe McDowell's Wittgensteinian position. The proposal exploits McDowell's suggestion that the position could be characterised as a combination of empirical realism and transcendental idealism concerning the status of semantic facts. The article argues that this combination is made possible by the fact that, when we attempt to characterise our own linguistic practices, the practice that we are trying to characterise is the very same practice that is supposed to yield the characterisation. One consequence of this is that commitment to antirealist principles requires embracing realism at the empirical level. Nevertheless, the contrast between this position and extreme realism remains problematic. The article ends by considering two proposals as to how this contrast could be rendered intelligble.

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