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critical realism

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


E pistemology, metaphysics An American epistemological movement that flourished in the early twentieth century. Its representatives include George Santayana , Roy Wood Sellars , and Arthur O. Lovejoy. The movement took its name from Sellars's book Critical Realism (1916). A volume, Essays in Critical Realism: A Cooperative Study of the Problem of Knowledge (1920), became the manifesto of the school. By claiming that there is an objective and independent physical world that is the object of knowledge, critical realism opposed idealism . It also opposed the naive version of direct realism proposed by the new realists, specifically their claim that we directly perceive the objective things themselves. Critical realism is called “critical” because it claims that what is present directly in consciousness are mental states and not the physical things as such. They held that the mind knows the external world via the mediation of the mental. Critical realists tried to account for the relationship between the mediating elements and what they represent. They believed their accounts to be the most reasonable way to explain phenomena such as error, illusion, and perceptual variation. However, critical realists had many disagreements over the nature of the mediating elements and the roles they filled. Candidates for the mediating elements ranged over essences, ideas , and sense-data ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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