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On What There Isn't: A Mid-Summer Mini-Conference on Metaphysical Anti-Realism

University of Sydney :: Tuesday 28 February 2006

Venue : Registration : Timetable : Abstracts : Enquiries


The mini-conference will be held in room S422, upstairs in the SE corner of the Main Quadrangle (A14), University of Sydney.


The mini-conference is free, and does not include coffee or lunch, but to assist with venue planning requires registration in advance. To register, send an email by Friday 24 February to brad.weslake@arts.usyd.edu.au, with the Subject line: "Please register me for the Mini Conference".


Click on titles for abstracts.

Another Look at the Manifest Image
Uriah Kriegel

Realism and Reductionism
Sandy Boucher


Varieties of Causal Anti-Realism
Brad Weslake

What Remains of Metaphysics? (I): Minimalism About Existence
Tama Coutts

Coffee Break

On Dummett’s Justificationism
Luca Moretti

Invitation to dinner


Another Look at the Manifest Image
Uriah Kriegel (Arizona and Sydney)

Sellars is commonly credited with articulating the distinction between the "scientific image" and the "manifest image." But his positive account of the manifest is rarely discussed. In this paper, I will defend and develop one particular interpretation, or version, of Sellars' account. According to the account I will defend, manifest objects—the objects posited in the manifest image, such as trees and tables—are appearances, where appearances are construed as external objects whose essential properties are response-dependent properties, properties whose instantiation involves (and thus depends upon) certain perceptual and/or cognitive reactions in sentient and/or sapient subjects. This ontological status in some sense makes manifest objects "less real" than scientific objects such as leptons and quarks, but "more real" than non-objects such as ghosts and witches.

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Realism and Reductionism
Sandy Boucher (Melbourne)

The relation between realism and reductionism has long been controversial. On one familiar line of reasoning reductionism is closely tied to anti-realism; on other equally familiar lines of reasoning reductionism not only is not tied to anti-realism, but is tied closely to realism. I argue that the question of whether a reductionist position is realist or anti-realist typically has no theory-neutral (and possibly no determinate) answer, and explore implications this might have for quietism about the realism/anti-realism issue.

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Varieties of Causal Anti-Realism
Brad Weslake (Sydney)

Agency theories of causation have often been criticised for not being sufficiently realist about causation. In my view recent agency theories have not been dialectically effective in addressing this charge. On the one hand there are those such as Huw Price and Peter Menzies, who have appealed to analogies with mind-dependent properties such as secondary qualities (Menzies and Price) and perspectives (Price), have emphasised the experience of agency, and have aimed for reduction—encouraging (despite their disavowals) the view that the agency theory amounts to a kind of subjectivism. On the other hand there are those such as Judea Pearl and Jim Woodward, who in reaction have distanced themselves completely from the centrality of agency (Pearl), or who have sought refuge in non-reductionism, hoping the question of realism can thereby be evaded (Woodward). In this paper I describe a minimal agency view of causation, and place it with respect to issues of realism and anti-realism. I argue that it is confusion over two forms of anti-realism, encouraged by inessential aspects of the mind-dependent analogies, that has seen Pearl and Woodward shy away from endorsing the anti-realist elements in the agency theory.

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What Remains of Metaphysics? (I): Minimalism About Existence
Tama Coutts (Melbourne)

In this paper I will explore some of the consequences of a position that I am tentatively calling 'Minimalism About Existence'. It is modelled after Crispin Wright's minimalism about truth. I will outline and briefly explore some possible consequences of the view. The view, like Wright's view of truth, involves a number of cruces. Satisfaction of the first crux (anaphoric reference) gives a criteria for existence. Satisfying or failing to satisfy the other two cruces (demonstrability and individuation) allows us to divide up our ontology in a useful way. Although I would like to draw certain conclusions using the framework sketched herein, even in the event that these conclusions are rejected it is my hope that a useful framework remains.

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On Dummett’s Justificationism
Luca Moretti (Sydney)

Dummett 2004 and 2005 has presented his most mature view about meaning and truth, which he calls justificationism. Dummett regards it as an experiment to see whether a plausible case could be made, on a justificationist basis, for repudiating antirealism about the past. The latter position—reluctantly indorsed by Dummett 1969 as a consequence of his early conception of meaning and truth—says that statements about the past, if true at all, must be true in virtue of the traces past events have left in the present, such as present memories and present evidence. Dummett finds this position repugnant principally because it entails the weird consequence that large tracts of the past would continually vanish as all present traces of them dissipate. In this paper, I present Dummett’s justificationism and I suggest that the justificationist analysis of truth still entails antirealism about the past. After that, I argue that the justificationist analysis of truth commits the conditional fallacy and rums afoul a paradox of a general type described by Brogaard and Salerno 2005. I suggest that Dummett’s proposed solution to the knowability paradox—questioned in Brogaard and Salerno 2002—might successfully apply in this case.


Brogaard, B. and Salerno, J. 2005. ‘Anti-realism, Theism and the Conditional Fallacy’. Nous 39: 123-39.
Brogaard, B. and Salerno, J. 2002. ‘Clues to the Paradox of Knowability: Replies to Dummett and Tennant’. Analysis 62: 143-51.
Dummett, M. 2005. ‘The Justificationist’s Response to a Realist’. Mind 114: 671-88.
Dummett, M. 2004. Truth and the Past. New York: Columbia University Press.
Dummett, M. 2001. ‘Victor's Error’. Analysis 61: 1-2.
Dummett, M. 1969. ‘The Reality of the Past’. Proceeding of the Aristotelian Society 69: 239-58.

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Send enquiries to Brad Weslake.


Last Update
Wednesday 15 February