Context

(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

Hilary Putnam argues that, historically, philosophical realism has pledged to save the world—to reveal the world to us so that we can better understand it. Modern philosophical realism seems to say that a better understanding of the world out there is not possible. Therefore, while “realism” relieves us of our “incorrect” commonsense view of the world, it replaces it with a scientific view that appears no more grounded in fact or truth. In a way, Putnam’s “internal realism” is the hero of our commonsense view.

Like the earlier Reason, Truth, and History (1981) and the later Words and Life (1994), Realism with a Human Face focuses on Putnam’s concept of internal realism as an alternative to metaphysical realism and relativism. Putnam seeks to develop the idea and defend it against what he perceives as misunderstandings of the notion as it was presented in Reason, Truth, and History (published just five years after he introduced the idea in his address to the American Philosophical Association). The majority of the essays in this work were written in the early 1980’s, some in response to criticisms of internal realism.

Something that goes hand in hand with internal realism and that Putnam feels provides a more human way of seeing the world, is the rejection of the fact-value dichotomy. He insists that basically, metaphysics and epistemology are no less based on values than are ethics and aesthetics.

Putnam suggests that none of the ideas for which he argues in this...

(The entire section is 636 words.)