By Alhassan Darboe
Anti-realism, a contemporary philosophical movement sprouted out, which utterly rejected the theory of the existence of independent external reality. Anti-realism propagated by philosophers such as Paul Feyerabend, Richard Rorty, Jacquez Derida, Liz Stanley, Hilary Putnam, Nelson Goodman just to name a few made a complete detour from ‘ pragmatism’s’ view that our universe is consistent of many different realities. Anti-realists’ utterly rejected the modernist view of a single sole reality. Anti-realism further subdivided into many different views within a view such as view that deny the existence of mental phenomena, supernatural phenomena and mathematical objects.
Anti-realists rubbished the realists’ claim that a real world does exist independent of our thoughts, language, perceptions and our beliefs. Realists further argued that the characteristics of our world would have been the same as they currently are even if no one exists out there that could have seen them, perceive them, touch them and articulate their descriptions in a language or any other way. The realists however believed that the external world does exist and doesn’t depend on how any one feels it, touch and perceive it. Anti-realism on the other hand postulated that the world we do inhabit and everything in it depends completely or partially on how they are perceived, thought about, smelt and felt. The anti-realists argued further that all we know as human beings in this universe are our linguistic creations and when we think about or talk about reality we must use a particular language with its own distinguished way of describing things. The anti-realist exemplify that; even the moon does exist because our language and ways of thinking perceived that part of the outer space or the sky as the moon and in our language it is the largest satellite orbiting the earth.
As far as the anti-realist are concerned, no reality ever exists independent of the particular language or systems of concepts we use and what’s even more, our different concepts, language touch and feel create different realities. Doesn’t it???
American philosopher, Nelson Goodman(1906-1998) one of the first, major proponents of anti-realism argue that there is no independent, real world and all and every reality depends on the meaning we humans choose to make it, describe it, feel it touch it and smell it as well. Goodman didn’t just stop there, but went ahead to theorize that, human beings in fact ,construct and live in multitudes of different real worlds each of which is created by overlapping and different systems of thought. Goodman added that not only do artists, novelists and other creative geniuses of our universe create new and pleasing worlds by sculpting new pleasing languages and ways of thinking but many of ourselves do create more or less our own pleasing and successful universe.
Hilary Putnam (1926-Present)another American philosopher of repute and a passionate anti-realist also concurred with views espoused by Goodman and conceded that language is not neutral and it’s not merely a vehicle which carries ideas but a shaper of ideas which is programmed for mental activity. Putnam argued further that it’s nothing short of ridiculous, ignorance of a fundamental truth and law; to think that human beings are capable of grasping things as they are and are therefore impartial recorders of their world. Putnam concluded therefore that, human beings cannot impartially describe the universe because in order to do that, they must first and foremost have a classification system. Paradoxically though; he lamented that, once they do have a language they can see only certain arbitrary things.
Dale Spender, Australian born feminist writer and teacher, took up on the importance of anti-realist view to feminist’s cause , which she said, ‘goes to explain why the universe women are forced to accept and live in is super sexist. Dale Spender argued that the words used to describe women are demeaning and disrespectful and male experiences are taken as the standard for thinking about and describing the experiences of women. Dale Spender exemplifies that the word women which emanates from the generic word ‘man’ and thus if it is really true that language does create reality then it is indeed not surprising that the common reality of our world is focused on males. Spender, like Goodman, argued that, it must be noted that there are different female worlds or realities that are as real as the male world that women albeit unfortunately; are forced to inhabit. This new crop of anti-realist do just more than deny the existence of one external real world independent of our thoughts, perceptions, feeling and language.
Feminist philosopher, Jean Grimshaw rebuked the anti-realist claim that the world created by different languages, perceptions, feelings and ways are equally real and there is no reality apart from our language and thought. Grimshaw wonders, if all worlds are equally valid then isn’t the oppressive world created by sexist male language as valid a reality like any other……??Moreover if most men do not see women as oppressed, do we not have to admit that this reality is entirely valid? In other words Grimshaw flawed the anti-realist theory which implies that sexism and oppression cannot be objective reality because there is no objective reality.
Alhassan Darboe is a US based Gambian Journalist and passionate lover of philosophy. He was the winner of maiden Black History Essay competition organized by the American embassy and worked as a journalist with Today newspaper.
To be Continued …