One has to comprehend that the question of realism comes into play in regard to the domains of aesthetics, ethics, causation, science, modality, semantics, mathematics, and also the everyday world of human existence. Philosophers across the globe are either realists or non-realists regarding various topics. As such, many of the philosophers are realists about the realm of macroscopic objects and also the properties that they entail. However, it can be so that there is no straightforward choice between being a proponent of realism or non-realism. It has to be reckoned that the very question of the plausibility and nature of realism is quite controversial in nature, and no brief debate can find a solution to the friction between realists and non-realists. It is of primary importance to take a note of the characteristics of realism.
Realism can be defined as the philosophical perspective in which things are accorded as per the perceived or known, and these things are supposed to be in existence being independent of the fact of any person is perceiving them or thinking about them. One has to understand that there are quite significant similarities that go on to bring the number of positions defined as realist in congruence with one another. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy website) Nevertheless, there are certain distinctions that occlude the process of the generalization of the characteristics of realism as a philosophical perspective. The distinctions can be traced to have the roots in the perception and experience of the humans who are involved. It has to be reckoned in this context that quite a lot of one’s beliefs can be taken to concern the things that exist being objective in their nature. Hence, it would be correct to opine that there needs to be clarification and argument regarding the concepts and issues involved in the philosophical perspective of realism so as to make it sustain its philosophical position.
It has to be mentioned in this context that realism has two general aspects that can surely find an illustration through gauging realism with regard to the realm of macroscopic objects and the entailed properties of those objects. One of the two aspects of realism is existence. It has to be understood that things like rocks, tables, monuments, and so on all are existent. The following facts entail the existence of the things mentioned: tables are square in shape, monuments can be carved into a definite shape, and rocks are made of granite. Thus, every article that exists in the natural and temporal world has its own attributes. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy website)
Another aspect of realism concerns the domain of independence and deals with the daily world that has macroscopic objects. One can gauge the fact that the data of the existence of the moon and its spherical shape is surely independent of any opinion or perspective regarding the matter in context. The realist philosophers wish to make the claim that sans the empirical dependence of the properties of the objects that one can see and experience in daily life, there is surely no sense apart from that in which the properties of the contextual objects are dependent on people’s concepts or linguistic practices or any other factor. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy website)
John Searle is one of the seminal philosophers in the domain of knowledge who goes on to explicate about the concept of external realism. He opines that a real world exists, and it is fully independent of humans and their opinions or perspectives. He further argues that the objects in the external world are independent of the representations of the humans. Thus, in other words, the world around is totally free of the minds, perceptions, language, representations, conceptual schemes, and so on. In this way, the eminent philosopher goes on declare that the characteristics of external realism render the fact that it is totally not compatible with idealism. He goes on to explicate the term ‘ idealism’ by opining that reality gets constituted by the perceptions of humans and various other types of representations.
Searle goes on to explain in the first chapter of the book, ‘ Mind, Language, and Society: Philosophy in the Real World,’ that people can have the most perfect evidence that testifies to the presence of the external world. Nevertheless, people can go on to suffer from a sort of encompassing hallucination. Then he keeps on arguing that it might be so that people are getting deceived by the evil demon. They can even be in the course of a dream and so on. After arguing in favor of the possibility of the presence of hallucination, the philosopher opines that the idealists engage in solving this issue by the removal of the gulf between reality and evidence in a way in which the reality and the evidence lie in congruity with one another. (Searle)
Thus, it becomes quite easy a task to differentiate between the cases that involve hallucinations, illusions, rainbows, and so on. These mentioned things are definitely not parts of the “ real world” in the truest sense of the expression. One has to comprehend the fact that illusions are just appearances that hardly get coherent in an appropriate matter with the other appearances. However, it has to be mentioned that in both non-illusionary and illusory perceptions of the people of the world, nothing else exists other than the representations of people. Searle further opines that the appeal of idealism lies in the gulf between appearance and reality, and the gulf that makes room for skepticism by humans gets neutralized in the process. Thus, it can be said that reality is consistent in the systematic appearances that the humans come across in the world around them.
Now, it would be quite an interesting thing to view the two components of realism (existence and independence) in the perspective of the concept of external realism as propounded by John Searle. One has to reckon the fact that things that exist in the world are totally free from the ways in which people perceive them. This means that a man can see a table from below, or above, or from the side. But, as such, his perspective would be different at all times. That would not mean that the table has changed its characteristics in any way owing to the differences in point of views or perspectives. In case a person goes on to misconstrue the table in context, it would never mean that the existence of the table and its characteristics has changed. (Searle)
One has to take into consideration the fact that the existence of an object in the real or external world is independent of the individual. Any inanimate or animate object would exist on its own, irrespective of the perception of any other individual or being. The concept of embodied cognition comes into play in this regard. The dichotomy between illusion and reality occurs due to the fact that people construe the world through the process of embodied cognition. People come to know and believe the world in a way that they perceive the milieu and experiences of the domain around them. It is the challenge for the individual to construe things in a way so as to not get an erroneous perception of the objects around. (Berkley. edu website)
Apart from this, the component of independence also needs explication in the context of external realism. Independence of any object in the world means that it is not bound by any factor other than its own for the sake of its being and existence. External realism opines that the perception of people in this world does not define the reality of the external world. (Searle) It is the endeavor of the individual to bridge the gap between reality and illusion so as to make it possible for oneself to gauge the world in its truest form and meaning. Thus, the concept of independence of an object is totally intertwined with the very concept of external reality.
The objects of the external world are independent (which means they are not at all dependent on the way people conceive them through their senses). Since Searle talks about the concept of evil demon that might be involved in providing people with an erroneous perspective of the world around, one has to understand that humans too are bound by the truth of independence of realism. An individual is independent of the external world as he has the process of conceiving the world around himself through his sensory organs. As such, it is possible for humans to dwell in the realm of idealism- something that transcends the domain of reality or illusion.
It has to be understood that the ideal form of an object is a work of creativity and imagination. This serves the purpose of bridging the gap between hallucinations and reality of the external world. Idealism gives rise to novel thoughts and perspectives that envisage a world that is perfect. (Philosophy of Religion Highlights) This in turn provides the ample push for advancement and betterment of the society and the world. The domain of religion can be taken to belong to the realm of idealism. Religion is the path that shows humans the righteous actions and preaches the messages of propriety of action in the world and society. (Moore & Scott) Thus, the things that are expressed in the ideal realm set a benchmark for the humans in the external world. This goes on to guide the people in their actions and perceptions. In this process, the people can build a bridge between the real and the illusion. People get an idea about the correct path of life so as to live in a proper way. This neutralizes the effect of illusory experiences or perceptions. (Philosophy of Religion)
In the present day scenario, religious extremism and fanaticism has played its role in misconstruing the messages of idealism spread by religion all over the human world. It has to be understood that the people of the world are supposed to get guided by religious messages. People have to properly identify the illusory messages that are propagated by proponents of religious extremism. It is the aim of religion as a societal institution of the world to guide people in the best possible way to be immune to the effect of the evil demon as explicated by John Searle in his seminal work of philosophical concepts though the book that has been mentioned in the course of the discussion.
Thus, it is correct to conclude that realism is one of the most valid concepts of philosophical thoughts. Realism entails the components of existence and independence. The concept of realism is further explicated through the world of Searle who opines about external realism. The intertwined relationship between the concept of external realism and independence and existence has been delved deep into through the course of the paper so as to establish the intricacies of relationship of the terms and concepts. It goes beyond saying that religion is a major societal institution that involves the philosophical concepts that have been discussed.
John Searle: Slusser Professor of Philosophy. Berkley. edu. Online. Web. 7 July 2015.
Moore, Andrew & Michael Scott, eds. Realism and Religion. Hampshire: Ashgate
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