Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy [to the] School of Communication, Arts and Critical Enquiry, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora.
A common stereotype of continental philosophers among their analytic counterparts is that the former are largely committed to some form of idealism wherein the everyday world around us depends upon our own minds for its characteristics. In other words, the way we talk and think about the world is itself responsible for how the world is. This stereotype seems to be reinforced by the secondary literature as many commentators identify similarities between arguments and lines of thought found within continental philosophy and anti-realist discourses prevalent within contemporary analytic philosophy, in particular with work of Michael Dummett and Hilary Putnam. If these interpreters are right, then this would pose a serious obstacle for the philosophical relevancy of continental thinkers since there are compelling reasons why such a metaphysically idealist/anti-realist position is fatally flawed. Therefore, any position that directly propounds idealism or depends upon it would equally be worthy of repudiation. In this work, I set out to assess whether or not such a conception of the endemic idealism within continental philosophy has any merit. I accomplish this by identifying competing interpretive strands of various philosophers and determine whether they are consistent with a belief in metaphysical realism, the idea that the world and its properties exist mind-independently. In particular, I discuss the possible idealism/anti-realism of four philosophers who are not only influential figures within the tradition but are also representative of ways a continental philosopher might succumb to metaphysical antirealism. They are Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Husserl. Whenever an interpretation clashes with realism, I provide reasons why it is unsatisfactory from a philosophical perspective. More positively, I also provide possible realist readings of prima facie idealist commitments. In the end, I try to motivate a shifting of the debate onto a matter that often gets confused with the issue of realism, as it is presently understood, since the historical contexts have changed. Specifically, the issue of strong scientific reductive naturalism was often the referent of the term ‘realism’ in past discussions, and once it is disassociated with the debate surrounding metaphysical realism, the hope is that it will become a point of fruitful dialogue between analytic and continental philosophers, replacing the impediment of anti-realism.
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