02 September 2007
Meanings of Realism
Just for some geeky fun, I entered the word "realism" in the search engine of wikipedia this morning. Such a search generally gets you to a "disambiguation page," which is what it sounds like. It tells you that the word you entered could refer to any of X number of articles, and lets you click from there to the one you want.
So, how many different sorts of realism are represented by the collective efforts thus far of wikipedia editors?
By my count (the lay-out is complicated enough that there are different ways of counting) ... there are sixty-four realisms.
There are twelve realisms under the category "art" alone. And art doesn't include literature, which has another eight. (Actually, there's some overlap in the realisms listed in those two categories, which I'll ignore.) There are seven realisms in international relations, three under law, twenty-six in philosophy, two in physics, and four listed as "other."
Artistic realism in the first-listed, and most abstract, sense is "the depiction of subjects as they appear in life, without embellishment or interpretation." Is it "realistic" to believe that "realism" in that sense ever exists? Surely not, but it isn't only on this list, it's on this list twice -- once for the dramatic arts and once for the literary arts. Actually, you could make the case that it's on the list three times, with a slight variance of wording the third time. Whatever.
My favorite of the philosophical realisms is "Australian realism," which is apparently the technical term for the outlandish theory that Australia is an actual place, not just an invention of the Monty Python troupe.
I kid. Australian realism is a materialist/reductionist school of thought associated with several philosophers from down under, some of whom aren't even named Bruce.
Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.