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date: 01 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The chapter argues that the search for a single construal of the realism/anti-realism distinction is misguided. There are more or less apt versions of the distinction, each framed with a specific set of interests. The terms of art, ‘realist’ and ‘anti-realist’, are not helpfully construed as applying across whole domains (‘science’, ‘religion’, ‘ethics’), or thinkers, but at the level of particular statements. As such, the distinction has less in common with categorizations such as ‘theist/atheist’, or ‘empiricist/rationalist’, and more in common with (contestable, but still useful for many) terms of art such as ‘a priori/a posteriori’ and ‘analytic/synthetic’. The chapter explores four alternative construals of the distinction: cognitivist, ontological, epistemological, and semantic. When we get to the more subtle construals of semantic anti-realism/realism, it is unclear what precisely (if anything) is at stake in the debate.

Keywords: realism, anti-realism, religion, cognitivist, epistemological, ontological, semantic

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