By Lee Braver
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Extra resources for A Thing of This World: A History of Continental Anti-Realism
Pippin dramatically states that “the implication of Kant’s argument was a more comprehensive and wide-ranging revolution in conceiving mind-world and subjectsubject relations than ever before effected within the Western tradition” (Pippin 1997, 9). Robert C. Solomon also stresses the contrast between Kant’s transcendental idealism and the vast history of realism: “Kant denied . . that the world was ‘out there’ and independent of our experience of it. The whole history of metaphysics depends upon the belief in the presence of a reality independent of us” (Solomon 1988, 28; see also H.
In De anima, Aristotle uses Plato’s image of the mind as a wax tablet to describe the passivity of sense perception, the necessary origin of most knowledge (424a18–20). He then claims that the intellect which takes the forms from these impressions must itself be blank in order to avoid distorting the impression taken from reality. ”22 The mind must be passive and in some sense featureless so as not to distort what comes into it. 41). Emmanuel Levinas, a thinker enjoying considerable attention in continental circles recently, describes the situation like this: The truth correlative to being—in which the subject, a pure welcome reserved for the nudity of disclosed being, effaces itself before that which manifests itself, and in which effort, inventiveness, and genius are all just the means, ways, and detours by which being is dis-covered, by which its phases come together and its structures are secured—remains, within the thought that issued from Greece, the foundation of every notion of truth.
Whereas Russell’s commitment to the doctrine of external relations and realist bivalence leads him to claim that “I still hold that an isolated truth may be quite true” (Russell 1959a, 63), continental philosophers prefer a kind of historical holism or context principle, analyzing philosophical ideas within a broader context. Since continental philosophers incorporate others’ thought so deeply into their own, reading one without the background knowledge of the other ﬁgures he or she is responding to can be bafﬂing, like eavesdropping on the middle of an extended conversation.