Towards an ontology of common sense

In Jaakko Hintikka (ed.), The British Tradition in Twentieth-Century Philosophy. Vienna: Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky. pp. 300--309 (1995)
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Philosophers from Plotinus to Paul Churchland have yielded to the temptation to embrace doctrines which contradict the core beliefs of common sense. Philosophical realists have on the other hand sought to counter this temptation and to vindicate those core beliefs. The remarks which follow are to be understood as a further twist of the wheel in this never-ending battle. They pertain to the core beliefs of common sense concerning the external reality that is given in everyday experience -the beliefs of folk physics, as we might call them. Just as critics of Churchland et al. have argued that the folk-psychological ontology of beliefs, desires, etc. yields the best explanation we can have of the order of cognitive phenomena conceived from the perspective of first-person experience, so we shall argue that (1) the commonsensical ontology of folk physics yields the best explanation we can have of our externally directed cognitive experience and that (2) an ontology of mesoscopic things, events and processes must play a role, in particular, in our best scientific theory of human action.

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Barry Smith
University at Buffalo


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