Volume 45, 1998
Theory of Knowledge
Representationalism and Antirepresentationalism
Kant, Davidson and Rorty
The notions of representationalism and antirepresentationalism are introduced and used in contemporary philosophical discussions by Richard Rorty to describe his and the neopragmatists' attitude toward traditional problems of epistemology. Rorty means that the history of philosophy shows that there are no final answers to the traditional questions about knowledge, truth, and representation; consequently, they should be rejected. Rorty thinks such questions should be eliminated from philosophy since there is no possibility to get outside of our mind and language. We cannot say anything about a mind-transcendent or language-transcendent, nonlocal or eternal reality. Hilary Putnam agrees with Rorty on this, but not with the conclusion that we should reject traditional philosophical questions. For Putnam, the epistemological questions are worthwhile asking and, although we cannot find the final correct answers, we should continue our investigations as if there were final answers. Our struggles with those problems can lead to refinements of the formulations and to cognitive developments. Putnam proposes a quasirealism which is often called "internal realism." Rorty rejects every refinement of realism as still realism and believes that the questions of knowledge, truth, and representation lead to regresses ad infinitum or to circular reasoning.