You are right in your implication that I should not have ventured in these waters, only to expose my second and last philosophical saint to your full frontal assault. Having done so, I shall point out that Descartes did not err in postulating the possibility of being thoroughly and pervasively deceived about his environment by the systematic subterfuge of a malignant demon
or malin génie
). I can do so because Putnam’s objection to the very possibility of articulating the position of metaphysical realism is rooted in a fallacious presumption about the finality and closure of realist theories of meaning. It is possible to fix the referent (τυγχάνον
) in the external reality by expressing (σημαίνω
) the sense (τὸ σημαινόμενον) of theoretical terms. It can be done because the sense is not a thing in the nature of a road map leading towards the referent, but a commitment to finding it in accordance with a systematic search protocol. At the bottom of the pragmatist program of reducing meaning to practice lies a vulgar comic reductio
akin to the sophistical demonstration of the impossibility of falsehood
:on ne peut pas péter plus haut que son cul
(шире жопы не пёрнешь
But not all communication proceeds in the manner of farting. Realism and rationalism cannot be understood without accounting for their reliance on moral and cognitive norms. Reducing these norms to actually or potentially observable communal practices, or even to putative divine commandments, leaves the pragmatist with the brief of refuting something else
. That is just what Putnam does.
Pragmatist epistemology is a matter of changing the subject. This change is an instance of the general practice of exempting deflationism from its own consequences
. I submit that it cannot succeed on consistent and equitable terms.