Random thoughts on random topics

Parking Victor Hugo, Toulouse

The realism of situation theory

The realism of situation theory is not a naive realism in this sense that through the concept of ‘attunement’ it incorporates an element that represents a more Kantian perspective. But it is limited: for within the sphere of real situations there is also the distinction being made between states of affairs and courses of events. The difference between these two types of ontological entities is supposed to reside in the role that time plays. And that means that time is interpreted in a purely realistic fashion. There is no room for ideality of time. In connection with this the question arises how such a realistic interpretation of time is related to the classification of localities, which include time, as uniformities.

Truth values (polarities) do not have an ontological counterpart in real situations. (This is another point of resemblance between situation theory and the ontology of the Tractatus, cf.: ‘My fundamental thought is that the “logical constants” do not represent.’ (4.0312).) Truth values are instantiations of polarities, and one could also have instantiations such as ‘good – bad’, ‘beautiful – ugly’, and so on. (Aside: Are all instantiations of polarities bi-valent? Probably not.)

How real, in the sense of independent, are situations? Not very much, in view of the fact that they need to be interpret as partial and given that they can only be grasped through the postulated uniformities. For those reasons they run the same risk as the Kantian ‘Dinge-an-sich’: postulated as the substrate of what is knowable but unknowable themselves, there is no doubt that someone will come along and dismiss them as useless postulates.

The localisation of the INVOLVE-relation in the world is innocent realism. But the fact that the definition of a situation-structure includes the demand that these constraints are satisfies shows that they are (also) being used as entities of a higher ontological order.

Martin Stokhof
from: Aantekeningen/Notes
date: 31/10/1991