IS THERE STILL ANYTHING TO SAY ABOUT REALITY AND TRUTH?
The man on the street, Eddington reminded us, visualizes a table as 'solid'--that is, as mostly solid matter. But physics has discovered that the table is mostly empty space: that the distance between the particles is immense in relation to the radius of the electron or the nucleus of one of the atoms of which the table consists. One reaction to this state of affairs, the reaction of Wilfrid Sellars, 1 is to deny that there are tables at all as we ordinarily conceive them (although he chooses an ice cube rather than a table as his example). The commonsense conception of ordinary middle-sized material objects such as tables and ice cubes (the 'manifest image') is simply false in Sellars's view (although not without at least some cognitive value--there are real objects that the 'tables' and 'ice cubes' of the manifest image 'picture', acccording to Sellars, even if these real objects are not the layman's tables and ice cubes). I don't agree with this view of Sellars's, but I hope he will forgive me if I use it, or the phenomenon of its appearance on the philosophical scene, to highlight certain features of the philosophical debate about 'realism'.
First of all, this view illustrates the fact that Realism with a capital 'R' doesn't always deliver what the innocent expect of it. If there is any appeal of Realism which is wholly legitimate it is the appeal to the commonsense feeling that of course there are tables and chairs, and any philosophy that tell us that there really aren't--that there