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By G.H. von Wright

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In order to make such claims, we need some linguistic exit and entry rules (the arrows of reference), which identify the spoken-about entities, and those rules are therefore analytical although originally empirically attained. As a Darwinian I claim that biology reveals the grounds for an ontological understanding of our everyday knowledge. 25 Common-sense realism is justified by its immense survival value. If we did not trust our senses and the information about an external world that they reveal, we would have been gone long ago.

In the right season cherries have green leaves and red berries not only for the scientifically unschooled, but also for the horticulturalist and the evolutionary botanist. It would be absurd to suggest that colors, sounds, tastes, and odors do not exist in spite of the fact that the human species is adapted to experience these qualities. This much we are told by biology. It is only when science begins to ask questions about how perception of colors is physically caused that color is no longer glued to the surface.

Things-in-themselves would then count as all those objective things that cannot be seen by the naked eye but can be observed or, as we often say in science, ‘detected,’ by instruments. If the Darwinian philosopher goes with this interpretation, she or he would not be a metaphysical skeptic but rather a metaphysical agnostic. However, no interpretation can overcome a fundamental ambiguity. The external world contains visible as well as invisible things; this is the world we can either experience or observe or detect, and represent, and this is the world of which we can have knowledge.

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