(Barré) #1

114 Agnes Petocz

other. Since the logic of relations applies to all relations, it must apply equally to mind - i.e.,
to the cognitive relation. The person or cogniser who stands in the cognitive relation of
knowing, and the situation that stands in the relation of being known, must exist and be
characterisable independently of their standing in that cognitive relation; the cognitive
relation is external to both subject/knower and object/known, and cannot be found internal to
either.^8 The implication for mainstream psychology is at odds with the received "realist"
view; just as no amount of searching within the book will yield discovery that it is on the
table, so no amount of searching within the brain will yield discovery of cognitions,
perceptions, memories, etc.; it will yield only information about the state of the subject term
when that subject is standing in relations of knowing, perceiving, remembering, and so on.
There is no such thing as consciousness, to be found in the brain. Furthermore, the objects of
cognition are situations, and some of these situations are themselves relational (as, for
example, when we cognise that the book is on the table). When that cognised relational
situation concerns some type of relation between a sign and what it signifies (e.g., that the
word table is being used to refer to that four-legged piece of furniture), then both signifier and
signified must be external and perceptible to the knower or perceiver in order for that further
relationship between the two external objects to be perceived.
The third key point about realism is what can be called its ontological egalitarianism.
There is only one kind of existence, the existence of situations - hence the label situational
realism. Everything that exists is a complex spatio-temporal situation in this single material
world. There are no ―levels‖ of reality or ―degrees‖ of truth, no ―higher‖ or ―lower‖ realms,
no dualisms involving radically different kinds of existence, no ―fundamental‖ elements that
are somehow more ―real‖ than others. There is only a single, complex way of being – the
being of situations. This is sometimes conveyed by saying that reality is propositional in
structure, but by "propositional" here is not meant anything linguistic; it means that a
situation always involves a subject-predicate complex - something's being of a certain kind,
or something's being related to something else, or something's being located somewhere, etc.
Nor must it be mistakenly thought that to say that there is only a single, complex way of
being is to deny the historical and contextual variations and situatedness of things, including
their coming into being and transformations – as is encapsulated in the Heraclitean notion of
flux. The implications of realism‘s ontological egalitarianism are, again, at odds with
dominant views in mainstream psychology which mistakenly equate realism with
reductionism. Relations (i.e., the way objects are situated with respect to each other) are just
as real, just as much part of the structure of reality, as are the objects related. Hence, since
cognition is a relation between organism and situations in its environment, that relation, when
it obtains, is as real as is the organism and its environment considered separately and
independently. The relational situations investigated by psychology (or, for that matter,
sociology, anthropology or any other discipline) are neither more nor less real than those that

(^8) I am well aware of the standard objection to direct realism - namely, that in misperception or false belief or some
imaginings the objects perceived or believed (e.g., that there are pink elephants and golden mountains) do not
exist, so they must have some kind of purely internal or phenomenal or mind-dependent existence (i.e., what
Brentano called the "intentional inexistence" of the mental object). However, given the intractable logical
problems of phenomenalism and representationism, I am convinced that retreating to such a conceptually
flawed position is not a viable option. Instead, although it may be difficult to work out the details, it is worth
considering the direct realist efforts (e.g., Anderson, 1934/1962; Michell, 1988; Rantzen, 1993) to account for
such situations (i.e., the "problem of error") in terms of an asymmetry between true and false beliefs, the latter
at least involving components which are real.

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