In the philosophical debate between realism and anti-realism, the Left has chosen the side of anti-realism to justify social constructivist views. In order for the Right to remain relevant, a defense and embrasure of realism is necessary.

Modern philosophy and politics are often thought of as oil and water with the former being an exercise in mental masturbation while the latter being an exercise in pragmatism. It is my goal in this post to attempt to begin to bridge the gap between the two and to briefly explain the need for an embrasure of epistemological realism among the Right (the consequences of which are yet to be explored) in order to effectively hold ground against modern Constructivism.

Before diving in, however, it is prudent to define a few terms as simply as possible so as to, hopefully, lose fewer readers.

  • Epistemological realism argues that our representations and language are accurate mirrors of the world as it actually is, regardless of whether or not we [humans] exist. It seeks to distinguish between true representations and phantasms.”1
  • Anti-realism “generally bases itself on the indeterminability of whether representation is construction or a true representation of reality, it often slips into the thesis that representation is a construction and that reality is very likely entirely different from how we represent it.”2
  • Constructivism argues that features of reality (e.g. race, gender, etc.) are merely social constructions.3

The appeal of anti-realism to the Constructivist Left is that it opens the door to revisionism insofar as reality is not seen as a transcendent, objective thing but rather, if our representation is a construction, a “reality for-us.”4 This means that the supposedly objective pictures of the world — that is to say, pictures of racial differences, genetic differences, and even skin-color à la Rachel Dolezal — aren’t actually objective, but are simply constructions of the world filtered through our anti-realist epistemology. As Bryant (although he doesn’t endorse anti-realism) says,

[anti-realism can] show how “pictures” of the world are socially constructed such that they vary according to history, culture, language, or economic class. In this way, the anti-realist is able to debunk universalist pretensions behind many “world-pictures” that function to guarantee privilege […] social constructivists and antirealists vigorously [argue] that our conceptions of society, the human, race, gender, and even reality are constructed. Their worry seems to be that any positive claim to knowledge risks becoming an exclusionary and oppressive force of domination, and they arrive at this conclusion not without good reason or historical precedent.5

Realism, and specifically epistemological realism, allows us to sidestep (with a bit of argumentation, as usual) the claims made by social constructivists by appealing to an objective reality that is in fact knowable and independent of human constructions. Thus, while social systems and modes of government are constructed by humans (with the aid of nature),6 scientific statements about humans remain objective and empirical.

The political implications of the realist vs. anti-realist debate should be obvious, but one point worth highlighting is that since anti-realism is so dominant in academia, students are taught in that tradition. As opposed to the modern Left being a “cultural Marxist conspiracy,” it seems more likely that the pervasiveness of anti-realist philosophies in all sectors of the humanities has led students for generations to buy constructivist arguments and thus make policies and worldviews around them.

Consequently, if the Right wants to be taken seriously again in the public sphere and get back into the fight, it needs to bring back realism as its dominant epistemology.


1. Levi Bryant, The Democracy of Objects (Ann Arbor: Open Humanities Press, 2011), 18.

2. Bryant, The Democracy of Objects, 15.

3. Much more can, and will, be said on this point in a future post, but for now a reductivist view is fine.

4. Ibid., 16.

5. Ibid., 16-17.

6. See Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993).


The Real Right Returns

The Right is coming back. After decades of humiliation and political failures, the opposition is reorganising, catching up with the times, and getting itself in order. It is none too soon. Europe faces numerous challenges, challenges which the entrenched, incompetent elites of politics, academia, and the mass media are unable and unwilling to confront. Uncontrolled […]

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About The Author

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A “closet Conservative” on a liberal campus, Peter Heft is a student of philosophy and political science at Ohio’s Denison University where he mainly focuses his studies on Heideggerian and post-Heideggerian, Nietzschean, and Object-Oriented Ontological thought. He has had a life-long passion for knowledge and has been a national level debater since High School. He has maintained a blog for the past five years, Petersaysstuff, which is devoted to politics and philosophy.

  • Michael R

    You might be taking aim at the wrong target. Words/arguments are tools used to defend moral/emotional foundations. So while trying to move liberals towards reality is good to some extent, it might also be futile because liberals and conservatives have different moral foundations.

    From memory of watching this Jonathan Haidt video, liberals have a two-channel morality (all about fairness and preventing harm) whereas conservatives have a 5-channel morality that includes more group-oriented concerns (e.g. loyalty, tradition) as well as individual concerns.

    The point is that humans use reason and arguments much like lawyers or press secretaries do i.e. with not much regard for truth or reality but just to win arguments. So, the battle is not so much about arguments, as it is about getting liberals to recognise the other channels to morality.

    As Haidt puts it, reason is the press secretary of the emotional moral foundations. Or, reason is the rider on the emotional elephant i.e. emotion/desire sets the moral foundations and reason spins words to fit whatever moral foundations are driving us.

    But debating liberals about moral foundations is far easier in theory than practice …

    • James Ratliff

      Crap republicans do not have the morals or the intelligence to make sound rational decisions. No republican should ever be allowed to hold a position where they make decisions that affect others. They are not capable human beings and never will be capable human beings.