What Is Anti-Realism in Metaphysics?


Jane Flores

Anti-realism is a metaphysical position that has been debated for centuries. While realism asserts that there is an objective reality independent of human consciousness, anti-realism denies the existence of such a reality. In this article, we will explore the concept of anti-realism in metaphysics and its various forms.

Forms of Anti-Realism

There are different forms of anti-realism, each with its own set of beliefs and arguments. Here are some of the most prominent ones:

  • Phenomenalism: This form of anti-realism holds that physical objects do not exist independently of perception. According to phenomenalists, the only things that can be known are sense experiences.
  • Constructivism: Constructivists believe that reality is constructed by human beings through language, culture, and social interactions.

    They argue that there is no objective reality outside our constructions.

  • Nominalism: Nominalists deny the existence of abstract entities such as numbers and properties. They believe that only concrete particular objects exist in the world.

Arguments for Anti-Realism

Anti-realists have put forth several arguments to support their position. Here are some of them:

  • The argument from disagreement: Anti-realists point out that there is widespread disagreement among people about what exists in the world. If there were an objective reality independent of human consciousness, then everyone would agree on what it is.
  • The argument from underdetermination: This argument claims that empirical evidence alone cannot determine what exists in the world.

    There are always multiple interpretations possible based on the available evidence.

  • The argument from theory-ladenness: Anti-realists argue that our perceptions and observations are always influenced by our theories and beliefs. We cannot have a neutral observation of reality.

Critiques of Anti-Realism

Realists have criticized anti-realism on various grounds. Here are some of the most common critiques:

  • The argument from common sense: Realists point out that anti-realism contradicts our common sense understanding of the world. We all believe that there is a mind-independent reality out there.
  • The argument from scientific success: Realists argue that science has been successful precisely because it assumes the existence of an objective reality.

    Scientific theories make predictions about the world that turn out to be true, which would not be possible if reality were just a construction.

  • The argument from causation: Realists claim that causation requires there to be a mind-independent reality. If everything were just a construction, then there would be no real causal relations between things.


Anti-realism is a complex and controversial position in metaphysics. While it challenges some of our basic assumptions about the world, it also faces significant critiques from realists. Ultimately, the debate between realism and anti-realism may never be fully resolved, but it continues to inspire new research and philosophical inquiry.