An example of how difficult it was for some left-orientated French intellectuals to come to terms with information about the real situation in the Soviet Union is provided by the conflict between M. Merleau-Ponty and J.-P. Sartre in 1953, which led to Merleau-Ponty’s departure from the editorship of the review journal Temps modernes. Prior to this, in 1950, Sartre had lent his signature to an article in which Merleau-Ponty reacted to information coming out about the Soviet punitive and prison system by calling into question the very socialist character of the Soviet regime. After the outbreak of the Korean war, however, Sartre adopted an unequivally pro-Soviet and pro-communist standpoint and did not wish to see Temps modernes give space to the opinions of this opposing viewpoint. In this article we provide an analysis of the letters which the two philosophers exchanged on this matter
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The distinction between realist and anti-realist standpoints is understood here in the sense that is defined by Michael Dummett and connected, by him, with the phase in Wittgenstein’s thinking which issues in the Philosophical Investigations. Cora Diamond, whose article is here outlined, shows, however, that Wittgenstein’s Tractatus is already, in its basic orientation, anti-realistic in Dummett’s sense. She argues that, unlike Russell, Wittgenstein here rejects the conception of a semantic theory which would allow a theory to explain the legitimacy of certain deductions without our necessarily being able to perform those deductions. Dummett sees a connection between anti-realism and a scepticism about the law of excluded middle. Husserl too, in his Formal and Transcendental Logic, sees the assumption that every judgement is in itself determined – an assumption that is part and parcel of the law of excluded middle – as a remarkably a priori assumption applied to every subject of possible judging. In this context he notes that “we all know very well that, in actual fact, few judgements can be easily objectively established by anyone, even in the best circumstances”. If, then, Husserl problematises the development which led to the conception of a logic of a real world taken as already given, and if he emphasises that every real truth remains, for fundamental reasons, relative and normatively related to regulative ideas, then we evidently cannot treat his philosophy as occupying a realist standpoint in Dummett’s sense. The same applies to Kant, too, for whom merely finite thinking beings, because of their reliance on sense, must intuit with the help of conceptual thinking which enables objects to emerge from sensual impressions. It appears, then, that what Dummett calls “anti-realism” is by no means a standpoint which is restricted only to certain orientations in analytical philosophy.