• Art48
    151
    Dictionary: Phenomenalism, the doctrine that human knowledge is confined to or founded on the realities or appearances presented to the senses.

    Wikipedia: Phenomenalism is the view that physical objects cannot justifiably be said to exist in themselves, but only as perceptual phenomena or sensory stimuli (e.g. redness, hardness, softness, sweetness, etc.) situated in time and in space. In particular, some forms of phenomenalism reduce all talk about physical objects in the external world to talk about bundles of sense data.

    It seems to me phenomenalism is unarguably true. We have five physical senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell. We have no “tree-sensing” sense. So, how can we experience a tree? The answer seems to be we don’t directly experience a tree. Rather, we experience sense data (green patches that feel smooth, brown patches that feel rough, etc.) and our mind accesses the idea of “tree” because the idea makes sense of our sense data.

    An analogous situation is watching a video on a computer. All we experience (all we can experience) is light on the computer monitor and sound from the speakers. We think we are seeing trees and people and buildings, etc. but all we are actually seeing is light from the computer monitor; our mind presents us with the ideas of trees and people and buildings.

    So, it seems material objects are actually theoretical constructs, i.e., ideas we experience based on our sensory input. (Some philosophers go further and claim this disproves materialism. I don’t agree. But it does reveal the epistemological basis of materialism, i.e., materialism is an ontological construct not an evident, directly experienced reality.)

    Comments welcome.

    P.S. For the above I’m taking ideas as given. How we become acquainted with ideas is another topic.
  • unenlightened
    7k
    It seems to me phenomenalism is unarguably true.Art48

    Alas it seems unarguably false to me, but I have spent my working life not looking at trees so much as cutting them down, chopping them up into logs, and laboriously grubbing up the stumps and roots.

    I think you need to add some physicality and action to the senses, and probably to your life; one comes to know a tree by climbing it, pulling off some leaves, falling out of it. The tree responds to my putting my weight on a branch by bending, perhaps breaking - with a snap if the branch is rotten, or else with a greenstick fracture. Watch out for splinters!

    Eyes are not just for seeing, but for wiping and rubbing, and if you doubt the materiality of vision, just press a little harder, and the pain will convince you. Try to live on illustrations of food and drink, and you will discover the vital difference between the phenomenal representation in the mind and the visceral manifestation in the gut.
  • Gregory
    4.3k


    Is phenominalism different from phenomenology? My understanding of the later is that we take first person perspective first and work in theories so that they fit with our common sense
  • Gregory
    4.3k


    I'm also not sure I understand what you mean by seeing things in your head that is not outside. That sounds like some psychological thing. If you see something you perceive it, that's it. It's one field coming from a divine source. Trying to put the world in your mind would take away from the experience of perception
  • Wayfarer
    16.3k
    It seems to me phenomenalism is unarguably true.Art48

    How are maths and logic accomodated by this theory?

    I think phenomenalism is basically an arcane textbook entry in the history of philosophy. It has, at best, one part of the elephant, but there are many fundamental elements of knowledge it can't account for.

    Is phenominalism different from phenomenology?Gregory

    Yes. The former is a minor strand in empirical philosophy, the latter is a major philosphical school in its own right.
  • Art48
    151
    How are maths and logic accomodated by this theory?Wayfarer

    I had the physical world in mind when I wrote the original post.We receive physical sense data via our five senses, then our mind accesses an appropriate idea which makes sense of the data.

    As to maths and logic, our mind can access mathematical and logical ideas, too.
  • Banno
    18.6k
    It seems to me phenomenalism is unarguably true. We have five physical senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell. We have no “tree-sensing” sense. So, how can we experience a tree?Art48

    We experience a tree by looking, listening, tasting, touching, smelling. And as points out, by planting it, watering it, climbing it. We experience the tree via our senses, but it would be silly to conclude that therefore we do not experience the tree.

    I think your question has been answered.
  • Tate
    1.4k
    Comments welcome.Art48

    I think phenomenalism is from Hume's bundle theory, isn't it?

    You can't imagine an object that has no properties. And somehow we get from there to: an object is a bundle of properties.

    I'm missing a step. Do you remember what it is?
  • Gregory
    4.3k


    The 1792 writing by G.E.L. Schulze entitled "Aenesidemus" brought a Humean critique to Kant's work. Hume didn't doubt that matter was real because he had a 6th sense that it was. Hume thought that all we can know in itself was ourselves and Kant responded that we hold the world in our thoughts. Schulze came along and went back to Hume, arguing that we can know with certainty only the qualia of our mental and psychological states. The struggle to connect self with world persists in the thoughts of many to this day
  • Art48
    151
    We experience the tree via our senses, but it would be silly to conclude that therefore we do not experience the tree.Banno

    The issue is direct vs indirect experience. Physically, we can directly experience only the five senses. We directly experience the idea of a tree and indirectly experience the tree as a physical object. (An analogous situation is seeing a tree on a computer monitor. All we can see on a computer monitor is light.)

    Think "brain in a vat". Or the movie, The Matrix. Both make a similar point.
  • Mww
    3.4k
    It seems to me phenomenalism is unarguably true.Art48

    It would seem to be true, but only in relation to an intrinsically dualistic human cognitive system.

    But whether the basic human cognitive system is in fact intrinsically dualistic, remains questionable.
  • Isaac
    8.5k
    We directly experience the idea of a treeArt48

    We don't. As I said in the other thread, if you're going to start saying that 'direct' requires no intervening data nodes, then we do not 'directly' experience the idea of a tree either. The closest we could get to 'the idea of a tree' might be some of specialised neural clusters in the frontal cortex. You don't 'directly' experience the output from there, you experience a reconstructed memory of neural events a few seconds ago.
  • Gregory
    4.3k
    The closest we could get to 'the idea of a tree' might be some of specialised neural clusters in the frontal cortex.Isaac

    The clusters directly understand the tree as well as the soul that is united with it. They have dual action on an object

    you experience a reconstructed memory of neural events a few seconds ago.Isaac

    A second latter doesn't mean it's not direct perception. A few seconds doesn't have any meaning in that context. It's one direct experience
  • Isaac
    8.5k
    A second latter doesn't mean it's not direct perception. A few seconds doesn't have any meaning in that contextGregory

    Why not?
  • Gregory
    4.3k
    Why not?Isaac

    You're being scrupulous. Why would time change anything, especially a second. You're in direct experience with something. A tiny time lag has no meaning in that context. You're united with the object in thought and your mind just thinks "that was a second before" but the experience of direct knowledge is still there. Even if it was a million years you still know the object and the fact that it's a second or so is felt in experience as meaningless
  • Isaac
    8.5k
    Why would time change anythingGregory

    Well, it's not just time. Remembering something is a completely different brain process to the original inference and introduces several opportunities for data corruption, noise, and reinterpretation.
  • Gregory
    4.3k


    Those distort so that it doesn't see completely but perception can see accurately
  • Isaac
    8.5k
    Those distort so that it doesn't see completely but perception can see accuratelyGregory

    And with English grammar...?
  • Gregory
    4.3k


    You can understand a tree without knowing everything about it. Shift from knowing nothing about the tree to knowing something
  • Isaac
    8.5k
    You can understand a tree without knowing everything about it. Shift from knowing nothing about the tree to knowing somethingGregory

    Yeah...shifting into Zen koan hasn't really clarified in the way you might have hoped.
  • Richard B
    111
    From John Searle’s “Seeing Things as They Are”

    “A mistake of nearly as great a magnitude overwhelmed our tradition in the 17th century and after, and it is the mistake of supposing that we never directly perceive objects and states of affairs in the world, but directly perceive only our subjective experiences. This mistake has many different names, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Leibniz, Spinoza, Hume, and Kant. After Kant it gets worse. Mill and Hegel, in spite of all their differences, would also have to be included.”

    A good book of a modern philosopher who attempts to expose the problem of this position and offers his own theory to clear up the confusion.
  • Banno
    18.6k
    Yes.

    It is an error of novices. It stems from a little dabbling in philosophy. Hence...
    Think "brain in a vat". Or the movie, The Matrix. Both make a similar point.Art48
    Putnam’s goal in introducing the vatted brain was to refute the skeptical argument. Most folk only get as far as "we might be brains vats" and stop thinking there, never realising that the argument is against one being a brain in a vat.

    Folk watch The Matrix and think "Gee, maybe I'm a brain in a vat", forgetting that the entire premise of the movie is that there is an actual world in which there are vats, from which to escape. The argument, never quite expressed in such lame terms, is that we might be brains in a vat, and hence phenomenalism. As if Neo were never evicted from his pod.

    or gamers:
    An analogous situation is watching a video on a computer.Art48
    d_12_p_con_4b.jpg

    It is ubiquitous in these forums, but rare in those with more than an undergrad background.

    Moving beyond the brain-in-a-vat argument is an indication of philosophical adulthood.

    Of course all this is just Banno being a contemptuous prick, and folk needn't trouble themselves further. After all, what could be more comfortable than being a brain in a nice, warm vat?
  • Tate
    1.4k

    David Hume will still be famous after I'm dead and buried, so I'll hold back on calling him a philosophical novice. :grin:
  • Banno
    18.6k
    And you suppose nothing has changed in philosophy since 1776?

    Fine.

    Hume spoke of phenomena, hence he must be a phenomenologist...Tate

    A misquote? This seems to be your argument. Hs one misperceiv'd it?
  • Tate
    1.4k
    Hume spoke of phenomena, hence he must be a phenomenologist...
    — Tate

    A misquote? This seems to be your argument.
    Banno

    The title of the OP is phenomenalism, not phenomenology.

    Hume was a phenomenalist.
  • Banno
    18.6k
    Much obliged for the correct. So the argument is:

    Hume spoke of phenomena, hence he must be a phenomenalist...Tate

    Here's logic! And hence we are, one and all, brains in vats. QED.

    He also spoke of impressions, hence he was an impressionist...

    Claude_Monet%2C_Impression%2C_soleil_levant.jpg
  • NOS4A2
    6.2k


    The issue is direct vs indirect experience. Physically, we can directly experience only the five senses. We directly experience the idea of a tree and indirectly experience the tree as a physical object. (An analogous situation is seeing a tree on a computer monitor. All we can see on a computer monitor is light.)

    Think "brain in a vat". Or the movie, The Matrix. Both make a similar point.

    The matter of identity rears its head again and again. All of what you said could be true if you identify as a brain, a mind, or some other small and limited observer existing within the body. But everyone in the entire world can see that you are no such entity.
  • NOS4A2
    6.2k


    The psychologist JJ Gibson has some good ideas about perception. Two good books, well worth the read, are The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception and The Perception of the Visual World.
  • Tate
    1.4k
    I think this video will help:

  • Richard B
    111
    “We directly experience the idea of a tree and indirectly experience the tree as a physical object.”

    Lets re-word this a bit and say: we directly experience the tree and come up with the concepts of a “tree” and “physical object”

    I think we can all agree to this.
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