• Olivier5
    5.4k
    I like Sellars and Popper for trying to figure out how to talk about the world without having to talk about anything mystical or hidden like sensation or experience. These concepts are fine for everyday use, but they've led philosophers to strange, questionable positions.Pie

    I like Popper a lot. He speaks freely of ideas, sensations or freedom as real things. He even developed the three worlds ontology to affirm the objective reality of human culture and knowledge. I know less about Sellars but he too seems to consider the world of the mind as non-spooky. When you think about it, ideas and sensations are the most familiar thing to us.
  • Pie
    553
    When you think about it, ideas and sensations are the most familiar thing to us.Olivier5

    To put it jokingly, it's when we don't think about it...that they seem closest to us. What I mean by this joke is that we take the Cartesian 'veil-of-ideas' for granted, thanks to an unquestioned kneejerk inheritance.
  • Olivier5
    5.4k
    Kindly develop, if you will.
  • Pie
    553

    That's only fair, given the title of the thread.

    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.

    We see others (from the outside) as creatures with eyes and ears and noses and brains. If we check in their skulls, we don't expect to find a soul, not with the naked eye. We trust that a man without eyes is blind and that a man without a living brain is not present at all but only a corpse. This third-person POV lends an initial plausibility to what I'll call the enclosure theory.

    It starts plausibly enough, though not without cracks . Atoms or waves banging against sense organs and their nerve cells cause brain to put on a magic show for (or as) the ghost in the machine. This ghost knows what it means to say, even if the words are hard to find, because meaning, like sensation, is pure , immaterial, ghost stuff. The 'ghost' or 'soul' is 'behind' or hidden in the body in some strange way, perhaps in the pineal gland...just as meaningstuff is 'behind' or hidden in the words that carry it.

    At this point in the theory, 'we' still believe in the everyday world, but we've set something up by taking the ghost too seriously. Note that sensations and meanings are immaterial, so that the ghost is theorized to get only immaterial manifestations or appearances of the (once real) world.

    It becomes plausible (?) that only the ghost is real ! Despite its birth in a third-person point of view. We assumed that atoms/waves 'really' exist for all of us in one shared world, banging away at our individual nervous systems, so that a colorblind or nearsighted person will talk and act a little differently...see the 'same' things differently. But if the sense organs and the atoms and waves are all just entities in a dream (immaterial sensations organized by immaterial concepts), the whole theory of the 'dream' (of the veil-of-ideas) loses its plausibility. [Note that the sense-organs are presented as being created by the sense-organs, with the brain being the fantasy of the brain being the fantasy of the brain...if one doubts the real world that is.]
  • Olivier5
    5.4k
    Doubting the real world is just escapism. It's like dreaming that your parents adopted you, and your real parents are in fact Tigger and Winnie the Poo.

    This ghost knows what it means to say, even if the words are hard to find, because meaning, like sensation, is pure , immaterial, ghost stuff. The 'ghost' or 'soul' is 'behind' or hidden in the body in some strange way, perhaps in the pineal gland...just as meaningstuff is 'behind' or hidden in the words that carry it.Pie

    I must make a semantic objection here: it seems to me that the use of words like "ghost", "magic" or "hidden" are unhelpful, due to their bagage. They carry a sense of bizarrerie. Even the word "machine" is IMO inaccurate to describe a living organism. To call our body a machine is evidently an ideological imposition, an idea forced onto a thing.

    The default, natural state of thinking about the world, adopted by countless primitive societies across the globe and in history, is some kind of animism where the universe and various elements in it have souls. That would be, for us human beings, the 'normal state of affairs', the regular, non-spooky, banal idea that there are souls everywhere.

    If you have kids, you may know that when they hurt themselves against some furniture, eg a bed, a good way to assuage their sorrow and stop them crying is to 'punish' the furniture: you hit the bed with your hand saying "take that, baaad bed who hit poor Charlie". And then little Charlie stops crying because some justice was served to the mean bed.

    It is the ripping off of this natural view that is truly alien to us and thus strange: an unanimated, dead world, without any meaning, where beds don't have any intention whatsoever, is not our natural way of thinking of it.
  • Pie
    553
    Doubting the real world is just escapism. It's like dreaming that your parents adopted you, and your real parents are in fact Tigger and Winnie the Poo.Olivier5

    I think it's also that, but philosophers were also, more respectably, trying to figure out the 'lens' and its distortions. Granting the metaphor that the 'real' world is mediated, it's natural to worry about the reliability of this mediation. It's a small step to an 'optics' of mediation (epistemology).
    For instance:
    The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate. — Bacon
  • Pie
    553
    It is the ripping off of this natural view that is truly alien to us and thus strange: an unanimated, dead world, without any meaning, where beds don't have any intention whatsoever, is not our natural way of thinking of it.Olivier5

    Excellent point. Sellars' project is somehow bringing the 'living' world of parents and children into coherence with the scientific image (the dead world, sketched by equations.) How can we put norms and electrons in the same causal nexus, convincingly ? Heal the rift? Just as the German Romantics like Hegel wanted to do...
  • Richard B
    105
    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.)Art48

    Maybe we can start by agreeing that the ideas of “material object” and “sense data” are theoretical constructs. But how did we come about to learn such ideas? Let us start with “material object”. We learn to point to objects like trees and apples and teach others that we call such objects “tree” and “apple”. If we see others react to such objects and use the words “tree” and “apple”, well we have the building blocks of language. Later we can generalize a bit and call these trees and apples under the concept of “material object”.

    Next, let us look at “sense data”. I think we can agree we don’t learn such a concept by pointing externally to sense data to teach others what we mean. Additionally, we don’t internally point to sense data to teach what we mean because other are not privy to this internal private act. We come up with this theoretical construct of “sense data” when we want to explain odd reporting of objects that are called hallucinations and illusions.

    So looking at it this way, I would say the idea of “sense data” is more theory laden than I would say the idea of “material object”.
  • Olivier5
    5.4k
    How can we put norms and electrons in the same causal nexus, convincingly ? Heal the rift? Just as the German Romantics like Hegel wanted to do...Pie

    Good question.

    My take is that there is an obvious middle ground between electrons and norms (or ideas), which is life. Only certain types of life forms have ideas, I think... So the answer may lie in the study of biology and in a philosophy of biological life, its origin and evolution.

    Biology is very much underrated among philosophers. Yet they could learn so much from it. Even the great Popper, for instance, ignored biology to a rather odd degree. His three-worlds ontology makes no mention of life, lumped in the same 'world' as unanimated matter. But these are literally worlds apart. Life is already a form of language; it uses codes such as the genetic code and hormones. Life stands halfway between electrons and ideas.
  • Pie
    553

    Great post. Genealogy of concepts. Make folks aware that these weird entities were invented to play a role in arguments and explanations.
  • Pie
    553
    Only certain types of life forms have ideas, I think... So the answer may lie in the study of biology and in a philosophy of biological life, its origin and evolution.Olivier5

    :up:

    Biosemiotics is fascinating, though I haven't got around to studying it seriously.
  • Olivier5
    5.4k
    Biosemiotics is fascinating, though I haven't got around to studying it seriously.Pie

    Indeed, although I see biosemiotics as only one fashionable province in a vast country. I find embryology amazing, for instance. It's about life emergence.

    Embryonic development of the human face
    Olivier5
    6cPA.gif

  • Pie
    553

    Jesus! It's awesome but a little terrifying.

    I don't know much about biology. But I did spend a few weeks reading about evolution (Dawkins, Dennett, and Darwin), and that was mind-stretching...and also a little terrifying.
  • Olivier5
    5.4k
    Dawkins, Dennett, and DarwinPie

    I studied biology in some depth at university. It's very rich, and one of the fastest developing sciences, which may explain the limited interest of 20th century philosophers. Their intellectual formation was dominated by general relativity and QM, huge breakthroughs in physics dating from the early 20th century. The rise of biochemistry starts sometimes around Watson and Crick discovery of the DNA structure, ie mid century, and picks up steam in the 60's. Too late for Popper to notice.

    For a layman, I recommend François Jacob and Stephen Jay Gould. Both were top notch scientists with an interest in the big picture, humility vis-à-vis the complexity at hand, open-mindedness or absence of heavy ideological bias, and luminous prose.

    Personally, I don't have much time for the kind of reductionist thinking, the forcing of square pegs into round holes that I see as characteristic of the 'new atheists'. Things are far more complex than the Selfish Gene.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.