• philosophy
    28
    Idealism: All that exists is mental, i.e. exists in (a/my/some/the) mind.

    This seems to me to be irrefutable. Whatever I experience I experience as an idea in my mind. I assume that this idea is caused by an object in the external world. However, I can never experience this object itself since this object is by definition independent of my experience. In other words, it is impossible to perceive an unperceived object by definition.

    It follows from this that belief in the external world, i.e. a world independent of my experience of it, cannot be based on reason but on faith.

    I think this view is essentially that of Hume. Strictly speaking, it does not rule out the existence of mind-independent matter, but it points out that I all I can ever know are the contents of my mind, i.e. ideas. And since all that I can know are ideas, I cannot speak of that of which I do not and cannot know, i.e. I cannot speak of something that does not take the form of an idea. In other words, of mind-independent matter I can say nothing at all.

    Do you think such a view can be refuted?

  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    It's no more irrefutable than realism.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    Whatever I experience I experience as an idea in my mind.philosophy

    That's a conjecture.

    We could just as well say, "Whatever I perceive I perceive directly as an external object."

    However, I can never experience this object itself since this object is by definition independent of my experience.philosophy

    Change the definition.

    Arguing that x is the case because I defined it to be the case is kind of a stupid argument, isn't it?
  • philosophy
    28


    Perhaps I was not clear in what I meant by ''external''. By external I mean external not to one's body but to one's mind, i.e. to one's perception.

    Your position would commit you to the existence of a thing (i.e. an external object) which you cannot experience.

    How can you prove the existence of that which you cannot experience? As far as I am aware, no philosopher has ever succeeded in this.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    Your position would commit you to the existence of a thing (i.e. an external object) which you cannot experience.philosophy

    We'd say that we can experience external things because?

    How can you prove the existence of that which you cannot experience? As far as I am aware, no philosopher has ever succeeded in this.philosophy

    Why would we suddenly start talking about proofs? No one is proving either realism or idealism.

    They're empirical claims. We can't prove empirical claims.
  • philosophy
    28
    But that's precisely the point - the idealist's claim (original post) that the existence of the external world cannot be proved is irrefutable.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    But that's precisely the point - the idealist's claim (original post) that the existence of the external world cannot be proved is irrefutable.philosophy

    Likewise, the realist's claim that "we can only experience our own minds" cannot be proved is irrefutable.
  • philosophy
    28


    But the realist position commits one to perceiving an unperceived object (i.e. ''seeing'' an object outside of one's mind), a contradiction in terms, hence refuted.
  • Marchesk
    2.3k
    Do you think such a view can be refuted?philosophy

    It can be argued against somewhat convincingly. How does idealism of this sort handle birth? Death? Other minds? Why does science discover a vast universe? Did the dinosaurs not exist? What about evolution?

    How do you explain the experience of sickness without talk of germs and cells that you can only experience under a microscope? Why is it that radiation is something to worry about, or poison that you can't taste or smell? How is it that technology makes use of radio waves, which we can't experience? What about atoms?

    How come dogs can hear what we can't, and birds and insects can see what we can't? If you crossed the street without paying attention, could you die?

    Those sorts of questions, and there are a vast number of them, can be used to construct a convincing argument that there is a whole world that's independent of our perceiving it. This doesn't mean we can't perceive or detect it using tools we make, or infer it indirectly, just that it exists on it's own terms.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    But the realist position commits one to perceiving an unperceived objectphilosophy

    You're saying it's unperceived, under an assumption of the framework of idealism. The realist isn't saying this. The realist might likewise say that you're committing one to "perceiving only one's mind" with no evidential basis for that whatsoever, and in an apparent lack of understanding what perception even normally refers to.
  • philosophy
    28


    The idealist doesn't deny that one is perceiving an object. What he denies is that one can know that that object exists independently of his perception of it.

    The realist maintains that the object can exist independently of one's perception of it.

    The idealist simply asks: How could you possibly know that?
  • philosophy
    28


    The idealist does not deny that things exist independently of one's mind, i.e. independently of one's perception.

    The idealist does claim that one cannot know that things exist independently of one's mind since this would entail perception of unperceived objects, a contradiction in terms.

    If the idealist accepts the existence of a mind-independent world, he does so on the basis not of reason but of faith.
  • Arkady
    683
    Like virtually every other philosophical thesis, no observation really can count for or against idealism, and so we're left with endless a priori speculation and debate which ultimately goes nowhere.
  • Marchesk
    2.3k
    The idealist simply asks: How could you possibly know that?philosophy

    It makes the most sense of our experience of being part of a much larger world to which we are born, live and die, as all those questions I posted seek to establish.

    But direct realism wouldn't accept the starting premise for idealism, which Terrapin pointed out. Direct perception means perceiving things out there, and not in the mind.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    The idealist doesn't deny that one is perceiving an object.philosophy

    You had just written "unperceived object," so that's what I addressed .

    Are you changing your argument now to "We do indeed perceive external objects; we're not simply perceiving our own minds. We just don't know that they continue to exist when we're not actually looking at them. They might be sneaky bastards and decide to only exist when we look at them"?
  • philosophy
    28
    I haven't changed my argument. If you read above I clarified that by ''external'' I mean external not to one's body but to one's mind.

    This pen in front of me that I am perceiving now is external to my body but it is not external to my mind. I now look away. ''The pen'' (if it exists) is now external to both my body and my mind. I cannot know whether it exists until I perceive it again, at which point it ceases to be external to my mind.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    This pen in front of me that I am perceiving now is external to my body but it is not external to my mind.philosophy

    What? Your mind extends beyond your body in your view?
  • Marchesk
    2.3k
    His body would be part of his perception. An idealist wouldn't except that their body is part of a mind-independent world, or at least not that they could know.
  • philosophy
    28


    I have no idea what the relation between mind and body is. My body is as much an external object to my mind as is the pen.

    My point is that the moment I cease to perceive anything at all I cannot know that it has an existence independent of my perception since this would entail perceiving an unperceived object.

    This might imply that I cannot even know whether the experiences I have happen in ''my'' mind or in ''a'', ''some'', ''the'' mind, etc. Again, I believe this is the position Hume reaches in his Treatise.
  • frank
    1.7k
    Idealism tends to get confusing when it comes to the question of what serves as the background if ideas are brought to the foreground. IOW, how do we know about ideas if there's nothing to contrast them with?

    Whether it's Plotinus or Leibniz, that question seems to go down a rabbit hole. Plotinus' famous answer is that it's complete privation of the Good, where "Good" basically means the Intellect.

    But what would be an example of a refutable ontology? I assert that the world is made of elephants. Teeny tiny elephants. If you sit in a completely silent room, you can almost hear their little trumpeting as they spray themselves with quarks. Is this refutable?
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    I have no idea what the relation between mind and body isphilosophy

    Then why are you making statements about relative extension?
  • philosophy
    28
    To quote the passage from Hume that I've been referring to:

    ''We may observe, that 'tis universally allow'd by philosophers, and is besides pretty obvious of itself, that nothing is ever really present with the mind but its perceptions or impressions and ideas, and that external objects become known to us only by those perceptions which they occasion...Now since nothing is ever present to the mind but perceptions...it follows that 'tis impossible for us so much as to conceive or form an idea of any thing specifically different from ideas and impressions.''

    - ''Of the Idea of Existence and of External Existence'', A Treatise of Human Nature
  • philosophy
    28


    I am not aware that I have made a claim about relative extension? You seem to be suggesting that I believe that the mind extends beyond the body. I have said that I do not know the relation between mind and body.

    What I have said is that the body is as much an external object as any other that I encounter in perception.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    I am not aware that I have made a claim about relative extension?philosophy

    You said that the "pen in front of me that I am perceiving now is external to my body but it is not external to my mind." That's relative extension .
  • philosophy
    28


    The pen is external to the body in that it is outside my body. The pen is not external to my mind since it is being perceived, i.e. it is inside my mind. Is there a pen beyond my perception of it? I do not know.

    I'll concede that I've made a claim about relative extension, but I'm not sure that this commits me to a theory of how mind and body relate? It definitely doesn't entail my saying that the mind ''extends'' beyond my body.

    Again, my body is as much an external object as any other. What I say about the pen I can also say about the body.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    Are you somehow using "external" non-locationally? You'd have to try to make sense out of that.
  • philosophy
    28
    Sorry, could you clarify how you would distinguish between a locational and a non-locational view of externality? I have an idea of what you mean but I'd prefer you clarify to make sure I've understood.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    The pen is external to the body in that it is outside my body. The pen is not external to my mind since it is being perceived,philosophy

    Is either one of those uses of "external" and "outside" locational?
  • philosophy
    28
    External to my body is locational in that the pen is in a different location to my body.

    External to my mind seems to be non-locational. My position is that the pen is in my mind and that I cannot know whether it has an existence independent of my mind.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    Sorry, could you clarify how you would distinguish between a locational and a non-locational view of externality? I have an idea of what you mean but I'd prefer you clarify to make sure I've understood.philosophy

    Locational--where something is located with respect to something else in terms of extension and/or space.
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