• Marchesk
    2.3k
    Well, there are idealists on this forum.
  • Marchesk
    2.3k
    I don't know. I'm a wavering realist. Sometimes idealist arguments get in my head.
  • Nils Loc
    336
    If nothing is knowable then nothing exists. Only minds know things. Without minds, there are no things.

    Worlds without minds don't exist.

    Worlds without minds may exist but... I've left the oven on, I have to go.
  • Marchesk
    2.3k
    Why is existence dependent on being known?
  • Nils Loc
    336
    Why is existence dependent on being known?Marchesk

    Why wouldn't it be?

    It really isn't that important either way.
  • Marchesk
    2.3k
    Because we’re not the center of the universe, and mind is dependent on matter.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    The thing which most realists don’t see, is how the human perspective is smuggled into their worldview and then forgotten. Realism speaks of ‘the vast universe’ that’s out there in which us humans are mere specks or blips. But this vast universe itself has no conception of itself, how vast it is, how old, and so on. We supply that perspective, and then say ‘look how minute we are in comparison to it!’ What we’re not seeing is that even ‘this vast universe’ exists for us as ideas, sensations, and perceptions. It is idle to speak of the way that it exists outside of that, because there is no ‘outside’ or ‘inside’; we’re talking about the structure of knowledge, reason and experience, which are the only means by which we know anything.
  • Michael Ossipoff
    1.5k
    Likewise, the realist's claim that "we can only experience our own minds" cannot be proved is irrefutable.Terrapin Station

    ...but guess which one unparsimoniously assumes something not experienced.

    ...and Materialists pride themselves on being "empirical" :D

    Michael Ossipoff
  • macrosoft
    381
    For me the question is whether people believe in the existence of other people who share a world with them. The answer is: of course we do ! We just argue endlessly about how the details ought to be conceptualized -- perhaps as unconceptualizable.

    Will 'something physical' still exist if somehow all conscious life were to vanish? Yes and no. It depends on what you mean by 'exist.' Does anyone really doubt that the mountain on a lifeless planet is there in some sense, even if no one ever sees it? One can make a case that consciousness is being itself. One can make a case that consciousness emerges from being and can vanish leaving being behind. Correct me, anyone, if I am wrong, but I think it's easy for most of us to understand why either position might be embraced. Both views take something important into account.

    While there is often a 'scientistic' investment in the second view, there is also a less theoretical 'argument' for it. We were thrown born into this world, picked up and fed by those born before us. We were shown pictures and told stories. Clearly the world was busy with love and war and work long before we arrived. And most of us have lost grandparents if not friends or parents. Or maybe just celebrities who were important to us. We and the rest of the world are still here. Do we call this sense of a world that precedes and outlasts us 'realism'? I don't know. The terms mostly express nothing fundamental but rather more specialized grasps of existence. We perhaps even exaggerate our differences in a sort of play (with maybe some vanity and maybe some virtuous concern for getting things as exactly right as we can.) I'd guess we mostly pick our terms according to how they fit into the larger context of who we have been and want to be.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    For me the question is whether people believe in the existence of other people who share a world with them.macrosoft

    That is solipsism, not idealism. It is one of the consequences of Cartesianism, that I can only be certain of *my* own existence.

    Will ‘something physical’ still exist if somehow all conscious life were to vanish?macrosoft

    Here's a passage in Magee's book on Schopenhauer which talks about this exact point:

    Everyone knows that the earth, and a fortiori the universe, existed for a long time before there were any living beings, and therefore any perceiving subjects. But according to Kant ... that is impossible.'

    Schopenhauer's defence of Kant on this score was twofold. First, the objector has not understood to the very bottom the Kantian demonstration that time is one of the forms of our sensibility. The earth, say, as it was before there was life, is a field of empirical enquiry in which we have come to know a great deal; its reality is no more being denied than is the reality of perceived objects in the same room.

    The point is, the whole of the empirical world in space and time is the creation of our understanding, which apprehends all the objects of empirical knowledge within it as being in some part of that space and at some part of that time: and this is as true of the earth before there was life as it is of the pen I am now holding a few inches in front of my face and seeing slightly out of focus as it moves across the paper.

    This, incidentally, illustrates a difficulty in the way of understanding which transcendental idealism has permanently to contend with: the assumptions of 'the inborn realism which arises from the original disposition of the intellect' enter unawares into the way in which the statements of transcendental idealism are understood.

    Such realistic assumptions so pervade our normal use of concepts that the claims of transcendental idealism disclose their own non-absurdity only after difficult consideration, whereas criticisms of them at first appear cogent which on examination are seen to rest on confusion. We have to raise almost impossibly deep levels of presupposition in our own thinking and imagination to the level of self-consciousness before we are able to achieve a critical awareness of all our realistic assumptions, and thus achieve an understanding of transcendental idealism which is untainted by them.

    Bryan Magee Schopenhauer's Philosophy, Pp 106-107
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    That is solipsism, not idealism.Wayfarer

    Solipsism is a subset of idealism.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    The point is, the whole of the empirical world in space and time is the creation of our understanding, which apprehends all the objects of empirical knowledge within it as being in some part of that space and at some part of that time: and this is as true of the earth before there was life as it is of the pen I am now holding a few inches in front of my face and seeing slightly out of focus as it moves across the paper.

    Why isn't that obviously stupid?

    If the whole of the empirical world in space and time is the creation of our understanding, then how can that be "true of the Earth before there was life"?
  • macrosoft
    381
    That is solipsism, not idealism. It is one of the consequences of Cartesianism, that I can only be certain of *my* own existence.Wayfarer

    Yes, I understand that. Perhaps I should have been clearer. Idealists are realists in the sense that they believe in some world outside themselves, and realists are idealists in the sense that they understand reality to be mediated by the self (from sense organs to personality as a whole). I get the impression that some idealists think realists deny mediation, and that some realists think idealists deny a world outside themselves. Beyond that it seems like a question of emphasis and preferred terminology.

    That's a great quote. While some may really not 'get' why mind might be said to come before matter (a friend of mind just could not understand my defense of this view once), others (like myself) view the issue stereoscopically. The world-for-us cannot arrive before we do, since it's the world for us (meaningfully present, nameable, calculable.). This point can be made individually (along the lines of solipsism) or in terms of human communities (along the lines of idealism.)

    IMV, this is an important realization, largely because it can loosen up a taken-for-granted scientism that identifies the real with the input, output, and conceptual supplements of our algorithms. This kind of scientism thinks of 'value' or 'meaning' as a kind of inessential icing on a cake of dead but real 'stuff.' This same scientism often ignores that it itself is this 'illusory' icing. In short, it denies its own reality and cannot give an account of what it itself is. The driving image seems to be a transcendence of sentimentality and bias, but the scientism I have in mind still has a passion for truth that it does not account for. Pragmatism and instrumentalism make more sense and seem less 'sentimental.' If we are just randomly evolved animals (an idea I find plausible if not the last word), then we need an account of why randomly evolved animals are sentimental about transcending sentimentality. (Some have postulated a transformation of the passion for God or gods into a passion for 'useless' Truth. )

    *I'm not accusing TS or anyone in particular of scientism.
  • macrosoft
    381
    If the whole of the empirical world in space and time is the creation of our understanding, then how can that be "true of the Earth before there was life"?Terrapin Station

    The world as it 'was' before consciousness is like the thing-in-itself. I put 'was' in quotes because this is already a human concept and already an addition of content. No one really doubts that it was there in some sense, but it's very hard to specify that sense. Our scientific vision of this world-before-us is our vision. It is linguistic and mathematical, human through and through, even as it reaches for the pre-human and the trans-human. No one doubts it exists, but the way it exists is problematic, if/when we are in the mood to problematize it.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k


    "Prior to life, the whole of the empirical world in space and time is the creation of our understanding."

    Is that the case?
  • macrosoft
    381
    "Prior to life, the whole of the empirical world in space and time is the creation of our understanding."

    Is that the case?
    Terrapin Station

    No, I wouldn't put it that way at all. But I see what is being driven at. In my view it's more like a figure 8. The world-for-us depends on the 'material' brain which exists in the world-for-us. We dream of something that is outside of the dream, but it is only a 'dream' because we 'dream' of this outside-the-dream.

    Distinctions tend to break down when we make one side or the other absolute. They are born in and for practical life. This isn't to say that we shouldn't try to do exciting things with them. It's only to warn against getting tangled up in our words when we'd really like to talk about what motivates us to stretch these words until they snap in the first place.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    No, I wouldn't put it that way at all.macrosoft

    But that's what the passage says.

    "This is as true of the earth before there was life."
  • Michael Ossipoff
    1.5k


    No metaphysics is provable. Lots of contrived metaphysics can be irrefutable, in the sense that they're unfalsifiable. Various metaphysicses have been suggested to explain our physical world and describe something that allegedly underlies it. Any sort of metaphysics can be contrived to unfalsifiably be consistent with the physical world that we observe. An unfalsifiable proposition, by definition, is irrefutable, and would remain irrefutable whether true or not.

    What can be shown is that a particular metaphysics (...like Materialism) requires an unsupported assumption or posits a brute-fact.

    There are reliably-true things that can be said about metaphysics, but no particular metaphysics can be proven, for the above-stated reason.

    Michael Ossipoff
  • macrosoft
    381


    Let's look at the context and see if I can at least illuminate why a smart person would say something so apparently ridiculous.

    The point is, the whole of the empirical world in space and time is the creation of our understanding, which apprehends all the objects of empirical knowledge within it as being in some part of that space and at some part of that time: and this is as true of the earth before there was life as it is of the pen I am now holding a few inches in front of my face and seeing slightly out of focus as it moves across the paper.

    Note that we are talking about the objects of empirical knowledge. ---for humans, already digested by human language as objects of knowledge. If we imagine the earth before humans appeared, then what are we imagining? It probably looks quite a bit for us in our imagination as it does for our senses. Maybe we see a green and blue sphere from outer space. Does the world have a color independent of an eye and brain that translates photons? Maybe we see trees, mountains, rivers, insects, birds. And we know what these things are and how they interact. Does the world 'really' break into little interactive pieces? Or do humans choose these pieces according to the utility of various analyses?

    So maybe we abandon that approach and start thinking in terms of equations and the theoretical entities of physics. While this language of quantitative relationships modelling uncontroversial public experience is perhaps the most-tribe independent perspective we can take, it is still a human perspective, especially if one considers math phenomenologically. Math exists in some sense for consciousness. Do we think that the math is really outthere somehow where we are not? I understand that we think that some kind of substrate is out there and presumably 'obeys' the same laws. But what is it that really obeys laws in the world for humans? Our measurements. Are these equations, concepts and measurements still there in the pre-human world?

    In short, once we remove everything human from the world-for-us, there's pretty much nothing left. We forget when that when we are imagining the pre-human world that we do this imagining as humans.
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    IMV, this is an important realization, largely because it can loosen up a taken-for-granted scientism that identifies the real with the input, output, and conceptual supplements of our algorithms. This kind of scientism thinks of 'value' or 'meaning' as a kind of inessential icing on a cake of dead but real 'stuff.' This same scientism often ignores that it itself is this 'illusory' icing. In short, it denies its own reality and cannot give an account of what it itself is. The driving image seems to be a transcendence of sentimentality and bias, but the scientism I have in mind still has a passion for truth that it does not account for. Pragmatism and instrumentalism make more sense and seem less 'sentimental.' If we are just randomly evolved animals (an idea I find plausible if not the last word), then we need an account of why randomly evolved animals are sentimental about transcending sentimentality. (Some have postulated a transformation of the passion for God or gods into a passion for 'useless' Truth. )macrosoft

    :up:
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    If imagine the earth before humans appeared, then what are we imagining?macrosoft

    You're making up stuff so that it's not simply something stupid to say. That's overly charitable--to a point where it's rather detrimental. It's better to simply acknowledge that people--no matter who they are, sometimes say stupid things, sometimes write poorly, etc.

    The passage doesn't say "If we imagine the world prior to life," and if it were to say that, it would be such a trivial point in context that it would be just as stupid to say.

    If someone wants to say "If we imagine such and such," then especially in a philosophy context, they need to write that and not write essentially "x is true at time Ty"
  • Wayfarer
    6.8k
    If imagine the earth before humans appeared, then what are we imagining? It probably looks quite a bit for us in our imagination as it does for our senses. Maybe we see a green and blue sphere from outer space. Does the world have a color independent of an eye and brain that translates photons? Maybe we see trees, mountains, rivers, insects, birds. And we know what these things are and how they interact.macrosoft

    Right - this is the point that I have realised also. When we imagine the world from the viewpoint of scientific realism, then we just picture an empty universe, with nobody in it. Of course in empirical terms, there was a time when the universe was just like that - but we're overlooking the fact that this is something that is still being understood or imagined from the human perspective. To put it another way, every coherent notion of what it means to say something exists requires a perspective - a sense of how things are arrayed, the scales of both extension and duration along which they persist and extend. Is our scale atomic or galactic? How is the unit of time measured? We measure time in multiples of years, for example, which are clearly derived from terrestrial existence. And there are Kant's 'primary intuitions' of space and time. They're not purely subjective, they don't only exist in the mind, but a mind is an extricable pole or aspect of them.

    The mistake that is often made is to imagine the Universe (or apple/tree/chair) literally going out of existence in the absence of observers. But that takes too simplistic a view of what 'existence' really means. Reality is a manifold of subject, object and perception/cognition, of which 'the subject' is an inextricable part. Modern scientific method 'brackets out' the subjective - or tries to - so as to arrive at a perspective which is the same for any putative observer (Nagel's 'view from nowhere'). And it does that quite successfully - but only up to a point. Because 'the observer' is still part of the picture, albeit covertly.

    In fact this very argument was at the centre of the debate between Einstein and Bohr about philosophy of physics. Bohr understood it from this perspective, but Einstein didn't. Which indicates to me, that it's not just a matter of sheer rational analytical ability (which Einstein had in spades) but a gestalt shift, a qualitative insight into the nature of knowledge.
  • macrosoft
    381
    You're making up stuff so that it's not simply something stupid to say.Terrapin Station

    I'm paraphrasing the context of such statements as I am familiar with [some of] them.

    That's overly charitable--to a point where it's rather detrimental. It's better to simply acknowledge that people--no matter who they are, sometimes say stupid things, sometimes write poorly, etc.Terrapin Station

    Sure, people can just be stupid sometimes. But with philosophers it's maybe better to be careful. And then there's this passage, which tries to head off misunderstanding:

    The earth, say, as it was before there was life, is a field of empirical enquiry in which we have come to know a great deal; its reality is no more being denied than is the reality of perceived objects in the same room.

    One might say that the gist of the transcendental approach is to be become more conscious of the intensity of our mediation. Again the question is how certain things that are said to exist are supposed to exist. If we talk about a pre-human world, then what can this mean for us? I agree that there was one, but what was it that was there? On one level I am curious about clarifying these concepts for their own sake, and on another level I'm trying to make explicit the linguistic tangles that keep two perspectives from understanding one another.
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    When we imagine the world from the viewpoint of scientific realism, then we just picture an empty universe, with nobody in it.Wayfarer

    That shouldn't be the case if you imagine the world from the viewpoint of "scientific realism" (what's the difference between "scientific realism" and "realism" there, by the way?) a la the past 6-7 milion years at least.

    but we're overlooking the fact that this is something that is still being understood or imagined from the human perspectiveWayfarer

    I don't think anyone is overlooking that fact. It's just kinda pointless to keep talking about it, especially when we're not talking about epistemology qua epistemology.

    To put it another way, every coherent notion of what it means to say something exists requires a perspectiveWayfarer

    Which is talking about semantics qua semantics. But why keep changing the topic to epistemology, to semantics, etc.?
  • Terrapin Station
    4.3k
    Imagine if you were a musician and you were to go into a recording studio, and anytime you try to talk about or work on anything in that situation, one guy in the band were to only talk about how soundwaves travel through the air, how they work as electrical signals in cables, the mixing board, etc.

    That's fine and it's certainly a factor that everyone is aware of to some extent, but if that guy seems to ONLY be able to talk about that, he'd drive you crazy--you'd think something is wrong with him, in some sort of weird OCD or autistic/Aspie/"idiot savant" way, and it would be frustrating in that you'd not be able to work on anything with him, because he just constantly obsesses on soundwaves and how electrical signals in cables amount to sound transmission.

    That's what it's like when people keep obsessing on epistemology, semantics/semiotics, etc. regardless of what topic you're talking about.
  • macrosoft
    381
    When we imagine the world from the viewpoint of scientific realism, then we just picture an empty universe, with nobody in it. Of course in empirical terms, there was a time when the universe was just like that - but we're overlooking the fact that this is something that is still being understood or imagined from the human perspective.Wayfarer

    Exactly, and well said.

    But that takes too simplistic a view of what 'existence' really means.Wayfarer

    I'd even extend this to saying that the 'how' is again and again lost in the 'whether.' Whether something exists or not is only important in the first place as a function of how it exists. What does it mean for something to exist? Not just one thing, that much is clear. Ideals don't exist as shoes exist. Persons don't exist as clouds exist --except in certain models (acts of imagination) that break ordinary objects down into virtual entities --for certain purposes among many others. Are these entities real? Sure. We use them all the time. But how are they real? And what kinds of questions are these? What kinds of answers can we hope for? Final answers? Or just answers that might improve or degrade the way we exist as a whole and not just as proposition-machines?

    Which indicates to me, that it's not just a matter of sheer rational analytical ability (which Einstein had in spades) but a gestalt shift, a qualitative insight into the nature of knowledge.Wayfarer

    I agree. 'Qualitative' is nice. For me semantic holism is a key insight at the moment. Or in folksier terms, we don't see the forest by staring at individual trees. And as we look out on the forest(s), we ourselves are 'forests' with both a history and a future that exists as possibility. We aren't passive truth-detectors, though this is a role that we can include in a wider itself-non-passive project.
  • macrosoft
    381
    Imagine if you were a musician and you were to go into a recording studio, and anytime you try to talk about or work on anything in that situation, one guy in the band were to only talk about how soundwaves travel through the air, how they work as electrical signals in cables, the mixing board, etc.

    That's fine and it's certainly a factor but if that guy seems to ONLY be able to talk about that, he'd drive you crazy--you'd think something is wrong with him, in some sort of weird OCD way, and it would be frustrating in that you'd not be able to work on anything with him, because he just constantly obsesses on soundwaves and how electrical signals in cables amount to sound transmission.

    That's what it's like when people keep obsessing on epistemology, semantics/semiotics, etc. regardless of what topic you're talking about.
    Terrapin Station

    I think this is a great post. It puts everything in the proper human context.

    That said, you just described my objection to what I'd call scientism. I refer to semantic holism again and again because I think metaphysicians have an OCD that makes them interpret everything in terms of epistemology. In their obsession, as I perceive it, they insist on interpreting the words of others the 'right' way. Instead of grasping the person as a whole and cutting through the noise, they get hung up on terminology. 'I'm a realist.' 'I'm an idealist.' When Berty Russell told his folks he wanted to be a philosopher, they teased him with 'no matter, nevermind.' From my perspective, lots of philosophers just have weak communication skills, and they sell this to themselves as a virtue. Admittedly a certain kind of academic/technical conception of philosophy is possible, but this seems like the zombie version of philosophy. Propositions about propositions can be fascinating, but surely this fails a different vision of philosophy as humanity's attempt to grasp the heights and depths of its existence conceptually.

    Lemme end on a lighter note.


    *******************************************

    A ham sandwich is better than nothing.
    Nothing is better than God.

    A ham sandwich is better than God.
    ********************************************
  • macrosoft
    381
    But why keep changing the topic to epistemology, to semantics, etc.?Terrapin Station

    Isn't the OP directly tangled in those themes? 'Irrefutable.' And don't we have to explore what is even meant before we can get out the old logic machine? One might say that the logic machine is the trivial part. The real work is (or often seems to be) figuring out what the hell the other person is even talking about ('has in mind') and why they or anyone should care.

    Sometimes one looks back on old issues that seemed real and wants to share why they are somehow unreal or tangential or the result of a bad way of asking the question in the first place. Of course this 'just' preference.
  • Marchesk
    2.3k
    nd realists are idealists in the sense that they understand reality to be mediated by the self (from sense organs to personality as a whole).macrosoft

    Some realists do deny this, at least when it comes to perception. Direct realism denies that there is an idea or sense impression in the mind mediating the thing itself. As such, you're aware of seeing the tree, not a mental image of the tree.
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