• Marchesk
    3.3k
    http://articles.thephilosophyforum.com/posts/the-argument-for-indirect-realism/

    It's a very well written criticism of indirect realism, addressing various arguments which attempt to show that we're aware of intermediate mental ideas instead of the external objects themselves.

    Despite demonstrating the flaws in those arguments, I still think indirect realism presents a significant challenge. More broadly, the ancient problem of perception mentioned in the article remains a problem.

    Let's approach this a different way. First, perception itself cannot be the external objects, unless one wishes to endorse idealism. Perception is a mental activity, and it produces mental experiences. The senses generate electrical impulses which feed into the various regions of the brain which then integrate those into a perceptual experience, or at least when we're conscious of our senses.

    An external table isn't an electrical impulse. It's also not the image on our retina, the sensation of our skin touching it, or the final integration. The table is an external object in the real world because it is separate from us and our perceiving it. Unless again one wishes to argue for idealism.

    To quote The Partially Examined Life regarding direct perception, "It's not like green grass gets into the brain". So then the issue for direct realism is to explain how a mental experience of perception is being directly aware of external objects, instead of the mental experience. To repeat, the object isn't inside our heads when we perceive. Rather, we have an experience of the object which is generated by our perceptual aparatus.

    Jamalrob deals with hallucinations and illusions. But there is another kind of experience where we have similar experiences to perception, and that is dreams. In our dreams, we have experiences of seeing and hearing what seem to be external objects, and sometimes experiences from the other senses. I have felt the heat of a dream fire and the shaking of a dream earthquake. Luckily, there was no fire or shaking upon awaking.

    This begs the question of how perceptual experiences are fundamental different. If I can be aware of seeing a dream tree, what difference in awareness is there between that and seeing a real tree? Is it because the stimulus is external to the body for the latter? Is direct awareness just one of the proper causal chain? But indirect realists agree with the causal chain as well. That's why they're indirect and not idealists.

    Jamalrob does deal with a similar argument involving direct neural stimulation which can produce an experience similar to perception, like with hallucinations (or dreams, memories, imagination). Would this mean then that Neo in the Matrix never had a perception until he took the red pill and woke up? Are BIVs incapable of ever having a perception? What about Boltzman brains?

    The big question is what exactly does it mean to be "directly aware" of the objects of perception, given what we know about how perception works? And if direct realism can be successfully argued for, does that mean the skepticism mentioned above is defeated and the problem of perception was never really a problem?
  • Marchesk
    3.3k
    To summarize my objection (now that I've thought about it some more), we have similar experiences to perception like dreams, hallucinations, illusions, imagination, memory in which we're directly aware of the mental contents of our experience. What makes perception different from all other experience?
  • ChatteringMonkey
    426


    To summarize my objection (now that I've thought about it some more), we have similar experiences to perception like dreams, hallucinations, illusions, imagination, memory in which we're directly aware of the mental contents of our experience. What makes perception different from all other experience?Marchesk

    I think Hume said something along the lines of, "they differ in intention".... and I think I can agree with that. Dreams, illusion etc don't seem to be that detailed, vivid... or they seem to be 'lower resolution' if you will. I can try to imagine a face of someone I haven't seen or a while, but the imagination is never as accurate as the 'direct' perception.

    So while our brain does seem to play a vital role in the construction of a perception, and is able to create images without direct(!) sensory input, it does seem to be doing a better job when it gets direct input.

    And I mean, to me this is enough, I don't need a hundred procent certainty. It seems reasonable enough to assume that the more clear picture is a better representation of reality, then the worse images (It doesn't seem all that likely that the brain would be better at producing higher resolution images without the sensory imput).

    But there are other reasons too. Dreams, illusions etc often don't fit into our overall picture of the world. Our system of beliefs gets tested and refined to our perceptions of the world as we go through life... and solidify more and more the more experiences we have. One outlier perception, dream imagine or illusion usually isn't enough to change ones beliefs.

    EDIT: And maybe to drive the last point home some more, if we expereince those outlier images, what we tend to do is test them against the world... we try to repeat the experience to see if it was indeed real. And perceptions of the world seem to be a better source of repeatable experiences than dreams and illusions.
  • unenlightened
    4.7k
    We've discussed this before, so I may not be saying anything new

    what we know about how perception works?Marchesk

    I assume you mean something along these lines:

    ambient light - object - reflected light - eye lens - retina - electrochemical reactions - nerve signals - brain activity.

    Or in the case of a mirage:

    ambient light - reflecting effect of heated air - eye lens - retina - electrochemical reactions - nerve signals - brain activity.

    Or in the case of a BiV:

    mad scientist - infernal equipment - electrochemical reactions - nerve signals - brain activity.

    Def: "I" = electrochemical reactions - nerve signals - brain activity.
    Def: "see" = reflected light - eye lens - retina.


    {Interlude} I dream of the mad scientist giving the brain the sensation of rubbing its eyes with its hands in disbelief at the hallucination it is being made to see. {End}

    What is the argument though? We agree that seeing is remote sensing. A blind man uses a stick for remote sensing. He feels the curb 'through' the unfeeling stick. I feel the same curb through the unfeeling ambient light. Do you want to say that the sense of touch is indirect? When I shake your hand, I do not directly feel your hand, I only feel sensations in my hand? Well I can sort of make sense of that, but really- why bother? And sure, I don't need actual pins and needles to feel pins and needles...
  • Michael
    8.7k
    What is the argument though?unenlightened

    ambient light - object (1) - reflected light - eye lens - retina - electrochemical reactions - nerve signals - brain activity (2)unenlightened

    It's questioning whether or not 2 provides direct information about 1.
  • unenlightened
    4.7k
    It's questioning whether or not 2 provides direct information about 1.Michael

    Ok. What work is 'direct' doing here? We agree that there is causal connection roughly as crudely indicated above whereby information is transformed and filtered such that I know where the curb is and do not trip over it. Information is provided, and the aboutness is guaranteed by the appropriateness of behaviour - not tripping. And what of the blind man? He gets equivalent verifiably reliable information about the curb. Is his sensing direct or indirect? What's the difference?
  • Michael
    8.7k
    If we take this brief summary of naive realism as an example, the difference between direct and indirect information is regarding whether or not "objects ... retain properties of the types we perceive them as having, even when they are not being perceived."

    Using Locke's distinction between primary and secondary qualities, apples have the shape we see them to have even when not being seen, and so shape-experience provides us with direct information about the apple, whereas it doesn't have the taste we taste it to have when not being eaten, and so taste-experience only provides us with indirect information about the apple.

    I know from the taste of an apple that something about it elicits in me a sweet experience, but that doesn't really tell me anything about what the apple is like when I'm not eating it. That's indirect information. Whereas I know from the look of an apple that it's round, and that tells me what it's like when I'm not looking at it. That's direct information.

    The question, then, is the extent to which experience provides us with information about the perception-independent nature of the world. Perhaps the taste of an apple is perception-independent, and so that apples are sweet is an objective fact, even if they're not being eaten and even if some people mistakenly taste them to be sour. Or perhaps the shape of an apple isn't perception-independent, and so that apples are round is not an objective fact, and those who see them to be a different shape aren't wrong in seeing them so.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.1k
    Using Locke's distinction between primary and secondary qualities, apples have the shape we see them to have even when not being seen, and so shape-experience provides us with direct information about the apple, whereas it doesn't have the taste we taste it to have when not being eaten, and so taste-experience only provides us with indirect information about the apple.Michael
    The shape-experience is two-dimensional. You can't see the other side of the apple, only the side facing you. So shape-experience can't be a primary. The world is not located relative to your eyes, yet that is how the world appears.

    Doesn't "bent" straws in water indicate that our shape-experience isn't primary?

    I don't understand the point of "indirect" or "direct" when we can still use present states-of-affairs to understand states-of-affairs that happened billions of years ago (microwave background radiation and the expansion of space informs us about the Big Bang). The time between such events may simply be a product of how our minds process change relative to its own changing states.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    426
    whereas it doesn't have the taste we taste it to have when not being eatenMichael

    Yeah the problem is that this sentence doesn't even make sense to begin with. What would it mean to have a taste when not tasted? The property 'sweet' only makes sense in relation to a sense-organ that can taste it. That doesn't imply that that sense-organ causes that property to appear in the apple though, just that you need a taste-sensitive sense organ to be able to detect that property of the apple.

    I know from the taste of an apple that something about it elicits in me a sweet experience, but that doesn't really tell me anything about what the apple is like when I'm not eating it. That's indirect information. Whereas I know from the look of an apple that it's round, and that tells me what it's like when I'm not looking at it. That's direct information.Michael

    I don't see the difference. Tasting an apple also tells you what it tastes like when you are not tasting it?
  • Michael
    8.7k
    Yeah the problem is that this sentence doesn't even make sense to begin with. What would it mean to have a taste when not tasted?ChatteringMonkey

    Ask the people who claim that things have a look even when not being seen.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    426
    Ask the people who claim that things have a look even when not being seen.Michael

    Yeah sorry, I know you were just presenting a view, not necessarily advocating it. I was tackling the idea, not the man :-).
  • unenlightened
    4.7k
    Yeah the problem is that this sentence doesn't even make sense to begin with. What would it mean to have a taste when not tasted?
    — ChatteringMonkey

    Ask the people who claim that things have a look even when not being seen.
    Michael

    People like me. I typically buy a pack of four apples that all look similar. And the one I have on Monday, also tastes similar to the one I have on Tuesday. So I tend to think that Tuesday's apple was tasty on Monday, even though I did not taste it. This idea that apples remain apples when the fridge door is shut seems to work for the shape, the colour and the taste. It's not that I have any evidence that the toys or the fruit don't come to life when the kids aren't looking, like in Toy Story, it just seems more parsimonious to assume not. It saves me worrying about which of the apples is going to be tasty today.
  • Michael
    8.7k
    People like me. I typically buy a pack of four apples that all look similar. And the one I have on Monday, also tastes similar to the one I have on Tuesday. So I tend to think that Tuesday's apple was tasty on Monday, even though I did not taste it. This idea that apples remain apples when the fridge door is shut seems to work for the shape, the colour and the taste. It's not that I have any evidence that the toys or the fruit don't come to life when the kids aren't looking, like in Toy Story, it just seems more parsimonious to assume not. It saves me worrying about which of the apples is going to be tasty today.unenlightened

    I don't need to believe that red paint already has the property of being purple to believe that when I mix it with blue paint it will turn people, so why do you need to believe that the apple already has the property of being tasty to believe that when you put it in your mouth it will be tasty?

    Taste is a property produced by chemicals in the apple stimulating nerves in the tongue rather than an independent property of the apple or an independent property of the tongue (or perhaps more accurately, a property of the experience that arises by the brain activity caused by those chemicals stimulating those nerves). What's not parsimonious about that?
  • Harry Hindu
    3.1k
    Partially submerge an apple in a large mason jar half-filled with water, and you change the shape of the apple.
  • unenlightened
    4.7k
    I don't need to believe that red paint already has the property of being purple to believe that when I mix it with blue paint it will turn people, so why do you need to believe that the apple already has the property of being tasty to believe that when you put it in your mouth it will be tasty?Michael

    Nor do I. But I do need to believe that red paint has the property of turning purple when mixed with blue paint. It sounds like you think that too.
  • Michael
    8.7k
    Nor do I. But I do need to believe that red paint has the property of turning purple when mixed with blue paint. It sounds like you think that too.unenlightened

    Which is just to say that I know what happens when red and blue paint mix. And I know what happens when I look at and eat apples. But the epistemological problem of perception is related to what this tells us about apples when we aren't seeing and eating them. If the extent of our knowledge is counterfactual; apples are such that they would look like this were we to see them and would taste like this were we to eat them then we're not in a position to say that experience provides us with information about the factual properties of apples when not being seen or eaten.
  • Marchesk
    3.3k
    Dreams, illusion etc don't seem to be that detailed, vivid... or they seem to be 'lower resolution' if you will. I can try to imagine a face of someone I haven't seen or a while, but the imagination is never as accurate as the 'direct' perception.ChatteringMonkey

    I think that very much depends on the person. Some people have very detailed imaginations and some have very vivid dreams. I have rather poor visualization, but my dreams are visually richer. Some people can compose music in their heads, and some have very detailed memories.

    There are two potential traps here when arguing this stuff. One is to assume everyone else has the same experience (limited visualization of the non-artist for example), and the other is to focus only on vision. Which could be misleading, since vision is very much a remote sense, unlike taste or touch.
  • Marchesk
    3.3k
    What is the argument though? We agree that seeing is remote sensing. A blind man uses a stick for remote sensing. He feels the curb 'through' the unfeeling stick. I feel the same curb through the unfeeling ambient light. Do you want to say that the sense of touch is indirect? When I shake your hand, I do not directly feel your hand, I only feel sensations in my hand? Well I can sort of make sense of that, but really- why bother? And sure, I don't need actual pins and needles to feel pins and needles...unenlightened

    The argument is that if perception is indirect, skepticism is more of a worry, because we have to infer the nature of external objects on the assumption that perception is indeed indirect and not something else entirely. So the status of knowledge and the nature of the world we experience are potentially at stake.

    Direct realism would tend to avoid those issues. But only if we actually do have direct perception.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    426
    Sure, it probably depends on the person to what degree... still I'd guess that most people would agree that dreams, imagination or illusion are less detailed than perception.

    Do you think what you are dreaming of is equally real as what you perceive? And if not, why not?
  • ChatteringMonkey
    426
    Distrust of the senses has been a perennial issue in Western philosophy it seems, but ironically we only started to make progress historically when we started taking perceptions seriously.

    I don't think perceptions are the main worry for knowledge, but rather what we infer from them. Reason, biases, preconceptions etc... all have held knowledge back more than the senses. That is, unless you want to argue that what science has achieved can't be deemed knowledge because it has to assume that our perceptions tell us something of reality without justification. But then, what would constitute knowledge? Nothing right, if knowledge is possible at all, than it is only because we perceive part of reality through perceptions.

    So in the end we are presented with a choice between no knowledge at all, or assuming that our senses do tell us something of reality and try to work from there. Seems like an easy enough decision to make.
  • Marchesk
    3.3k
    People like me. I typically buy a pack of four apples that all look similar. And the one I have on Monday, also tastes similar to the one I have on Tuesday. So I tend to think that Tuesday's apple was tasty on Monday, even though I did not taste it. This idea that apples remain apples when the fridge door is shut seems to work for the shape, the colour and the taste.unenlightened

    Only because you're thinking in terms of how the apple will look and taste for you as a human being. Being tasty is something animals with taste buds perceive. And that can vary quite a bit. It's not a property of the apple. The color is probably also a property of perception, since it's really photons of certain wavelength bouncing off molecular surfaces. And the colors seen can vary as well. Normal sighted humans have tetrachromatic vision, but there are other kinds.

    And why would the narrow range of visible EM be colored? What about X-Rays and microwaves?
  • Marchesk
    3.3k
    Distrust of the senses has been a perennial issue in Western philosophy it seems, but ironically we only started to make progress historically when we started taking perceptions seriously.ChatteringMonkey

    I believe ancient Indian philosophy was also aware of the issues around perception. Indian idealism has long been a focus in that tradition.
  • unenlightened
    4.7k
    The color is probably also a property of perception, since it's really photons of certain wavelength bouncing off molecular surfaces.Marchesk

    Being tasty is something animals with taste buds perceive. It's not a property of the apple. The color is probably also a property of perception, since it's really photons of certain wavelength bouncing off molecular surfaces.Marchesk

    I hear you. But I don't believe you. Present me with these perceptions you have that there are perceptions. Personally, i don't have perceptions, I see things.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    426
    Nietzsche quote that seems relevant here :-)

    The true world — attainable for the sage, the pious, the virtuous man; he lives in it, he is it. (The oldest form of the idea, relatively sensible, simple, and persuasive. A circumlocution for the sentence, "I, Plato, am the truth.")

    The true world — unattainable for now, but promised for the sage, the pious, the virtuous man ("for the sinner who repents"). (Progress of the idea: it becomes more subtle, insidious, incomprehensible — it becomes female, it becomes Christian.)

    The true world — unattainable, indemonstrable, unpromisable; but the very thought of it — a consolation, an obligation, an imperative. (At bottom, the old sun, but seen through mist and skepticism. The idea has become elusive, pale, Nordic, Königsbergian.)

    The true world — unattainable? At any rate, unattained. And being unattained, also unknown. Consequently, not consoling, redeeming, or obligating: how could something unknown obligate us? (Gray morning. The first yawn of reason. The cockcrow of positivism.)

    The "true" world — an idea which is no longer good for anything, not even obligating — an idea which has become useless and superfluous — consequently, a refuted idea: let us abolish it! (Bright day; breakfast; return of bon sens and cheerfulness; Plato's embarrassed blush; pandemonium of all free spirits.)

    The true world — we have abolished. What world has remained? The apparent one perhaps? But no! With the true world we have also abolished the apparent one. (Noon; moment of the briefest shadow; end of the longest error; high point of humanity; INCIPIT ZARATHUSTRA.)
  • Marchesk
    3.3k
    You see as a result of a process leading to neural activity in your brain. Call it what you like, but that result is not the object. How could it be?
  • jamalrob
    2.4k
    You see as a result of a process leading to neural activity in your brain. Call it what you like, but that result is not the object. How could it be?Marchesk

    Are you sure you read the article? :lol:
  • Marchesk
    3.3k
    Are you sure you read the article?jamalrob

    I did. So you think the perception is the object? The neural activity produces the object? That can't be right.

    Direct realism must mean it produces an awareness of the object via the perceptual experience. But in what sense is it "direct"?
  • jorndoe
    868
    I'm thinking the naïve direct indirect thing can be misleading.

    Suppose we categorize perception like this ...

    the experience ≠ the experienced (non-identity, self versus other)
    the experience = the experienced (self-identity, dreams, hallucinations, etc)

    So, we perceive whatever else by interaction, not by becoming the perceived, whereas dreams, hallucinations, etc, are parts of us when occurring.
    When we experience, say, love, it's not an experience of something extra-self, whereas (non-imaginary) loved ones are, and can be interactees.
    If I chat with my neighbor, then I'm not chatting with my experiences, rather I'm interacting with my neighbor, and my experiences are my end of it, are contingent thereupon.

    Then, by this sort of thing ...

    hallucination is mistaking ≠ for =
    subjective idealism (solipsism) is mistaking = for ≠

    Also ... Phantom pain, Synesthesia, Sleep paralysis, Introspection illusion, Refraction
  • Marchesk
    3.3k
    Let's say you had a neural implant which did two things:

    1. It corrects refracted images so that the stick in water looked straight.

    2. It occasionally receives video transmissions of objects otherwise out of sight.

    Both of theses result in perceptions. Are they direct?

    What if I hack the implant and refract straight light and send the wrong video? What is the nature of the resulting perceptions?
  • Marchesk
    3.3k
    So, we perceive whatever else by interaction, not by becoming the perceived, whereas dreams, hallucinations, etc, are parts of us when occurring.jorndoe

    That is a good approach. The crux of the matter turns on whether the experience of the other is what we're aware of, or whether that experience is the awareness of the other. The interaction happens regardless.

    It's also possible that the answer is a mix of both and it just depends. For example, I hear what sounds like footsteps late at night in an old building where I thought I was alone. Turns out it was just the building settling.

    So I do have a perception of the building making noises, but my experience of footsteps was inaccurate. Of course that's an auditory illusion, but it does illustrate a mixed state. I can't be directly aware of footsteps if there are none, but I am aware of perceiving a sound.
  • Graeme M
    49
    Not being versed in matters philosophical I'm not sure of the argument in the article. The author seems to be wanting to dismiss the idea that when we perceive the world we do so via some kind of mental representation. It's not clear just what he means by this. He seems to be wanting to draw a distinction between the raw sense-data generated via the interaction between sense organs and physical properties of the world and the experience of perception itself. I'm confused by this. My naive take is that perception is not merely the responses of sense organs but is (as far a I am led to believe, at least) a far more complex arrangement in which stored information is mixed with fresh information to provide a useful model for behaviour.

    For example, such ideas as perspective have evolved in human appreciation of the world and are encapsulated in the general range of information stored in a modern mind, presumably this helps tune the perceptions we experience. After all, the act of representing the world in drawings (a behaviour) is fundamentally different now than it was in say the year 1200. We also see this in the way that youngsters represent perspective (often denoting the world in a flatter geometry) - they have to learn the enactment of perspectival perception into the act of drawing.

    The problem seems to be something of a Cartesian interpretation of perception - that we are actually seeing the world in some kind of direct form. Even though the writer wants to dismiss the idea we see mental images, the argument seems constructed along the lines that some kind of image or representation is nonetheless "seen". That is, as he observes, we "see" in the first sense we are actually perceiving an external object, which is why he dismisses the experience of scotoma as mere appeance.

    For myself, I think the fact of the matter is that we must always experience an internal arrangement. How can it be otherwise? Sensory impressions are utilised by the brain to construct information about the world and to match that information with stored information in order to better predict both likely external events and appropriate responses. Even the first person perspective itself must be similarly constructed and integrated with the perceptual information. Put another way, the "I" that observes the external world is part of the act of perception. It isn't objective, but is entirely subjective and dependent upon a whole bunch of stored cues and contexts for validity.

    If I knew what the author might actually mean by the term "direct realism" I might be able to better grasp his argument, but I confess it isn't clear to me. I am not even sure I totally agree with the idea of indirect realism and the implication there is an internal representation for me to perceive. Rather, it seems to me that the world of experience (hallucinations etc included) are states of process only. The brain does stuff and I "experience" that. It is impossible for me to have direct experience of the world because experience itself is not objective - it just is what it is for my brain to be a particular way. Any direct correspondence between the way the world looks to me and how it really is must be largely fortuitous and the result of evolutionary processes. That is, the way the world looks and works to us reflects the way our brains make use of information, not the other way round.
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