Conde Lucanor wrote:My statements are part of a larger paragraph which aims to identify the broader philosophical context of our discussion. Since many issues in a debate can get to a point of no resolution, or getting messed up, I do think it's relevant to show the categories to which our point of views belong, so we can recognize if we need to focus on that larger set of doctrines or keep on discussing at a smaller scale. That's why I openly stated I'm a materialist, which should give you clues about what would make some sense to me and is worth discussing. In that same order of ideas, I actually was expecting that you would put no contest to my claim that your positions are those of idealism.
My argument is about one particular understanding of terms like time and extension and 'the objective' and so on. I am not putting forward some broad philosophical theory about life, the universe and everything. Rather I am pointing out that I do not think they make sense in themselves, for example that 'time' does not make sense taken in isolation to other concepts of the understanding.
Me: However, if it is the case we cannot 'assimilate the world directly as it is (noumena)', then I do not see how we can 'make statements of truth about its objective reality'. How would we know that they corresponded to its objective reality?
Because our perception can find necessary connections between things and events, which remain constant and predictable, without our perception participating in those constant relations. We know it because other perceptive beings, as independent, external observers, can validate those connections, as well as the use of instruments and ways of keeping records.
Those things suggest that there is a noumenal world, an 'objective reality'; but they do not show that our perceptions correspond to it. If you and I and everyone else puts on dark glasses, we will all still validate each other's perceptions in the way you describe. So has the nature of 'objective reality', the noumenal, changed from what it was before we put on the dark glasses?
If the structure of reality were purely the design of our mind, there wouldn't be any reason to believe that the conjunction of events at a given instance, would repeat at another.
No event ever does repeat; next winter is not last winter happening again. What we do is that we select some aspect of last winter (it was cold) and will note that the same aspect has occurred again. But if we had selected a different aspect (there was a lot of snow) that aspect might not reoccur. So the structure we describe is the design of our minds; we created structure by selecting out only certain aspects and ignoring others.
Me: This suggests that there are two 'realities', the reality revealed to us and a different 'objective reality'. When could we be in a position to compare the two? It is like asking a blind person what it is like to see; they could only know that if they were not the blind person that they are.
What it suggests is that there's one reality, of which we are also part of and in which we interact with other beings. To think of a "reality revealed to us" is to imply there's a reality outside the perceiver to be revealed. The concept itself of a capturing mind implies too the objective reality of space. And the concept of perception itself invokes the need for something to exist as a reality, as a necessary truth of being: the self that thinks. Cogito ergo sum, remember?
By definition we are 'a part of' reality, but it doesn't follow that we are aware of the nature of that reality. An ant or a tree will equally be part of that reality; how is it that our human experience just happens to reveal the nature of reality but theirs doesn't?
But I think the argument is shifting from the idea that we can know about the noumenal, about the nature of 'things in themselves', to the more modest claim that we can know the noumenal exists. The problem there is that we are now saying we know something 'exists', while not knowing what that existence consists of. So far, the claims that we know that the noumenal exists are all about us, about the nature of our perceptions. If our knowledge that there is a noumenal world derives from the regularity of certain human perceptions, then the only meaning we have for 'noumenal' would be 'the regularity of certain human perceptions'. That is entirely a description of us, not the noumenal.
And the concept of perception itself invokes the need for something to exist as a reality, as a necessary truth of being: the self that thinks. Cogito ergo sum, remember?
I do. Does 'I think' mean exactly the same as 'I am'? If it does, then you have not said anything about 'reality', you have simply said 'thinking is thinking'. But if the 'I am' is meant to claim something additional to 'thinking', then you need an additional premise.
But if we are to bring in Descartes, remember he starts from a position of doubt in his senses. He cannot know that his senses are trustworthy - instead he thinks that the real must be discovered through pure reason. He also concludes that his senses are in some sense reliable, but that is because he thinks we can have certain knowledge of God, and that a benevolent God would not allow us to be deceived. I take it that you do not wish to accompany Descartes down that path!
At least if we look at Kant's project, we would have to disagree. He set himself to do for philosophy what Newtonian science had done for scientific knowledge: to elevate it to a discipline in which we could ground truths that are necessary and universal. In any case, if there were no statements of truth, we could begin with the statement "all we have access to is our perceptions" as one of those not true statements. And just the same: "I perceive and think".
That is not my understanding of Kant.
If you were consistent with your line of thought, you would have to say that not only red is not an objective property of X, but that X itself lacks any objective reality, nor the electromagnetic spectrum, nor our eyes and brains. No real properties would arise from them, and no causal structured connections would form as universal and necessary. It would be all just an abstract, arbitrary, disorderly entropic idea floating in the realm of nowhere. But then of course, you would need an ordering entity to put that all together, a capricious contingent device, which idealist call god.
I am not consistent! For the very good reason that the way we use words like 'objective' is not consistent. You wish to nail 'objective' to some metaphysical claim; I'm saying both that we can't do that and that we don't.
My claim that something is 'red' is objective in that I expect other observers to agree that it is, but am not claiming that 'red' is objective in the sense that the 'red' exists independently of human eyes and brains. That would be a different understanding of 'objective'.
.You see, you are taking the experience itself and placing it in the field of language, but as I said regarding the room experiment, you don't need to utter a word or label something with a name for it to work as a proof of the objective reality of what is perceived by our senses. We can forget the word "red" and focus on the wavelength of the light spectrum, the objective property, which remains constant in two separate instances of perception
If we are only interested in the wavelength, then we don't need to have the room and the observations at all. I can agree that wavelength X is going to be the same as wavelength X without looking at anything, indeed without having eyes. So what is this 'objective property' that has remained constant?
Londoner wrote:Me: You cannot have the subjective experience of others. What you get is language.
Not exactly. We get communication, which is not reduced to spoken or written language. We can infer the subjective experience of others by relating what we see in their behavior to our own subjective experiences and behavior, as if looking in a mirror.
I do not think the figure I see in a mirror shares any of my own subjective experiences, even though they they closely resemble me physically! I might guess that other beings that look somewhat similar have a somewhat similar internal life to my own, but I cannot know that. Indeed, I am certain that they and I do not have identical experiences.
So, we cannot know that other people have subjective experiences at all. Assuming they do, we cannot know their subjective experiences are ever the same as ours (and we do know that often they are not). And even if we assume that other people do have subjective experiences, and that these subjective experiences are identical to our own, we still would have no reason to believe that those subjective experiences represented the nature of the noumenal world.
Me: That there is 'an objective external reality' is surely what you are saying we can know. If you are using the word 'objective' then presumably this is to distinguish it from 'subjective'? But I cannot escape my subjectivity; I cannot subjectively know the objective..
Not escaping my subjectivity would mean not having a relation with the external world. It would be the mind in a bubble, untouched by anything outside of it. But the reality is that there are ways of relating to the external world, called the senses.
Again, this seems a softening of the argument, it is talking of 'having a relation' with the external world. A relationship is the mixture of two things; if we know 'the relationship' then that is not a claim to know the parts separately.
I assume (but cannot be certain) that my perceptions are the product of a relationship between the external world and my own sensory organs and brain. But the perception is all that I know. I do not know the parts separately, such that when I see something I can say 'this aspect of the perception is 'reality', 'the external world', whereas that aspect is my optic nerve'.
So we do not 'know the objective', we assume it is involved but we cannot say in what respects.
(Bearing in mind that, as I say above, in reality we do not usually use the word 'objective' in this extreme sense)