Who- why- where are we ?

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Londoner
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Re: Who- why- where are we ?

Post by Londoner » Sun Apr 02, 2017 11:28 am

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)

Belinda
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Re: Who- why- where are we ?

Post by Belinda » Sun Apr 02, 2017 1:31 pm

Cannot we say that there is a mind-independent reality which is composed of whatever it is that exists?

After all, can't we presume that the basic ontic axiom is that something exists/is happening? Even a solipsist would have to say that something is happening/exists.

The corollary of this basic axiom would be that what exists is structured in some manner so that what exists/is happening could not be otherwise than what it was.

The axiom as above, and its corollary are what the Genesis version of creation is about. Unfortunately religion has made a personification and a puzzle out of the Genesis narrative, which is not only simple and straightforward but also poetic. Why cannot everybody understand poetry as poetry instead of what religion does, using important poetic myths for social control and for stupid pseudo-science?

Londoner
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Re: Who- why- where are we ?

Post by Londoner » Sun Apr 02, 2017 2:05 pm

Belinda wrote:Cannot we say that there is a mind-independent reality which is composed of whatever it is that exists?

After all, can't we presume that the basic ontic axiom is that something exists/is happening? Even a solipsist would have to say that something is happening/exists.
The 'exist' word begs the question. Even if the universe consisted only as our idea, it would exist in that sense. But certainly, we can and do presume there is a something 'out there' in addition to our ideas, although we cannot know it.
The corollary of this basic axiom would be that what exists is structured in some manner so that what exists/is happening could not be otherwise than what it was.
Yes, I agree. But 'that it is structured' in the particular way we think it is, could be a reflection of how we think, rather than the thing itself. As it is I am aware that some ways I think of structure (e.g. that every thing must be in a one particular place at any given time) do not serve to create a coherent account of how things are at the quantum level. Perhaps all my ideas of structure are also faulty at some level?
The axiom as above, and its corollary are what the Genesis version of creation is about. Unfortunately religion has made a personification and a puzzle out of the Genesis narrative, which is not only simple and straightforward but also poetic. Why cannot everybody understand poetry as poetry instead of what religion does, using important poetic myths for social control and for stupid pseudo-science?
I agree, although I think the puzzle has usually been created by religion trying to defend it itself against what it (mistakenly) feels is an attack by science. I would agree that I do not think the writers of Genesis were interested in physics or philosophical ontology.

Belinda
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Re: Who- why- where are we ?

Post by Belinda » Sun Apr 02, 2017 9:12 pm

Londoner wrote:
I would agree that I do not think the writers of Genesis were interested in physics or philosophical ontology.
I did not actually say that the 'writers'(my startle) were not interested in philosophical ontology. I think that ontological questions are probably very old questions. Creation myths abound. That particular Genesis myth is however an apt explanation for the ontic existence of structure , and so concisely poetic that I for one will continue to enjoy it. Haydn's version is even more fun.

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Conde Lucanor
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Re: Who- why- where are we ?

Post by Conde Lucanor » Mon Apr 03, 2017 12:53 am

Londoner wrote: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.
I'm aware that you may be advancing idealistic positions without trying or knowing it. That's one reason why it might be useful bringing it to surface. I don't mean straw man either, because those in the trench of idealism (or materialism, too) will illuminate with these main concepts the rest of their reasoning; they are very unlikely to change paradigms and it's pointless to argue: "you're wrong because that position belongs to X doctrine". Nevertheless, it is valid to argue: "you're position is wrong in itself and it belongs to a larger set of wrong doctrines".
Londoner wrote: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?
Using the systematic thinking and tools of philosophy and science, we do get to know to what degree our perceptions correspond to objective reality. As I oppose absolute subjectivism, like the one you're advocating, I'm not defending absolute objectivism, either. I have stated in this thread that our senses are limited and our primary intuitions are often unreliable, which is why in the dawn of civilization people believed in all sorts of myths, like gods and other fantastic creatures, directly related to their day to day experiences of the world.
Londoner wrote: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.
Each winter is not a particular event, but a set of events comprising lots of systems which interact and give us the general idea of winter. When snow falls, we know the real objective causes that produce snow falling and we can predict that whenever these causes conjoin again, snow will fall. We don't create it out of our minds.
Londoner wrote: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?
Our knowledge of the nature of reality may be limited, perhaps always will, but it doesn't follow that we cannot get any knowledge of the nature of reality or that we cannot operate effectively on the basis of the knowledge we do have.
Londoner wrote: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.


May I remind you the origin of our discussion and how we got to this point. We were talking about the existence of gods and at one point I introduced this problem:
So you would agree that what counts as 'god' is a social construction, an idea, too. The real question is: do any of our ideas represent objects that have objective existence, that is, objects that are real?
So there's no shifting of argument.
Londoner wrote:The problem there is that we are now saying we know something 'exists', while not knowing what that existence consists of.
I don't know who is saying that we don't know what the existence of things consists of. You've been saying it consists of mere ideas, abstract representations. I've always said it consists of concrete beings with real properties.
Londoner wrote:So far, the claims that we know that the noumenal exists are all about us, about the nature of our perceptions.
Not really. Not about the nature of our perceptions, but about the nature of things that come to our senses. Are they real things outside our minds or illusory beings created by our minds?
Londoner wrote: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.
The meaning we have for noumena is the thing as it is in itself. Our experiences allow us to reason that things exist independently of our minds, but that is not to say that our subjectivity is the real source of the thing in itself.
Londoner wrote: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!
You are missing the point, which is that even someone as Descartes that advocates for not having anything for sure but our thoughts, claims the truth of the real existence of something: the thinking self. I don't need to adhere to Descartes' view, which resembles more your own, but I can make the point that if you were consistent with your view, you would need to reach the same conclusion.
Londoner wrote:
Conde Lucanor wrote: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.
That is not my understanding of Kant.
I will not claim being an expert on Kant, but I trust myself being acquainted with Kant's studies that describe his project as I said. In any case, you can find in the preface of the 2nd. edition of the Critique lots of clues about the nature of his project, and at one point he claims:
Kant wrote:"Now the concern of this critique of pure speculative reason consists in that attempt to transform the accepted procedure of metaphysics, undertaking an entire revolution according to the example of the geometers and natural scientists."

Londoner wrote: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'.

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?


How you want to use the words "objective" and "subjective" is your choice. I tell you what is for me their usage in the context of this discussion: by objective I mean something that exists by itself, independently of the consciousness of subjects. Whatever properties the moon has, it had them even before any living being was around. No perspectiveness required for their ontological status. By subjective I mean that which depends on the consciousness of the subjects. When we claim the objectivity of something based on the agreement of other observers, we are just saying that our individual subjectivity has not been the cause of that which is claimed, but that the thing exists independently of it. Our subjective experience of red gets transformed in an objective property of the object once the wavelength is shown to cause that same perception in different instances and different observers. That, even without knowing the specific content of redness in each of our individual perceptions. I see red and green and may suspect that for another observer my red is his/her green and vice versa, until he/she points at another instance of his/her green and coincides with mine. My suspicion is then proven wrong, as red keeps being red every time.
Londoner wrote: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 said "as if" looking in a mirror, not that the images in a mirror were alive on their own. :roll:
Londoner wrote: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).
For those of us who think we can know anything about the experience of others, we can assume we have had different experiences in our lives on the basis that it is only possible because the objective reality of ourselves does not allow us to share the same time and space throughout all of our experiences. And yet, we can make associations from observations of similar patterns as belonging to the same causes, which we can also test. We couldn't do that, of course, if time and space were just ideas in our minds, and the concepts of "other beings", "similarity","internal life or experiences", were just illusions.
Londoner wrote: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.

We know the reality of the external world, we know the reality of our internal self, and we relate each other through our perception. What is it that we don't know? As I said, if I only had my perceptions (not even myself), I could doubt of everything and posit that my senses are fooling me into a dream, or that I'm seeing the shadows in Plato's cave, but since I would do that giving credit to the reality of my own existence, and since the structure of that world is not arbitrarily surreal, and I can test its independent regularity, which even works against my will, I must infer that it exists on its own.

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Conde Lucanor
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Re: Who- why- where are we ?

Post by Conde Lucanor » Mon Apr 03, 2017 12:57 am

Belinda wrote:Cannot we say that there is a mind-independent reality which is composed of whatever it is that exists?

After all, can't we presume that the basic ontic axiom is that something exists/is happening? Even a solipsist would have to say that something is happening/exists.

The corollary of this basic axiom would be that what exists is structured in some manner so that what exists/is happening could not be otherwise than what it was.

The axiom as above, and its corollary are what the Genesis version of creation is about. Unfortunately religion has made a personification and a puzzle out of the Genesis narrative, which is not only simple and straightforward but also poetic. Why cannot everybody understand poetry as poetry instead of what religion does, using important poetic myths for social control and for stupid pseudo-science?
Genesis is the product of religion. Other than that, the axiom and corollary are correct.

Belinda
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Re: Who- why- where are we ?

Post by Belinda » Mon Apr 03, 2017 8:25 am

Conde Lucanor wrote:
Genesis is the product of religion. Other than that, the axiom and corollary are correct.
Religion has been an important vehicle for channeling the idea, but I guess it's not the only vehicle. Secular literature and other arts, and philosophy, have also played a mighty part in maintaining and variously expressing the important axioms.

Do we know how old those axioms are? Don't they probably predate the particular Genesis myth? And what is the genesis of the Genesis myth; maybe we don't know.

In any case, even if the Genesis creation myth were a product of what we commonly call 'religion' this would make religion more, not less,credible. I say give credit where credit is due. A Pagan or a Pantheist could appreciate a creation myth equally well as a theist.

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

Londoner, naturally I'd like to contest your objection to axiomatic knowledge of structure, but I cannot. I wonder if there is confirmation in information theory; perhaps something along the lines of how information is structured by relationships among the several perceptions of any quality, such that the quale is to be defined by its pattern of relationships between the several perceptions.This would place structure as mind-dependent . However, there has to be a transmitter of meaning as well as a receiver of meaning.

Londoner
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Re: Who- why- where are we ?

Post by Londoner » Mon Apr 03, 2017 11:48 am

Conde Lucanor wrote: I'm aware that you may be advancing idealistic positions without trying or knowing it. That's one reason why it might be useful bringing it to surface. I don't mean straw man either, because those in the trench of idealism (or materialism, too) will illuminate with these main concepts the rest of their reasoning; they are very unlikely to change paradigms and it's pointless to argue: "you're wrong because that position belongs to X doctrine". Nevertheless, it is valid to argue: "you're position is wrong in itself and it belongs to a larger set of wrong doctrines".
If you are doing the history of philosophy then it is useful to trace ideas and thus to give aspects of those ideas names. But I do not think any individual philosopher thinks of themselves as having a 'doctrine'. It is more about techniques; coming at an established problem from a new direction.

If, for example, somebody working within the analytical tradition sees problems with an realist position (whatever that means), it doesn't follow that they must be an idealist (whatever that means), i.e. that they must sign up to some 'doctrine'.
Using the systematic thinking and tools of philosophy and science, we do get to know to what degree our perceptions correspond to objective reality. As I oppose absolute subjectivism, like the one you're advocating, I'm not defending absolute objectivism, either. I have stated in this thread that our senses are limited and our primary intuitions are often unreliable, which is why in the dawn of civilization people believed in all sorts of myths, like gods and other fantastic creatures, directly related to their day to day experiences of the world.
The systematic thinking of science disregards the subjective. Science does not deny that we have subjective experiences, but it does not concern itself with that aspect. Science (the physical sciences) only deals with what is measurable. My own, private, mental event when I see a colour may be different to yours, but science does not care about that.

I point this out, not because I have signed up to some 'absolute subjectivism' doctrine, but because it is a coherent account of how science works.
Each winter is not a particular event, but a set of events comprising lots of systems which interact and give us the general idea of winter. When snow falls, we know the real objective causes that produce snow falling and we can predict that whenever these causes conjoin again, snow will fall. We don't create it out of our minds.
Yes; 'winter' is a general idea, it expresses an imprecise conjunction of experiences that we select. Your idea of 'winter' is not going to be exactly my idea. That is why 'winter' is not an appropriate term to use in science. If we were going to seek a meaning for 'winter', it must work for those who live in constant snow and those who have never seen snow, to people where December is a summer month. So, we have to find a definition which does not depend on subjective experiences, so we will end up with something to do with 'the tilt of the earth's axis relative to its orbital plane'. But even that isn't useful to science, since as far as science is concerned no degree of tilt is more significant than any other. That a particular degree makes Australians get out the barbecue does not make it important.

The same applies to 'snow'. You say 'we know the real objective causes that produce snow falling' but that is not strictly true. There are no distinct 'causes of snow'. The 'causes of snow' are the same as the causes of everything else in the universe. When we choose to single out one form of matter as 'snow' and give it a particular set of causes, that is something created out of our minds, by our choice to differentiate it from everything else.

In fact, it can be misleading to speak of cause and effect, since this suggests some sort of hierarchy. That there is 'stuff' and also something else; 'the cause of stuff'. This matters, because if you don't strangle it at birth, then you are going to find yourself discussing 'first causes' and we all know where that gets us!

Is what I have written above 'absolute subjectivism'?
May I remind you the origin of our discussion and how we got to this point. We were talking about the existence of gods and at one point I introduced this problem:

So you would agree that what counts as 'god' is a social construction, an idea, too. The real question is: do any of our ideas represent objects that have objective existence, that is, objects that are real?

So there's no shifting of argument.
But what is understood by 'represent' and 'real'? The quotation could mean 'I know that the red-in-my-head is a direct copy of an attribute 'red' that exists in the noumenal world' or it could mean 'some thoughts-in-my-head seem to be provoked in some way by something not in my head' or anything in between.

I am not clear from your remarks where on the spectrum you draw the line. And why do you think that it is the correct place?
You are missing the point, which is that even someone as Descartes that advocates for not having anything for sure but our thoughts, claims the truth of the real existence of something: the thinking self. I don't need to adhere to Descartes' view, which resembles more your own, but I can make the point that if you were consistent with your view, you would need to reach the same conclusion.
You refer to 'the truth of the real existence of something' but again I cannot tell what those words are meant to mean. In one place 'real existence' refer to the noumenal, something outside our heads, but here it appears that Descartes' thought alone qualifies as having 'real existence'.

Now, to be clear, and as I have said before, this does not bother me because I think words like 'real' and 'exist' (and 'illusion') have different meanings in different contexts. My position is that I do not think you can tie them to a single meaning, not because I want to impose an alternative meaning, but because I don't think they are capable of definition in that way. 'Existence' is not itself a predicate. (And, just like with the 'cause' point above, if we treat it as if it was a predicate then we have opened the door to another 'proof of God')
I will not claim being an expert on Kant, but I trust myself being acquainted with Kant's studies that describe his project as I said. In any case, you can find in the preface of the 2nd. edition of the Critique lots of clues about the nature of his project, and at one point he claims:
"Now the concern of this critique of pure speculative reason consists in that attempt to transform the accepted procedure of metaphysics, undertaking an entire revolution according to the example of the geometers and natural scientists."
That revolution is his 'Copernican revolution'; rather than philosophy trying to use 'pure reason' to discover metaphysical truths, e.g. the nature of the noumenal, the subject of philosophy becomes the study of reason itself; the mental architecture that both enables and constrains thought. But you will forgive me if I don't chase this particular hare.
How you want to use the words "objective" and "subjective" is your choice. I tell you what is for me their usage in the context of this discussion: by objective I mean something that exists by itself, independently of the consciousness of subjects. Whatever properties the moon has, it had them even before any living being was around.
But all your ideas of the properties of the moon are not independent of the consciousness of subjects. They always must be, because we are always subjects. So if 'objective' refers to 'subjective-less properties' then you cannot know of anything that fits that description.

The claim that we can know things exist, even though we cannot possibly perceive them, and that in some sense these things are more-real than those things we do perceive, begins to sound a bit religious!

I understand you will feel this is twisting your meaning, but I do it to make the point that your meaning is always going to be twist-able. I do not think you will ever find a formulation that can set out your position safely because the basic terms; 'objective', 'subjective', 'real', 'exist' and the rest are not capable of taking on firm meanings. And that if we force firm meanings onto such abstractions, it certainly doesn't aid any 'realist' cause, rather we find we are back with the classic 'proofs of God'!

Londoner
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Re: Who- why- where are we ?

Post by Londoner » Mon Apr 03, 2017 12:07 pm

Belinda wrote:
I did not actually say that the 'writers'(my startle) were not interested in philosophical ontology. I think that ontological questions are probably very old questions. Creation myths abound. That particular Genesis myth is however an apt explanation for the ontic existence of structure , and so concisely poetic that I for one will continue to enjoy it. Haydn's version is even more fun.
There are bits in Genesis that concern structure that seem very sophisticated, but I would not like to guess how intentional that is. For example, although God creates all the animals and plants, it is Adam who names them. Is this because since the world comes from God, God does not differentiate between the things within it? Only a something that is itself only a part of the world can distinguish other parts.

This links to the notion that God's purpose in creating man is to realise himself; that by creating something 'in his own image' he can know himself, rather like a baby seeing itself in the mirror.

And I would go with 'writers', although probably 'tellers' would be a better word since I think the current written version represents an older oral tradition - or traditions. Not that it is really fixed even now, since everyone who reads it can still understand it differently.

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Conde Lucanor
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Re: Who- why- where are we ?

Post by Conde Lucanor » Tue Apr 04, 2017 3:45 am

Belinda wrote:
Religion has been an important vehicle for channeling the idea, but I guess it's not the only vehicle. Secular literature and other arts, and philosophy, have also played a mighty part in maintaining and variously expressing the important axioms.

Do we know how old those axioms are? Don't they probably predate the particular Genesis myth? And what is the genesis of the Genesis myth; maybe we don't know.

In any case, even if the Genesis creation myth were a product of what we commonly call 'religion' this would make religion more, not less,credible. I say give credit where credit is due. A Pagan or a Pantheist could appreciate a creation myth equally well as a theist.
I'm very doubtful the creation myth included in Genesis participates in any basic axiom about the reality of the universe, anymore or better than any other creation myth, since all mythical narratives involve an organization of the world, which in myths about the origins become cosmogonies, always present in culture.

Setting aside the poetic value we can assign to mythical literature, as long as it does not degenerate in ideologies in service of clerical structures and the political interests that surrounds them, any religious myth is tolerable. But we know that hardly ever happens.

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Re: Who- why- where are we ?

Post by Belinda » Tue Apr 04, 2017 11:34 pm

Conde Lucanor wrote:
I'm very doubtful the creation myth included in Genesis participates in any basic axiom about the reality of the universe, anymore or better than any other creation myth, since all mythical narratives involve an organization of the world, which in myths about the origins become cosmogonies, always present in culture.
But you have probably heard people express wonder in the form "Why does something exist insreasd of nothing?"

Genesis expresses this wonder and proposes the axiomatic "something exists?" "Something exists!" is the main theme of the Genesis creation myth, and all creation myths.
It's important to see that materialism ( "the universe" you say) is only one theory of existence. Cartesian(substance) dualism, idealism, and neutral monism all are founded upon the axiomatic " something exists/ is happening".

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Conde Lucanor
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Re: Who- why- where are we ?

Post by Conde Lucanor » Thu Apr 06, 2017 4:11 am

Londoner wrote:
If you are doing the history of philosophy then it is useful to trace ideas and thus to give aspects of those ideas names. But I do not think any individual philosopher thinks of themselves as having a 'doctrine'. It is more about techniques; coming at an established problem from a new direction.

If, for example, somebody working within the analytical tradition sees problems with an realist position (whatever that means), it doesn't follow that they must be an idealist (whatever that means), i.e. that they must sign up to some 'doctrine'.
See? You end up doing just the same, talking about the analytic or realist position. It isn't much different than talking about the idealist position. And by doctrine it's meant a systematized set of ideas, instead of random singular ideas. It might take some times the meaning of a rigid dogma, because of the influence of religious thinking, usually called doctrines, but not necessarily has to be so.
Londoner wrote:The systematic thinking of science disregards the subjective. Science does not deny that we have subjective experiences, but it does not concern itself with that aspect. Science (the physical sciences) only deals with what is measurable. My own, private, mental event when I see a colour may be different to yours, but science does not care about that.
Not that they don't care about the subjective, but because physical sciences have dealt with a material world with laws of causality and regularity that have proven to be independent of our subjectivity, it's not part of their equations. When the relative position of the subjects plays a role in the effect of space and time, perception is not disregarded completely.
Londoner wrote: Yes; 'winter' is a general idea, it expresses an imprecise conjunction of experiences that we select. Your idea of 'winter' is not going to be exactly my idea. That is why 'winter' is not an appropriate term to use in science.
I think winter is perfectly OK to use in science, even as a general concept. It is not a single phenomenon, a simple system or a singular event, like a snowflake falling, which can be observed and measured with more precision. But in either cases, the whole winter or a snowflake are not just mental impressions invented by our minds, they are actually happening out there.

Londoner wrote:But what is understood by 'represent' and 'real'? The quotation could mean 'I know that the red-in-my-head is a direct copy of an attribute 'red' that exists in the noumenal world' or it could mean 'some thoughts-in-my-head seem to be provoked in some way by something not in my head' or anything in between.

I am not clear from your remarks where on the spectrum you draw the line. And why do you think that it is the correct place?
My senses capture properties of the objects (the real) and the information is composed as a mental concept (the representation) in my brain. What else is there to be understood?
Londoner wrote:My position is that I do not think you can tie them to a single meaning, not because I want to impose an alternative meaning, but because I don't think they are capable of definition in that way. 'Existence' is not itself a predicate. (And, just like with the 'cause' point above, if we treat it as if it was a predicate then we have opened the door to another 'proof of God')
If you are concerned with the "meaning" of objects, inevitably you'll end up referring to the relativity of perceptions. That's a different problem than determining the ontological status of those objects, whether they are intelligible because they are what they are in the noumenal world, or just subjective inventions of our intellect.
Londoner wrote:But all your ideas of the properties of the moon are not independent of the consciousness of subjects.
My ideas themselves of course are not independent of myself, but again the question is whether my ideas are somehow related to some real concrete properties of a real concrete entity, which are not the abstract ideas in my mind. One is the representation, the other the true thing. From the fact that initially I only have access to my representations, does not follow that I can't get to know the concrete reality of things.
Londoner wrote: The claim that we can know things exist, even though we cannot possibly perceive them, and that in some sense these things are more-real than those things we do perceive, begins to sound a bit religious!
Religion comes from fantastic beliefs, it's all the opposite of realism. On what grounds could we say that we cannot possibly perceive things to exist? Wouldn't that imply that we cannot also perceive ourselves to exist? That doesn't look like realism.
Londoner wrote:And that if we force firm meanings onto such abstractions, it certainly doesn't aid any 'realist' cause, rather we find we are back with the classic 'proofs of God'!
There has never been proofs of god, just failed attempts to justify fantastic beliefs.

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Conde Lucanor
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Re: Who- why- where are we ?

Post by Conde Lucanor » Thu Apr 06, 2017 4:25 am

Belinda wrote:Conde Lucanor wrote:
I'm very doubtful the creation myth included in Genesis participates in any basic axiom about the reality of the universe, anymore or better than any other creation myth, since all mythical narratives involve an organization of the world, which in myths about the origins become cosmogonies, always present in culture.
But you have probably heard people express wonder in the form "Why does something exist insreasd of nothing?"

Genesis expresses this wonder and proposes the axiomatic "something exists?" "Something exists!" is the main theme of the Genesis creation myth, and all creation myths.
The key words here are "all creation myths", that is, not Genesis in particular. In that sense, we agree, but important to note also that we didn't need as humanity the cultural emergence of those myths to nourish the intuition that something exists. We can follow Kant on the notion that it is a priori knowledge. Just imagine if we could remember our representations from the days back in our mother's womb, when we had not yet seen nothing. Wouldn't we have known automatically the running of time and the feeling of us occupying a space, of being a body?
Belinda wrote:It's important to see that materialism ( "the universe" you say) is only one theory of existence. Cartesian(substance) dualism, idealism, and neutral monism all are founded upon the axiomatic " something exists/ is happening".
Well, if it is only a theory of existence, it is the only one that has managed to be realistic.

Londoner
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Re: Who- why- where are we ?

Post by Londoner » Thu Apr 06, 2017 10:45 am

Conde Lucanor wrote: See? You end up doing just the same, talking about the analytic or realist position. It isn't much different than talking about the idealist position. And by doctrine it's meant a systematized set of ideas, instead of random singular ideas. It might take some times the meaning of a rigid dogma, because of the influence of religious thinking, usually called doctrines, but not necessarily has to be so.
'Analytic' isn't a position, any more than 'logic' or 'science'. It consists of trying to get people to clarify what they mean. If you show they cannot do that, then you aren't taking a contrary position, you are showing they they never had a position for you to be contrary to!
Not that they don't care about the subjective, but because physical sciences have dealt with a material world with laws of causality and regularity that have proven to be independent of our subjectivity, it's not part of their equations. When the relative position of the subjects plays a role in the effect of space and time, perception is not disregarded completely.
It isn't that they have been 'proven' to be independent of our subjectivity, it is that it would be self-contradictory to have 'subjective laws'. A law has to apply to everything, but to say something is subjective is to say that it only applies to the subject. And as far as my perception is subjective, a function of the accidental circumstance of my position in time and space, then it is not useful. A scientific observation thus requires that many people make many observations, so that we can identify and disregard the subjective aspects.
I think winter is perfectly OK to use in science, even as a general concept. It is not a single phenomenon, a simple system or a singular event, like a snowflake falling, which can be observed and measured with more precision. But in either cases, the whole winter or a snowflake are not just mental impressions invented by our minds, they are actually happening out there.
Winter is only OK to use in science if it is not treated as a general concept. The word has to relate to something measurable, and it has to be a particular thing since otherwise you could not compare one 'winter' to another. For example, you could have 'day length' or 'temperature' - but not both because they are measured in different ways. If it was to be useful in science we would need to know what we meant by 'winter' such that we could measure one winter against another, but if winter was some unspecified combination of two different factors we could not do this. Or, if we did specify a range of factors, in a sort of check-list, then the reason winter would be 'winter' is because we say it is! We would not be doing science, we would be making rules for language.

Me: But what is understood by 'represent' and 'real'? The quotation could mean 'I know that the red-in-my-head is a direct copy of an attribute 'red' that exists in the noumenal world' or it could mean 'some thoughts-in-my-head seem to be provoked in some way by something not in my head' or anything in between.

I am not clear from your remarks where on the spectrum you draw the line. And why do you think that it is the correct place?


My senses capture properties of the objects (the real) and the information is composed as a mental concept (the representation) in my brain. What else is there to be understood?
What does the word 'capture' mean in that formulation? If I 'capture' a mouse then I have the mouse itself.

But if I have 'a mental concept (representation)' of a mouse then I do not have the mouse itself. Indeed, that 'mental concept (representation)' might be of Mickey Mouse, and thus have no connection at all with any real, noumenal, mouse.

I could only know if my 'mental concept (representation)' was connected to the real, noumenal, mouse if I could compare it; if I could put the 'captured' real, noumenal mouse alongside my 'mental concept (representation)' of the mouse and compare the two.

I do not think we can do this, we can only have the 'mental concept (representation)'. I am asking if that is your position, or do you think we can literally 'capture' the real, noumenal mouse? Or something else?
Me: My position is that I do not think you can tie them to a single meaning, not because I want to impose an alternative meaning, but because I don't think they are capable of definition in that way. 'Existence' is not itself a predicate. (And, just like with the 'cause' point above, if we treat it as if it was a predicate then we have opened the door to another 'proof of God')

If you are concerned with the "meaning" of objects, inevitably you'll end up referring to the relativity of perceptions. That's a different problem than determining the ontological status of those objects, whether they are intelligible because they are what they are in the noumenal world, or just subjective inventions of our intellect.
I am not concerned with the meaning of objects; I do not think it makes sense to talk of objects having a meaning. I am concerned with the meaning of the words 'exist' or 'real' or 'objective' which are being applied to objects as if they described a quality of that object; as if saying 'the rock is hard' and saying 'the rock exists', or 'the rock is real' are all alike, because they have the same grammatical structure. If we confuse these sorts of statements it gets us into well known philosophical problems.
Religion comes from fantastic beliefs, it's all the opposite of realism. On what grounds could we say that we cannot possibly perceive things to exist? Wouldn't that imply that we cannot also perceive ourselves to exist? That doesn't look like realism...
I do not understand what your 'realism' is. For example, are the criteria for something being real the sort you described earlier; that it relates to a measurable physical objects, that any observations are 'objective', i.e. confirmed by others and so on? In which case we certainly cannot 'perceive ourselves to exist' - I must tell you that although I can see the parts of your body I cannot confirm there is a 'self' inhabiting them. So, why don't you deduce that your perception of yourself is a 'delusion'?

As I say, I do not see this as a problem. I am happy with the notion that the reasons I would say 'I exist' and the reasons I would say 'rocks exist' are different, even though both phrases use the same word. I do not think there is a single thing 'realism'. As I am trying to show in these posts, it cannot be pinned down in any clear and coherent way.

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Re: Who- why- where are we ?

Post by Belinda » Thu Apr 06, 2017 1:28 pm

Conde Lucanor wrote:
The key words here are "all creation myths", that is, not Genesis in particular. In that sense, we agree, but important to note also that we didn't need as humanity the cultural emergence of those myths to nourish the intuition that something exists. We can follow Kant on the notion that it is a priori knowledge. Just imagine if we could remember our representations from the days back in our mother's womb, when we had not yet seen nothing. Wouldn't we have known automatically the running of time and the feeling of us occupying a space, of being a body?

Belinda wrote:
It's important to see that materialism ( "the universe" you say) is only one theory of existence. Cartesian(substance) dualism, idealism, and neutral monism all are founded upon the axiomatic " something exists/ is happening".

Well, if it is only a theory of existence, it is the only one that has managed to be realistic.
I agree with your first paragraph.
By "Theories of Existence" I mean, roughly speaking:

1. Monist theories of existence.
a). Materialism(Physicalism)
b). Idealism (Immaterialism)
c). Neutral monism.

2. Dualism.

All theories of existence aim to be "realistic" .By "realistic" do you you mean practical? If so, Ithink that neutral monism most practically fits with modern science.

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