Tag Archives: epistemology

Pure sensation

There are five main faculties. In ordinary language these are sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. It may be obvious but they need to be named. The most used faculty is sight. Your eyes work like a video camera and monitor. The camera captures light creating an image of the things in view and thus determining the space. The faculty of sound does something similar but only in audio form. The faculties of smell, taste and touch are more “localised” where distance and direction is not so important whereas intensity of source is.

Simultaneously, these five faculties give you all the information about the reality, informing you about what exists, their relationship in space and also inform you of time. This information however, needs to be interpreted in synchrony. And this is done by the mind. The act of mental interpretation is called perception.

Does X exist?

1.
I have never physically been to France.

I have read a lot about it. Many things have occurred there. I have met French people. I have friends who have been there. But I have no direct evidence of the existence of France other than the things I read, hear, the maps I see, the people I meet. As far as I am concerned the existence of France could be a conspiracy of the entire world for my benefit.

But why would the world conspire to make me believe its existence? For what reason? Sure, I can go and check. It isn’t that hard. The “French” I have met, if they are not French, surely came from somewhere else. Perhaps they are a people of compulsion to lie collectively. Why?

2.
It doesn’t need to be France. It could be some other place. There are many places I have not been to. But I can go there and check. Korea, for example, is a short plane’s ride. Finances and time willing I can go (it is within my means).

The act of checking and the the ease of such checks surely tells us about the nature of reality and the nature of secondary sources. I have no reason not to believe someone that they come from France, or have been to France. Many a time I have experienced something they have not. Pretty much my life before I came to Japan is a mystery to my children and wife. I tell them about it. They believe it. There is no good reason to lie about it. It is mundane as mundane can be.

3.
The question of God’s existence is a little different.

No amount of wanting to check will bring me to God. God is not anywhere (though it is claimed God is everywhere). I cannot find God except with in thought and name. That is not to deny God’s existence, but rather to say what I know of God.

I know God as thoughts and name as much as I know France as thoughts and name. While I can check France’s existence I cannot check for God’s. Fundamentally France and God are different. One is a concept of a place. The other is a concept of a concept. I’ll let you decide which is which.

But still we talk of God as much as we talk of France, if not more. No amount of talk will allow me to go check of God’s existence. Buying a plane ticket will.

4.
If I want to see God I am told go to a church. But when I get to the church I do not see God but only a church. If I want to know about God I am told go read the Bible. But when I read the Bible I do not know God but only the Bible.

5.
This is true of all other religions, philosophies, sciences. There is a difference between first-hand knowledge (experience) and second-hand knowledge (reading, hearsay). Check for yourself when possible. Be weary of indirect sources. Do not confuse the two.

Things are individuated. The p=q is not a truth. Categorically, this can be true. Realistically, p is p and q is q.

No direct access to anything, inside or out

Following partially Berkeley’s conclusion, Hume also concluded that we have no access to the thing-in-itself. It is always indirect knowledge. It is always the representation. Schopenhauer concluded that we have access to one special thing – the self. It being so, this being the will, as opposed to representation. But I will contend that the will is also secondhand access.

Like the things “outside” we can know it only through sense perception. The self “inside” is also known only through sense and perception. The feelings and emotions are only ever representations themselves.

Two things, then. There is no direct access to anything, including to the self. And secondly, there is strictly nothing to be inside or outside.

On Anaxagoras

All things were together; then came Mind and set them in order.
(Anaxagoras, 500~428BCE)

1.
While Anaxagoras is considered the first Western philosopher to place mind above matter, this quote should also be noted that it suggests that matter came first before mind.

I wholly agree that matter comes first. I also agree that there is no “order” to matter but only that it exists. It is the mind (with a little ‘m’) that organises, categorises matter into any order. In other words, order, organisation and categorisation are processes of a mind.

The question of whether mind exists without matter is the primary concern of philosophers, East and West, now and then. Doubt it will be ever resolved. One can only hold positions by reasoning. Given Evidence A I draw Conclusion B. It is all too easy to reject A and not reach B. It is harder to give reason to reject A, for which this should be the task of philosophers.

2.
I am puzzled at the purpose of matter if mind is sufficient without matter. Perhaps this is a strange way to put it.

I have seen evidence of matter surviving mind, but not mind surviving matter. The argument against this is to shut down sensation and perception, ignore the sensory evidence, belittle perception. I have also talked about The Coma as again evidence for a case against mind over matter. Again, a mind without a reality has nothing to function upon. That is enough evidence against prioritising mind over matter. We would be far happier if we are to accept matter over mind as a starting point, scientifically, philosophically and spiritually.

Sleep, time, reality

“Those who step into the same river have different waters flowing ever upon them.” (Heraclitus, in Freeman, 25)

Heraclitus observing the world accepted change as the its fundamental nature. Often Heraclitus is paraphrased as everything is in flux. Time is seemingly a fundamental part of observed material reality. It can be observed to pass at a constant rate. This, of course, is all  but sense observation. But nonetheless, we function on, coordinate, avoid accidents, play games of tennis with our shared understanding of time. And we have no other choice but observe time with the senses.

Think of coma patients. For day, months, perhaps even years they are in a locked-in state of non-awareness of the “outside” sensed world. The shock comes when they come out of their comatose state feeling something only like a single night’s sleep. For them, time had stood still.

Our daily slumber also feels like this. The time between closing your eyes to sleep and waking up is but an instant in your mind.

This, to me, is sufficient evidence of the nature of time and its relationship to reality. Every night is a miniature coma.

The subjective/objective paradox

Consider these four statements:

  1. What is subjective is subjective.
  2. What is objective is objective.
  3. What is objective can be subjective in disguise.
  4. What is subjective can be objective in disguise.

Only the fourth statement is illogical. This necessarily says something of objectivity, namely that it is an illusion.

The question then is, are these objective and/or subjective statements?

The Experience

The Experience is the source of all knowledge. By experience I mean sensation from the senses. The five basic senses are the eyes, ears, skin, nose, and tongue, in the modes of sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste respectively. Perception is also part of experience. Perception is the interpretation of the physical data from the senses and also the interpretation of the concepts (mental data). Conceptualisation is a part of this experience. It is the accumulation of concepts – physical and mental data – that I term knowledge. Signification (language) is the part of this experience of this particular animal.

Without sensory experience we do not have knowledge. The beginning of sensory experience is what we call life, and its end is death. Everything in between is The Experience.

Space

Imagine pure space without a single object in it. Not even you, the observer, but nonetheless for some reason you are still able to “observe” this space.

In what way can you differentiate one dimensionless point in this space to another dimensionless point? By what means can you understand the distance these two dimensionless points? How do you discover the size of this space? Or else does this space have a size at all? And how do you differentiate between a point and space, when there is no way to differentiate between the two?

Democritus and Leucippus called this void, but only when compared or contrasted to atoms. In other words, void is defined by the things, or the absence thereof, not by any positive means.

Parmenides found this troubling. For then void cannot be truly void. Nothing must be “something”. He drew the conclusion that all is one, and that change as observed in the world is an illusion.

Einstein described with the equation E=mc2 the world as mass, space, time, and energy. For any one of these elements to have a value would mean the entirety is zero, nothing or void. But nothing seems to have zero energy. Atoms brought to near zero Kelvin slows motion but can never stop it. Everything is in flux as Heraclitus had concluded. So space is energy, and not empty void as such.

Space is likely a thing, but because of its nature as a “homogenous” thing it cannot be observed directly but only by indirect means or inferred through the relationship of things.

Philosophical triangulation

1.
People ask how can the sensory representation of the physical world be relied upon. They ask how can I be sure that thing I see is there. The question is always framed through the visual sense.

Yet, all senses come into play.

The perceived thing visually will likely be accompanied by sound. If near enough I could probably touch and smell it. And if you are a baby you will likely want to lick (taste) it. In short, verification is never in a single sense dimension.

This kind of sensory triangulation is often forgotten. We do it so automatically that we take it for granted.

Yet the “what if the sun doesn’t rise tomorrow?” question should really be more precise like “what if the sun rises tomorrow and I don’t feel its heat?” The discrepancy between senses should trigger alarm bells.

It could be a dream perhaps. Or am I a man dreaming of being in a physical world, or a man in a physical world dreaming?

Silly question really.

For what elaborate reason would there be for creating this kind of The Matrix illusion?

Give me the red pill, please, and bring on the philosophical sentinels.

2.
The problem then with minds, souls, and spirits is that there is no triangulation other than hearsay. And when there is triangulation to the mind it is always through observation of a body-object.

There is no transference of The Matrix-like I-know-kung-fu data.

Nothing is there … or rather only a movie is there.

The imagination of the brain (not the mind) is what gives us The Matrix (literature and entertainment), Idealism (philosophy), the special theory of relativity (science), and God (religion).

Not only does the brain lead us to astray (as metaphors do), it also leads us sometimes back onto the right path (as metaphors do).

First stimulus and the chain of conception

Epistemologically, the first stimulus (my first stimulus) is sensory. It is of the things in the world, including the reflexive sensing of myself as a thing. The evidence is, things are known by sensation, and also things remain regardless whether being sensed or perceived.

You cannot perceive what is not first sensed. And you cannot conceive what is not first perceived. No chain of conception can occur without the first stimulus.

The chain of conception is the illusion of a self. The self is a conception.

The philosophy of “thrown in”

There are things.

When I say this I am more interested in the fact of knowing. I am confronted with things. I do not how I have knowledge of these things. But the fact that this the first act that makes me aware of something.

I am “thrown in” to this knowing, this act of sensing, perceiving, and conceiving without a choice. Only later through reflection that I will realise I cannot know things without actual sensation, perception, and conception.

This kind of process is specific to me being the being that I am.

Meta-epistemology

When I first come online as a being (whatever that may be) is that I am confronted by a reality. I sense the reality but I do not know that I am sensing it. I only see “data” coming in. That data is somehow stored and slowly I begin to make sense (note the metaphor) of it. We call this experience and knowledge. As I build up my knowledge of the reality I begin to understand its limitations and possibilities within it. It is only after some time that I can understand what experience is, and what knowledge is, and that it may or may not a thing. Having these experiences I have to make a decision on how to perceive it and deal with it.

External reality and anti-realism

In anti-realism, the external reality is hypothetical and not assumed. This sounds like a reformulation of the veil-of-appearance argument. Our knowledge of the external world is one mediated by the sense, and never amounts to direct knowledge. The conclusion is that our perception of the world is secondhand information.

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and the last mind

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is the latin title of Wittgenstein’s first and only work published within his lifetime.  It translates roughly to A Treatise on Logic and Philosophy.

The stance then is that of logic.

I do not agree that logic is the best place to start. Logic, to me, seems to be an activity of the mind. And the mind is physical object take performs such processes. To me, place to start is ontology and then epistemology.

Someone commented in a previous post that it is ironic that one must use logic to even start to ask ontological and epistemological questions. I agree. And that tells us something about the inescapability of the act of thinking in order to get to the understanding. Logic, in other words, is a physical act. Logic cannot occur without the availability of the body or mind. This extends to knowledge (the epistemological act) as well. Logic and knowledge do not exist without a mind perform these acts. When the last mind extinguishes form this world so too does logic and knowledge. What continues to remain is the physical world, the reality. And logic and knowledge will restart when another mind comes into (for lack of a better word) being.