Tag Archives: epistemology

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).