Perception and the Physical World

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Pythagorean
 
Reply Tue 20 Nov, 2007 11:09 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
Although of course it is true that our experience of things is how they appear to us, after all, how could it possibly be otherwise, so that is a trivial truism, Kant wants to say that how things appear to us is not how they are "in themselves". For, he claims that things are entirely different as they are "in themselves" from the way we experience them. Now, it is, of course, a common feature of our lives that we sometimes experience things as they are not really. We commonly make mistakes of perception. We may believe that there is a cat in the corner of the room, but when we shine a light on that place, and come closer, we find that what we believed was a cat, turned out to be an old boot. But Kant is not talking about that kind of thing, although he is clearly inspired by that kind of thing. For although we do make mistakes of perception like the one I just described, we can, as I also described, correct those mistakes by means of perception, only better perception. But Kant is saying that there is a kind of universal error of perception we all make which it is impossible for us to correct, since perception itself is infected. Kant says that whatever it is there is in the corner, even if we determine it is an old boot and not a cat, nevertheless, we are mistaken to think it is an old boot. But what it truly is, "in itself" independent of any possible experience we can have of it, we cannot know. It is, to adapt the words or a different philosopher, John Locke, it is a something "we know not what". For our only understanding of what it is can be through our experiences, but we have just seen that what it is "in itself" is not available to us by means of experience. So, according to Kant, we are stuck in invincible ignorance.

Now, let us suppose when we hear this story told by Kant that we nod our heads and say, "well yes, that may be so". We are ignorant of how things are "in themselves". But, even if this may be so, has Kant given us any reason to think that it is so? That fact (if it is one) that it is possible does not mean that it is true, after all. Does Kant give us any reason to think that his story is true?


I think Kant's motive was to provide a bulwark against a mighty skepticism. It looks like he succeeded! Smile

--
 
Fido
 
Reply Wed 21 Nov, 2007 10:11 am
@Pythagorean,
Pythagorean wrote:
I disagree with you here on the grounds that as humans we do in fact correspond to nature and any opinion that nature posesses an independent logic must rest soley upon the points of it with which we correspond. For example, our physical bodies are part of nature and understanding one gives to us also an understanding of the other. And since it is true that we do things with or use our physical bodies via the operation of our minds, then it is fair to say that we also do things with or use nature via the operation of our minds. In this sense nature also 'follows' our logic. If the plurality that's found in nature is to be understood or related in any way it can only be so by way of intelligible intellectual processes and not brute or blind empirical terms.

I am not saying there is no correspondence to nature. I was denying the remark by Kant that the laws of nature are the result of human understanding. We discover them, but they are there to be discovered. We have evolved to our nature, as part of nature, and can sense what is there, and often what is not there. Is it possible we are missing some of what is there in gross. I doubt it. We are likely missing the mental ability to discover its logic, its form of behavior, or its laws. Nature does not follow our logic. Our sense of logical expectations is almost entirely built upon nature. There may be causes without effect, but no effects without causes.
Quote:

What I mean here is it can not be proven that nature posesses its own independent logic anymore than it can be proven that there exist absolute things as time and space. Nature corresponds with our minds and vice versa through the understanding, through the natural order of things. We can not imagine or conceptualize nature as existing without perception - and I would say there is a definite state of equality between that which is perceived by us in nature and that which is thought to be perceived i.e. an intelligible equality of relations exists between thought and the physical world.

Matter behaves in an orderly and predictable fashion. I have been reading the Secret History of the Atomic Bomb, and it is fascinating how advanced the physics was of 60 plus years ago. And they knew before testing the first bomb what it would do, and had the others sitting ready to go. To jamb all this U235, or pl239 into a critical and supercritical mass, and in a small fraction of a second the expansion due to heat would bring it to a point where no more nuetrons could find targets and the chain reaction would cease. Bamb, its done, let the clean up begin. Only humanity failed to follow the laws of nature, except when it came to dieing at the prescribed moment. Understanding writes the laws, but the forces and reactions are not just there, but here, as what we are made of.
Quote:

Schopenhauer expressed it more generally as "no object without a subject." That is, it is impossible for something to be an object of human conception without its being conceived by a human subject. As Berkeley put it, any attempt to conceive of perceptual objects as existing "without the mind" requires "that you conceive them existing unconceived or unthought of, which is a manifest repugnancy. When we do our utmost to conceive the existence of external bodies, we are all the whole contemplating our own ideas" (Principles of Human Knowledge, Section 23).

And I say it differently. We assume that existence exists without us, before us, and after us; but it is our own lives which gives to all existence its meaning. Our thoughts do not affect being. What ever is, is, with or without us. We do not conceive of everything. That would be a complete waste of time and ability. We conceive of only those things with value, and give them meaning by conceiving of them. List our major conceptions, the top 10, the top 100, and etc. You will find the first are formost of what we value, or find essential to life. Life is meaning, and not being.

Quote:

That's quaint, but I think the basic point is that we do not occupy space and time; or more specifically all of us together and indeed the whole universe (whatever that is) are said to occupy one space or one point about space and one point about time. What I mean is that motion is illusory, or that's the way that I interpret the philosophy. There is no space or time because these things are transcendental appearances.


We freeze most phenomenon of reality in space and time to conceive of them. We cannot conceive of whirlygigs whirling for the most part. We have to disect the dead to sense the living. Yet, ideas are in no sense correct. You can stand the Empire State Building beside the Pyramids in your head when you cannot lift a stone of either. The impossible can be done because it can be conceived of, and is not conceived of only because it is possible. And again we, in our lives and in our bodies are both time and space. You are a set number of seconds. You are the increasing space you replace with matter. These may, as external reference, serve to give context to all change that occurs; but we cannot escape them even in our thoughts.
Quote:

I would even argue that each of the spaces that we all occupy is really the same space, or the same non-space, if you will. When we walk forward into a different room, for example, we are actually occupying the same exact (non-)space as before as we merely displace "energies," as the phenomenologists might say, or conserve the total perception of motion. Do we move through the world or does the world move through us? I think it's a fair question because we can't conceive of absolute time without an individual instance of time and we can't conceive of absolute space without an example of it; therefore I would argue, they don't exist as such. Because who are we if we are not natural and what is nature when it perceives itself but symmetrical and uniform? If it is intelligible or intelligibly connected, I would argue, then it remains unmoved.


I am not certain I get your point, but our space, living space, must be displaced of gas before we can occupy it. Even outer space is full of elements which may in some sense expand to what we might consider unnatural limits. But time and space are not absolutes except in terms of our space and our time. Your space and your time is totally relative to me, and totally subjective as an experience. My time and my space are an absolute and objective experience.

Quote:

Well said.Smile

But it seems to me that we can either let the physical world go and try to see the whole by abstracting the truth or remain blinded by what 'the many' think are realities.


What we recognize in the phenomena or its abstract, causal relationships is something that is not an emprical object in nature, what we recognize in the mere phenomena is something that is eternally motionless yet intelligible. We call it truth. And furthermore our method of ascending to it is through contemplation, stillness, uniformity and simplicity; the virtue of philosophy.


We do not see the world as it is in itself. That is something we can approach as an understanding. We sense the world as it appears and form concepts which reflect our grasp of the reality we are perceiving. From the magnification of our senses we can build a more detailed picture of reality, but these do little more than scratch the surface of any being. All we need to do is understand the limits of knowledge. We do not have to understand every fact of life to improve by degrees the quality of our lives.

I assume a typo above. I see the phenomenon as being of two sorts, of those we can identify with a concept, and those we cannot identify by any means. Everything is in motion. Our concepts are static, but reality is dynamic. We pull a piece of reality apart from its background and freeze it to examine it. We must kill everything to see it, and can restore nothing to its former being. Can we restore nature to its place in our conceptions? Can we build up a true picture of a real reality? I don't know. I think the test of the value of our conception is in what we can do with them. We have proved their potential for destruction. Now what good can we do with them.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 21 Nov, 2007 03:09 pm
@Pythagorean,
Pythagorean wrote:
I think Kant's motive was to provide a bulwark against a mighty skepticism. It looks like he succeeded! Smile

--


I asked whether Kant gave any reason to to think that there was such a thing as a "thing in itself", and your reply was that he provided a bulwark against skepticism, and that it seemed he succeeded.

I would call that, non-responsive. How does that answer my question?
 
Pythagorean
 
Reply Wed 21 Nov, 2007 03:58 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
I asked whether Kant gave any reason to to think that there was such a thing as a "thing in itself", and your reply was that he provided a bulwark against skepticism, and that it seemed he succeeded.

I would call that, non-responsive. How does that answer my question?


Kenneth, I didn't mean to produce a non-sensical repy to your post. However I believe I already understand your basic position on the subject of the existence of things-in-themselves.

You asked whether Kant has given us a reason to believe in these things. I think Kant already assumes that getting to the heart of what reality is really like is what we want or more importantly need to know. Asking after the existence of things-in-themselves is as I understand it, like asking after the nature of reality in-itself. Kant, as I said, sought to preserve such a reality from the skeptical critique (see Hume's Treatise of Human Nature Book I Part IV, esp. Section 2). So to ask whether or not Kant gives us reason to believe in such a thing-in-itself is not really the right question to ask, as I see it. The right question to ask is how did Kant overcome the skepticism over the existence of things-in-themselves, i.e. how did he preserve a conception of reality upon which scientific advancement could reasonably base itself upon and more importantly move forward with?

The whole contention involved in this discussion is one over the existence and status of nature and reality. In other words from my perspective your question seemed a little ill-conceived. Perhaps I am wrong, but I hope that now you at least understand why I resonded the way that I did and what I meant by my response.

-
 
Fido
 
Reply Wed 21 Nov, 2007 04:58 pm
@Pythagorean,
Science only needs to know what works, and not why what works, works. When we find some thing that works in a certain fashion, we use it, in my estimation long before we try to conceive of why it works so we can do some thing in addition with the knowledge.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 21 Nov, 2007 05:32 pm
@Pythagorean,
Pythagorean wrote:
Kenneth, I didn't mean to produce a non-sensical repy to your post. However I believe I already understand your basic position on the subject of the existence of things-in-themselves.

You asked whether Kant has given us a reason to believe in these things. I think Kant already assumes that getting to the heart of what reality is really like is what we want or more importantly need to know. Asking after the existence of things-in-themselves is as I understand it, like asking after the nature of reality in-itself. Kant, as I said, sought to preserve such a reality from the skeptical critique (see Hume's Treatise of Human Nature Book I Part IV, esp. Section 2). So to ask whether or not Kant gives us reason to believe in such a thing-in-itself is not really the right question to ask, as I see it. The right question to ask is how did Kant overcome the skepticism over the existence of things-in-themselves, i.e. how did he preserve a conception of reality upon which scientific advancement could reasonably base itself upon and more importantly move forward with?

The whole contention involved in this discussion is one over the existence and status of nature and reality. In other words from my perspective your question seemed a little ill-conceived. Perhaps I am wrong, but I hope that now you at least understand why I resonded the way that I did and what I meant by my response.

-


The right question to ask is how did Kant overcome the skepticism over the existence of things-in-themselves, i.e. how did he preserve a conception of reality upon which scientific advancement could reasonably base itself upon and more importantly move forward with?

But Kant did not overcome skepticism and the rest unless he was right. And we cannot judge whether he was right unless we can judge his argument. So, what is his argument?
 
Pythagorean
 
Reply Wed 21 Nov, 2007 08:57 pm
@kennethamy,
To Fido and Kenneth:

Fido, thank you for your interesting response to my post it was great fun to think with you about all of the different and fascinating ideas! And it is always a pleasure to read and respond to your posts.Smile

kennethamy wrote:


But Kant did not overcome skepticism and the rest unless he was right. And we cannot judge whether he was right unless we can judge his argument. So, what is his argument?


Kenneth, that's a fair question. It seems imperative to discover his argument. I do know that Kant's metaphysics and epistemology is highly detailed and also has been open to different interpretations. I myself have approached it in a piecemeal fashion. As I have been interested in the same things as Kant himself my general method has been to look up what Kant had to say upon the different problems as they presented themselves to me as problems.

I did find an interesting web site that contains what I think might serve as a helpful starting point for understanding Kant. I would like to quote some of the text from this site and then I will give a link back to the source and make a proposition regarding a method towards gaining some insight into Kant's philosophy:

[CENTER]Immanuel Kant[/CENTER]




German philosopher, professor of logic and metaphysics, whose masterpiece, The Critique of Pure Reason, appeared in 1781 and then in a substantially revised edition in 1787. The work was an answer to Descartes's skepticism about knowledge. Kant's aim was to make philosophy, for the first time, truly scientific, but his jargon made his central writings nearly impossible for the uninitiated to understand. Even professional philosophers have had problems with Kant. A.J. Ayer (1910-1989), the writer of Language, Truth and Logic, tells that he read The Critique on a ship bound for the Gold Coast. After a sunstroke, he fully grasped Kant's work in a state of epiphany, but once he had recovered he had lost the insight.[INDENT]"Two things fill the mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more intensely the mind of thought is drawn to them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me." (from Citique of Practical Reason, 1799)[/INDENT][CENTER]. . . [/CENTER]





...Thus Kant's conclusion was, that cognition is restricted to the realm of phenomena. We can know nothing which cannot be given through our senses. Within these limitations we may have valid empirical knowledge, and a cognition a priori of the universal conditions which make nature itself and a science of nature possible. Kant believed that Newton had proved beyond any possibility of doubt, that what happens within this world is governed entirely by scientific laws. But without experience there can be no empirical world.[INDENT]"What we have meant to say is that all our intuition is nothing but the representation of appearance; that the things which we intuit are not in themselves what we intuit them as being, nor their relations so constituted in themselves as they appear to us, and that if the subject, or even only the subjective constitution of the senses in general, be removed, the whole constitution and all the relations of objects in space and time, nay space and time themselves, would vanish. As appearances, they cannot exists in themselves, but only in us. What objects may be in themselves, and apart from all this receptivity of our sensibility, remains completely unknown to us. We know nothing but our mode of perceiving them - a mode which is peculiar to us, and not necessarily shared in by every being, though, certainly, by every human being. With this alone have we any concern." (from Critique of Pure Reason) [/INDENT][INDENT]Immanuel Kant[/INDENT]I think to begin to understand Kant's positions one must construct an outline in order to spell out the aims and purposes of his book The Critique of Pure Reason. Once we have a good idea of what Kant claims to be doing with this book and why, then we can move on to an analysis of his propositions and philosophical positions and their relative validity in their own terms (while also keeping in mind the most important post-Kantian and the valuable present day Kantian interpretations as well). We will then be on a firm foundation and can then begin to critique The Critique, as it were.

That's what I would propose. Perhaps it's way too boring a task but might be worth a stab? Any thoughts?

--Pyth
 
boagie
 
Reply Thu 29 Nov, 2007 12:17 pm
@Pythagorean,
Pythagorean wrote:
To Fido and Kenneth:

Fido, thank you for your interesting response to my post it was great fun to think with you about all of the different and fascinating ideas! And it is always a pleasure to read and respond to your posts.Smile



Kenneth, that's a fair question. It seems imperative to discover his argument. I do know that Kant's metaphysics and epistemology is highly detailed and also has been open to different interpretations. I myself have approached it in a piecemeal fashion. As I have been interested in the same things as Kant himself my general method has been to look up what Kant had to say upon the different problems as they presented themselves to me as problems.

I did find an interesting web site that contains what I think might serve as a helpful starting point for understanding Kant. I would like to quote some of the text from this site and then I will give a link back to the source and make a proposition regarding a method towards gaining some insight into Kant's philosophy:

[CENTER]Immanuel Kant[/CENTER]










German philosopher, professor of logic and metaphysics, whose masterpiece, The Critique of Pure Reason, appeared in 1781 and then in a substantially revised edition in 1787. The work was an answer to Descartes's skepticism about knowledge. Kant's aim was to make philosophy, for the first time, truly scientific, but his jargon made his central writings nearly impossible for the uninitiated to understand. Even professional philosophers have had problems with Kant. A.J. Ayer (1910-1989), the writer of Language, Truth and Logic, tells that he read The Critique on a ship bound for the Gold Coast. After a sunstroke, he fully grasped Kant's work in a state of epiphany, but once he had recovered he had lost the insight.[INDENT]"Two things fill the mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more intensely the mind of thought is drawn to them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me." (from Citique of Practical Reason, 1799)[/INDENT][CENTER]. . . [/CENTER]

















...Thus Kant's conclusion was, that cognition is restricted to the realm of phenomena. We can know nothing which cannot be given through our senses. Within these limitations we may have valid empirical knowledge, and a cognition a priori of the universal conditions which make nature itself and a science of nature possible. Kant believed that Newton had proved beyond any possibility of doubt, that what happens within this world is governed entirely by scientific laws. But without experience there can be no empirical world.[INDENT]"What we have meant to say is that all our intuition is nothing but the representation of appearance; that the things which we intuit are not in themselves what we intuit them as being, nor their relations so constituted in themselves as they appear to us, and that if the subject, or even only the subjective constitution of the senses in general, be removed, the whole constitution and all the relations of objects in space and time, nay space and time themselves, would vanish. As appearances, they cannot exists in themselves, but only in us. What objects may be in themselves, and apart from all this receptivity of our sensibility, remains completely unknown to us. We know nothing but our mode of perceiving them - a mode which is peculiar to us, and not necessarily shared in by every being, though, certainly, by every human being. With this alone have we any concern." (from Critique of Pure Reason) [/INDENT][INDENT]Immanuel Kant[/INDENT]I think to begin to understand Kant's positions one must construct an outline in order to spell out the aims and purposes of his book The Critique of Pure Reason. Once we have a good idea of what Kant claims to be doing with this book and why, then we can move on to an analysis of his propositions and philosophical positions and their relative validity in their own terms (while also keeping in mind the most important post-Kantian and the valuable present day Kantian interpretations as well). We will then be on a firm foundation and can then begin to critique The Critique, as it were.

That's what I would propose. Perhaps it's way too boring a task but might be worth a stab? Any thoughts?--Pyth
 
Pythagorean
 
Reply Fri 30 Nov, 2007 12:12 am
@boagie,
boagie wrote:


Hi, Boagie:)

I will agree with your last sentence that with the naive realist 'there is no outside of experience, there is no unknown which support the known'. But the limitations of human consciousness that you mention are not, I believe, the reason why we can't posess knowledge of the 'thing-in-itself'. Our limitations are not the result of a lack of 'information' concerning objects, we can in fact gather in many instances a complete range of information in relation to certain objects. And we are capable of perceiving and even in an emprical sense, understanding, the full range of possibilities regarding certain things. (Objects once fully perceived seem to become mental entities i.e. scientific and mathematical abstractions in our 'transcendental imagination'.)


The real problem lies in the nature of the individuality of objects in the physical world - the problem lies in our incapacity to obtain the causal natures of the qualities of things. Because empirical objects have no grounds (they are always in change and flux) and there exists no reasonable justification or absolute explanation for the existence of individual things. We can only have knowledge of objects via our continuous reference to yet other similiar or like-objects. Individual things, objects, phenomena, entities, in the physical world do not exist as absolutes, they are not absolutes, they are temporary and unique, they will blow away, they can't be universally grounded or completely defined!

One natural reaction regarding this state of affairs would be to say that the individual objects, or conceptual representations of 'classes' of individual objects, exist in the human mind a priori through introspection without reference to empirical things or without validation by other physical objects. This is, roughly, Philosophical Rationalism's answer to the problem (e.g. Descartes, Spinoza and Leibnitz).

Another possible solution could be discovered by an exploration of the cosmos, of the stars and galaxies etc, perhaps the answer lies not in the human self but in the stars?

Still another possible solution to the problem of "things-in-themselves" would be a non-scientific, un-philosophic ancient Greek sense of appreciating the aesthetic nature of objects and phenomena as mere 'food', so to speak, for man's aesthetic enjoyment and wonder.

So the real limitation regarding the philosophical identification of physical objects -"things-in-themselves" - lies in our incapacity to locate and define the absolute source or cause of things. The cause of things is like the singularity at the 'big bang'cosmological beginning of time, so pure that one can't even hang a mathematical formula upon it! This seems to be the sort of cause and source of the leaf and the penny and so on.

I guess what I'm trying to say Boagie is that I believe the limitation is not the result of a permanent flaw within the human understanding but is rather a lack of sufficient technological and scientific comprehension of things.
 
boagie
 
Reply Fri 30 Nov, 2007 07:06 am
@Pythagorean,
Pythagorean wrote:
Hi, Boagie:)

I will agree with your last sentence that with the naive realist 'there is no outside of experience, there is no unknown which support the known'. But the limitations of human consciousness that you mention are not, I believe, the reason why we can't posess knowledge of the 'thing-in-itself'. Our limitations are not the result of a lack of 'information' concerning objects, we can in fact gather in many instances a complete range of information in relation to certain objects. And we are capable of perceiving and even in an emprical sense, understanding, the full range of possibilities regarding certain things. (Objects once fully perceived seem to become mental entities i.e. scientific and mathematical abstractions in our 'transcendental imagination'.)


The real problem lies in the nature of the individuality of objects in the physical world - the problem lies in our incapacity to obtain the causal natures of the qualities of things. Because empirical objects have no grounds (they are always in change and flux) and there exists no reasonable justification or absolute explanation for the existence of individual things. We can only have knowledge of objects via our continuous reference to yet other similiar or like-objects. Individual things, objects, phenomena, entities, in the physical world do not exist as absolutes, they are not absolutes, they are temporary and unique, they will blow away, they can't be universally grounded or completely defined!

One natural reaction regarding this state of affairs would be to say that the individual objects, or conceptual representations of 'classes' of individual objects, exist in the human mind a priori through introspection without reference to empirical things or without validation by other physical objects. This is, roughly, Philosophical Rationalism's answer to the problem (e.g. Descartes, Spinoza and Leibnitz).

Another possible solution could be discovered by an exploration of the cosmos, of the stars and galaxies etc, perhaps the answer lies not in the human self but in the stars?

Still another possible solution to the problem of "things-in-themselves" would be a non-scientific, un-philosophic ancient Greek sense of appreciating the aesthetic nature of objects and phenomena as mere 'food', so to speak, for man's aesthetic enjoyment and wonder.

So the real limitation regarding the philosophical identification of physical objects -"things-in-themselves" - lies in our incapacity to locate and define the absolute source or cause of things. The cause of things is like the singularity at the 'big bang'cosmological beginning of time, so pure that one can't even hang a mathematical formula upon it! This seems to be the sort of cause and source of the leaf and the penny and so on.

I guess what I'm trying to say Boagie is that I believe the limitation is not the result of a permanent flaw within the human understanding but is rather a lack of sufficient technological and scientific comprehension of things.


Pythagorean,Smile

Smile Excellent, your quite right I did not understand the problem fully. Thank you for drawing it out with such clearity. Your outline presents a much more intrigueing problem. I would think that one of the more obvious speculations today would be that we cannot know the thing-in-itself because we cannot know any object as an individual entity. I think general systems theory has already indicated that we cannot even precieve the ultimate system which would then be an entity of one or the totality. Perhaps in fact there is no entity to be had, ultimate or otherwise. This would mean that those doubtful of there being any such thing as a thing-in -itself are dealing with at least an equal probability. I shall be chewing on this for a long time to come Pythagorean, again much thanks for your kind response.
 
 

 
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