What, then, explains why it exists even when not observed?
It doesn't, that's the whole point! But let me qualify that statement. If we assume that there is an external world, full of 'real things' that correspond to the objects of experience (the sets of phenomena under single names, e.g. 'cat'), then we can rightly say that the 'real cat' exists even when we are not observing it. However, the 'cat' (i.e. the set of experienced phenomena under that name) does not
exist when unobserved. By definition,
if you are not experiencing the set of phenomena labelled 'cat,' then that set of phenomena is not being experienced, and does not at that time exist, as surely experience cannot exist independently of experience. So again, when not being observed by a person, the 'real cat' does exist
(assuming there are 'real things' at all), but the 'cat'
(set experienced phenomena) does not
We assume commonly in everyday life that the 'cat' (the set of experienced phenomena) exists even when unobserved, but that is certainly not true, as I said, by definition. But by saying 'the cat exists even when unobserved' in daily life, neither do we mean to refer to the theoretical 'real cat.' So, what we mean commonly by saying 'the cat exists even when not being observed' is that, if we look back in the direction of the cat, we will
see it. And that information is highly useful, but has nothing to do with the actual existence of the cat when unobserved.
Of course, if I am hallucinating the cat, then I am not referring to a real cat. But suppose I am not hallucinating (and there is no reason to think I am). In that case, there is a cat. If when hallucinating there is no real cat then, of course, if I am not hallucinating, then there is a real cat. Or, do you believe that I am always hallucinating?
I believe that there is no difference, from within the first person perspective
(i.e. absent third person verification) between a hallucination and an 'accurate' experience.
Awareness isn't a condition of existing.
I think you have gotten to the root of the opposition to my concept. Yes, awareness of something is not neccessarily a condition of the existence of that something. But awareness of something is always
a condition of knowing that that something exists
. And that is the issue! This is epistemology, not ontology. It's not about what may or may not exist, it's about what we know exists
, and how we know it. Of course, this provide a basis for ontology - as, how can we say that X exists unless we are aware that X exists? If we do not have to know that something exists in order to claim truthfully that it does exist, then the statement 'there are men living on Mars' can without objection be called a true statement.
... I think it is uncontroversial that the scientific world is grounded in phenomenal experience (that is what observation is, after all) ... I think it is also uncontroversial that phenomenal experience is limited by the body's senses ... so the world of human qualia - of trees qua trees and rocks qua rocks - is indeed human phenomenal experience ... but the fact is that there are regularities within human phenomenal experience that can lead one to predict something that is beyond human phenomenal experience, build a prosthetic sense to detect it, and verify the prediction ... that you can also turn such a prosthetic sense on a tree qua tree to discover a tree qua cells or a tree qua molecules ... that you can then reverse such discoveries to predict that if you take a number of things that are phenomenally experienced one way and combine/refine/etc. them it will result in a new thing that is phenomenally experienced in an entirely different way (say, H and O, and through a process of combustion produce H2O) ... these all would appear to be good epistemological justifications to claim that one "knows" (in the "justified true belief" sense) that there is an external world beyond what has been / can be phenomenally experienced, yes? ...
I totally agree. There is every reason to assume that an external world exists. I contend only that:
1. The claim that an external world exists is, however self-evidently true it may seem, still an assumption.
2. The world of trees, rocks, and planets (which I usually call the 'scientific/empiric world') is NOT the external world, assuming the latter exists. The empiric world consists of things defined by sensation-derived characteristics. E.g. 'Tree,' defined and definable ONLY in terms of sensation-derived characteristics (woody, brown, tall, etc), does not exist except in experience. While we assume
a 'real tree' exists beneath and is the cause of those experienced phenomena collectively labelled 'tree,' that 'real thing' is not known, and it is not what we are referring to when talking about a tree. If we say 'the tree is brown,' we clearly are referring to the experiential tree, as it is defined by such characteristics, and not to the 'real tree,' which, by definition, is not defined by experienced phenomena such as 'brown.'
So again, I don't deny the existence of an external world. I demand only that the claim that such does exist be ackowledged as the assumption it is and, furthermore, that the empiric world exists within experience and therefore is not that external world.
Well, as I have asked before, what explanation is there for our having these qualia (as you call them) except that there are material objects that cause us to have them?
But what is a 'material object?' If you mean, something external to experience of which we have and can, by definition, have no knowledge, then I agree totally, though the existent at all of those things is an assumption. On the other hand, if by 'material object' you mean something like a rock or a tree, which can be described as being brown, hard, fiberous, etc., then no, those things cannot be the cause of the qualia - those 'things' are nothing but the label for a set of phenomena observed to occur together. So, if you mean the latter by 'material object,' what you are really saying is that qualia are the cause of qualia, which makes even less sense that saying there is no cause.
[/quote]Or do you believe they have no cause? Our commonsense explanation of "qualia" without there being any objects that cause us to have the qualia is that they are hallucinations. Pink elephants and the like. But we distinguish between hallucinations and actual perceptions just by holding that the latter are caused by material objects, but that the former are not. So, the next question is how would you and Bright Noon distinguish between hallucinations and perceptions of the world? Or, would you not make such a distinction. Would you both say that the world is really an hallucination?[/quote]
I could say the world is 'real' or a 'hallucination,' as it makes no difference. So no, I don't distinguish between the two for the first person perspective. See my comments on this issue above.