Interesting Description and Critique of Representational Realism

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Reply Tue 9 Feb, 2010 11:00 pm
This following is adapted from Wiki. I would like to know how do you resolve the epistemological questions that arise out of this discussion?

Representational realism, related to indirect realism, is a philosophical concept, broadly equivalent to the accepted view of perception in natural science.

Representational realism states that we do not (and cannot) perceive the external world as it really is (whatever that could ultimately be); instead we know only our ideas and interpretations of the way the world is. This might be said to indicate that a barrier or 'veil of perception' prevents first-hand knowledge of the world, but the representational realist would deny that 'first hand knowledge' in this sense is a coherent concept, since knowledge is always via some means.

Problems with representative realism

"The indirect realist view is also incredible, for it suggests that the solid stable structure of the world that we perceive to surround us is merely a pattern of energy in the physical brain. In other words, the world that appears to be external to our head is actually inside our head. This could only mean that the head we have come to know as our own is not our true physical head, but is merely a miniature perceptual copy of our head inside a perceptual copy of the world, all of which is completely contained within our true physical skull. Stated from the internal phenomenal perspective, out beyond the farthest things you can perceive in all directions, i.e. above the dome of the sky and below the earth under your feet, or beyond the walls, floor, and ceiling of the room you perceive around you, beyond those perceived surfaces is the inner surface of your true physical skull encompassing all that you perceive, and beyond that skull is an unimaginably immense external world, of which the world you see around you is merely a miniature virtual reality replica. The external world and its phenomenal replica cannot be spatially superimposed, for one is inside your physical head, and the other is outside. Therefore the vivid spatial structure of this page that you perceive here in your hands is itself a pattern of activation within your physical brain, and the real paper of which it is a copy is out beyond your direct experience. Although this statement can only be true in a topological, rather than a strict topographical sense, this insight emphasizes the indisputable fact that no aspect of the external world can possibly appear in consciousness except by being represented explicitly in the brain. The existential vertigo occasioned by this concept of perception is so disorienting that only a handful of researchers have seriously entertained this notion or pursued its implications to its logical conclusion.

"The key to this problem of fitting a spacious world into our brains is to notice that our experience is a 'view' of a spacious world. Things are separated by angles relative to an observation point. The separation of things by angles at a point means that we do not have a sense of depth that operates in the same way as our sense of things being separated in horizontal and vertical directions. Our sense of depth is based upon cues rather than an actual experience of the space between things. As an example, the stars in a planetarium appear incredibly distant even though they are on the ceiling of a room and would appear just as distant if viewed through virtual reality goggles. Visual depth in particular is a set of inferences, not an actual experience of the space between things in a radial direction outward from the observation point. This means that the things that are the spacious world of experience could be as small as just a few cubic millimetres of brain tissue!"

"If there is anything to be learned from the long history of the epistemological debate, it is that the issue is by no means simple or trivial, and that whatever is ultimately determined to be the truth of epistemology, we can be sure that it will do considerable violence to our common-sense view of things. This however is nothing new in science, for many of the greatest discoveries of science seemed initially to be so incredible that it took decades or even centuries before they were generally accepted. But accepted they were, eventually, and the reason why they were accepted was not because they had become any less incredible. In science, irrefutable evidence triumphs over incredibility, and this is exactly what gives science the power to discover unexpected or incredible truth."
jack phil
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 02:10 pm
What is 'hard'?

Hard things are those with a firmness greater than our own, and soft things are likewise softer than our skin.

This is no different than in comparing the strength of diamonds to other materials. One scratches, the other is scratched.

What is interesting is that there is a metric in man. Surely, when it was said, Man is the measure of all things, the poet was speaking of more than hard surfaces.
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 02:51 pm
First, we should endeavor to make sure we do not confuse ourselves with the organs that are within us. Just as there is a difference between me and my heart, so too is there a difference between me and my brain.

When I look at the cat through a mirror, I am indirectly observing the cat, but when I look at the cat itself, I am directly observing the cat, so I can directly and indirectly observe the cat.

My brain directly senses my percept of the cat, but my brain cannot directly sense the cat; it can only indirectly sense the cat.

It's faulty to say that I do not directly sense the cat (and only indirectly sense the cat) just because my brain does not directly sense the cat (and only indirectly senses the cat).

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