Representative Realism

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Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 04:04 pm
Representative Realism

John Locke (1632-1704), a leading British realist, objected to common-sense realism. Locke did agree that all ideas come from experience. "Let us suppose," he wrote, "the mind to be as we say, withite paper, void of all characters, without any ideas: How comes it to be furnished? Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this I answer in one word: EXPERIENCE. IN that all our knowledge is founded." (An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.) And, like all realists, Locke believed that physical objects exist outside us, that they are independent of our perceptions of them. But at the same time he maintained that the ways entities appear to us should be distinguished from the entities themselves, for "sine the mind, in all its thoughts and reasonings, hath no other immediate object but its own ideas, it is evident that our knowledge is only conversant about them." In brief, our knowledge of things is more accurately our knowledge of our ideas of things, which in turn are representative of the things themselves. Hence Locke is called a representative realist. But just how are our ideas representative of things? In answering this question, Locke seperated himself from the common-sense realists.

According to Locke,m an object--say, a tree--has certain qualities distinct from our perception of it, qualities it would have even if it were not perceived. Thesehe called primary qualities. Generally, primary qualities are those that can be measured, like size, shape, and weight. These qualities, said Locke, are in things "whether we perceive them or not; and when they are of that size that we can discover them, we have by these an idea of the thing as it is in itself." Thus, even if an object such as a tree is not perceived, it still has a certain size, shape, and weight. For Locke, our ideas represent these primary qualities.

But Locke also believed that there are qualities that are not within an object itself. A tree, for example, has color, smell, texture, and maybe even a certain taste. In the fall the tree may be one color, in the spring another--as it may be one color at dawn and another at noon. Withoutits leaves, the tree may be odorless; with them, it may be fragrant. What is the actual color of the tree? Its real smell? For Locke there is no telling for these qualities are not in the thing itself. Rather, they are ideas that we have. All the tree has is the power to produce in us certain sense experiences. As Locke puts it:

"First our Senses, conversant about particular sensible objects, do convey into the mind several distinct perceptions of things, according to those various ways wherein those objects do affect them. And thus we come by those ideas we have of yellow, white, heat, cold, soft, hard, bitter, sweet, and all those which we call sensible qualities: which when I say the senses convey into the mind what produces there those perceptions; this great source of most of the ideas we have, depending wholly upon our senses and derived by them to the understanding, I call SENSATION.

According to Locke, therefore, a tree that we call "green" has no greenness; it has only the power to produce in us a sense experience we call "green." These powers that physical objects have to produce sense experiences in us Locke called secondary qualities. They are secondary because the object does not really have the quality "greenness," for example; it has only the power to produce a certain sense experience in us, which we mistakenly presume to be a real quality of the object.

We know how things are, therefore, because of our ideas, which represent the primary qualities of the external world. For example, if we experience the tree as being a certain height, we can trust that idea to resemble the way the tree really is; if we experience it to have a certain circumference, we can trust that idea to resemble the way the tree really is, Thus, we come to know the things around us by having sense experiences of their primary qualities; these experiences resemble the entities themselves.
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 04:16 pm
@Pythagorean,
I like Locke, and I think his description of primary and secondary qualities is valuable.
I think Lockes notion of the mind as a blank slate should be compared to Kant's notions about the inherent categories of mental conceptions.
I also think the pan sensationist theory of knowledge (all knowledge is the result of experience) fails to adequately account for reason as the source of new knowledge and expereince as confirmation of its truth (rationalism versus empiricism).
Just as a start.
 
Pythagorean
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 06:01 pm
@prothero,
I am far more sympathetic to rationalsim over empiricism. For me empirical thiings are always in an existential state. Physical things do not hold their identity over long periods of time. If we were to run the clock forward say, ten million or 70 trillion years, then these objects lose their identity. So, how can we say they are real? In what sense are they real?

The universe seems to posess some order. I cannot believe that the regularity found in the universe could be purely accidental. From this point one may hold that the laws of nature are in principle seperable from the flux of materials which it holds together and encompasses.

This rational form, because it is an order or a form of reason, is the ground. Space and time are possibilities of reason. However, most people will not grant that eternal 'reason' could somehow be the producer of cosmos and intelligent life. But I am coming to believe that reason itself somehow generated life.

If we admit that there is order in the universe, then aren't we bound to accept that this order is related to intelligence?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 06:07 pm
@Pythagorean,
Pythagorean;133660 wrote:
I am far more sympathetic to rationalsim over empiricism. For me empirical thiings are always in an existential state. Physical things do not hold their identity over long periods of time. If we were to run the clock forward say, ten million or 70 trillion years, then these objects lose their identity. So, how can we say they are real? In what sense are they real?

The universe seems to posess some order. I cannot believe that the regularity found in the universe could be purely accidental. From this point one may hold that the laws of nature are in principle seperable from the flux of materials which it holds together and encompasses.

This rational form, because it is an order or a form of reason, is the ground. Space and time are possibilities of reason. However, most people will not grant that eternal 'reason' could somehow be the producer of cosmos and intelligent life. But I am coming to believe that reason itself somehow generated life.

-


They are real just in the sense that they exist independent of mind. Rationalism does not hold that Realism is false. Descartes was a Realist. And Berkeley, who was an Idealist, and denied the mind-independence of material objects, was an Empiricist. I think you are confusing Realism with Empiricism, and Idealism with Rationalism. Those distinctions cut across each other.
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 06:22 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;133663 wrote:
They are real just in the sense that they exist independent of mind. Rationalism does not hold that Realism is false. Descartes was a Realist. And Berkeley, who was an Idealist, and denied the mind-independence of material objects, was an Empiricist. I think you are confusing Realism with Empiricism, and Idealism with Rationalism. Those distinctions cut across each other.
I always have trouble with this because usually my position is not that clear cut one versus the other.
Is not it usually
Rationalism versus empiricism (both are needed for knowledge)
and
Idealism versus Realism (although both are needed for perception)?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 06:34 pm
@prothero,
prothero;133667 wrote:
I always have trouble with this because usually my position is not that clear cut one versus the other.
Is not it usually
Rationalism versus empiricism (both are needed for knowledge)
and
Idealism versus Realism (although both are needed for perception)?


Yes. But that is not the point. The point is that Rationalism is the contrary of Empiricism, but not the contrary of Realism (so you can be both a Realist and a Rationalist-like Descartes) And, Idealism is the contrary of Realism, not the contrary of Empiricism, so that you can be both an Idealist and an Empiricist, like Berkeley.

I don't see how you can be both an Idealist and a Realist, nor both a Rationalist and an Empiricist. Idealism says that there is nothing but Mind; Realism says that there are non-mental material objects. Rationalism says that we can have knowledge without perception. Empiricism denies that.

The pairs are contraries, and in the case of each pair, both cannot be true.
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 07:06 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;133674 wrote:
The pairs are contraries, and in the case of each pair, both cannot be true.
I do not think it quite that clear cut.
Reason may guide you to the correct equation or hypothesis but without empirical confirmation it does not become knowledge.

There may be (are) mind independent objects but without perception you will have no experience, no knowledge and for practical purposes they will not exist for you.

In real life rationalism does not exclude empiricism as a tool for knowledge it is just not the only tool.

In reality, mind is indespensible for experience of reality even if there are mind independent objects.

One can be rigid and dogmatic about it, of course.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 07:22 pm
@prothero,
prothero;133687 wrote:
I do not think it quite that clear cut.
Reason may guide you to the correct equation or hypothesis but without empirical confirmation it does not become knowledge.

There may be (are) mind independent objects but without perception you will have no experience, no knowledge and for practical purposes they will not exist for you.

In real life rationalism does not exclude empiricism as a tool for knowledge it is just not the only tool.

In reality, mind is indespensible for experience of reality even if there are mind independent objects.

One can be rigid and dogmatic about it, of course.



The point I made is that rationalism and empiricism are incompatible, and idealism and realism are incompatible, although, idealism and empiricism are not incompatible, and rationalism and realism are also, not incompatible. It is true, of course, that most empiricists would say there in a place for reason in knowledge. For example, Hume, an empiricist if ever there was one, held that inferential knowledge is important, but that it must be strictly based on perception. He denied we could know anything about the world using what Kant later on called, "Pure Reason". That is, reason not based on perception. But both Descartes and Spinoza (and Plato) held that "real knowledge" could be achieved only by pure reason, unadulterated with perception. You can say that Descartes, and Spinoza, and Plato, were rigid and dogmatic, but that is what they held, nevertheless. And they, of course, were the fathers and grandfather of Rationalism.
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 08:19 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;133694 wrote:
The point I made is that rationalism and empiricism are incompatible, and idealism and realism are incompatible, although, idealism and empiricism are not incompatible, and rationalism and realism are also, not incompatible. It is true, of course, that most empiricists would say there in a place for reason in knowledge. For example, Hume, an empiricist if ever there was one, held that inferential knowledge is important, but that it must be strictly based on perception. He denied we could know anything about the world using what Kant later on called, "Pure Reason". That is, reason not based on perception. But both Descartes and Spinoza (and Plato) held that "real knowledge" could be achieved only by pure reason, unadulterated with perception. You can say that Descartes, and Spinoza, and Plato, were rigid and dogmatic, but that is what they held, nevertheless. And they, of course, were the fathers and grandfather of Rationalism.
Well, I am in the final analysis a pragmatist and for a pragmatist
Knowledge is the goal- and both reason and empiricism are required.
What is reality?- probably not as important a question but both mental and material aspects seem to be involved (for me neutral monism).
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 08:22 pm
@prothero,
prothero;133721 wrote:
Well, I am in the final analysis a pragmatist and for a pragmatist
Knowledge is the goal- and both reason and empiricism are required.
What is reality?- probably not as important a question but both mental and material aspects seem to be involved (for me neutral monism).


But that does not mean there is no distinction between Rationalism and Empiricism, nor between Idealism and Realism, and nor does it mean that the distinctions are not clear ones.
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 08:35 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;133723 wrote:
But that does not mean there is no distinction between Rationalism and Empiricism, nor between Idealism and Realism, and nor does it mean that the distinctions are not clear ones.
I understand the distinctions well enough. I also understand that as a practical matter you do not have to choose one or the other: that both are involved in seeking knowledge and in constructing a picture of reality.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 08:40 pm
@prothero,
prothero;133731 wrote:
I understand the distinctions well enough. I also understand that as a practical matter you do not have to choose one or the other: that both are involved in seeking knowledge and in constructing a picture of reality.


Yes. You do not have to call yourself either a Rationalist or an Empiricist, or an Idealist or a Realist.
 
Pythagorean
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 08:42 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;133663 wrote:
They are real just in the sense that they exist independent of mind. Rationalism does not hold that Realism is false. Descartes was a Realist. And Berkeley, who was an Idealist, and denied the mind-independence of material objects, was an Empiricist. I think you are confusing Realism with Empiricism, and Idealism with Rationalism. Those distinctions cut across each other.


No, I was merely speculating. But if they are independent of mind how then does one account for mind on the one hand and the intelligibility of the physical on the other hand?

If, due to the regularity of cosmos, we were to assert that reason is the ground of existence, then reason would be intelligent. This is Hegel's idea of Absolute Idealism, I think.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 08:46 pm
@Pythagorean,
Pythagorean;133740 wrote:
No, I was merely speculating. But if they are independent of mind how then does one account for mind on the one hand and the intelligibility of the physical on the other hand?

If, due to the regularity of cosmos, we were to assert that reason is the ground of existence, then reason would be intelligent. This is Hegel's idea of Absolute Idealism, I think.


Sorry. Don't understand your question.
 
Pythagorean
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 09:08 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;133743 wrote:
Sorry. Don't understand your question.


That's allright. Reason is the primary cause of the universe.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 09:11 pm
@Pythagorean,
Pythagorean;133758 wrote:
That's allright. Reason is the primary cause of the universe.


I suppose so. But only because you say so.
 
Pythagorean
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 09:16 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;133762 wrote:
I suppose so. But only because you say so.


No, I was merely speculating.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 09:22 pm
@Pythagorean,
Pythagorean;133768 wrote:
No, I was merely speculating.


Didn't sound like it, but if you say so.
 
Pythagorean
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 09:33 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;133774 wrote:
Didn't sound like it, but if you say so.


I said it twice. What of it?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 09:38 pm
@Pythagorean,
Pythagorean;133786 wrote:
I said it twice. What of it?


Nothing. Whatever you say.
 
 

 
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