Archive | October, 2010

Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason: Transcendental Aesthetic

29 Oct

This should be just a quick discussion. Transcendental aesthetic to Kant is the study of all intuitions a priori. The transcendental aesthetic is a beginning section of the Critique of Pure Reason where discussions about a priori and a posteriori arise. Given the distinction between a priori and a posteriori, the distinction between analytic and synthetic are also given.

Expositions (transcendentally and metaphysically) are given of space and time. This is done by Kant to evaluate the two based on a priori or otherwise status. I have discussed the space and time and understood by Kant in other  posts, but here I specifically want to discuss a priori, and its pairing with the analytic or synthetic. I cannot specifically remember what I said in those two writings, but again that matters to what I want to talk about. It matters to Kant because it helps in discussion of the nature of a priori intuitions. During the expositions of time and space, they both are identified as having to be of the a priori. Space, Kant says, has to be a priori (analytic) because it does not have to be understood or known by empirical observations, because it cannot be understood the instance where space is not existent, and finally because space underlies all other (namely a posteriori) intuitions. Time is a priori because it is not empirical, and because it is naturally understood. Both space and time are a priori because they are pure forms of sensible intuitions. Space is external, and underlies intuitions of external appearances (cannot remember what Kant’s general understanding of what specifically appearance is, but this is the way I understand it), and is also a priori for that reason. Time is internal and is itself not a concept, therefore it is a priori for another reason. I am leaving reasons for the a priori nature of space and time out, specifically (I keep continuing to specifically use this word in a specific manner specifically) because I am thinking mostly about analytic a priori, and if it is possible for a priori to be synthetic. If you want a more detailed guide to the transcendental aesthetic in its entirety go here:  http://userpages.bright.net/~jclarke/kant/element1.html This link is of a website that contains a huge outline of the entire Critique of Pure Reason, and the link above is just an outline to the transcendental aesthetic. This is a great resource for anyone reading the book or its parts. I do not understand Kant or any other philosopher sometimes, and need a guide.

Having gone deep into space and time and why they are a priori, I have not even defined a priori, so I apologize to those who do not know Kant’s work, or a priori vs. a posteriori intuitions at a all. Before even going into a priori, like Locke, Wittgenstein, Hume, and Berkeley (I think?? haven’t read a whole lot of Berkeley), Kant has a chain or system of how ideas get into being a concept. Sensibility is “the capacity to obtain representations through the way in which we are affected by objects.” Sensibility is the capacity to gain ideas and perception (a not word not used here by Kant, so I apologize for loving that word) from what we see in objects. “Objects are given to us by means of our sensibility.” “Sensibility alone supplies us with intuitions. These intuitions are thought through the understanding, and from the understanding there arise concepts.”  So sensibility gives us intuitions, and with our understanding we build those up into concepts. Appearance by Kant is “the undetermined object of an empirical intuition.” This gives you a general foundation for how Kant views our ideas, or namely intuitions, and how we get them.

Thinking about intuitions (between sensibility and concepts), an a priori intuition is one that can be had without empirical observation. A priori, I think is a hard thing to grasp. When one does not empirically observe things, that person must be in pre-infancy, where there is an intuitive sensible mind, yet empirical observations because of surroundings and stage in brain development cannot be intuited. When thinking about a priori, I think of a thinking pre-infant person in the womb. Returning to Kant’s expositions of space and time, I think a pre-infant would have some notion of space and time. If, for some reason, the placenta was cut off from the pre-infant for even an infinitesimal amount of time, and was not fed, I think it would recognize that it has been awhile since it was nourished with what it is normally nourished with. Space, I think, is not something directly intuited by a pre-infant, but it is something granted, just like time is granted by it in most other occasions besides the one just mentioned.  Besides space and time, I cannot think of anything a priori. A priori is probably intuitions that are barely intuitions and are things we take for granted without taking into consideration. That brings me into the distinction between things analytic and synthetic.

Analytic intuitions (or ideas, or thoughts) I describe as the snap of a finger. Something being understood without having to go through logical process to understand it. Analytic intuitions are granted without much need of verification or clarification. The analytic I like to compare to Bertrand Russell’s hard data in that hard data involves logically primitive and psychologically primitive thoughts. Hard data is solidified into one’s reason where no psychological or logical process of understanding. verification, or clarification is needed. The analytic is logically primitive and psychologically primitive to speak in Russell’s terms.

Synthetic intuitions are those that require the said logical and/or psychological processes of understanding, verification, and clarification to be had. Bringing Russell in to the discussion again, his definition of soft data I think corresponds the the synthetic. Soft data for Russell is logically primitive intuitions, and psychologically derivative intuitions, where one again has to go through many processes to intuit the data. The synthetic, I think is different from soft data in that I think there are some things logically derivative in synthetic that are not automatically granted.  In any sense, the synthetic is unlike the analytic in that many processes must take place to understand it. The analytic requires none of those to be understood simply because analytic intuitions are understood in the snap of 2 fingers.

Knowing what a priori (forgot to say that a posteriori are intuitions that come about by empirical observation, but it matters not, since a posteriori is not the issue to be discussed in my case), analytic and synthetic are, we can discuss a priori together with analytic and synthetic. Analytic a priori is thought by most to be the only a priori. Referring back to the status of a pre-infant where time and space are intuited a priori. Time is analytic because no process is needed to understand it and other intuitions can be built on top of it during the possibility of a posteriori intuitions. Space is analytic because no process (logical or psychological) is needed to understand and grant it immediately. Just think about it right now: can you describe, exemplify, or even think about any synthetic a priori intuitions?

Kant discusses several arguments for synthetic a priori, but when really thinking about it, I cannot justify a synthetic a priori.  Many have thought about this, and most other conclusions are the same. There is no synthetic a priori. A synthetic intuition, needing the processes of verification clarification and understanding to fully grasp it and its intentions, cannot really take place without some kind of empirical intuition. A priori leaves one with only foundations of full concepts, and with only the foundations, a logical, psychological, verificatory, clarificatory, or understanding process cannot take place. For any intuition to be synthetic, it must have some empirical observation or appearance to deal with, and to possibly build up to concepts. Therefore, the only synthetic intuitions are a posteriori intuitions.

This has been said an infinite amount of times. This writing was me just explaining the transcendental aesthetic to myself and any other readers for my/your personal benefit. I just was throwing around some ideas to think about the distinction between a posteriori and a priori.

Thanks for the support as always.

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David Lewis’s On the Plurality of Worlds: A Modal Realism

26 Oct

A huge thing that philosophy is occupied by is sense data. Sense data (by Royce, Moore and Russell at first) has its characteristics and are data that come from our perceptive senses. The real question is, concerning sense data: Are the sense data representatives of material objects in reality,  or are sense data just images our minds produce with no relation to reality, therefore sense data having no connection to material reality? When I look at a blue cup,  is there really a blue cup there made of plastic particles fusing together to make a good device to carry a drink of choice, or is the blue cup just something that my mind is telling me is there? Many philosophies advocate one or the other, in different variations, such as solipsists believing that if a blue cup is seen, its existence is not known, extremes are taken, when at the same time, philosophies are less extreme. Considering Descartes, an evil deceiver distorts our visual world deceiving us of certain existences, which is another theory on the matter. Realism theories advocate that what we see pertains to real material existences. David Lewis proposing a thesis for the plurality of worlds advocated a modal realism.

Lewis, a philosopher I have only recently encountered the writing of, begins On the Plurality of Worlds by stating his thesis of plurality. He introduces a modal realism stating that all things perceived and sensed are existent and real in some way. The world I see right now with a computer, a blue cup, an iPod touch, my phone, a bunch of books, the blue sky, and everything else is one specific world. If one were to perceive a world where all life has been demolished except that person, that is yet another world. Some people humorously talk about parallel universes, like if I have blonde hair, blue eyes and am white, my parallel universe world would involve me with black hair, brown eyes, and black, and where everything else is opposite the way things are in the first world.

If one can perceive it, it is a possible world. Lewis puts it very well: “The worlds are many and varied. There are enough of them to afford worlds where (roughly speaking) I finish on schedule [his book], or I write on behalf of impossibilia, or I do not exist, or there are no people at all, or the physical constants do not permit life, or totally different laws govern the doings of alien particles with alien properties. There are so many other worlds, in fact, that absolutely every way that a world could possibly be is a way that some world is” (Lewis). He discusses in the beginning writing his book on time, and refers that to a certain possible world. Also, he states that he writes on the possibilities, not the impossibilities (impossibilia), but in some world he may be writing about the impossibilia. The bold writing says it all.

Lewis also adds that possible worlds perceived do not include worlds we make up. We may make worlds up in sleep, insomniac hallucinations, or narcotic hallucinations, and those are not the possible worlds because those are exaggerations and digressions of ideas of actual material things.

What do these possible worlds mean? To one that believes in this modal realism, it means (in my opinion, and others’) that sense data, or perceptions, denote material objects and/or reality in one way or another. Seeing the regular world one always sees, and then immediately seeing a world where all civilizations are wiped out, are both different worlds, meaning both are reality in one way or another. This is one answer for the argument stated at the very beginning ( are sense data representations of reality, or are sense data just images of the mind not connected to any reality). Modal realism states that all perceptions (not dreamed or hallucinated) are reality and can be of material objects.

So, one might ask, if I am perceiving one world (where monkeys run the world, and humans are the pets), how is the opposite world (where humans are the runners of the world, and monkeys are wild animals or pets) a real world at all? What we are perceiving at one instance is the only world actualized ( the succeeded form of a potential world). Another person besides me might be perceiving the same world, and maybe that person is perceiving a world not actualized to me. Because our perceptions are so different each person’s world is one world actualized while all the other possible worlds are, yet are in a potential state. The actualized potentialized understanding of all the possible worlds was kind of my understanding of all of this. It is also important to note that all possible worlds are not spatio-temporally connected. One world does not appear at one time, and another at a later time. One world does not exist in one space, and another world 6999 light years away. Spatio-temporal connections of the possible worlds are not existent.

To sum up the possible worlds in  modal realism:

  • Worlds are not created by people- As in, one dreaming or hallucinating a round square (how that would be I have not a clue) is not of a possible world because this thing is not at all possible in any world.
  • Worlds are not spatio-temporally connected-  Worlds are not spaced out in time, and are not located individually in space
  • To conclude from the above, worlds appearing to each person (not dreamed or hallucinated) are worlds that happen to be actualized. All  other possible worlds not appearing to a person are potential, and still are.

To discuss more the argument that all perceptions are perceptions of reality, if one saw any blue animal ( a lion for instance)  in one world appearing to him, what that person is seeing would be real. This is because an animal can become blue if it needed to be (not in this case by itself, specifically if this was a weird world where people soaked animals in pools full of blue dye), and this is a possible world. Because of how this is incredibly possible, it is real.  If we try to take something incredibly outrageous and crazy from a dream or hallucination, like seeing a round square, a round square is not real or possible. A round square could not appear in a possible world, and is therefore not real or material in any way (something being real usually denotes it being a material object of some sort). A round square is just an example for outrageous crazy things that we make up sometimes that are not real even in the huge possible worlds of modal realism.

Look around. If you see something that cannot be logically possible then question the reality of your perceptions. But if you look around and cannot find one impossibility to be questioned, then your perceptions are real and material in the best sense of the words.

Thanks for the support, once again.

G.E. Moore’s View on Colors in Sense Data

25 Oct

I finally am going to begin to write more on here, as from here on out I will gradually have more time.

I am writing a paper about the absence of colors in material objects as another inference to not rely on our senses, and i am using G.E. Moore’s paper Introduction of Sense Data. There is a part where he discusses the three characteristics of sense data: color, size, and shape. He has different conclusions on each one, but the color is what I am interested in for my paper’s purposes.

To jump right into it, G.E. Moore states that color is the only one of the three things that can be thought to be a part of the material object that sets forth the sense data. Moore begins his discussion in the paper about the envelope and how everybody in different places of the room see a different color and a different image. The question that this poses is are all of those of the same envelope (along with other inferences and questions). “The colour might be supposed to occupy a part of that volume occupied by the envelope- one of its bounding surfaces” there after that is an indicator of a footnote, ” I should now say that any part of the surface of a volume is not a part of that volume, because it is not itself a volume” (Moore).  Moore discusses mainly the presupposition that colors seen in objects exist as a part of the object that it is sensed with. The envelope (a material object) occupies a volume, and it is thought that the color of the envelope is a part of the volume of the whole volume that the envelope occupies. The footnote to the sentence states that a surface of a volume is not a volume anyway, so its not a part volume of the whole volume. So, if a color is seemed to be a part of a material object, how can it be a part if the surface is not a part of the volume? If I look at a yellow marker, I cannot prove that the marker is yellow, just that it looks yellow to me at that time and place.

Moore continues by stating the many different colors that one may see in one object, like the envelope.  One holds it in the air in front of 10 people. Because of the light shining in from the windows,  the fluorescent bulbs on the ceiling, a slice of white light from the projector, and the shadows of people in the front row, let us say that the envelope being shown is exhibiting 9 different shades of yellow. Moore wonders (like others) if all of these colors are a part of the envelope. Moore thinks this not impossible, but highly unlikely. These 9 shades of yellow would not be able to be a part of one small object, in my opinion. If all 10 people in the room switched seats where each person sat in a general vicinity of the room, one shade of yellow would seem to move, and another shade of yellow would move to the spot of the envelope you immediately see. Moore does well in this part of the paper to prove that colors are not a part of the object they are seen in. My aim for the paper I plan on writing is to say that there aren’t any colors in reality at all, and colors are just manifestations of what our minds make of the real world.

One might also think that particles or atoms within an object make something the color that it is. Going back to my yellow marker, there are dyes in the plastic that encapsulate the sponge full of yellow ink. Dyes in objects being particles within it do not put color in objects. Dyes are particles within objects that merely change the way the object looks when certain kinds of light are reflected off it. A red dye being put in something only is done to make red appear when a few kinds of light are reflected off it.

My conclusion from all of this is that visual sense data is the most misleading thing one can rely on. I once was talking to an old instructor of mine from high school who was not discussing philosophy of any kind just certain kinds of photons in light. He said he went into a clothing store to get a few pairs of socks. Going into the store he sees a few pairs of socks he decides to purchase, and recognizes they are black ( the label of the socks were not big and he did not read the label at all). He buys them, walks outside and sees that he has purchased unwanted blue socks. So, are the socks black or blue? You can crap out some science about dies, spectra, photons, and other things but this instance disproves the idea that material objects have colors in them. Yes, its all light reflecting off particles in objects and dyes within objects, but for a simple color test put a bright object on the ground, like a yellow highlighter marker, make sure bright lights are on in the room, and stand over the marker so your shadow is over it. The color the marker now has is a dull darker yellow, that is not bright like it once was. Once again, without this silly test, turn all of the lights off and hold the marker, the marker is not yellow, but black. This I think is enough to say that material objects have no color in them.

In Moritz Schlick’s Structure and Content essay, in the section Inexpressibility of Content, Schlick states that one could not convey what green is to a blind man. A person with sight can see the many colors, but try to talk to someone and explain what yellow is. Yellow is the next color lighter than green. Whats green? It looks like the color of a frog? What color is a frog? and so on. The fact that we cannot express content (i.e. color) is good evidence to say that sense data is local, and often personal to small groups, or even 1 person. If sense data, and more specifically color, is so local how can it be real? When I discuss real, I mean discerning color from things like size and shape (referring back to Moore). If I was talking to a blind man like Schlick, and I wanted to tell him about this huge block of cheddar cheese in the Big House (Michigan stadium in Ann Arbor, MI), I could say there is a huge rectangle 100 feet high, and 24 feet wide,  I could firmly draw the skinny rectangle on paper for the blind man to feel. He would feel the lines connecting and eventually envision a large skinny rectangle. Knowing, that there is a large skinny rectangle on the football field, I could not tell him it is orange. Even if he gained sight right there, he might see a light orange, while I see a darker shade. The way visual sense data is local like it is always I think makes it: 1) not a part of material objects, and 2) ambiguous in all forms of trying to define and explain it. Even if I say orange, one might ask, what shade. Then that person might say, that looks yellower to me. All of this means that there is no color in objects (or at all) , and what color people observe in sense data is ambiguous in the strictest sense of the word.

This is all granted that there are material objects anyway, which I also plan to address.

Thanks for the support. Tell me what you think, are there true colors in material objects?

W.V. Quine: On What There Is

22 Oct

My apologies again for not writing for a long period of time. It has not really been that long, like a week, but for me, and this site, that is a long time. Last week I had school duties to take care of, so did I this week (with a midterm test), and still so I do next week as well, as I have another midterm test. I will try again to post more, but this month is just crazy, with the tests and papers, and I do not suspect November to be the same, and I will resume having 4 to 5 posts per week as usual.

Having not gotten into too much ontology here, I have been reading a lot of W.V. Quine’s essays. I would like to discuss today his essay On What There Is. One thing that Quine takes upon himself to do is to make it known to all philosophers that there is no meaning in the world, and all of it is reduced to grammar and semantics. He does this not only by starting with the riddle of Plato’s beard in On What There Is, but also starting with analytic/synthetic and reductionism in Two Dogmas of Empiricism.  In both essays he comes to the conclusion that all this striving towards finding meaning in everything is useless in that there is no meaning anyway. I will discuss Two Dogmas of Empiricism in a near future writing. Before even going into On What There Is I want to think about ontology’s distinction (or indistinction) from metaphysics. Ontology is understood as the metaphysical study of the nature of being and existence (Princeton). Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value (answers.com). Metaphysics is also taking up the understanding and proving of things not able to be understood or proven by science (all fields).  In lieu of these definitions, I would like to understand ontology as the core division of metaphysics, especially since ontology goes into what being and existence are.

My focus of Quine’s essay On What There Is is not the conclusion he comes to (that there is no meaning at all). My focus is thinking about the riddle of Plato’s beard of nonbeing, and what being and existence are as Quine questions them. This simply means that my opinion is different from Quine’s in that I see meaning in things discussed like Pegasus, the author of Waverley, or the round cupola on top of Berkeley (these are things ontologically defined in On What There Is).

Quine begins his essay discussing Plato’s beard. The riddle of Plato’s beard comes from Plato’s discussion of nonbeing. This refers to Plato’s beard back in Ancient Greece because of how tangled his beard was. The argument and discussion of nonbeing as to finding a meaning in it, and to ontologically define it is a tangled argument, much like Plato’s beard. What makes nonbeing such a tangled argument is that nonbeing is being in one way or another. Quine puts it perfectly: ” This is the old Platonic riddle of nonbeing. Nonbeing must in some sense be, otherwise what is it that there is not?” (Quine). Simply, if we say “Pegasus is not” how the hell did we say and understand Pegasus if it does not exist somehow? Plato’s beard kind of relates to Wittgenstein’s statement in the Tractatus saying that what cannot be thought cannot be said either. If we can think of Pegasus, it can be said also, and since we are saying it, how can we deny its being? This back and forth rambling is Plato’s beard. Quine confronts 2 arguments allowing nonbeing to still work.

The first argument allowing cohesiveness of nonbeing is the thought that nonbeings can be ideas of the mind. I can have an image of a flying horse with wings in my mind and think Pegasus. This argument allows a nonbeing (Pegasus) to still be just in a different manner. Quine refutes this by talking about the Parthenon itself (thing in itself) and the idea of the Parthenon. These, says Quine, are 2 different things and ideas of things being not the same as the thing in itself. This makes the nonbeing not able to be beings in that ideas of things are not ( when I say is, or is not  or are or are not, I refer to being or not being, just to clarify if you get confused in ontological discussion as I sometimes do). The second argument for nonbeing being something, is that nonbeings are beings unactualized with potentiality in space-time. Quine refutes this belief by saying that nothing can be understood or learned about unactualized beings in space-time, while also noting that logically contradictory things can’t be ruled out in this  belief, like a round square (specifically a copula). These two arguments are refuted by Quine simply because they are not being, and with other arguments he eventually concludes by saying that there is no meaning in anything. The meaning discussion is beside the point (my point anyway).

To understand nonbeing and what it represents, being and even existence need to be defined alone first. Quine viewed being as potential unactualized beings or actualized beings, and existence as purely actualized beings. Quine does this to state that the possible potential unactualized beings that are nonbeing in a sense  are not possible because of those logical contradictions and because we cannot find anything out about these possible unactualized beings or nonbeings. Using Russell’s theory of description he not only reduces everything to grammar and no meaning in anything at all, but he proceeds further. He also declares fallacious the ontological commitments to certain things besides something , nothing and other sure things. He finds fallacious the commitment to things such as the existence of Pegasus, blocks of cheese on Jupiter’s moons, God(s),  souls, or other specific things. Again, these things are beside what I want to discuss, as I keep saying that. I want to think about and know what is being (and existence) and therefore what is nonbeing (Plato’s beard)?

Existing, I will agree with Quine’s definition for his argument, is being actualized and having actuality. I think existing is something used to define things tangible in regards to the universe. Tangible is of course physical things, but also living souls with or without nous. In writing Classification of Beings, I only discussed existing things, and nothing on that discussion included nonexistent things. Looking back on nonbeing and how this is Plato’s beard, I do not think nonexistence creates real problems like nonbeing does. All philosophers should create their own understandings of being and existence but the definitions Quine has presented in lieu of his present argument have little room for argument. Being can be looked at to be the same as existence, but I really do not think this is so. If nonexistence would be called into question, there could not be possible unactualized existences or mental existences because of the contradictions that would take place. Nonexistence is not existence simply, and refers to things potential.

A quick aside, all of this discussion of one meaning to the next makes me feel silly. I think as of now that there is meaning in everything, but know what Quine thinks about meaning, and while exchanging meaning for meaning, word for word, I feel this all becomes meaningless. I do not say that I think being and existence are meaningless words, but I just feel dumb throwing these words and meanings around, so hopefully I do not sound dumb, but I think the meaninglessness presented in Two Dogmas of Empiricism and On What There Is might be getting a hold of me. This was just a disclaimer in case I sound stupid or ignorant.

What was I talking about, oh, being. My understanding of being is everything. Quine would probably not have gone this far especially because he states that since we cannot determine anything really, being has a vague definition (not that vague definitions are bad since my and probably others’ definition of being includes everything, and I shall specify as I progress). Quine signified being as things actual and potential (unactualized things). Things in themselves in the world are actual (existent) or unactual/potential (possible potential things that could or may exist at one point or another). Things actual or potential include most of the beings of the world. There are certain things that are not potential or actual that are in different ways. Quine discussed in On What There Is the possibility of nonbeing being in the sense that there are ideas of the mind. Some of these ideas are potential (never actual because our ideas are different from actual existences) but some are not. Pegasus is an idea of the mind, but not potential because a horse being able to fly with large white wings is not a possibility. Our dreams, being so messed up and weird sometimes, are ideas of the mind but not potential. So, in being is included actualities (existences specifically), potentialities (possibilities of existence), and non-potentialities (ideas of the mind not possible to be or exist). These categories of ‘being’ (not really classifications) make up the definition of being, and mostly includes everything. There are things still that are not actual, potential, or non-potential, and this is what I would call nonbeing.

As I finally return to the nonbeing riddle of Plato’s beard, the riddle states that nonbeing can in a sense be being: 1) by being an idea of the mind, 0r 2) by being a potentiality. I believe to have given a solution (that some probably have given already, not really sure) to the riddle of Plato’s beard (at least to two common arguments for it). The ideas of the mind and potentialities are beings and should not ever have been included in nonbeing anyway. What I think nonbeing is is things that actually are not. Quine used as an example for logical contradictions (in a previous argument) when he introduced the example of a round square. A round square (impossible as it is) can never be actual, potential, or non-potential. This is an example of nonbeing.  An example I came up with, think about the colors: blue, black, red, green, yellow, orange, purple, pink, brown, white, gray and various variations between each color. (Aside from each variation between each color like burgundy, turquoise, hot pink, violet, indigo, frog green, forest green, cobalt blue et cetera) Try to think about a different color besides the colors on the color wheel. Can you do it? No you cannot. A new color besides the said colors cannot be perceived of and cannot be. This is another nonbeing. Or can you think of a black Caucasian person (Caucasian meaning white)? No you cannot. This is another nonbeing. These things not actual, potential, or non-potential are nonbeings. If you want to discuss nonbeings more please says so, you know how.

Is this a disentanglement of Plato’s beard? Who knows, yet… probably not….since someone probably already did this, so I am just a follower……probably.

I love ontology, I should talk about it more.

Thanks for the support.

If you don’t have a Twitter you need one, heres mine: http://www.twitter.com/cosmosz

I have 2 Youtube channels, but on my second one: http://www.youtube.com/bluespectacles I started a Youtube orbit where I make a video every day for a year, and as of now I am trying to keep each day philosophical, but I do not know how well that is going.

Plato’s Parmenides: Forms, One, and Many

14 Oct

The forms being one of the biggest parts of Plato’s philosophy were largely introduced in the Parmenides dialogue between Socrates, Zeno, and old Parmenides. These forms are important metaphysical definitions to proceeding philosophy beyond Plato, and understanding what the forms mean and why Plato presents them is necessary. In Zeno’s book he states that things are not many, and Socrates introduces the forms in addressing Zeno where he ultimately uses the forms to state that things are both one and many.  Thinking about Parmenides’ sail analogy and Socrates’ day analogy of the forms, along with other arguments about the forms is the best way to understand them and the characteristics they have between each specific one. Plato’s definition of the forms allows the things of the world (beyond just forms) to be conceived as one and many simultaneously.

The discussion began in the Parmenides dialogue between Socrates and Zeno, with Parmenides present, concerning Zeno’s book. Socrates brings up during the reading of Zeno’s book about the one or many. Zeno states that if the existent things are many, those things are both like one another and unlike one another at the same time, and that the many things being like and unlike one another makes the possibility of things being many an impossibility (127e).  Specifically, Socrates discusses Zeno’s statement about the many, like, and unlike, by saying: “If it’s impossible for unlike things to be like and like things unlike isn’t it then impossible for them to be many?” (127e). In this explanation it is understandable that the many is impossible because of how like things cannot be unlike and vice versa. Zeno’s book states this because he wants to defend Parmenides’ monism. Socrates begins to think that Zeno wrote this to rip off Parmenides’ monism to make himself look like an amazing philosopher, when really Zeno rephrased it to defend Parmenides. Both Zeno’s and Parmenides’ philosophies believe in a monism of a similar sort, and go against those who think that things are many. After discussing Zeno’s and Parmenides’ monism, Plato (via Socrates) introduces the forms which allow for things to be both one and many in different manners.

Considering whether the things in the universe are one or many, and Zeno’s view on the issue, Socrates discusses the forms. He thinks about forms first in terms of likeness and unlikeness: “… don’t you acknowledge that there is a form, itself by itself, of likeness and another form, opposite to this, which is what unlike is?” (129a).This definition by Socrates defines the forms as entities that group things that have similarities. When Zeno used the like and unlike to prove that things are not many, Socrates refuted him by saying that there exists a form of likeness, a form of unlikeness, and a form of both (129a). With these forms Socrates first states things to be many and has not discussed if or how things are one at this point in the dialogue. After directly defining the forms, Socrates discusses how the forms relate to the fact that things of the world are many: “Don’t you and I and the other things we call ‘many’ get a share of those two entities?” (129a). At this point in the beginning of the dialogue the forms seem to be a similarity between the many things, where each part of the form ‘gets a share’ of what the form is. In the dialogue between Socrates and Parmenides continuing after this point in the dialogue concerns various problems Socrates’ definition of the forms has. This includes the characteristic that a certain form exists ‘itself by itself, the fact that a form is divisible, and that each constituent or representative (by Plato a person or thought) of the form gets a share of what the form is. Parmenides’ sail analogy of a form where a sail of a ship envelops the representatives (people or thoughts) of the form and where the one and the many are both existent, I think, is best understood once these problems of the forms are solved.

These problems that the forms have, as pointed out by Parmenides, continue one after the other as the forms begin to be understood. Parmenides’ sail analogy of how a sail falls over each part of the farm creating the existence of one (included by the whole sail) and the many (each part under the sail) is subject to the problems the forms have. These problems interfere with the forms’ ability to be both many and one. One problem like this is where Parmenides claims the forms to be divisible after Socrates answers him by saying that a part of the sail covers one person or thought of the form: “In that case would the sail be, as a whole, over each person, or would a part of it be over one person and another part over another?”(131c). Parmenides goes on to say that since a part of the sail goes over one person of the form, each person partakes of a part of the form and not the whole form. Parmenides gets Socrates to agree that each form is divided and not one at all. This argument being agreed to, the forms are only many and not one at all. This problem of divisibility in forms leads to another problem concerning what Socrates really means when he says that a thing of the form gets a ‘share’ of the form.

The issue of divisibility of the forms is not exactly solved until the second issue is solved. These problems again are not necessarily problems of forms in general, but they are problems of the forms in their status as being one and many at the same time. After discussing the divisibility issue of the forms, Parmenides compares this to largeness, where parts of largeness can be divided up to the point where the largeness really is not large anymore. Upon this same discussion of parts of the form partaking of one general characteristic the entire form has, Parmenides picks on Socrates’ stating that  each part of the form ‘gets a share.’ Getting a share of an entire large being leads again to the fact that the entire form is divisible. If each part gets a share of it, the form is basically small and insignificant. To these objections to Socrates’ first definition of forms, Socrates again responds: “…what appears most likely to me is this: these forms are like partners set in nature, and other things resemble them and are likenesses; and this partaking of the forms is, for the other things, simply being modeled on them” (132c-132d). This is a clarification of his definition of forms using words and phrases like ‘partaking’ and ‘getting a share.’ A certain ‘pattern in nature’ has constituents or representatives that are like the form. By a person or thought partaking or ‘getting a share’ of a form, Socrates states he means that the thought or person ‘is modeled on’ the form it represents. This clarification of the forms solves the issues of divisibility and a constituent of the form ‘getting a share’ of the form, because with this new definition, the forms are not divided in parts, and each representative of a form does not really ‘get a share’ of it. After this clarification, another revising of Socrates’ forms definition is requested by Parmenides.

The ‘itself by itself’ part of Socrates’ definition of the forms is where Parmenides identifies another issue that poses a problem of making any form one and many at the same time. Parmenides rejects the ‘itself by itself’ characteristic of the forms by creating a scenario of what a form would be like if it were ‘itself by itself.’ He states that if this were true in all forms, each form could not be like anything, and nothing could be like the form (132e). He then states that any form that has things like it, or is like other things, would create a new characteristic with that certain likeness of the first form. This likeness of the form creating new characteristics creates new forms, and this continues on for long periods of time because of the ability that that form has to have likenesses with other forms and things (132e-133a). Parmenides then claims that constituents of a form could not be modeled on the form or partake of the form because that would create bridges to more likenesses (133a). All of these scenarios of a form ‘itself by itself’ show how hard it is for a form to be ‘itself by itself’ and calls for removal or revision of that part of Socrates’ definition of forms. What this leads to is the ultimate understanding that no form can be ‘itself by itself’ because of the constituents (people or thoughts) of the form and the form itself having likenesses with other forms and characteristics of other forms. It is then understood from Parmenides’ scenarios that forms are basically adjacent to other forms because of the numerous likenesses and even that what we cut certain forms out to be are things we cannot be sure of with the forms (133b). More importantly, if a form is to be one and many simultaneously it is impossible for it to also be ‘itself by itself’. The arguments Parmenides has pushed that matter to the forms being one and many have caused Socrates in the dialogue to revise and change the entire definition of the form. The sail analogy of Parmenides and the day analogy of Socrates I think are better understood once a form itself is understood. Because of these arguments a form can assuredly be understood as a metaphysical entity that is one and many at the same time.

Before any real problems occur in Socrates’ first definition of forms, Socrates and Parmenides both create an analogy in dialogue of what a form is. During Parmenides’ asking Socrates if the many are separate from the whole of a form, Socrates responds with his day analogy of a form. Claiming that the many are not separate from the whole, Socrates states that a form is like many places on the same day: “…in many places at the same time and is nonetheless not separate from itself. If it’s like that, each of the forms might be, at the same time, one and the same in all” (131b). In the day analogy, a form being an entire day, each constituent (person or thought) of the form is like a place. At one time, many places are involved which is like a form being similar to a time and a place being similar to one person or thought (constituent of a form). In Socrates’ day analogy, the form and its many parts are one and many at the same time.

Parmenides, complimenting Socrates on his analogy, creates another analogy to compare and contrast: “It’s as if you were to cover many people with a sail, and then say that one thing as a whole is over many” (131b). Socrates then identifying that Parmenides has created a similar analogy, they continue into the three problems to the forms being one and many of divisibility, ‘getting a share of the form’, and the ‘itself by itself’ form. Parmenides’ sail analogy I find is the best way to describe a form. Concerning the people or thoughts that reflect the model of the form is, I find it best to refer to those many as constituents or representatives because each person or thought constitute or represent the form that the sail secures. Parmenides’ sail analogy well shows how a form is one and many simultaneously. A form is one because of how the sail envelops the many into one being. A form is many because of the constituents of the form that the sail envelops. I find the sail analogy the best way to understand how a form, or anything else, can be one and many. Beginning in the dialogue with Zeno’s argument that things are ‘not many’ is how the argument of one and many started, and with Socrates’ and Parmenides’ arguments, forms come out as both. Discussion of forms, and introduction to their nature, I think only refers one back to the argument about whether things can be one, many, or both.

The dialogue begins with the one and/or many argument in Zeno’s position, and continues into forms, but I think that the only thing that forms reduce down to is what is one, what is many, and whether or not anything is both. Since forms can be understood to be both one and many, from what we know now, are things one, many, or both? Since the being of a form boils down to the one or many argument, I think it should be further discussed. If there is a like form and an unlike form, a higher form will be created that has both. Another 2 characteristics like justice (just likeness, and just unlikeness), and injustice will be created and added to the like and unlike forms. From these higher forms, more couples of characteristics can be added to that higher form, and this process can go on forever. Because of the many forms that can be created by this process, it can be seen that there is only many, and not one. Concerning all of the things in the world, there are an infinite number of things, yet there is no obvious way that they are united under one again because of how they are classified (like how things are classified by forms). Thinking of things this way, one would for sure think that things are only many.

From another standpoint, if the like and unlike form is added to justice and injustice creating a like and unlike, and just and unjust form, that is just a bigger form making one that much more constituents of a form. This is just a way to think of things as only one. So the question is if one should go with viewing things as one or many, or both? What I really mean to conclude with these examples is that Parmenides’ sail analogy for explaining the forms can be applied to the ‘are things one or many?’ argument. You might see something as one, but then a ton of other things might lie below the sail the one has made for itself. Ultimately, my opinion about Parmenides’ sail analogy is things (beyond forms) can be understood as one or many depending on how it is comprehended. If this is true, all things in the world are one and many in one way or another.

The forms having come from the one and many debate, they introduced many continuous arguments that led to other philosophies since Plato’s time. From the inconsistencies in Socrates’ first definition of forms to Parmenides’ pushing him to its revision, Plato’s forms end up being one and many simultaneously. From the problem of divisibility and ‘getting a share’, being solved, and the ‘itself by itself’ problem also being solved, the forms were modified to be able to be one and many at the same time. The introduction of the forms and the widespread versatility the forms have makes the Parmenides dialogue a philosophical breakthrough. This alone shows the philosophical accomplishment Plato achieved in his lifetime.

 

 

A.J. Ayer’s Principle of Verifiability

13 Oct

My apologies for not having written in about a week. I do not know if this is the end of my prolonged break from posting frequency, but I might have another one later today, or on thursday. Im just not sure right now. I will keep posting at least every once per week to make aware of my existence. I am reading and writing a lot of things for classes and other purposes so I have less time this entire month. Today, I feel it is good to bridge the gap of my break by discussing verifiability and meaning.

One thing I love about Ayer’s writing is that he continuously talks about one other philosopher’s work and refutes each point of that person’s philosophy. Like in his Phenomenalism, he talked about Price, Stout, and Hardie, and he refuted their philosophy (and built off those refutations). In Principle of Verifiability he does the same with W.T. Stace who discusses verifiability and meaning. This leads to and proceeds his understanding of verifiability. Ayer is also awesome because he was a British spy….just a sidenote.

Concerning verifiability of the logical positivists this is the essay where Ayer puts his views on the subject of verifiability. I will quote him because of how well he puts it: “The first point that I must make clear is that I do not hold that a sentence can be factually significant only if it expresses what is conclusively verifiable; for I maintain that no empirical propositions are conclusively verifiable” (Ayer). This sentence says that things that are conclusively verifiable are not a big deal at all, and are not what is important to philosophy, science, or empiricism.  Empiricism, he says, does not have propositions in it that are verifiable. Things that are conclusively verifiable are things that are known to the common sense and that our mind has most likely previously verified anyway. These things I would think are sentences like ‘everything I see is perceived by my eyes and brain.’ That sentence is granted and needs little process of verification. He also says that no empirical propositions are conclusively verifiable (again empirical meaning things experienced and observed). This shows a light on Ayer’s philosophy that makes it seem like he does not rely too much on empirical propositions (he does not rely on his perception and observation very much to find truth and verification). He continues: “All that I require of a putative statement of fact is that it should be verifiable in what I have called the ‘weak’ sense of the term; that some possible observations should  be relevant to the determination of its truth or falsehood” (Ayer). And: “Let us call a proposition which records an actual or possible observation an an experiential proposition. Then we may say that it is the mark of a genuine factual proposition, not that it should be equivalent to an experiential proposition, but simply that some experiential propositions can be deduced from it in conjunction with certain other premises without being deducible from those other premises alone” (Ayer). I find this neat because of the two kinds of propositions denoted by Ayer. Experiential propositions are propositions created upon experience, and a genuine factual proposition is a fact stating proposition where multiple experiential propositions can be ‘deduced.’ This principle of verifiability relies entirely on empirical, observational, and experiential propositions, which all three rely on perception, and seeing what you believe to be factual. Ayer also contributes to the logical positivists’ rejection of all meatphysics by saying that since all genuine factual propositions are deduced from experiential propositions, metaphysics cannot be meaningful or true. By this he also states that a genuine factual proposition that deduces multiple experiential propositions  is verified, has meaning, and is justified. The status of a genuine factual proposition to Ayer is the verification that all logical positivists set forth.

Just to refresh the understanding of what logical positivist verification conditions (specifically Carnap):

Justification cond. = Meaning cond. = Truth Cond. = Verification Conditions

Justification being the experimental hypotheses and theories to justify its truth and verification, and meaning being exactly what meaning is (meaning is later totally dismantled by W.V. Quine in his paper Two Dogmas of Empiricism), and those equal truth and verification.  What Ayer does in his paper Principle of Verifiability is further rejects metaphysics and narrows down what is to be verified and how it is done.  With his genuine factual proposition, justification and meaning are achieved by the experiential propositions deduced from the genuine factual proposition (and justification and meaning equal verification and truth).

Ayers 2 kinds of propositions to get to verification is one way to think about it, but I disagree. I disagree with Ayer here simply because genuine factual propositions deduce experiential propositions. These experiential propositions are created empirically, observationally, and by experience, and not all things in philosophy and even science are asked, deduced, or created by empirical observations. Mostly I disagree with his rejection of metaphysics in this verifiability proposition manner. I want to eventually create a metaphysician’s way to redeem propositions from a pseudo-statement status (Carnap’s understanding of a proposition not really saying anything). I would even like to have verification conditions for metaphysics as well. I think it is best now to discuss what meaning can mean to metaphysics and epistemology (even if Quine threw out meaning).

Meaning, I now believe, should not be achieved by definition or reference. Both of those cause one to enter into an infinite regression of statements that end up going way beyond the subject of the questioned proposition. Meaning is not understood by definition or reference because definition is reference. When something is defined in a search for meaning, you are referred to another set of words saying something about the questioned thing. This then can lead you to define these defining words, and those defining words need to be again defined, and so on. Definition is reference. I think that meaning is the possibility to be understood of a proposition or statement. If the proposition can be discovered and cohesively understood by the philosopher/scientist, the proposition has meaning. Meaning is not definition of the proposition in the verification process, it is the possibility to be understood. If a proposition means something it can push its understanding on others, and can be understood beyond 1 person, or a localized group also. Just because 1 person or 20 localized, deserted, isolated people understand it doesn’t mean the rest of the world will.  I will talk more on this later especially when I talk more about W.V. Quine’s Two Dogmas of Empiricism.  And justification is scientific experiments and other things that justify it. It is my belief that in a possible metaphysics verification conditions,  justification would be eliminated because of its vagueness and necessity to have scientific testing, hypotheses and theories. Metaphysics and philosophy as a whole exists a lot because there are things we can verify that scientists cannot with their experiments.

Hopefully this will not be the only writing this week, and sorry again for my absence.

Thanks for the support.

A.J. Ayer’s Phenomenalism

5 Oct

A.J. Ayer, a philosopher at the end of the logical positivist movement, wrote a paper called Phenomenalism, creating a ‘theory of perception’ of how sense data is taken in and understood. Even though he does not say so at the outset, he picks on positivist protocol statements stating previous sense data observations. I have not addressed protocol statements that much before, but the things that make them up are what Ayer attacks to promote phenomenalism. Ayer’s writing envelops a lot of philosophy and thought, and here I only aim to discuss the 3 problems of sense data and protocol statements (in a sense) that he addresses, and why he lands on phenomenalism as the true theory of perception. Ayer specifically addresses many other things in this essay that I do not wish to venture into, such as what logical constructions are, and what sense data is defined by Russell as, along with some other specific arguments.

Protocol statements is a part of the logical system unified under science that Carnap, Neurath, and Schlick have advocated and changed throughout the logical positivist movement. Protocol statements are the recorded past versions of immediate observations. They are recorded as X was observed by observer W,  at place U , and at time C. Once something is observed it immediately becomes this protocol statement. It is this that the logical positivists used in their system of unified science. I discussed this in my first writing about Carnap. This occurs where intuitions are divided between analytic and synthetic. In analytic are the implicit definitions, and in that, geometries (Euclidean, Lobachevskian, and Riemannian) and physics (relativistic, or Newtonian). Also in analytic are the coordinating definitions which are the language  chosen to convey the subject/object, and those are either thing language, or physics language. The synthetic intuitions by Carnap are observations, that immediately become these protocol statements. This is the system you would use to go from your observation to protocol, to implicit definition, and coordinating definitions to have physics language, and later theoretical physics language statements. When Neurath published his thoughts, he focused on the protocol statements by putting most emphasis on them by eliminating observations from the system totally (as an observation only has a microsecond to actually be an observation before it becomes a protocol). This caused a collapse of the system until Schlick published his Foundations of Knowledge where he made the protocol statements the starting points of all knowledge.

I elaborate so much on this because it has been through Carnap, Neurath and Schlick that the protocol statement has traveled only to be dismantled by Ayer with phenomenalism. Again, Ayer does not talk about protocol statements directly but he addresses the observer, place, and time that are all a part of a protocol statement, which is why understanding what it is is so important. With the observer, time and place of a protocol statement Ayer states each to have its own problem to be addressed. From addressing these problems, is where he gets phenomenalism.

The problem of the observer is that the observer observing a situation is really no different from what he observes. Ayer discusses the observer as equal to the physical objects he observes, and that trying to point out which physical object among the many is doing the observing is a worthless task. Physical objects are subject to creating more sense data and only being another question of sense data and its relation to the physical object (if you know phenomenalism already, I have not yet gotten to the main principle of it yet). The problem of the place is similar, in that one place is mixed with all other places that are all placed in question together: “Thus the phenomenalistic analysis of ‘x is at P’, will be something like the following: ‘X is sensing a visual or tactual field such that if he had replaced it by another spatially adjoined to it, and if he had replaced that by another spatially adjoined to it, and if he had replaced that in turn by still another, and so on, then eventually he would have been sensing the visual or tactual field which is actually being sensed by the speaker at this moment”.  I quote Ayer, simply because I could not have said it better myself. If one place is singled out from the others, it could conventionally be replaced with spaces around it and still work with the place and observer. This creates a large sense field with a set of places, set of observers, and also a period of time. The problem of time is again similar with the other two. It is so much more than just one instant that the place and observer are consistent with the sense data. Ayer states that not only would S2 and P2 be consistent with t (time), but so would S5 and P5.  These are all problems that Ayer states to be issues for the phenomenalist. He then in the fifth section of the paper, gives the solutions to these three problems.

For the time and place, Ayer creates a ‘local scenery’ where time and place are all contained into one construction. For place, in the local scenery is the large somewhat finite area where things are perceived as sense data, so that way in a sense, there is no one space, but there are many places within the local scenery. For time, there is no set time for something to be seen within the local scenery. If someone is to ask ‘when’ something is perceived within the local scenery, that person would be asking an ‘illegitimate’ question because at one time or another, things are perceived in the local scenery. It is that local scenery where the place and time is included. He also addresses the observer problem where he answers it by stating that there is no observer at all. The local scenery is set up basically as the given, in the possible event that in some point of the existence of the local scenery that someone would happen to observe something within it. This local scenery is the visual sensory field that Ayer has been creating throughout the paper that is the logical replacement for protocol statement sense data.

So, entirely, phenomenalism is a the perception theory that physical objects are not exactly real material beings, but are “logical constructions out of sense data.” We see things, we believe a physical object to be there causing the sense data we perceive. Ayer and other phenomenalists believed that sense data had no ties to a physical object, but the physical  object was only sense data’s logical construction.  Not only is this a different perceptional theory, but it is a new take on positivist ideas.

Phenomenalism says nothing about what physical objects are or what they tell us, it only says that our sense data does not often denote physical objects. We only see sense data, and think it always to be physical objects, when really, even in real life, our sense data only 50 % of our lifetime denotes a physical object. I agree with all of this essay and all other phenomenalist work because of that fact. I disagree with all other philosophies that discredit all sense data (i.e. solipsism and neutral monism), but I agree with this because of how this is a milder version of philosophies that discredit the perception.  Solipsism discredits all perception, and only states the soul to exist. I entirely disagree with that.

Phenomenalism is different from solipsism. Phenomenalism only decides to make the rule to always take sense data as sense data only before it is taken as anything else. Sense data (as constituents of a  local scenery/visual sensory field) takes a lot of understanding and research before it might be considered to be representative of a physical object. Ayer seems to take phenomenalism to discredit the sense data as representative of physical objects more than phenomenalism does as a whole,  so I would endorse a softer form of phenomenalism.

The kind of phenomenalism that I would endorse would be less strict than Ayer’s. The kind I would endorse would be discrediting all sense data until further notice. Upon further understanding, research, and verification of my sense data when paralleled with reality, I might consider that my set of questioned sense data is closer to a real physical object. I believe that this can be easily done by experiencing more sense data, and comparing them side by side, face value for face value, and any similarities and corresponding themes between them can denote some reality in perception.

I think that with Ayer’s Phenomenalism essay, I have explained it well to a degree to help my own, and others’ understanding. Also, I think I took my own turn on it, by altering Ayer’s phenomenalism version towards my own beliefs about sense data.

I find it interesting also that in the beginning of the essay, Ayer begins talking about sense data, and states that Bertrand Russell first used the term in the teens and 20’s, when really the first philosopher who used it was Josiah Royce in 1882. I want to eventually read him, and possibly write about him in the future.

Thanks for the support.