Sunday, 20 November 2011

Prelude to Reality

The challenge of realism is to show that we experience reality even if this experience has limitations. There is always the possibility of error and there is always more to know. Contrasted with this is idealism which is never naive perhaps because it is all naive. Idealism turns our conviction that we are experiencing reality into an experience of experience and the perception of perception and reduces 'common' sense into a complete mystery which arose we know not why from we know not where. Obviously there is an 'internal' side to experience, neuronal traffic and the like, and there is an 'external' side, the conceptual, the common. Wittgenstein ought to have put paid to the excessive weight that idealism puts on the internal beam of the scales with his beetle in the box but like a powerful virus it is a cunning adversary that mutates. However I don't think that it is the business of philosophy to deal with every manifestation of ontological error however solidly empirical it seems. Don't panic, it's perfectly safe to remain in your armchairs.

There is that perennial conundrum – if you can pose the question, can you not by that very fact resolve the question? Yes I would reply if you accept realisation as a comprehension. The aporia of how there can be a non-numerical identity between the experience and the reality is resolved by the fact of poetry.

Nor should this, perchance,
Pass unrecorded, that I still lov'd
That exercise and produce of a toil
Than analytic industry to me
More pleasing, and whose character I deem
Is more poetic as resembling more
Creative agency. I mean to speak
Of that interminable building rear'd
By observation of affinities
In objects where no brotherhood exists
To common minds.
To unorganic natures I transferr'd
My own enjoyments, or, the power of truth
Coming in revelation, I convers'd
With things that really are, I, at this time
Saw blessings spread round me like a sea.
(The Prelude Book II. 396 foll.)


ktismatics said...

"Don't panic, it's perfectly safe to remain in your armchairs." long as you remind yourself from time to time that it's a real armchair. Recently an armchair philosopher, of some note at least in blogging circles, asserted in an interview that psychologists believe that most of reality is created by the mind. Right, and toaster repairmen believe that toast is made up mostly of heating coils Philosophers are prone to overgeneralization. Does that preceding sentence qualify me as a philosopher?

ombhurbhuva said...

"A thing is in the knower according to the mode of the knower" Aquinas as a realist following Aristotle said that. Now you could take that as an acceptance of the power of the mind to translate everything into its own 'language'. Shankara the Advaitin said that the organs (perceptual) were of the same category as the objects not of a different category. Both of their philosophies were an attempt to square the circle of the inner and the outer by means of a substratum ontology. How can anyone establish the value of these philosophies, how do they cash out? The ancient view was that some forms of thought lead to wisdom or a realization of the unity of being and others do not. In other words - 'How does that make you feel'? or in the immortal words of Dr. Phil - 'How is that working for you'?

A: "than analytic industry to me more pleasing".

ktismatics said...

So a unity of being, the knower having affinity in the objects, is something unknown to the common mind. In a sense the brain scientist is seeking membership in this elite brotherhood of poets and mystics by virtue of tracing the creative agency through which the outer objects are conjoined with their inner twins.

ombhurbhuva said...

Thanks for your stimulating comments. My reply was running on so I have made it the subject of a separate post. Neuroscience is a interesting subject but I don't believe that it dissolves the mystery of consciousness. It is possible to gain lots of knowledge about the brain without being directed towards a materialist view. In his day Bergson made a very complete study of lesion literature and the forms of aphasia but was able to incorporate that within a philosophy which is certainly not materialism.