Thursday, 27 June 2013


What would it be like to live in a world without persons? Some psychologists seem to know; for them it is a world of brains that do whatever it was supposed that persons did, whatever they are. This inscrutability about persons brings to one’s attention the philosophical conundrum: do you prefer the intelligible falsity to the mysterious? That is not to accept that psychology could achieve much or perhaps all of its research findings even if individual psychologists all held different metaphysical views. Dualists, monists, panpsychists, Spinozists might all be able to work their trade in the brain without conflict. Ingenious T.E.s will prove me wrong but that is the current position in reality as politicians say.

David Chalmers has a nice crisp video:

Reading about John Locke and his ‘idea’. What is it? It seems to me that only persons can have ideas, brain events are not ideas but if they weren’t present neither would ideas be.

Coleridge has a nice footnote/conspectus on the ‘idea’:

I here use the word idea in Mr. Hume's sense on account of its general currency amongst the English metaphysicians; though against my own judgment, for I believe that the vague use of this word has been the cause of much error and more confusion. The word, idea, in its original sense as used by Pindar, Aristophanes, and in the Gospel of St. Matthew, represented the visual abstraction of a distant object, when we see the whole without distinguishing its parts. Plato adopted it as a technical term, and as the antithesis to eidolon, or sensuous image; the transient and perishable emblem, or mental word, of the idea. Ideas themselves he considered as mysterious powers, living, seminal, formative, and exempt from time. In this sense the word Idea became the property of the Platonic school; and it seldom occurs in Aristotle, without some such phrase annexed to it, as according to Plato, or as Plato says. Our English writers to the end of the reign of Charles II or somewhat later, employed it either in the original sense, or Platonically, or in a sense nearly correspondent to our present use of the substantive, Ideal; always however opposing it, more or less to image, whether of present or absent objects. The reader will not be displeased with the following interesting exemplification from Bishop Jeremy Taylor. "St. Lewis the King sent Ivo Bishop of Chartres on an embassy, and he told, that he met a grave and stately matron on the way with a censer of fire in one band, and a vessel of water in the other; and observing her to have a melancholy, religious, and phantastic deportment and look, he asked her what those symbols meant, and what she meant to do with her fire and water; she answered, My purpose is with the fire to burn paradise, and with my water to quench the flames of hell, that men may serve God purely for the love of God. But we rarely meet with such spirits which love virtue so metaphysically as to abstract her from all sensible compositions, and love the purity of the idea." Des Cartes having introduced into his philosophy the fanciful hypothesis of material ideas, or certain configurations of the brain, which were as so many moulds to the influxes of the external world,—Locke adopted the term, but extended its signification to whatever is the immediate object of the mind's attention or consciousness. Hume, distinguishing those representations which are accompanied with a sense of a present object from those reproduced by the mind itself, designated the former by impressions, and confined the word idea to ,the latter.]
(Chap.VII Biographia Literaria)

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