A Guy Walks Into A Bar… Again

Here is a philosophical joke I thought of the other day…

A Guy Walks Into A Bar.
Does he exist?

How about this…

Non-existent thing walks into a bar.

If you answer that a) the guy in the first joke doesn’t exist, and you agree that b) non-existing things can’t walk into a bar, it follows that c) a joke that starts with “A Guy Walks Into A Bar” is incomprehensible.

From there we can conclude that a person that is laughing at any “A Guy Walks Into A Bar” joke, is clearly faking it, as per c) he couldn’t possibly understand it.

A Couple More Thoughts on Pain

Connected to the issue raised in the previous post, that is if pain has to hurt, there are some interesting things said by George Pitcher in an article called “Awfulness of Pain” (The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 67, No. 14. (Jul. 23, 1970), pp. 481-492.), where at the start he asks “Is pain necessarily unpleasant?”

There he points to the case of:

    2.People with incurable diseases that have underwent prefrontal lobotomy. Those people typically “report after the operation that they still have pain but it doesn’t bother them; they simply don’t care about the pain and often forget it is there.” He further says…

It might be thought that the operation simply destroys the patients’ ability to feel any pain at all, but it is not so: for they still complain vociferously about pinprick and mild burn.

    3.People who have “trained themselves” not to mind pain – like fakirs.

Pitcher actually takes the position that the pain can be blocked in the brain, and so, he tends to think that those cases might be understandable in such theory, but as that doesn’t help much phenomenologically, I will just ignore that theory.

For the case of masochism, it seems to me that it is not about finding the pain pleasurable, but that it is the whole context that masochists find arousing (and find some kind of pleasure in it). Or – this case can’t be reduced to simple situation where masochist doesn’t find the pain unpleasant (or painful), but that it is probably that they find it painful which creates the situation in which their paraphilia is manifested. Pitcher also says that “Affirmatives” (people who think that pain is always unpleasant) can give analogies like…

…an object might be ugly in itself, but when placed in certain setting, it might make an essential contribution to a whole that is aesthetically pleasing. Or, a certain herb can be in itself foul-tasting, but nevertheless enhance the flavor of a delicious soup or salad.

Second and third case seem more straightforward, as they don’t seem to include this kind of problems. However still, if a person says that he feels the pain, but it doesn’t bother him, might not be a fact that the pain is not in itself “painful”, but that there is just difference in what I named in the previous posts – “access to pain”.
To make an analogy – some thing might look ugly to me. But if I put some kind of colored glasses, it might be enough for the thing not to look ugly anymore. By putting glasses, I’m not changing the thing, but I’m changing the access to the thing. (or instead of glasses, think few glasses of wine). But what changes in those cases is not how we are affected by the things, but the way we see the thing is changed, and that is the reason for change of the experience.

So maybe in case of 2 and 3 what is changed is also the properties of the access to the thing, and it is not a change of how we are affected by one and the same thing, while the thing, and the access to it are still the same.

Other thing that makes the analysis difficult is that the pain’s effect on us is what is usually taken as what “pain” refers to. In such way we are metaphorically using it to point to some unpleasant experience by using “painful experience”. So, if the prototype pain is which hurts us, probably “pain” isn’t best suited to point to a part of the pain abstracted from how it affects us…

Does Pain Have To Hurt?

In the post Cyborgs Sharing Pain, Again I argued that pain can be treated like other things that appear as intentional content of our acts – like things we see, like music we hear, and so on…

While we have access to the things in the world through “seeing”, and while we have access to the music in the room through “hearing”, we might in similar way have access to the pains in our body through “feeling” (where “feeling” as type of access should be distinguished from emotions, of course).

Also we can make analogy between the pain affecting us (“hurts us”) and the possibility of those other things to strongly affect us too –  Something we see can produce e.g. fear in us, or something we listen can irritate us, or make us happy etc..

Also those things can affect us even if they are not real. (e.g. illusionary or hallucinated thing can be as scary as a real one). In such way there is nothing special about pain hurting us even if it is, for example in a phantom limb – that is when “I feel pain in my left leg.”, can’t be true, as the person doesn’t have left leg.

I pointed to few arguments intuition can present against such thinking in that post, but here I want to put attention on one of them that can be put in the sentence – the pain hurts us in the same way, be it real or in hallucination.  And when I point that the music can also be as irritating, be it real or in hallucination, one might respond that there is a distinction: In case of the music, there is a separation between the music and the way it affects me.

There is a possibility for the same music to affect me in different way, however there is no possibility for pain to affect me in different way. One might say that “It is in the nature of the pain to hurt.” Or “What makes pain – pain, is that it hurts.”

I don’t know what to think about this. I’m guessing that pain and the way it affects us might be separated. That is, that person can be aware of the pain, without it “hurting him”. Or to feel the pain, without being in pain so to say. Do different meditation practices succeed to separate pain from hurting? Are there some pathological states in which those two are separated?

A Guy Walks Into A Bar…

A Guy Walks Into A Bar…
What Color Are His Eyes?

George Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning The Principles Of Human Knowledge

IX. And as the Mind frames to it self abstract Ideas of Qualities or Modes, so does it, by the same precision or mental Separation, attain abstract Ideas of the more compounded Beings, which include several coexistent Qualities. For example, the Mind having observed that Peter, James, and John, resemble each other, in certain common Agreements of Shape and other Qualities, leaves out of the complex or compounded Idea it has of Peter, James, and any other particular Man, that which is peculiar to each, retaining only what is common to all; and so makes an abstract Idea wherein all the particulars equally partake, abstracting intirely from and cutting off all those Circumstances and Differences, which might determine it to any particular Existence. And after this manner it is said we come by the abstract Idea of Man or, if you please, Humanity, or Humane Nature; wherein it is true there is included Colour, because there is no Man but has some Colour, but then it can be neither White, nor Black, nor any particular Colour; because there is no one particular Colour wherein all Men partake. So likewise there is included Stature, but then it is neither Tall Stature nor Low Stature, nor yet Middle Stature, but something abstracted from all these. And so of the rest. Moreover, there being a great variety of other Creatures that partake in some Parts, but not all, of the complex Idea of Man, the Mind leaving out those Parts which are peculiar to Men, and retaining those only which are common to all the living Creatures, frameth the Idea of Animal, which abstracts not only from all particular Men, but also all Birds, Beasts, Fishes, and Insects. The constituent Parts of the abstract Idea of Animal are Body, Life, Sense, and Spontaneous Motion. By Body is meant, Body without any particular Shape or Figure, there being no one Shape or Figure common to all Animals, without Covering, either of Hair, or Feathers, or Scales, &c. nor yet Naked: Hair, Feathers, Scales, and Nakedness being the distinguishing Properties of particular Animals, and for that reason left out of the Abstract Idea. Upon the same account the spontaneous Motion must be neither Walking, nor Flying, nor Creeping, it is nevertheless a Motion, but what that Motion is, it is not easy to conceive.

X. Whether others have this wonderful Faculty of Abstracting their Ideas, they best can tell: For my self I find indeed I have a Faculty of imagining, or representing to myself the Ideas of those particular things I have perceived and of variously compounding and dividing them. I can imagine a Man with Two Heads or the upper parts of a Man joined to the Body of a Horse. I can consider the Hand, the Eye, the Nose, each by it self abstracted or separated from the rest of the Body. But then whatever Hand or Eye I imagine, it must have some particular Shape and Colour. Likewise the Idea of Man that I frame to my self, must be either of a White, or a Black, or a Tawny, a Straight, or a Crooked, a Tall, or a Low, or a Middle-sized Man. I cannot by any effort of Thought conceive the abstract Idea above described. And it is equally impossible for me to form the abstract Idea of Motion distinct from the Body moving, and which is neither Swift nor Slow, Curvilinear nor Rectilinear; and the like may be said of all other abstract general Ideas whatsoever. To be plain, I own my self able to abstract in one Sense, as when I consider some particular Parts or Qualities separated from others, with which though they are united in some Object, yet, it is possible they may really Exist without them. But I deny that I can abstract one from another, or conceive separately, those Qualities which it is impossible should Exist so separated; or that I can frame a General Notion by abstracting from Particulars in the manner aforesaid. Which two last are the proper Acceptations of Abstraction. And there are Grounds to think most Men will acknowledge themselves to be in my Case. The Generality of Men which are Simple and Illiterate never pretend to abstract Notions. It is said they are difficult and not to be attained without Pains and Study. We may therefore reasonably conclude that, if such there be, they are confined only to the Learned.

When I first read this few years back, I remember thinking that Berkeley surely got something wrong.
Of course I can imagine a man without imagining the particular color of his eyes! When someone tells me a story about a man (real or imaginary), I don’t imagine him to every little detail, nor I can do that. I thought – Surely it is not about putting lot of “effort of Thought” to conceive of the general idea, but actually not putting effort at all, because it is not thinking of those details, that my imaginary man will not be neither tall nor short, and his eyes won’t be neither blue nor brown eyes. Those issues just won’t appear.

But after writing the previous post I remembered those paragraphs, and now I’m thinking that Berkeley was pointing to what I wanted to point in the last post by saying that every universal contains particularity. Namely that “an apple is always a particular apple”. Or that one can’t imagine an apple without it being particular apple. Or when we think of the example of man, if I imagine a man, he will always be particular man, and while I don’t have to imagine his eyes, if I do imagine them, they will have to be this or that color, and even if someone asks me “Does that human has particular color of the eyes?”, I will need to say “Sure.”, even without imagining (or knowing) the particular color .

Against “Particular” as A Noun

I’m not sure how often is this in other people thinking, but I was used to think of universal vs. particular as some kind of dichotomy in which both “particular” and “universal” appeared as nouns, pointing to opposite things. But now it seems to me that such view is confused. Here is why…

1) “Particular” is A Universal

Particulars by being particulars already fall under the universal – “particular”. You might as well use “things”. The situation would be same, “thing” is a universal. You can’t fully get rid of universals – as long something is thought, it is thought as a universal. Changing “particular” from adjective (e.g. “particular thing”) to noun might be thought to be a way to avoid universals, but it doesn’t succeed in it.

In order to avoid universals we might try to just point and say “that”, but surely we are point to something. For example… by pointing to the tree – are we pointing to the whole tree, or to the trunk, or just to some part of the trunk?
Or, to say it differently… we can’t just think “particular” (as adjective), we can think only “particular something“. Some specializations of something may be “thing” or “phenomenon” (or if we want to speak funny “particular(adj.) particular (noun)“).

2) All Universals presuppose particularity anyway

It might be thought that particular (as a noun) is somehow special, as it presupposes particularity, and that there must be something wrong with the previous point.

What can be pointed to, though, is that this is not a problem because not just “particular”, but really any other universal already contains particularity. In such way – to be an apple, is to be a particular apple. One can’t imagine an apple without imagining it as a particular apple.

3) How about “That particular is an apple”? Doesn’t “particular” have special role there?

In the subject/predicate propositions, when we say “A is B”, the subject (A) is richer than the predicate (B), as it is the predicate, but is not merely the predicate. For example a cow is an animal, but not merely an animal, it is an animal further determined. I want to point how the “particular” as a noun doesn’t do much but obscure the things…

First connected to what was said in the previous point, we have propositions like:

  • a)”An apple is a particular”“An apple” is the subject here and “a particular” is the predicate. So in this case it is “an apple” that contains the predicate of being “a particular”, but is further determined.(see point 2).

This is compatible with what was said about subject/predicate relation, as the subject contains more determinations than the predicate. Any apple is a particular, but further determined (as apple). This proposition is a priori. An apple is necessarily a particular. Of course, as “particular” as universal isn’t in anything special, but merely points to something very general, instead of “particular”, one can use “thing” or “something”, without loosing anything from what is meant.

Secondly we have the propositions like:

  • b)”That particular is an apple”“That particular” is the subject in this proposition and as such is richer than “an apple”, which is predicate.

But if the previous propositions pointed that “an apple” is richer than “a particular”, how is that in this case “that particular” is now richer than “an apple”?

First we need to point that the word “particular” in the phrase “that particular” is not something special that makes this kind of relation possible. The same situation can be brought about by pointing to the sentences:

  1. “A Red Delicious is an apple”
  2. “That apple is a Red Delicious”

So, again this fact has nothing to do with “particular” as a noun. It has to do with “that”. Of course “that” is not a magic word. We can also use the definite article – “the”, and say “The particular is an apple” or “The apple is a Red Delicious”, or we can use “particular” as adjective in order to amplify the particularity and say “the particular thing is an apple”. Or we can avoid all those things, and use proper names. So we can name a particular apple – “Jenny”, and then we can say that “Jenny is a thing”, “Jenny is an apple”, “Jenny is a Red Delicious”, etc…

So, while there is for sure a difference to point to between the propositions a) and b), it seems that talking about particular/universal distinction, where those both sides are imagined as self-subsistent is not the right way to approach it.

Cyborgs Sharing The Pain, Once More

At Kenodoxia there is a very interesting variant of the cyborg sharing the pain thought experiment I posted. Go there to check the changed story…

People waiting while you read the post at Kenodoxia.

I think that they are right when they point that the story presented there is odder than the original one, and that they are right that this might be because either:

  1. The pleasure can’t be in the Ethan’s finger or
  2. Pleasure is less sharable.

Actually I think 1) is the case. Think about this…

Two cyborgs, Michael and Ethan walk on the surface of a distant planet after a fight with alien troops. Michael notices that Ethan is smiling.
-What is it? – asks Michael.
-I am enjoying the sensation in my finger. – says Ethan.
-How does it feel? – asks Michael. Ethan unscrews his finger, and hands it to Michael, who replaces one of his own fingers with it.-WHAT?! You find this pleasurable? There is incredible pain in the finger!- says Michael.
-I knew you wouldn’t understand. – says Ethan – Give me back my finger.
-You sick son of a bitch! – says Michael.

Phosphorus and Hesperus In The Phenomenal World

One of the interesting things about philosophical issues like Frege’s puzzle, it seems to me, is that nobody in the world has the problem with them except for philosophers and those who allow to be confused by philosophers.
Instead of analyzing how come that there is no problem (as really isn’t it obvious that nobody has problem with learning that the person they see today called Michael, is the little kid they called Mikey many years ago?), you will hear from philosophers solutions of the problem which everyday people can’t understand. (And more then that the solution is shown bad by pointing to an example which is understandable by everybody to be one way, but the solution predicts it the other way around.)

Same situation with math. Everybody (except philosophers and those confused by them) knows and understands that one and one IS two, but for the philosophers  it becomes a problem, and they then might again try to “solve” the problem and say – ‘That one and one is two is true in this and this axiomatic system, and you can understand why is it true just if you follow us through the proof, which is in *this* book.”. No wonder nobody takes philosophy seriously. If you thought you understand simple matters you understand, you were wrong!

Anyway, enough rant, what follows is a text written using by normal letters, but also bold, italic and underlined. Also I used colors and even different sizes of font! So, in three words: Doesn’t look nice. And don’t expect much from the actual argument either.

Some introductory notes

Short introduction to Frege’s puzzle:
Suppose that Phosphorus and Hesperus mean in the sentence just the object they refer to. If so, they can be interchanged in the sentence, without that sentence changing.
But S1:”If Phosphorus is a planet, then Phosphorus is a planet” is non-informative, while S2:”If Phosphorus is a planet, then Hesperus is a planet” is informative. As S1 and S2 differ in a property, they can’t be the same sentences. So, it can’t be that “Phosphorus” and “Hesperus” mean the same thing in those sentences.

Short introduction to the difference between psychological and phenomenological pictures:
Let me first define something that I will call – “psychological theories of phenomenal experience” (PTPE).
Those are theories that talk about “phenomenal experience” or “field of experience” as of a psychological phenomenon.
They may come in different varieties.

  • The simplest form is sense-data PTPE. In it the “phenomenal experience” is imagined as a sort of field which  has as its parts simple elements like colors, sounds, pains, etc..  Further, in that picture, higher cognitive functions like association on basis of this data build concepts.
    In the paradigm of sense-data PTPE, when you put green glasses the sense-data becomes greenish. Also, there is visual-field (2D or 2.5D) which contains some properties across it (e.g. clear in center, and more vague to periphery)
  • In its more complex variants the PTPE might not agree with the idea of sense-data. But it will still think of the experience as a mental phenomenon that contains the things which appear in that experience. Though now it is not based on sense-data, but it is for example constituted by the brain in the interaction of the information from the senses and higher cognitive functions (e.g. concepts, memory, etc…).

As I said in the other post, I think that PTPE give wrong pictures of what is going on.
Instead, I think, we should return to a “more naive-realistic picture” (MNRP). In this picture we don’t talk so much about phenomenal experiences, but about subject being in and experiencing the phenomenal world. The phenomenal world which appears in our experience is then the real world. Also the phenomenal world in this picture is the physical world, though not merely the physical world (they stand in subject/predicate relation).

So, what I ask in the MNRP is that we don’t take in consideration that “photons reflect from the surfaces of things, get focused through the lense of or eye, fall onto rods and cone cells etc…”. I think that this whole story about photons is story about the phenomenal world itself, and as such can’t be used to explain the phenomenal world. If we analyze the phenomenal world, we find the photons there in it. And we find in it also the eyes, and the cells, and the brains etc… All that is in the phenomenal world, and not producing the phenomenal world. (for more discussion on this see e.g. this post, also some more arguments for MNRP (or against PTPE) here)

How does intentionality appear in those two pictures?

In the PTPE theories what is in our experience is not the thing itself (the thing can not be produced by our brain, and the experience in PTPE is produced by the brain). Instead what is there in the experience is representation of the thing. To give account for intentionality then one needs to relate the thing and the brain somehow, and this is (as far as I known) mostly done by appeal to causal relations between the thing and the brain.

In the MNRP we experience the thing (see it, hear it, touch it, etc…), and there is nothing between me as subject and the thing that is experienced. So, the problem of intentionality as it is in the PTPE theories doesn’t appear – it is the thing itself that appears directly to me. And because it is in publicly accessible space,  it is the same thing that appears directly to other people.

Little phenomenological analysis of the meaning of notions of looking, thing and change

1. Thing we see transcends our seeing it
When we talk about physical objects around us, like apples, glasses, chairs etc.., intentional content appears not as some kind of sense-data, but appears as something in the world, publically accessible. If me and my friend are looking at an apple, in my experience there is just one apple that we both look at. The apple is there as something independent from me and my friend –  both acts of looking at it are incidental, and don’t affect it. As long there are some difference in what we see, they are properties of the seeing itself, and not the object. For example I see the apple from *here*, and my friend from *there*, I see it through fog, and he sees it through glasses. So:

(a)Intentional content isn’t a part of our intentional act (isn’t contained in it).

2. Thing as changing
The objects also appear in the phenomenal world (or to us) as persisting through time. When I’m looking at that apple, there is no such things as moments in which I get some kind of sense-data-patches, in time t, then in time t+dt, then yet another in t+dt+dt, etc… If I take the apple in my hands, and if I rotate it, it is one and the same apple that rotates, and I don’t have any problems with it, nor it seems like something weird. I don’t because the category of thing has in it that refers to something persisting and changing (through time, we might say, but the determination through time is there exactly because we are aware of their changing).

It becomes a problem for understanding which presuposes that “time”, “moments”, or “fully determined being” (vs. becoming) is what is true. For sure if those were the categories to which our thought (or the world for that matter) is limited, there would be a contradiction between notions of change and thing. As by requiring that a thing is determined being, we are negating possibility for change. But as we see that is not a problem for the world, nor for the common-sense which hasn’t went into analyzing of its categories, and reducing them to simpler ones. The situation is not as we want to make it through our abstractions. It is not such in our mind, nor the contradiction that we produce by holding the abstract categories as self-subsistent can be such in the world. The category of thing is such that it has notion of change in it. Things exist as becoming, as changing.

(b) Momentary state of a thing, is an abstraction of thing which changes (and eventually ceases to be). Momentary state of thing, doesn’t exist as such, as “left” and “right” don’t exist as such.

3. Baptizing the thing
Baptizer gives a name to an intentional content (what he sees, hears, etc…). Baptizer doesn’t see a sense-datum, nor a momentary state of a thing. As per (a) and (b) what person is seeing, and naming is a “full-blooded thing”.

(c) Giving a name (baptizing) is dependent of there being intentional act with some intentional content. The person *always* gives a name to an intentional content of intentional act. (We can’t name something that doesn’t appear in our intentional acts)

The intentional content is not at all affected by it being intentional content (it is unaffected by our seeing or not seeing it) – “being intentional content” isn’t an intristic property of the intentional content.

Sense/Reference Distinction?

What we have there can be compared to what is usually called “sense” and “reference”… the intentional content is both… First it is a full-blooded thing (see (a) and (b)) (what we can compare with reference), but it is also the full-blooded thing which was seen (an aspect that we can compare with sense).

The thing which we see IS the full-blooded thing which transcends our seeing it, so there is just one thing that has two aspects. One we can say is the intristic – its existence, and the other is its appearance as intentional content.

There is no name without the second aspect, though it might be names without the first aspect (e.g. imaginary things, illusions, etc.. can be named).

So, it is possible that we knew a little kid named Mikey appeared as content of our looking, hearing about, etc..), and now know a grown up man called Michael (which also appeared as intentional content in this or that way), without knowing they are the same person. The question is asked, what the names Mikey and Michael mean? Don’t they mean the same person? Yes, they do, but they do mean only as connected to a person who means that person with it. And because that person might not know that Mikey and Michael are the same person, the sentence Michael=Mikey is informative for him. Which is normal because to refer to something we don’t need to know much about it.

Let me at the end just repeat again, that because the analysis is done within the MNRP picture, it isn’t psychologism, and the names refer to real things in real world, and can be shared as names by the community to refer to one and the same thing.

The Phenomenal World As A Real World

I’m not sure how clear is the background of my posts here. If they make sense or not. So,in risk of repeating myself, here is another attempt to communicate this background more clearly…

Simple picture:

The phenomenal world is a physical world.
They are in relation of subject and predicate. The relation between subject and predicate, is where the subject contains the predicate, but also something more.

Like in “Cow is an animal”. Notion ‘cow’ contains all determinations of ‘animal’, and plus something else. To be a cow is to be an animal, and still to be determined differently.  If by “abstraction” we mean focusing on some part of the thing or notion, and leaving outside others, then ‘animal’ is abstraction from ‘cow’. By ignoring some specifics of what makes a cow, you are left with just a general ‘animal’.

That is what we do in phenomenal world. We put attention on some characteristics and ignore others. We look at the phenomena, and take some of the properties to be dependent on us as observers. Colors, sounds – “they have more to do with our sensory apparatus and our brain, then with the world – remove them from our analysis of the world. We will loose nothing.”. But, in doing that, we are not analyzing any other world then the phenomenal world. We are approaching things in the phenomenal world in order to measure them, put them in furnace, etc… So, the physical world is abstraction of phenomenal world.-  The phenomenal world is a physical world.

Complicated picture:
Usually there is that one assumption which comes along with the analysis of the world in terms of physics, and which can be connected back to Locke and his division to primary/secondary properties. “What we have ignored or abstracted from in the physical world are secondary properties… they are not in the world at all, properly speaking. The world is what our analysis has left.”, says such view, “The physical world, stripped down to its simple multiplicity of particles which behave so and so when they are in some field, is what there is. That world affects our senses, and what we have abstracted from appears only in the mental life.”

In this view, what we call “phenomenal world” is mere construct of our minds. It might be not properly named “phenomenal world” any more, but more likely – “phenomenal experience”.  The first approach to this picture is usually the simple one, where the information from sensory organs is mapped to some kind of sense-data, and everything else in the phenomenal experience we hope to get from mental processes like association. And then it is seen that it won’t do… What is called “Phenomenal experience” is too complex to reduce to that. Now we find in this “phenomenal experience” those things which we abstracted from. But we don’t want to retrace and recheck the assumptions from which we start. We are left in this psychological view of the “phenomenal experience”, in which we now want to put not just simple things that are named “qualia”, but also intentionality, language, other people and their minds – everything that we abstracted. And all that we need to construct on base of brain. And look… there is a gap!

Of course there is a gap! How can there not be a gap, where the phenomenal world is stripped down to its basics and called physical world, and now from its simple notions, which are really a few quantified notions, we need to get to how it was from the start. It is as if we abstracted from two dimensions in three dimensional space as “secondary properties”, and now try to reconstruct them, using just one dimension.

And dualists acknowledging this gap, don’t retrace and check the steps already done, but want to “add” the missing things to the picture. But I think there are two problems.

  • Dualists are trying to “glue” those missing things in the wrong place. They still work in the “phenomenal experience” paradigm. “The real world” is left as it is, cleaned-up to the abstract simplicity of few simple notions.
  • The “gluing” doesn’t quite work anyway. If you can abstract B and C from A, that doesn’t mean that you can just “glue” B and C and get A.

I hope that I succeeded here to communicate at least in part my feel about the weirdness of the picture in which the physical world is not taken for what really is – an abstraction, but as self-subsistent, and indeed is taken as a ground of the phenomenal world from which it was abstracted.

Return to the simple picture:
In my thinking then, we need to give up the paradigm of “phenomenal experience” as a psychological phenomenon. I think that picture is turning everything on its head. We need to give up the picture where this our living in the world falls in the realm of psychology. Instead, I think, we should accept our phenomenal being-in-the-world as a genuine being in the world. A real being, real existence in a real world. A move towards naive realism, if you like.
So, having done this move I guess it makes it clear how phenomenological analysis in this picture should not be seen as psychological analysis, and how we can look in this our being in the world for basis not just of our experiences, but also for base of intentionality, concepts and even physics.

It Is One And The Same Thing

  1. The one which I’m looking at.
    • The one that attracts my attention.
    • The one that other people are looking at.
    • The one in our phenomenal experience.
  2. The one I’m talking about.
    • The one that other people are talking about.
  3. The one that changes before me.
    • The one before the change.
    • The one after the change.
  4. The one that
    • I wish to have, eat, touch, smell,
    • I am afraid of
    • scares me, irritates me, pleases me
  5. The one that I remember, even when it ceased to exist (died, destroyed, etc…)
  6. The one that I assumed as part of theory

The One (and the same thing)

Few Links

Russell’s Mysticism And Logic And Other Essays, is available online at Internet Archive, in few versions among which as scanned pdf and txt. Among included essays is the essay “On The Notion Of Cause”, where he does analysis of the traditional notion of causation (Humean’ notion of cause) contrasting it with the form that physical laws have. Also he puts attention on how this affects Kant’s take on the issue.

Connected to this issue is the paper by Beatrice Longuenesse – Kant’s Deconstruction of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, included in the Volume IX of The Harvard Review Of Philosophy. The paper discusses the development of Kant’s views about PSR, and his attempt to give ground to the principle, through the proof of the causal principle.

Papers by Frank C. Keil on understanding and explanation. Though they are not strictly philosophy, I think that they are very thought provoking and certainly connect to some philosophical issues. The last one I started reading is  Categorisation, causation, and the limits of understanding.

And blog-wise:

Brian Weatherson had a post few days ago named Martians and the Gruesome, which is also interesting read.

Clark over at Mormon Metaphysics, has started interesting series of posts (two for now- 1 and 2) on topics from physics and how they connect to some philosophical issues.

Oh…., and a fun short article by Asimov – What is Intelligence, Anyway?

Comment On Two Hegel Quotes

In a previous post, I  said that as long as we want to assume that explanations of sciences might hold, we are implicitly idealists – as the possibility of identity between reasons of why things are as they are as thought, and actual reasons why the things are as they are is assumed. Idealism is then that optimism that the world is reasonable place, which can be understood…

The aim of knowledge is to divest the objective world that stands opposed to us of its strangeness, and, as the phrase is, to find ourselves at home in it: which means no more than to trace the objective world back to the notion – to our innermost self. – Hegel’s Logic (Part One of the Encyclopedia of The Philosophical Sciences)

As such, the idealism is compatible with the need to understand, and in this form idealism shouldn’t be reduced to some kind of slogan that “the world is in our mind”, or that “things are in our mind”. It is not the “Mind” that is put as the basic principle there, but that possibility of connection between world and thought (or negating the dichotomy). I think that is what Hegel is trying to communicate in the following paragraph…

To speak of thought or objective thought as the heart and soul of the world, may seem to be ascribing consciousness to the things of nature. We feel a certain repugnance against making thought the inward function of things, especially as we speak of thought as marking the divergence of man from nature. It would be necessary, therefore, if we use the term thought at all, to speak of nature as the system of unconscious thought, or, to use Schelling’s expression, a petrified intelligence. And in order to prevent misconception, ‘thought-form’ or ‘thought-type’ should be substituted for the ambiguous term thought. – Hegel’s Logic (Part One of the Encyclopedia of The Philosophical Sciences)

A Priori Physical Laws – Few Notes

In the last posts, I discussed why it would make sense for the physical laws to be a priori.
However I think because I failed to clearly explain what I mean by a priori, the post might be not very clear, so I will add few notes here:

Let’s say we have a conditional in this form:
CF: If a concrete is U1, then it will necessarily also be U2.

We can have reason(s) (call it RP) to believe that CF holds, without knowing…

  1. if CF really holds
  2. if it holds, is there a fully determining reason (call it RA) why it holds
  3. if there is RA, what is it

RP we can call consequently determining reason or “a posteriori reason”, and the RA –  antecedently determining reason or “a priori reason”. (Of course time relations doesn’t have anything to do with that, i.e. reasons don’t have to be causal reasons, they can be logical, mathematical, psychological etc..)

If we believe CF for a posteriori reason, we can call it a posteriori belief that CF holds. (In that case we can’t say if CF is true. We don’t know.)
If we figure-out that CF really holds by understanding RA, then we have a priori knowledge that CF holds, and also we can call CF – a priori true.

So, now I can explain more precisely what I talked about in the previous post:

Scientist beliefs scientific laws (say in the form of CF) for a posteriori reasons – PR.
But while believing on base of PR negates possibility of knowing 1., 2. and 3. previously mentioned (by definition),  and while scientists can’t know if CF really holds, she can still believe that it might hold, i.e. it is possible that CF for which we have only a posteriori reasons to believe in, actually holds.

So the previous post was about those physical laws, which scientist might believe are true for a posteriori reasons, but which happens to actually hold in the world. So, I was arguing why it would make sense for those laws to have a priori reasons.

Anyway, to spice this post a little in hope to make it less boring, I will tell something else too – I did a search on the internet, trying to find something on the issue of a priority of the physical laws. One of the things I found is a short text called Nothing but Relativity on arxiv.org. It is an interesting read – it analyzes what kind of general space-time transformation laws can come out if one postulates just relativity (and don’t postulate the constant speed of light). Their answer is that the only two possible transformation equations are the Galilean and Einsteinian relativity. It is not really a priori development of special relativity, but seems as a step in that direction, and if you have time it is fun to check the many ways the principle of relativity is used in the text to limit the transformation equations.
Also, the titles of some of the referenced articles are interesting, and it seem that people have already argued that Lorentz transformations can be deduced from, as one of the titles says, “set of necessary assumptions”. I found this title particularly amusing:
A. Sen: How Galileo could have derived the special theory of relativity, Am. J. Phys. 62 (1994) 157-162.

Why Would It Make Sense For The Physical Laws To Be A Priori

On the start two notes:

  • What is meant by a priori here, is not analytical a priori, where two concepts stand in some relation because of their content (where the concepts are nicely defined each on its own), but necessary relations which come from the impossibility of those notions to be taken as self-subsistent, but should be necessarily analyzed in some context (Hegelian sublation), in which these abstractions will show up as standing in necessary relation to other abstract notions which will appear in the context. More details further in the text…
  • By physical laws here I mean actual physical laws of the world (if we assume there are such things), and not the physical laws which are product of science, and which are of course a posteriori and believed for empirical reasons (be it that we come to them by process of induction, abduction, falsification, or scientific revolutions to new incommensurable theories based on insight etc..)

So here are the reasons why I think it would make sense for those (actual) physical laws to be a priori…

Physical laws transcend time and space. This is a characteristic of a priori relations, like those of mathematics or logic. That if something can be put under the notion of two, it can be also put under notion of two ones, is true for anything, no matter when and where.

2. As much as the physical laws relate more and more notions, the self-subsistence of those notions is removed, and the richness of the world lost. Special relativity made identities between energy and mass, space and time, and general relativity between mass and space. Each of them was thought before as something independent, for which laws would provide just how it  relates to the others in external manner. But now they disappear as something self-subsistent in this identity (this is connected also to the following point). The same happens in case of a priori relations – for example  1+1=2, where in their a priori relation both sides of the relation are not connected externally, but whatever is 2 is also 1+1.

3. There is also a reason why one might thing that they could be a priori. I’m not thinking of the Kantian approach (which I think has failed), but of an approach which would mix Hegelian holism and Einsteinian (Mach’s?) approach to what constitutes a measurement. Here is what I have in mind:

a) Some of the simple notions which appear in the physical laws, don’t make sense as self-subsistent notions. They make sense only in certain contexts (some richer notion), and those richer notions also implicitly show them in some specific relations to other abstractions from those contexts.
For example in the post on Hegelian dialectic method to which I pointed, I analyzed how left-right notions make sense only in context in which we have a “point of view”, which also has defined front and back, and top and bottom. All those abstractions – “top”/”bottom”, “back”/”front” then appear in some implicit a priori relations with the “left”/”right” notions within that context.
Or think about the notion of “movement”. It necessarily requires “something” (that will move), but also single something isn’t enough for movement – we need to imagine another something in relation to which this first something will move. So necessarily movement must be analyzed as moving-in-relation-to-each-other.

b) Measurement (or quantification) being what laws are about, the context in which those abstract notions (like “time”, “space”, “movement” etc…) appear, is necessarily extended to even more complex notion, in which those can show new a priori relations. To connect to the previous example of movement – measurement of space requires at least three things, A, B and C, so that a ratio can be made between the AB distance and BC distance. In same way measurement of time, requires two movements (or in general two changes), so a ratio can be made.

To summarize – some of the notions, as they don’t make sense as self-subsistent will necessarily be seen as abstraction in contexts (e.g movement as movement-relative-to-each-other, left/right as a fully oriented observer, etc…). Also by adding notion of quantity, this context will be extended necessarily to more complex notions – giving possibility for complex a priori relations between notions.

4. Symmetries appear to have central role in physical laws. Symmetries can easily appear in the necessary development from simple to more complex notions as described in the previous point.

5. It would provide a new way to address the mind-body problem. This will take some explanation too…

We could return to our naive-reality-kind being-in-the-world, in which the physical laws will then appear as necessary relations among different abstractions from it. And for any system, in which those abstractions are kept as more or less self-subsistent, the law will hold. The analogy can me made with a group of things, which we start dividing them into smaller groups through some procedure. As long as the things are self-subsistent (don’t disappear, multiply  etc…) mathematical rules will hold between the numbers of things in each group and the starting number. However the nature of the concrete is not at least affected by those mathematical relations. For those mathematical relations to hold, it doesn’t matter what kind of things those are. In similar way, the concrete can be more than its physical abstractions, and while those physical abstractions will fall into necessary relations, still the concrete can be more than those, and is, as the naive-reality-world stands to the physical abstractions, in a subject/predicate relation. There would be no need of doubling to two worlds – world of mind and world of physics, the being-in-the-world contains everything which is usually taken as problematic for explaining through physical world (qualia, intentionality, etc…), and the physical world is seen as a predicate of this being-in-the-world. (For sure there would be separate metaphysical issues even if the physical laws turn to be a priori)

6. If we believe that there is a reason why the laws are such as they are, there is no better reason than them being a priori. (Any other reason will require new reason, or we would have to assume lack of it).