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Transcript of Metaphysics
Our reality is shaped by our language.
Benjamin Whorf (1897-1941) and Edward Sapir (1884-1939)
proposed that different cultures evolve different fundamental concepts about the world and these concepts force them to structure their reality in a particular way through language. This means that their language and culture will determine how and what they can think.
What is what you see?
Phenomenenalism agrees that there is sense data, but wants to avoid the scepticism that comes from stating the sense data comes between us and the world.
Is reality a prori and analytic? A posteriori and synthetic? or something in between?
Kant's transcendental realism seems to straddle the fence between realism and idealism. There is a mind independent reality (realism), but we cannot experience it as it is in itself. We only experience reality as it is filtered through our perceptions.
Is anything really out there?
Primary and Secondary Qualities
According to Kant, our perceptions do not indirectly 'represent' reality at all.
'Things in themselves' exists in the noumenal world which is inaccessable to us.
What, if anything, is real?
A transcendental view starts from what we know to be true from experience and then shows what must be the case for it to be true.
Searle argues that ordinary discourse is meaningful and allows us to meet for lunch dates at a particular place and time, use maps and watches. If we can do these things, then the external world must be a reality.
Objects exists independently of our perceptions of them.
An optimistic realist would say that we are also able to know about the nature of the real world.
John Searle gives a transcendental argument for realism
Naive realism states that the world is more or less as we perceive it.
a simplistic view that unreflective people have
External objects present themselves to the senses unbidden
They are more distinct than those presented by memory or imagination
They can’t come from within so must come from without
It seems that the sense come first and the intellect later
So nothing is present to the mind that was not first present to the senses
John Locke (1632-1704)
Stated that objects had both primary and secondary qualities.
Primary Qualities of objects are those of size, shape, solidity number and motion. These are properties objects have even if no one is observing them.
Secondary qualities depend upon the perceiver. These are qualities like colour, texture and temperature. These vary according to the nature of the perceiver.
Locke was a realist--He believed that primary qualities were qualities that an actual object extended in time and space actually had; only secondary qualities depended on the perceiver.
Bishop George Berkeley (1685-1753)
Primary qualities are also sense dependent.
Consider a box. How do I know shape apart from perception?
A box is square because it looks and feels square. Without perception, we have nothing.
According to Berkley, all qualities are secondary qualities and are dependent on perception.
According to Berkeley, if an object is the sum total of its qualities and all of these are sense dependent, then they do not exist if they are not perceived. Thus,
esse est percipi--to be is to be perceived!
The sceptical view
sense data stands between us and the world
Consider ice cream,
What is the sense data associated with it?
When we describe all of our sense data about ice cream, according to phenomenalists, you have said all there is to say about ice cream. We don't have to say and all of this sense data belongs to something that we call ice cream.
The object is all of the sense data.
Phenomenalism and Idealism are not the same even though they might sound superficially similar.
So, what's the difference?
Idealism makes an ontological statement about the existence of objects and phenomenalism makes a logical statement about the existence of objects.
Idealism--Things only exist if they are perceived.
Phenomenalism--Objects are a logical construct of sense data. They don't deny that objects exist. They do, however, introduce a hypothetical clause--
'To say that X exists is to say that under the right circumstances, the appropriate sense data would occur.'
Isaiah Berlin's Criticism of Phenomenalism
To say that objects exist is to say something categorical about them. To say an object exists is to say that it exists full stop. It not to say something hypothetical like if the object exists, there will be a particular kind of sense data.
Other Criticisms of Phenomenology
1. Having Sense data doesn't necessarily mean that something exists (hallucinations, phantom limbs, etc.)
2. The existence of an object does not logically entail that sense data has to apply. Sense data and the object are logically independent.
We live entirely in the phenomenal world, the world of things as they appear.
Kant attempts to take the best from both rationalism and empiricism by introducing the concept of the synthetic a priori in his book
A Critique of Pure Reason
Synthetic a priori is a way of describing knowledge that comes from the senses, but cannot be doubted.
79 x 23 = 1817 is analytic--given the meaning of the terms, it must be true.
But, knowledge that when multiplied, these two numbers have this sum creates genuine new knowledge. We don't necessarily have that answer just because it is implicit in the sum.
This can look like a vase or two faces, but we don't see both at once. It could also look like shapes and squiggly lines.
What ever we see, our minds will struggle to give it order. According to Kant, we are pre-programmed to make sense of experience.
One problem with Kant's theory is that while we can say that our mental pre-dispositions play a role in our making sense of reality, this is not to say that these predispositions have a fixed and definite form.
The way we make sense of the world may not be through our innate rational tendencies; the way that we see and categorize the world may develop through our experience.
Kant's Transcendental Realism
This means that if my culture and language has no word for future, I cannot understand the concept of future.
While Kant thought that we have inherited a fixed set of conceptual possibilities that assist us in making sense of reality, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis argues that concepts are culturally inherited and relative to that culture's language.
1. Some researchers state that Saphir and Whorf misinterpreted linguistic practices.
2. If these different conceptual schemes for interpreted reality exist, where are they? How can we account for them?
3. If a culture has no concept of something, can't I just explain that concept to them?
A metaphysical interlude from your instructor's childhood.
Link to A picture for Harold's Room