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Berkeley's Response to Descartes

 
 
High Seas
 
  2  
Reply Thu 15 Dec, 2011 01:42 pm
@fresco,
fresco wrote:

.....To a large extent the discussion of physics or chemistry is irrelevant to a discussion of "cognition" except where those levels of discourse are deemed to explain a necessary platform for cognition. But necessity and sufficiency are not equivalent, as indicated by the attempts at computer modelling of cognitive processes within AI. ......

You haven't been following - the subatomic particle crowd have managed to fool electrons into mistaking helium for hydrogen, and have pictures to prove it:
http://www.popsci.com/files/imagecache/article_image_large/articles/HAtomOrbitals.png
Quote:
.....the reaction with the disguised helium was the slowest, followed by normal hydrogen, then the light hydrogen. The rates perfectly matched predictions from quantum mechanical calculations..... Most reactions involve far too many particles for this to be practical, but Truhlar says the hydrogen reaction was just simple enough....

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20049-atomic-disguise-makes-helium-look-like-hydrogen.html
full text here: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6016/448.full
fresco
 
  2  
Reply Thu 15 Dec, 2011 01:59 pm
@High Seas,
Amusingly anthropomorphic ! Smile
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 15 Dec, 2011 02:00 pm
@Cyracuz,
The problem, however, is that at the level of understanding at which macro and sub-atomic processes are indistinguishable you lose your ability to assert that there is a valid distinction to be made between those two "realms," and that cognition takes place only in one of them. I immediately called bullshit for two reasons. The first is that you were making a categorical statement which implied that cognition takes place only at the sub-atomic level. The second was that i strongly suspected that you don't know enough about physics, chemistry and metabolism to make such a statement, and our subsequent discussion seems to bear that out. Had you said you believe that, i might have dissented, but i would not have called bullshit, because i only called bullshit due to the categorical nature of the statement. Had your statement not been categorical, but had simply stated or implied that some part of our cognitive processes take place at the sub-atomic level, i'd not have responded at all, because that would not be an implausible statment for you to have made. But the manner in which you made your statement, as well as its specific content lead me to believe that you were just throwing that out there because it sounded cool to you.

By the way, you're not the only one learning here. When i make such statements about chemistry, i do go to check before i post them, so as not to myself make claims which cannot be supported. I studied chemistry in the 1960s. A great deal of water had gone under the bridge since that time, i wasn't constantly watching the flow. The significance of free radicals in metabolic processes was something of which i was only vaguely aware until i went off to check my facts about radicals before responding to you.
G H
 
  1  
Reply Thu 15 Dec, 2011 03:30 pm
@JLNobody,
Quote:
Berkeley speaks Buddhism here: "...in [Ultimate Reality, God, Dharma, etc.] we live and move and have our [very] being."

He's ironically the backbone of god-is-unnecessary bundle-theories, phenomenalisms, and like ventures into generic radical empiricism. So no doubt further tweakings and isolated extractions can yield parallels to Eastern thought. On his own unadulterated turf, though, the Bishop of Cloyne surely would have cringed at a forecast of such agnostic offshoots and "heathen" comparisons. Wink

John Stuart Mill - Matter, then, may be defined, a Permanent Possibility of Sensation. If I am asked, whether I believe in matter, I ask whether the questioner accepts this definition of it. If he does, I believe in matter: and so do all Berkeleians. In any other sense than this, I do not. But I affirm with confidence, that this conception of Matter includes the whole meaning attached to it by the common world, apart from philosophical, and sometimes from theological, theories. The reliance of mankind on the real existence of visible and tangible objects, means reliance on the reality and permanence of Possibilities of visual and tactile sensations, when no such sensations are actually experienced. --An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Thu 15 Dec, 2011 03:47 pm
@G H,
Good points.
0 Replies
 
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Thu 15 Dec, 2011 05:01 pm
@Setanta,
Quote:
you were making a categorical statement which implied that cognition takes place only at the sub-atomic level.


No implication. It flat out said it, if I recall correctly.
The idea behind the statement was that we have no way of knowing if our senses and our perception relate directly to objects and identities we perceive. Is it a macro cosmic rock we perceive, or is it sub-atomic phenomenon our senses pick up, which we then translate to rock and sky and people and so on? To me, both are equally plausible, and it remains to be seen which approach offers the most comprehensive understanding.
This goes back to the basic assumption that reality is first and foremost physical, and that consciousness is a result of biological evolution. There is no evidence that this is indeed the case. Some physicist are exploring the possibility that consciousness is more fundamental, and that physical reality is merely a perception. If that is the case, the brain is an expression of consciousness, not the cause of it.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 15 Dec, 2011 05:21 pm
@Cyracuz,
Well, my sense of some of the current thinking is that many reputable scholars believe consciousness may not be exclusive to those in whom we currently recognize sentience, but i know of no concommitent assertion that physical reality is only a perception. I suggest to you that you're grafting onto particle physics the claim central to this thread.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 15 Dec, 2011 05:44 pm
@Setanta,
Quote:
but i know of no concommitent assertion that physical reality is only a perception.


Admittedly not concomitant, but removal of the word "only" will give the essence of the assertion made by the phenomenologists who provide the theoretical background to the embodied cognition movement.
0 Replies
 
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Thu 15 Dec, 2011 07:48 pm
@G H,
I like the notion of RADICAL empiricism. In a way that's how I try to relate to the world: experientially more than inferentially--of course that is a question of degrees. My "mystical" assertions, it should be noted, are not the result of metaphysical ratiocination; they are expressions of what one "sees" in a form of "deep subjectivity." In this sense the empirical phenomena experienced is private rather than publiic. One can neither affirm it logically no point to it in an obvious way. My last four words reflect my appreciation that at least one school of knowledge transmission--zen buddhism--ONLY points, never explains.
G H
 
  1  
Reply Thu 15 Dec, 2011 11:03 pm
@JLNobody,
Quote:
...In a way that's how I try to relate to the world: experientially more than inferentially--of course that is a question of degrees. [...] zen buddhism--ONLY points, never explains.

In the West, Berkeley again can't seem to escape being where some if not most parallel roads of this lead back to. He emphasized de-conceptualizing human experience, of journeying back as much as possible to pure perception, of freeing perception from the abstract generalizations and explanations that were derived from it. To avoid the tendency of treating invented intellectual systems as if they were the original sources of knowledge and reality rather than the particular events of perception (before conclusion-generation and analysis were applied to them).
Procrustes
 
  1  
Reply Thu 15 Dec, 2011 11:15 pm
@G H,
I resonate with Berkeley's emphasis of de-conceptualizing. For me, I am empirically skeptical about my own perceptions. I find making claims self deluding at times as those claims come back to my mind filled with uncertainty. Although I do not doubt a reality, I just have problems with the philosophy of it.
0 Replies
 
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 Dec, 2011 06:25 am
@G H,
Quote:
He emphasized de-conceptualizing human experience, of journeying back as much as possible to pure perception, of freeing perception from the abstract generalizations and explanations that were derived from it. To avoid the tendency of treating invented intellectual systems as if they were the original sources of knowledge and reality rather than the particular events of perception (before conclusion-generation and analysis were applied to them).


How did he propose that we de-conceptualize human experience? Seems to me that conceptualizing is how we understand and categorize our experience. Did Berkeley view observation, or perception, as passive?
G H
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 Dec, 2011 04:57 pm
@Cyracuz,
Quote:
How did he propose that we de-conceptualize human experience? Seems to me that conceptualizing is how we understand and categorize our experience. Did Berkeley view observation, or perception, as passive?

That's usually part of my own biased approach as to identification and organization of things and events, so doubtless it may contribute to my persisting uncertainty or semi-blindness as to how Berkeley remedied it. So I assume any perceived object, as an idea, just immediately is what it is, before further thoughts supply relationships that change that (i.e., the mounting conceptions may sometimes be like distortions that take us away from the original purity).

Berkeley was not much impressed by language being an underlying source of understanding -- it's only for communication, arousing passions, etc (note the final quote at the very bottom of this post). Now to his pet-peeve, the abstract add-ons that can adulterate perception, leading to confusions, illusions, etc:

"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. I proceed to examine what can be alleged in DEFENCE OF THE DOCTRINE OF ABSTRACTION, and try if I can discover what it is that inclines the men of speculation to embrace an opinion so remote from common sense as that seems to be."

Suffice it to say that the end result is that he rejects abstract general ideas. Though not general ideas, if understood that the latter merely refers to a word representing one selection at a time from a set of particulars, rather than all the characteristics of that set of particulars at once. That is, a particular idea or perception corresponding to "all of them" is impossible, because of the sometimes contradictory properties, and other reasons he gives.

Concepts also lack power to produce particular sensations: "To say, therefore, that these [sensations] are the effects of powers resulting from the configuration, number, motion, and size of corpuscles must certainly be false." So a sequence of particular ideas (objects, etc.) have a different source, but he means spirit or God, not matter, the latter being another abstract generalization that some 'learned men' mistakenly reify. I guess "immaterial substance" somehow escapes this by having no perceived particulars in experience that such "substance" was inferred from (actually he probably argues better than that somewhere in The Three Dialogues, but I'm too strapped for time right now to refresh my memory).

His wrap-up of the criticism of abstract general ideas and language, which will have to suffice as a quasi-synopsis:

We have, I think, shown the impossibility of ABSTRACT IDEAS. We have considered what has been said for them by their ablest patrons; and endeavored to show they are of no use for those ends to which they are thought necessary. And lastly, we have traced them to the source from whence they flow, which appears evidently to be language. It cannot be denied that words are of excellent use, in that by their means all that stock of knowledge which has been purchased by the joint labours of inquisitive men in all ages and nations may be drawn into the view and made the possession of one single person. But at the same time it must be owned that most parts of knowledge have been strangely perplexed and darkened by the abuse of words, and general ways of speech wherein they are delivered. Since therefore words are so apt to impose on the understanding, whatever ideas I consider, I shall endeavour to take them bare and naked into my view, keeping out of my thoughts so far as I am able, those names which long and constant use has so strictly united with them; from which I may expect to derive the following advantages:

FIRST, I shall be sure to get clear of all controversies PURELY VERBAL--the springing up of which weeds in almost all the sciences has been a main hindrance to the growth of true and sound knowledge. SECONDLY, this seems to be a sure way to extricate myself out of that fine and subtle net of ABSTRACT IDEAS which has so miserably perplexed and entangled the minds of men; and that with this peculiar circumstance, that by how much the finer and more curious was the wit of any man, by so much the deeper was he likely to be ensnared and faster held therein. THIRDLY, so long as I confine my thoughts to my own ideas divested of words, I do not see how I can easily be mistaken. The objects I consider, I clearly and adequately know. I cannot be deceived in thinking I have an idea which I have not. It is not possible for me to imagine that any of my own ideas are alike or unlike that are not truly so. To discern the agreements or disagreements there are between my ideas, to see what ideas are included in any compound idea and what not, there is nothing more requisite than an attentive perception of what passes in my own understanding.

But the attainment of all THESE ADVANTAGES doth PRESUPPOSE AN ENTIRE DELIVERANCE FROM THE DECEPTION OF WORDS, which I dare hardly promise myself; so difficult a thing it is to dissolve an union so early begun, and confirmed by so long a habit as that betwixt words and ideas. Which difficulty seems to have been very much increased by the doctrine of ABSTRACTION. For, so long as men thought abstract ideas were annexed to their words, it doth not seem strange that they should use words for ideas--it being found an impracticable thing to lay aside the word, and RETAIN THE ABSTRACT IDEA IN THE MIND, WHICH IN ITSELF WAS PERFECTLY INCONCEIVABLE. This seems to me the principal cause why those men who have so emphatically recommended to others the laying aside all use of words in their meditations, and contemplating their bare ideas, have yet failed to perform it themselves. Of late many have been very sensible of the absurd opinions and insignificant disputes which grow out of the abuse of words. And, in order to remedy these evils, they advise well, that we attend to the ideas signified, and draw off our attention from the words which signify them. But, how good soever this advice may be they have given others, it is plain they could not have a due regard to it themselves, so long as they thought the only immediate use of words was to signify ideas, and that the immediate signification of every general name was a DETERMINATE ABSTRACT IDEA.

But, THESE BEING KNOWN TO BE MISTAKES, A MAN MAY with greater ease PREVENT HIS BEING IMPOSED ON BY WORDS. He that knows he has no other than particular ideas, will not puzzle himself in vain to find out and conceive the abstract idea annexed to any name. And he that knows names do not always stand for ideas will spare himself the labour of looking for ideas where there are none to be had. It were, therefore, to be wished that everyone would use his utmost endeavours to obtain a clear view of the ideas he would consider, separating from them all that dress and incumbrance of words which so much contribute to blind the judgment and divide the attention. In vain do we extend our view into the heavens and pry into the entrails of the earth, in vain do we consult the writings of learned men and trace the dark footsteps of antiquity--we need only draw the curtain of words, to hold the fairest tree of knowledge, whose fruit is excellent, and within the reach of our hand.

Unless we take care TO CLEAR THE FIRST PRINCIPLES OF KNOWLEDGE FROM THE embarras and DELUSION OF WORDS, we may make infinite reasonings upon them to no purpose; we may draw consequences from consequences, and be never the wiser. The farther we go, we shall only lose ourselves the more irrecoverably, and be the deeper entangled in difficulties and mistakes. Whoever therefore designs to read the following sheets, I entreat him to make my words the occasion of his own thinking, and endeavour to attain the same train of thoughts in reading that I had in writing them. By this means it will be easy for him to discover the truth or falsity of what I say. He will be out of all danger of being deceived by my words, and I do not see how he can be led into an error by considering his own naked, undisguised ideas.


All quotes from A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

"Besides, the communicating of ideas marked by words is not the chief and only end of language, as is commonly supposed. There are other ends, as the raising of some passion, the exciting to or deterring from an action, the putting the mind in some particular disposition--to which the former is in many cases barely subservient, and sometimes entirely omitted, when these can be obtained without it, as I think does not unfrequently happen in the familiar use of language. I entreat the reader to reflect with himself, and see if it doth not often happen, either in hearing or reading a discourse, that the passions of fear, love, hatred, admiration, disdain, and the like, arise immediately in his mind upon the perception of certain words, without any ideas coming between."
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 Dec, 2011 06:11 pm
@G H,
As you might gather from my post, I too resonate with Berkeley's de-conceptualization of experience approach. But I am not a purist phenomenologist. Some problems must be THOUGHT ABOUT others must be penetrated perceptually.
I'm mildly horrified to realize that my general "spiritual" perspective resonates with that of an Anglican Bishop.
0 Replies
 
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 Dec, 2011 08:02 pm
@G H,
So by de-conceptualizing, he means think ideas, not words? The language is a bit tricky. Berkely seems to pay considerable attention to poetic formulation, despite his disdain for words.
I think I understand what he means though.
A tool, for instance, can be named a saw, and that's what you do with it. Cut stuff. But by de-conceptualizing it, you can come up with other, creative uses for it.
If this is what he's thinking about, then turning a bucket on it's head and using it as a stool is a simple example of de-conceptualizing. Or perhaps a solution obtained by means of de-constructing an idea.

But wouldn't that be an abstraction of an idea? He seems to be arguing that words cause abstraction, and that's a bit confusing. I tend to think of words as restricting abstraction.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 Dec, 2011 10:13 pm
@Cyracuz,
Check out Heidegger's "at-handedness" for contextual identity of "objects". (....there are no "things-in-themselves")
JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Fri 16 Dec, 2011 10:44 pm
@fresco,
As I've noted before Nietzsche argues that there are no "things" (i.e., static beings), only processes (i.e., becoming something else). Does Heidegger reflect this in his conception?
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Dec, 2011 01:58 am
@JLNobody,
I believe so but my only knowledge of the literature at this time is the departure of Heidegger from Husserl. Heidegger argues that objects and selves mutually evoke each other only when the flow of interaction is interrupted. Thus in the flow of "hammering" as observed by a third party, neither "the hammer" nor "the hammerer" have Existenz for the hammerer until for example he hits his finger, or the hammer breaks. Essentially only Daseins (contemplative Beings) have Existenz.
Procrustes
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Dec, 2011 05:17 am
@G H,
Quote:
It were, therefore, to be wished that everyone would use his utmost endeavours to obtain a clear view of the ideas he would consider, separating from them all that dress and incumbrance of words which so much contribute to blind the judgment and divide the attention.


Does Berkeley invite the reader to engage in an examination of ideas as they are realised? And is an abstraction of those ideas merely after the fact of realisation, which can tend to be distorted?

Quote:
Unless we take care TO CLEAR THE FIRST PRINCIPLES OF KNOWLEDGE FROM THE embarras and DELUSION OF WORDS, we may make infinite reasonings upon them to no purpose; we may draw consequences from consequences, and be never the wiser.


From what I understand of these excerpts, it sounds like Berekly is inciting a call to arms, so to speak; to draw upon the collective knowledge of learned men and to distance away from the abstract notions. So, are abstract notions in themselves deluded use of words for Berkeley?

Quote:
FIRST, I shall be sure to get clear of all controversies PURELY VERBAL--the springing up of which weeds in almost all the sciences has been a main hindrance to the growth of true and sound knowledge. SECONDLY, this seems to be a sure way to extricate myself out of that fine and subtle net of ABSTRACT IDEAS which has so miserably perplexed and entangled the minds of men


It seems he doesn't want anything to do with abstract ideas.
High Seas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 17 Dec, 2011 08:34 am
@fresco,
Is this description quite accurate? Anaximander made the more general observation about all existence being a function of time - as of course did Heidegger in Sein und Zeit. I'm just not sure the hammerer has to bash his finger - just focusing on something else should do it. From Simplicius's description:
Quote:
...Ἀναξίμανδρος [...] λέγει δ' αὐτὴν μήτε ὕδωρ μήτε ἄλλο τι τῶν καλουμένων εἶναι στοιχείων, ἀλλ' ἑτέραν τινὰ φύσιν ἄπειρον, ἐξ ἧς ἅπαντας γίνεσθαι τοὺς οὐρανοὺς καὶ τοὺς ἐν αὐτοῖς κόσμους· ἐξ ὧν δὲ ἡ γένεσίς ἐστι τοῖς οὖσι, καὶ τὴν φθορὰν εἰς ταῦτα γίνεσθαι κατὰ τὸ χρεών· διδόναι γὰρ αὐτὰ δίκην καὶ τίσιν ἀλλήλοις τῆς ἀδικίας κατὰ τὴν τοῦ χρόνου τάξιν

(very roughly meaning, I think.....:
"Anaximander [...] says neither water neither any of the other so-called elements is at the origin, but rather something else of an infinite nature, from which everything was created including the skies and the worlds within them. And from which all birth starts and where all death ends as is the order of things, interacting with each other justly or unjustly according to the discipline of time"
...there must be a better translation somewhere, sorry, but at least I managed to avoid that hateful word, "hermeneutics"!)
 

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