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PostPosted: Wed Nov 03, 2010 11:55 am 
Smeric
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I apologise if I am interrupting something here but I have a question regarding (what I think is) western philosophy-related and I figured the best place to ask about it would be on this thread.

What is the philosophical view called that was talked about in the first Matrix film regarding the perception of reality as something relative to the individual that was created by sensory input? The impression I got from it was that reality (I.e. what is "real") is not absolute thing, and that it depends on the sensory information we recieve from our environment rather than the agreement of that assertion.

To bring up an example, consider lukewarm water. If an average person dipped their hand into it, the water would feel lukewarm. However, if someone who was sensitive to heat dipped their hand into the water, it would feel hot. If someone who was sensitive to the cold dipped their hand into the water, it would feel cold. So the water would not feel lukewarm to everyone. You could say the same thing about colour: my Japanese language professor once said that the reason why Japanese has the same word for both green and blue is because Japanese people see green and blue as essentially the same colour.

As a much more extreme example, I had a conversation with the rest of my family a while ago about perception and reality. The possibility was brought up that what one person sees might be completely different from what another person sees, in nearly all respects, and that the only reason why each of us gives that object the same name is because the people around us do the same.

In short, in many cases it may be said that maybe our senses are not lying to us, reality is. Maybe none of us are percieving true reality, but only a slightly altered version of it. Is this view some sort of perceptional relativity, or something else? Just wondering.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 03, 2010 3:27 pm 
Osän
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Plato's cave?


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 08, 2010 2:56 pm 
Smeric
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Astraios wrote:
Plato's cave?

Sounds like a good place to start. Thanks for the suggestion :)


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 08, 2010 4:02 pm 
Sanno
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I think you're bringing a lot of philosophical baggage to this question that makes it hard to unravel what you mean. You seem to distinguish between having differing perceptions of the same thing and having differing perceptions of differing things; what, then, defines reality if not perceptions, and what defines perceptions if not reality? Are, for instance, perceptions the same as sense experience, or are they are cognitions of sense experiences? Or something else?

What you've got at heart here is the problem of error: some of our beliefs have a curious property we call "being wrong". This fact leads us to three important questions: what is it for a belief to be wrong, how are some beliefs wrong and others not, and how can we avoid or detect wrong beliefs?

A common answer to the first question is to say "beliefs are wrong if they do not mirror reality"; if we claim this, we are positing a type of thing, a fact, which can be either real or believed. If the believed facts are identical to the true facts in all ways other than their believedness, then the belief isn't wrong.

Working backward from there, we can observe the principles of logic, and say that we're pretty sure some of those beliefs are right -ie reality accords to them. Eg, nothing can both be X and not be X.

Your theory appears to deny this. Because if the bowl of water is hot to one person and not hot to another, and this is considered a difference in REALITY, not in belief, then things in reality can be both hot and cold.

This gives us two problems: on the one hand, where does the truth of logical statements like "nothing can be both X and not X" come from if not from reality? And on the other hand, where does the FALSITY of beliefs like "the moon is made of cheese" comes from, if not from reality?

That is, our way of finding out what is true and what is false has traditionally involved working out what is really the case - if what is "really" the case is contradictory, or continually and totally changing between our observations, then we have no measure with which to consider the truth or falsity of our beliefs.

So what this belief is usually called is "dangerous". It was Heraclitus who claimed that the water was both hot AND cold... but this lead to no useful conclusions, whereas those who believed in reality ending up working out theories of thermophysics and neurobiology that explained how two people could have different sensations of the same thing. Protagoras went further and said that all beliefs were true, but this lead to nothing beyond his own wealth, whereas the dialectic attempt to root out falsehood lead to the whole of western civilisation.

-----

Those who claim that there is no "reality" distinct from perception or belief are called "irrealists" or "antirealists" (some people distinguish the two terms more finely), and they're usually confined to this or that specific issue (moral irrealists, scientific irrealists, irrealists regarding mental phenomena, etc). Though some are irrealists more generally.

However, this may or may not be different, in your opinion, from believing that there IS a reality, but that it does not account for the existence of error. You may have to be more specific.

-----

Plato, by the way, still uses "reality" as the correct world, he just defines it differently. For Plato, the real world is the world of pure forms, without such things as space or time or matter - essentially the world of logic and mathematics.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 08, 2010 5:08 pm 
Smeric
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Wow..... That explains a heck of alot. Yeah, I guess I mean a difference in reality then. But then, if our senses basically work the same way across the whole human species, is it possible that they can tell us each different things? Or does a difference in the way the senses work depict a single absolute reality in different facets that only certain people can see? (sorry if that sounded confusing, I didn't know how else to explain it).

I am not sure yet whether I am a realist or irrealist/antirealist but your post provides a good base for finding out more. Thanks!


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 3:39 pm 
Smeric
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Salmoneus wrote:
Those who claim that there is no "reality" distinct from perception or belief are called "irrealists" or "antirealists" (some people distinguish the two terms more finely), and they're usually confined to this or that specific issue (moral irrealists, scientific irrealists, irrealists regarding mental phenomena, etc). Though some are irrealists more generally.

However, this may or may not be different, in your opinion, from believing that there IS a reality, but that it does not account for the existence of error. You may have to be more specific.

Aren't you referring to the perspectivist philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche here?

On a slightly different note, what is the philosophical stance called that promotes the idea of passivity? I.e. using a passive approach, as opposed to an active approach, to avoid influencing a turn of events? I looked up Naturalism but it doesn't quite give me what I am looking for.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 7:21 pm 
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Regarding the first: no, I'm not. Perspectivism is (to us) irrealist, but not all irrealists are perspectivists. It's also important to distinguish Nietzche's mature philosophy from the philosophy he calls 'nihilism' (which can be found in his own middle period). For this reason, Nietzsche might well not like to be called an irrealist because it suggests nihilism (in his definition, the philosophy that there is no reality, only appearance), whereas Nietzche stresses that there is only one thing which is neither real nor apparant. But yes, we would call him irrealist, I think.

Regarding the second: I don't think there is a name. It doesn't make sense, either - every inaction is itself an action.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 06, 2010 8:44 pm 
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Wait, so Nietzsche denied the existence of an objective reality? Or did he just claim that we can never really access that objective reality?

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 5:24 pm 
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Your questions illustrate his opinions on the history of philosophy quite well. He presented six stages of history. Your question concerns the last three.

In the antepenultimate stage, which he associated with Kant (and which we also see in his early Schopenhaurian writings), the view is, as you say, that "we can never really access [] objective reality".

In the penultimate stage, which we can see in his middle period, the view is, as you say, that there is no objective reality. This is what he called "nihilism".

The final stage, however, found in his mature writings, goes beyond that. You ask "is there an objective reality", but he would deny the legitimacy of the question. For the question to be legitimate it must mean something, and for it to mean something there would have to be some meaning available for "objective". But Nietzche denies the very distinction between objective and subjective. Though this is putting it in more linguistic terms than he used. A shorthand phrase for his point is: "in abolishing the real world, we have abolished the apparent world also".

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 5:41 pm 
Smeric
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Salmoneus wrote:
Nietzche stresses that there is only one thing which is neither real nor apparant.

Did Nietzsche have a developed metaphysics of number?

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 5:46 pm 
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Not to my knowledge, no. He was generally hostile to metaphysics of all kinds.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 5:50 pm 
Smeric
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Salmoneus wrote:
Not to my knowledge, no. He was generally hostile to metaphysics of all kinds.

Yeah well, whatever he wanted to call it. When you say "one thing", are those Nietzsche's words or your interpretation?

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 5:55 pm 
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My interpretation, obviously. I didn't use quotation marks, did I?

He repeatedly denies a distinction between the real and the apparent world, and at points he denies that either the real or the apparent world exists.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 6:02 pm 
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Salmoneus wrote:
He repeatedly denies a distinction between the real and the apparent world, and at points he denies that either the real or the apparent world exists.


Then what the hell did he think the stuff we see was made of? If neither the real nor apparent world exist, then where do everyday objects like chairs and houses reside?

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 6:13 pm 
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I am not an expert on Nietzsche so this is just speculation but perhaps it is all relegated to the mind a la Descartes or Berkeley before the bits where they resort to God. And since the mind is making it up we cannot say that what it apparantly sees exists. Someone who actually is familiar with more than his pop reputation and recollections of the summary in Russell can surely give a better answer.


Last edited by Civil War Bugle on Tue Jan 04, 2011 6:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 6:13 pm 
Smeric
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Salmoneus wrote:
My interpretation, obviously. I didn't use quotation marks, did I?

Thanks, I was wondering whether he would've insisted on oneness, or attempted to transcend (avert, if you prefer) characterizations like one and many. (as I'd expect)

Salmoneus wrote:
He repeatedly denies a distinction between the real and the apparent world, and at points he denies that either the real or the apparent world exists.

What would you call this if not metaphysics? Just a "philosophy"?

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 6:19 pm 
Smeric
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Eddy wrote:
Then what the hell did he think the stuff we see was made of?

Maybe he was more interested in what it's not.

PS. Yay, Sal's back! Ignore this post.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 6:32 pm 
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Exactly. Nietzsche's philosophy is primarily (though not entirely negative) - it attacks beliefs widely held, whether by 'common sense' or academic philosophy or by religion and theology.

He would think chairs existed in the world. You know, the world. This one. THE world. The world isn't the apparent world, and the world isn't the real world. Not because those worlds are other worlds that aren't this one, but because those 'names' don't name anything. All there is is the world.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 6:35 pm 
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Salmoneus wrote:
He would think chairs existed in the world. You know, the world. This one. THE world. The world isn't the apparent world, and the world isn't the real world. Not because those worlds are other worlds that aren't this one, but because those 'names' don't name anything. All there is is the world.


So he accepted the existence of one world that we all perceive, containing material objects. He was attacking the distinction between some unreachable real world and imperfect apparent world that philosophers such as Kant and Plato often made.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 04, 2011 8:54 pm 
Smeric
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Eddy wrote:
So he accepted the existence of one world that we all perceive, containing material objects. He was attacking the distinction between some unreachable real world and imperfect apparent world that philosophers such as Kant and Plato often made.

I'm not sure he'd be comfortable straying so far from direct experience into the realm of abstraction, but I suppose this view isn't totally incompatible with his, which would account for his influence on the existentialist movement. Like Sal said, he just wasn't interested in your theories of how things are out there in external reality, because he thought the question "what are we made of, really, ultimately, objectively, finally, at the deepest level of metaphysical truth?" a meaningless one. You can do that, you know, critically examine popular and even celebrated ideas and come up with the verdict: Say what you like, but this doesn't make sense to me at all.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2011 6:50 pm 
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This is sounding very interesting so far. I have thought about it, and I might have something to add, but not now. Got a lot on my plate right now.

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Spam alert :roll:


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2011 3:52 am 
Smeric
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Upon looking into Irrealism on Wikipedia, I came across an odd dichotomy called "phenomenalism" and "physicalism." The former seems to be what they were talking about on the Matrix trilogy but the rest of the description for both terms is rather vague and for some reason the philosophy encyclopedia doesn't include them so I am at a loss as to how they refute each other. Are these just other words for Perspectivism vs. the idea of an objective reality or is there more to it than that?


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2011 3:00 pm 
Sanno
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Physicalism is the theory that all true knowledge can be reduced to descriptions of physical properties - that nothing other than physical properties exists.

Phenomenalism, as I know the word, is the theory that... well, this'll take a bit more explanation.

What do you experience when you see a dagger?
Theory One: you experience the sight of a dagger. This is "direct perception"
Theory Two: what you actually experience is a certain sensation, or what we call 'sense-data', where that sense-data is correlated to the presence of a dagger. This is "indirect perception".

The advantage of the second theory is that it recognises that in an important way you are having exactly the same experiences when you see a dagger, hallucinate a dagger, or see a cunning illusion of a dagger. The sense data is the same, but its connection to the world is different.

This, then, introduces the skeptical problem: how do you know there is ever a dagger, and what makes something the sense-data of a dagger anyway - how is the data meant to mirror the dagger? What do we really know about daggers?

The most obvious solution is to say that there isn't a dagger at all - all there is is the sensation of it. A dagger is a certain bundle of sensations. This is the idealism of Berkeley. But this means that if we stop looking, the dagger stops existing, which is a strange theory (Berkely regarded it as a proof of God's existence). So, there's another theory, called 'phenomenalism', which Mill put forward, although it's more famous as the theory of the logical positivists. Phenomenalism says that an object is a bundle of HYPOTHETICAL sensations - a dagger is something that fulfills a whole range of hypothetical conditions, like "if I touch THIS end of it, I feel pain and the sensation of liquid leaving my body", "if I 'hold' it and push firmly toward what I call a 'table', the 'tip' of the object is no longer visible", "if I touch it, I feel coldness" and so forth. This does away with the problem of skepticism, although it raises its own problems as well.

-

So no, nothing to do with perspectivism.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 26, 2011 5:35 pm 
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*bump*

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But the river tripped on her by and by, lapping
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I'se so silly to be flowing but I no canna stay!


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 26, 2011 5:38 pm 
Osän
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Salmoneus wrote:
what I call a 'table'
I couldn't resist - this made me think of Miranda.


So... Theory Two is the one with qualia, or whatever they're called? Or am I misremembering what that is?


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