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Saturday, June 11, 2022

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I agree that (2) is the weakest leg, and I see that you are not happy about (1). What about (3)? A Berkeleyan idealist would deny this leg. I have to admit that I find this approach tempting, not least because it gets rid of the of Aristotelian 'materia prima', which is a metaphysical Shrödinger's cat.

What has (1) to do with Kant? There are many passages, but see e.g. (A50/B74) where he says that objects are ‘given’ (gegeben) to us via representations (Vorstellungen) or impressions (Eindrücke), and that these representations are in (literally ‘of’) the mind (des Gemüts). See also B41 where he says that a representation is ‘immediate’ (unmittelbare), and that immediate representation is ‘intuition’ (Anschauung).

“(2) is the least plausible of the three.” Is it? Proposition (2) is Reid’s master thesis, which I borrowed, and I will search out a citation some time this week.

You support this by saying that, in being aware of the surface, I am also aware of my being aware. Correct? Now I agree: I am aware that I am aware of the surface of the desk . But the noun phrase ‘that I am aware of the surface of the desk” denotes a proposition. In what sense is that proposition a thing? And even if the noun phrase denotes something, does it denote the kind of thing that Kant means by a ‘representation’ or ‘intuition’, or ‘sensation’?

The onus on Kantians is to explain precisely what they mean by sensations or representations or whatever, then provide evidence that such things exist. Kant opens the Transcendental Aesthetic as follows:

In whatever way and through whatever means a cognition may relate to objects, that through which it relates immediately to them, and at which all thought as a means is directed as an end, is intuition. This, however, takes place only insofar as the object is given to us; but this in turn, is possible only if it affects the mind in a certain way.
Yet nowhere in the introduction does he define the term ‘intuition’, or explain what it means, or give us an example of what such a thing might be. Perhaps you or one of your readers can help.


Jonathan,

Materia prima is a fascinating topic. I take it that the cat comparison is a way of saying that materia prima both does and does not exist. See here: https://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2020/11/what-is-a-limit-concept.html

There are problems with (3) that I didn't mention. When I stare at my desk, what is before my mind? Not in my mind, but before my mind? Husserl: a noema. But that is not a physical thing. If you've studied Husserl, you know what I mean. If you haven't, it would take a separate post to explain it.

Again, it would be helpful for those who question (2) to give a definition, including by example, of exactly what sort of thing would be an appropriate candidate for any thing that I am aware of, through the sense of sight, that is not the visible surface of this desk.

I looked up ‘noema’ but the consensus among Husserlians is that there is no consensus as to what a such a thing is.

At least those who claim the existence of ghosts or spirits can make it reasonably clear what they mean by ‘ghost’ or ‘spirit’. It is the question of existence that they find difficult to prove.

With philosophy, by contrast, we have a queue of people claiming the existence of things whose nature they cannot agree upon, or even make intelligible.

>>“(2) is the least plausible of the three.” Is it? Proposition (2) is Reid’s master thesis, which I borrowed, and I will search out a citation some time this week.<<

You may have have in mind p. 37 of Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man where Reid writes, "I take it for granted, that in most operations of the mind, there must be an object distinct from the operation itself. I cannot see, without seeing something. To see, without having any object of sight, is absurd."

What Reid means by 'object' here is a thing that exists independently of the operations of a mind. Thus your desk exists whether or not you are perceiving it, recalling it, etc.

But there are two very different senses of 'object.' Object as thing that exists in itself and object as merely intentional object. I heartily agree, as everyone must, that one cannot see without seeing something, and that it would be absurd to hold that one can see without having an object of sight. But it doesn't follow that the item seen exists in itself apart from the operations of a mind. The item could be a merely intentional object.

Reid is conflating the two very different senses of 'object.' He is dogmatizing.

>>Again, it would be helpful for those who question (2) to give a definition, including by example, of exactly what sort of thing would be an appropriate candidate for any thing that I am aware of, through the sense of sight, that is not the visible surface of this desk.<<

Here is (2): >>When I look at the visible surface of this desk, all I am immediately aware of is the visible surface of this desk.<<

(2) is false because I am also immediately aware of seeing the desk. I am not just seeing the desk, I am aware of seeing the desk. That is what goes on in typical cases.

Oz fails to understand this because he falsely assumes that this simultaneous secondary aware of the primary visual awareness must itself be a visual awareness. Not so.

>(2) is false because I am also immediately aware of seeing the desk. I am not just seeing the desk, I am aware of seeing the desk.

I address that question in detail in the book. But fine, let's go with that. I am aware of the visible surface of the desk, and I am aware of the desk itself. But neither of these is a mental item, correct?

So again let's have a candidate for any thing that I am aware of, through the sense of sight, that is not the visible surface of this desk, or the desk etc etc.

>> I am aware of the visible surface of the desk, and I am aware of the desk itself. But neither of these is a mental item, correct?<<

How are you aware of the desk itself? Do you see the desk itself with all its parts and properties? No. I get the impression that you are just assuming the truth of metaphysical realism as Reid does. See my comment at 10:41.

Yes, I see the desk "with all its parts and properties". Obviously so.

So when you look at your desk, you see the cellulose molecules of the desk's underside?

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