Perception and reality

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
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Prof Bulani
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Re: Perception and reality

Post by Prof Bulani » February 12th, 2020, 8:34 am

Pattern-chaser wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 7:14 am
I can only clarify my own position; others will answer for themselves, as they choose. But here goes.

From Descartes' cogito, any one of us can conclude that something has actual existence. Thus Objective Reality exists, and this something is all or part of it. I believe that this is the one and only Objective Truth that any human can knowingly possess.
On this we agree.
All else concerning the nature, structure or content of Objective Reality is, and must remain, unknown to us.

This is very far from saying this:
Prof Bulani wrote:
February 9th, 2020, 6:53 am
...objective reality doesn't exist, or that it is elusive to the point where we can never be sure it exists.
Objective Reality must exist, I think. But that's it as regards Objective Truth, Objective Knowledge and humans. My position is very much not as @Prof Bulani describes it. 🙂👍
When I mentioned your name, I remembered your arguments around the lines of it being impossible to be certain what is true. Steve's question put me on the spot,, I assume it was to see if his name would come up on the "list". So I can see how your position is different from what I stated in my op.

With that said, the argument that we can never know objective truth needs a bit of qualification. We can know, for example, that the chair we are sitting on objectively exists in reality, and isn't a construct of your mind, with a high degree of certainty. I don't imagine that you go around doubting the objective existence of things like chairs and food, maintaining suspicion of their objective existence. Operating from such a paradigm would be detrimental to your survival, and organisms that may have a tendency to operate this way would be selected for extinction. Thus we have a compelling case for the notion that objective reality not only exists, but can be known with certainty via our senses and perception.

Perhaps we can refer to it as a theory of objective truth?
Of this I am unsure. But I am happy to assert it the other way round: Human truths can never be Objective, except as described above. In other words, no 'truth' can claim the authority and certainty that Objectivity brings with it. Because no truth can be shown to correspond with that which actually is.
As I explained above, I disagree. To assert that human truths can never be objective requires knowledge of all human knowledge, knowledge of all objective truth, the capacity to evaluate that each instance human knowledge is incongruent with each instance of object truth it maps to, and knowledge of all possible future cases of human knowledge, objective truths and congruence evaluations. If this is not you, you are in no position to make such an assertion. If this is you, you are contradicting yourself.
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Re: Perception and reality

Post by Steve3007 » February 12th, 2020, 8:37 am

Prof Bulani wrote:Steve's question put me on the spot,, I assume it was to see if his name would come up on the "list".
Partly. :D . But also to see what other people's thoughts were by coaxing them into the topic. Just saying that a lot of people thought this didn't really give much to go on.

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Re: Perception and reality

Post by Terrapin Station » February 12th, 2020, 9:24 am

Prof Bulani wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 8:13 am
Terrapin Station wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 5:10 am
So first off, on your view, all you can know, in the acquaintance sense, is your mind.

Another name for the stance that all you can know by acquaintance is your mind is "epistemological idealism."

And another term for the stance that all you can know by acquaintance is your own mind is "solipsism."
By definition of the word "know", all you know is equivalent to what's in your mind. You cannot know something if it's not in your mind, strictly speaking.
I was just pointing this out in another recent thread, but this is once again the very common, very simple mistake of confusing HOW we know things with WHAT we know.

Think of a couple of parallels where it might be easier to see the error:

How you write something is by taking a pen to paper, or by moving your fingers on a keyboard of a typewriter, or a computer keyboard, etc. and then either ink marks the paper, or electrical signals travel through the keyboard, etc. But that's not what you write. In one sense what you write is words, sentences, paragraphs, etc. In other sense of what you write, which we could rephrase as what you write about, it might be a science fiction story about people traveling to another planet on a spaceship, or it might be a report of what you did on your summer vacation, or it might be an explanation of the difference between how we know and what we know, or whatever.

How you take a photograph of something is by manipulating a camera to activate the shutter to let light into the lens, etc. But that's not what you take a photograph of. You take a photograph of a building, or some trees, or whatever.

The difference between how you know something and what you know is similar.
Solipsism, as I just learned, is the view that the only thing one can know for certain is that oneself exists. That's not my position, as I pointed out.
I'm not saying that it's consciously your position. I'm saying that you can't possibly justify anything other than solipsism given your other views. Per your views, all you can know is your mental content. If that's the case, there's no way for you to get to anyone or anything else. You only know your mental content. You have to conclude that what appears to be other people or things can only be known to be your mental content.
It would be impossible for the self to exist without the not self.
How would you say that argument goes?
And since what the self is aware of is in the mind, and essentially subjective, what is outside the self is independent of the mind, and objective.
On your view, you have no grounds for saying you know there is anything independent of your mind.
You seem to have this urge to fit my view into a prefabricated philosophical box, rather than simply read what I wrote and understand what I'm actually saying.
What I'm talking about are logical implications of your view. Hopefully you can understand them so that you drop the silly view of representationalism. It can not be justified without completely undermining it.

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Re: Perception and reality

Post by Present awareness » February 12th, 2020, 9:33 am

Prof Bulani wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 2:56 am
Present awareness wrote:
February 11th, 2020, 8:12 pm


To ask which occurred first, is to assume that existence and perception are two separate things. It is my belief that they are just two sides of the same one coin, so that you may not have one without the other. Take a penny with two sides and try to sand it down thin enough so that it only has one side. If you can do that, you will be able to hear the sound of one hand clapping!
Existence and perception are two different things, and are not codependent nor even necessarily interdependent. Perception is, at best, a soft copy of the coin. The coin exists as an object first. We then perceive the coin separately.

People perceive things that do not exist, and fail to perceive things that do exist, all the time. I wouldn't go as far as to say that there is no correlation between the two, as we have abundant evidence that most of what we perceive is result of there being existent objects to perceive. The conflation between subjective perception and objective existence is what I'm trying to dispel here.
Everything you are saying is true, of course, from a logical thinking point of view!

However the entire universe is completely dependent on one being alive to experience it. From ones personal point of view, where was the the universe 200 years ago or a million years ago or even a billion years ago? Logic would say that since it’s here now, it must have been here before, but what if it’s only here now because you are here now. Once one dies, from a personal point of view, the universe and everything in it will disappear once again. Logic would say that the people left behind would still experience the universe when one dies, proving that it is independent from us. It certainly appears to be that way but how would you personally know it to be true?

Here is a thought experiment. You decide to take a solo visit to the next galaxy. After one light year’s distance, the sun is just a little point of light, like all the other stars. Suddenly a meteorite collides with the Earth, killing all life on the planet. How would you know? For you, the universe and everything in it is still the same. Now let’s imagine that in all of the universe, life only existed on earth, so you are the last remaining life form. Let’s say your spaceship malfunctions and you die. Once you die, the universe and everything in it will disappear completely, simply because there will be no living form, human or otherwise, to dispute the fact.
Even though you can see me, I might not be here.

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Re: Perception and reality

Post by Terrapin Station » February 12th, 2020, 9:37 am

Present awareness wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 9:33 am
Prof Bulani wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 2:56 am

Existence and perception are two different things, and are not codependent nor even necessarily interdependent. Perception is, at best, a soft copy of the coin. The coin exists as an object first. We then perceive the coin separately.

People perceive things that do not exist, and fail to perceive things that do exist, all the time. I wouldn't go as far as to say that there is no correlation between the two, as we have abundant evidence that most of what we perceive is result of there being existent objects to perceive. The conflation between subjective perception and objective existence is what I'm trying to dispel here.
Everything you are saying is true, of course, from a logical thinking point of view!

However the entire universe is completely dependent on one being alive to experience it. From ones personal point of view, where was the the universe 200 years ago or a million years ago or even a billion years ago? Logic would say that since it’s here now, it must have been here before, but what if it’s only here now because you are here now. Once one dies, from a personal point of view, the universe and everything in it will disappear once again. Logic would say that the people left behind would still experience the universe when one dies, proving that it is independent from us. It certainly appears to be that way but how would you personally know it to be true?

Here is a thought experiment. You decide to take a solo visit to the next galaxy. After one light year’s distance, the sun is just a little point of light, like all the other stars. Suddenly a meteorite collides with the Earth, killing all life on the planet. How would you know? For you, the universe and everything in it is still the same. Now let’s imagine that in all of the universe, life only existed on earth, so you are the last remaining life form. Let’s say your spaceship malfunctions and you die. Once you die, the universe and everything in it will disappear completely, simply because there will be no living form, human or otherwise, to dispute the fact.
If you agree with represenationalism how do you get to the notion of there being other people or things in the world?

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Re: Perception and reality

Post by Prof Bulani » February 12th, 2020, 10:04 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 9:24 am
I'm not saying that it's consciously your position. I'm saying that you can't possibly justify anything other than solipsism given your other views. Per your views, all you can know is your mental content. If that's the case, there's no way for you to get to anyone or anything else. You only know your mental content. You have to conclude that what appears to be other people or things can only be known to be your mental content.

On your view, you have no grounds for saying you know there is anything independent of your mind.
Let's begin with the premise cogito ergo sum. My existence requires its duality counterpart, "not my existence", in order to exist. The statement "I exist" has no practical meaning without the presence of the distinction "not I exists". From a strictly logical standpoint, there must be a complement set "not I" which is comprised of all things that are outside the set "l", which we know exists. Even if the set "not l" is an empty set, it still is a set, and it exists, necessarily, outside of the set "I".

This is not a solipsism argument, as far as I know. Further, as I above defined knowledge, what we can know includes what we gather through sensory input. Once that sensory input becomes integrated into our perception, it's part of our mental content, and therefore part of what we "know". In no way does that imply that what we can know is limited to our mental content.

So combine the two. We are certain that there exists that which is outside the self. And we have the capacity to experience and interact with that which is outside the self. These experiences and interactions accumulate in our minds as mental content, or knowledge. Mental content is an important part of the interface between self and not self in humans and animals that rely on reality navigation and interaction for their survival.

My knowledge of the existence of the set "not I" (i.e., objective realty) is a logical certainty. My knowledge of the nature of the composition of the set "not I" is based on evidence, which I can presume is relatively reliable, but will concede could be partially or entirely inaccurate, since it is subject to perception errors. As I stated in my reply to pattern-chaser, I would be willing to refer to this evidential knowledge as the theory of objective truth.

I trust that you have a better understanding of my position more holistically.
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Re: Perception and reality

Post by Prof Bulani » February 12th, 2020, 10:08 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 9:24 am
What I'm talking about are logical implications of your view. Hopefully you can understand them so that you drop the silly view of representationalism. It can not be justified without completely undermining it.
Again, representationalism was never my position. I thought I had cleared that up.
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Re: Perception and reality

Post by Pattern-chaser » February 12th, 2020, 10:25 am

Steve3007 wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 7:23 am
Pattern-chaser wrote:From Descartes' cogito, any one of us can conclude that something has actual existence.
I presume that "something" is the mind which is doubting its own existence?
Descartes original words seem to have problems, such as 'Who is this "I" who claims to think?' But, after all the problems are resolved or allowed for, it emerges that something exists. Because this something exists, Objective Reality must exist, and this something must be all or part of it.

The something might be Descartes' thinker, or perhaps it is the being who, aware of extant thoughts, recites Descartes' words. Or perhaps they are not thoughts, but the outpourings of an alien computer in a brain-in-a-vat scenario? However we traverse Descartes' words, we end up with something having Objective existence.

Steve3007 wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 7:23 am
In saying "I believe that this is the one and only Objective Truth..." you appear to me to use the word "objective" in the same way that RJG does. That is, as equivalent to "logical certainty". Is that what you mean by "objective" here?
I use Objective in the hard and absolute sense in which an Objectivist would use it. Objective Reality is that which actually is, independent of our thoughts, beliefs or opinions. That which is Objectively True shows some direct correspondence with all or part of Objective Reality. This is a common use/meaning of the word "Objective" on philosophy forums, although it isn't how it might typically be used in an everyday environment.

So no, I don't mean "logical certainty", I mean something even more absolute. A statement that is Objectively True cannot be doubted or challenged. The only truth value that can apply to an Objective Truth is "true"; "false" does not and cannot apply, to the point where even doubt or scepticism is impossible.
Steve3007 wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 7:23 am
Are you saying that this one and only proposition ("I am") is the only thing that that we can say is true as matter of logical certainty?
No, I'm saying that the one and only Objective truth to which humans can have knowing access is that Objective Reality exists, and I (but see above for discussion of this "I") am all or part of it.

P.S. I am not an Objectivist, or anything like it. I respect the concept of "Objective", but I consider it to be an hypothetical intellectual curiosity, or an Objectivist's autoerotic fantasy, of no practical use. Nevertheless, on philosophy forums, it is best to default to an Objectivist's vocabulary, or your conversation will grind to a halt under the weight of demands for certainty and precision. Sad but true.
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Re: Perception and reality

Post by Terrapin Station » February 12th, 2020, 10:30 am

Prof Bulani wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 10:04 am

Let's begin with the premise cogito ergo sum. My existence requires its duality counterpart, "not my existence", in order to exist.
Where are you getting that from? That's not part of the cogito, and even if it were, it doesn't follow from anything. Why are you latching on to the cogito anyway--as if it's some sort of gospel that needs to be followed or something.
The statement "I exist" has no practical meaning without the presence of the distinction "not I exists". From a strictly logical standpoint, there must be a complement set "not I" which is comprised of all things that are outside the set "l", which we know exists. Even if the set "not l" is an empty set, it still is a set, and it exists, necessarily, outside of the set "I".
What in the world? So "Everything exists" is an "empty set"?

I'm reluctant to comment on all of this, by the way, because for example, you ignored the stuff about how we know not being the same as what we know above.
what we can know includes what we gather through sensory input. Once that sensory input becomes integrated into our perception, it's part of our mental content, and therefore part of what we "know". In no way does that imply that what we can know is limited to our mental content.
Earlier I wrote: "It would depend on whether you're saying that we're only aware of the mental model we create or if you're acknowledging that we actually can observe reality (without it being a mental model). "

You said, "We are only aware of a mental model we create" (and that view, by the way, is also known as representationalism, whether you call it that/identify yourself as a representationalist or not. Representationalism is that view.)

But now you're saying that what we can know is not limited to our mental content. So, on your view, given that you can only be aware of a mental model we create, how do we know something other than our mental content? Is it the "logical" stuff you suggested above that doesn't follow?

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Re: Perception and reality

Post by Prof Bulani » February 12th, 2020, 11:01 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 10:30 am
What in the world? So "Everything exists" is an "empty set"?
I clearly said "Even if the set "not l" is an empty set, it still is a set, and it exists". I never said nor implied that ""Everything exists" is an "empty set"".
I'm reluctant to comment on all of this, by the way, because for example, you ignored the stuff about how we know not being the same as what we know above.
There was no need to respond to your explanation regarding the difference between what we know and how we know. I never disagreed with that, and in fact I thought I had made it clear that what we know is not limited to our mental content several times. You explaining something to me that I never disagreed with didn't seem to warrant addressing.
Earlier I wrote: "It would depend on whether you're saying that we're only aware of the mental model we create or if you're acknowledging that we actually can observe reality (without it being a mental model). "

You said, "We are only aware of a mental model we create" (and that view, by the way, is also known as representationalism, whether you call it that/identify yourself as a representationalist or not. Representationalism is that view.)
Here's what I actually said:
myself wrote: we are only aware of mental model we create (i.e., everything we are aware of is copied into the mind) but we can also interact with reality without awareness (reflexes and so on).
I went to to say that as we experience and interact with objective reality, new knowledge becomes integrated into our perception, hence expanding what we are aware of. The mental model is not by any means a limitation of what we can become aware of, as it is constantly adapting as new information is added to our mental content.
But now you're saying that what we can know is not limited to our mental content. So, on your view, given that you can only be aware of a mental model we create, how do we know something other than our mental content? Is it the "logical" stuff you suggested above that doesn't follow?
1. The sum of everything known by an individual at any given point in time (what they are aware of) is that individual's mental content
2. New information is constantly being added to the contents of an individual's mind, through sensory input and internal mental processing
2 a. Information gathered via sensory input is knowledge that comes from experiencing and interacting with objective reality
2 b. Information accumulated from internal mental processes includes that which connects knowledge from objective reality into a more cohesive model, sometimes filling gaps in the model that is missing from direct sensory input.
3. As new information is added to the mental content, the learns things other than what was in their mental content at step 1.
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Re: Perception and reality

Post by Prof Bulani » February 12th, 2020, 11:06 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 10:30 am
Where are you getting that from?
Let A be a set. A' is the set of things that are not in set A. If A exists, A' also exists. This is true for all sets.

Do you disagree?
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Re: Perception and reality

Post by Present awareness » February 12th, 2020, 11:09 am

Terrapin Station wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 9:37 am
Present awareness wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 9:33 am


Everything you are saying is true, of course, from a logical thinking point of view!

However the entire universe is completely dependent on one being alive to experience it. From ones personal point of view, where was the the universe 200 years ago or a million years ago or even a billion years ago? Logic would say that since it’s here now, it must have been here before, but what if it’s only here now because you are here now. Once one dies, from a personal point of view, the universe and everything in it will disappear once again. Logic would say that the people left behind would still experience the universe when one dies, proving that it is independent from us. It certainly appears to be that way but how would you personally know it to be true?

Here is a thought experiment. You decide to take a solo visit to the next galaxy. After one light year’s distance, the sun is just a little point of light, like all the other stars. Suddenly a meteorite collides with the Earth, killing all life on the planet. How would you know? For you, the universe and everything in it is still the same. Now let’s imagine that in all of the universe, life only existed on earth, so you are the last remaining life form. Let’s say your spaceship malfunctions and you die. Once you die, the universe and everything in it will disappear completely, simply because there will be no living form, human or otherwise, to dispute the fact.
If you agree with represenationalism how do you get to the notion of there being other people or things in the world?
The idea of self and other is an abstract mental construct, the reality being that they are two halves of one wholeness. In the same way that you may not have time, without space, you may not have self without other (not self).
Even though you can see me, I might not be here.

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Re: Perception and reality

Post by Terrapin Station » February 12th, 2020, 11:41 am

Prof Bulani wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 11:06 am
Terrapin Station wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 10:30 am
Where are you getting that from?
Let A be a set. A' is the set of things that are not in set A. If A exists, A' also exists. This is true for all sets.

Do you disagree?
Sets are something we made up. They're a construct. They don't really exist (as in extramentally existing) in any sense. What you're repeating there is simply a stipulated definition.

Set constructions have nothing to do with philosophy of perception or the epistemology or ontology of how our minds connect with the rest of the world.

Re your other post above, how, on your view, do you know you're interacting with the world, receiving any sort of information from the world, etc.?

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Re: Perception and reality

Post by Terrapin Station » February 12th, 2020, 11:43 am

Present awareness wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 11:09 am
Terrapin Station wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 9:37 am


If you agree with represenationalism how do you get to the notion of there being other people or things in the world?
The idea of self and other is an abstract mental construct, the reality being that they are two halves of one wholeness. In the same way that you may not have time, without space, you may not have self without other (not self).
Right. So you're not really getting to other people or things. It's just another imaginative idea you have as a solipsist.

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Re: Perception and reality

Post by Prof Bulani » February 12th, 2020, 12:24 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 11:41 am
Prof Bulani wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 11:06 am

Let A be a set. A' is the set of things that are not in set A. If A exists, A' also exists. This is true for all sets.

Do you disagree?
Sets are something we made up. They're a construct. They don't really exist (as in extramentally existing) in any sense. What you're repeating there is simply a stipulated definition.

Set constructions have nothing to do with philosophy of perception or the epistemology or ontology of how our minds connect with the rest of the world.
If your position is that logic (because that is set theory expressed in its purest form) has nothing to do with philosophy, then that explains why miscommunication between us in this thread has been so frequent.
Re your other post above, how, on your view, do you know you're interacting with the world, receiving any sort of information from the world, etc.?
At this point, I'll just say read what I wrote above regarding this question. Key words to look for are "objective" and "survival".
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