Truth suffers from too much analysis

Construction of the External World Pt. 1

Posted by allzermalmer on May 14, 2011

I am going to make a couple of blogs, 6 to be precise, including this one. These blogs are going to deal with our construction of the external world. They are based off of a book by Walter Terence Stace in his book Theory of Existence and Knowledge.

Construction One: The presentations of one mind bear to the corresponding presentations of other minds the relation of resemblance.

Say we have two minds, John and Jane. We present to these two minds an object, say colored sheet of paper that is purple. Now, they both see the same colored sheet of paper, and they use words to communicate with each other and compare their experiences with these words. Thus, when they compare notes, they find that they are having similar experiences of something, and they call it purple.

So it is assumed that two minds are surveying the same scene, that they will see, hear, and smell similar colors, sounds, and odors. Thus, when they look at the sheet of paper that they assume that the paper Jane sees is similar to the one which John sees.

Now, it is not that John and Jane are seeing the same purple sheet of paper, but only seeing similar sheets of paper. It is logically impossible for them to see what each other are seeing, since each mind’s presentations/experiences are necessarily their own, and cannot be another’s. Thus, John’s experience/presentation cannot be the same as Jane’s presentation/experience.

Since we have established a common world with this first construction, now we can talk to one another as if our presentations resemble each other, and does not show that they in fact do. It only establishes that there is a corresponding order and relation.

Let’s give an example of this, using Jane and John, and show they can establish this communication of presentations: Suppose that Jane and John are presented a purple sheet of paper at the same time. Now suppose that the purple sheet of paper is peeled back and there is a white sheet of paper behind it, and than we peel it back and there is a purple sheet of paper behind it. Now, those sheets of paper are removed from their view. We now have a series of presentations of purple, white, and purple.

Now, once we have done this, Jane and John decide to compare notes on what they experienced. Jane says that the first presentation she had is what she calls ‘purple’. Now John takes notice that Jane is applying that word to their first presentation, and takes note of it, so that whatever Jane experienced, John knows that ‘purple’ is going to respond to the first presentation, whatever it may have been for Jane. Now they will agree that whatever the first presentation was, they will call it ‘purple’. And this will follow with the rest of the presentations that they experienced.

Now they have established a lines of communication to compare on presentations. Thus, when John experiences what they call ‘purple’, Jane will know what the presentation is supposed to resemble from her experience of the presentation. Thus, they build up a lines of communication to see if their presentations resemble each other.Thus, the first presentation is given the name ‘purple’ & the second giving the name ‘white’. Thus, when they have that presentation, they have a name and can tell the other their presentation, and each other will know the name to see if they had a similar presentation.

Now, it is impossible that Jane and John can produce one hint of evidence to show that their ‘purple’ resemble the presentations of each other, and yet they believe that it does. And they build this belief into their conception of an external world that is a public world. Now, it is not given that they are experiencing the same thing or an inference from their own private presentation, it is a mental construction that they make. This means that it is an assumed truth, and is an invented fiction which suites its purpose.

Now, we make this assumption because of two things, since the evidence can support either assertion that they are not similar or that they are similar. When John and Jane look at the purple sheet of paper, they can believe either one of two things: (1.) Their two presentations are similar, or (2.) They are dissimilar and not even possible to compare. Neither option has any evidence to make us support either one of them.  Since there no evidence to support either one, they are free to adopt whichever one that they choose to adopt. Now, they will choose the simpler of the two, even though both has no evidence to make them choose either one. Choosing the simpler one is a great simplification of their picture of the world. It is chosen for no other reason than simplification.

We see that they had the choice of alternative truths. They could choose between two equally unprovable assumptions. Now both of them are equally true, and each would have been equally legitimate for their knowledge to have started with. Now, they choose to have built into their foundation of knowledge of the external world the one that presented the greater simplicity, which is just an economy of thought.

Now what meaning can be given to Jane and John’s presentations resembling each other? John can see if his presentations resemble each other. John can have sheet of paper M and sheet of paper N next to each other. He can look from one to the other, and see if their colors resemble each other. To say two things are similar would depend for its meaning on a possibility of being compared. John’s purple and Jane’s purple exist in two different worlds, and they are logically cut off from each other. Thus, the consciousness of Jane and John are cut off from each other.

If John could see Jane’s purple, then Jane’s purple would become John’s purple, and insofar as Jane’s purple became John’s purple, then it would no longer be Jane’s purple but John’s purple. Now suppose the barrier of separate worlds could be demolished. Suppose that John could enter Jane’s world. It would still be John who is viewing the presentation and would no longer be Jane’s presentation. How would John know that he is seeing Jane’s presentation? John cannot know that he is seeing Jane’s presentation, since John would have to no longer be John and would have to be Jane. Yet this is a contradiction, since John cannot both be John and not be John  (Jane)  at the same time. Thus, this is a logical impossibility, and John can only experience his own presentations and no one elses.Thus, John and Jane are solitary minds with their own private experiences, and their own experiences that no one else can have or experience.

Now, finding an intelligible meaning of the first construction is very great, indeed. Now, John and Jane cannot have a meaning found in a categorical judgement with the first construction, and the solitary makes categorical judgements. For example, John being a solitary mind in his own world, expresses his judgements in categorical judgements. For example, he makes his judgements in his own world like this: ‘This is purple’, ‘This purple is like that purple’, or ‘This purple is unlike that purple’. However, now that the mind is making a mental construction, it must move away from the categorical judgement with this first construction. It now becomes necessary to express its judgements in new insights. It has to invent the hypothetical judgement.

Now, to say that two things are similar, implies either that a comparison has been made or could be made. And if it were made, then the alleged resemblance would be seen like this: ‘This sheet of paper (M) is like that sheet of paper (N).’ or ‘This sheet of paper (M) and that sheet of paper (N) have been compared and found to be alike.’, or it means ‘If we compared M and N, then we should find them alike’. Thus, we find that an assertion of similarity is relative to a possible act of comparison, (which is itself logically impossible). So when Jane says, ‘My purple is like your purple’ means ‘If we could compare our purples, then we should find they are similar.’

Now, since we have found that this is impossible to do the comparison, our minds do not deal with these difficulties and just ignores them (or overlooks these logical difficulties). And if we were not able to allow for these contradictions, then we would never be able to create the public world of the external world and society of other minds. This is the character of mental constructions which we invoke when creating new existences.

Now let us go over, as quickly as possible, what goes on with the solitary mind, or what Jane and John would go through: The esse is identical with the percipi. An esse that is a part, or not identical with the percipi, is unknown to the solitary mind of Jane or John. So a resemblance between a purple sheet of paper and another purple sheet of paper is a perceived relation. The esse will be the solitary minds percipi. With our first mental construction, there is an existence of a relation of resemblance that is not, and never can be, perceived. Thus, John’s sees two purple sheets of papers now that are opposite of its eyes that are alike. This is a direct perception of John’s. Now if John affirms that his purple sheet resembles Jane’s purple patch, this is to assert an existence of resemblances  no mind in the universe can perceive. Thus, John asserting a resemblance between his presentation and Jane’s is not of a presentation, which is implied by our first construction, and goes beyond his own presentation within his own mind. Thus, the esse and percipi are not identical. And thus John and Jane are transcending their own experience.

Now the existence of which has no connection with the solitary mind, which John and Jane start out with, would contradict their original notion of existence which they formed as solitary minds. Thus, it would not be existence, but something completely different from it. So, in order to keep in line with its old view, it will express it in new terms. The new esse must be relative to percipi.  Thus, the new esse will be expressed in terms of a possible one. Thus, when the mind affirms something existing unperceived, it will affirm it as ‘If…, then such an existence would be perceived.’

So the reason that make this move is because of the necessity of developing systematic communication with other minds, and no longer live in a solitary world, and we are forced to create a new existence. Thus, this new existence of relation of resemblance, is not something that is ‘actually there’ or factual, but is merely supposed as hypothetical, and can only be expressed in a hypothetical form of ‘If…then it would be perceived.’ This follows from our first construction of a belief in unperceived existence as a mental construction. This is because mental constructions are supposals.

So this mental construction is a new operation of the solitary mind of extending the given presentation in the imagination into a region where nothing is given. We are putting a presentation where there is none. Thus, Jane holds two presentations of two purple sheets, and goes on to imagine that John is having presentations that resemble her own. She is not having John’s experiences to know this, but is imagining that he is. It is her own mental construction, and one that John makes as well, to escape their solitary minds and create a common world.


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