Truth suffers from too much analysis

Construction of the External World Pt. 4

Posted by allzermalmer on May 15, 2011

This is the 4th blog on the construction of the external world of 6 blogs. You can read the last one here.

Construction Four: That presentations may exist when no mind is aware of them.

So now when John is experiencing a purple patch, and it leaves his awareness, it still exists when perceived by another mind like that of Jane. This follows from the third construction, and now with the fourth construction we are going to go one step further. Now when John is experiencing a purple patch and it leaves his awareness, and it is not experienced by any mind at all, like Jane’s, we say it still exists. Thus, the purple patch may continue to exist when it is not experienced by any mind at all, and thus it exists unperceived.

However, there is a gap in evidence. We have evidence when something is being perceived by the senses, and we can make a leap to things existing when some other mind is perceiving something and accept it even if we are not. Now we have to accept something existing that we can never have evidence for, since we can have no experience of it.

Say that John is in his study. Now assume that John leaves his study to go out to the grocery store. How does John know that his study continues to exist when he left? He would know it when Jane is still there, when he is out to the grocery store, that it continues to exist since she is perceiving it and stayed din the room. This situation with Jane in the room is what we have come to with the third construction, since it is being perceived by another mind. Now how do they know it continues to exist when no one was aware of it? The obvious answer is that there cannot possibly be any evidence of this. For there is evidence that things continue to go on existing as long as some one perceives them, as long as we assume that different people perceive the same things, which was established with the first construction. However, when no one is is perceiving a thing, it is quite clear that no one can have evidence of its existence. There is not, never has been, and never will be one iota of evidence that the universe or anything in it goes on existing when no mind perceives it, or that it existed before there were any minds to perceive it. It is a pure assumption.

Are there other views we can take on this issue? Yes, there are. However, these views offer nothing to it. It can be stated that this view, that things exist when not perceived by a mind, is a ‘primitive belief’, ‘common sense’, ‘animal belief’, or a ‘instinctive belief’. However, to resort to such things is to offer nothing to epistemology, and is to just raise ones hands in surrender. It is a form of defeatism and founded on prejudice. However, with the mental constructions we are forming, we can create show that such a belief is well founded by having their own logical structure and justification.

Now, some might say that since we do not know of anything existing unperceived that it does not exist unperceived. This is a fallacious argument, and one that should not be believed. However, when someone says that things exist unperceived by any mind, they have the onus of proof on them to support their assertion. Since we never find that things exist when not perceived, so we say there is no evidence that things exist when not perceived by a mind. Now since there is no evidence that things exist when not perceived by a mind, so there is no reason to believe it when there is no evidence for it. Why should one believe something when there is no evidence for the assertion? The burden is on those who say it exists when unperceived, and they cannot get ride of this burden without introducing a prejudice of theirs. Yet a mental construction is what allows us to get around this problem.

One of the typical responses that can be invoked to support that things exist unperceived is that of casual sequences. Say that John builds a fire and has a clock by him. He has a set quantity of coal and etc, and starts the fire. He notices a succession of sensible phenomena. So say he starts burning the coal, and after half an hour, half of the coal is burned. At the end of an hour the fire-place only contains ashes, since all of the coal was burned. If he builds a fire with the same quantity of coal and put it under the same conditions, leaves the room, and returns after a given time has elapsed, he gets approximately the same sense experience as he would have had at the corresponding moment if he remained in the room the whole time. He, thus, infers that the fire has been burning as usual during his absence, and that being perceived is not a condition that is necessary for the occurrence of the process.

John, from these considerations, might help verify his idea that things exist when they are not perceived by anyone. Now there is a problem, which is this. He assumes that things that have happened when he perceives them continue on the same when he is not perceiving them. He is taking the appears of things when he perceives them to be the same as when he is not perceiving them.

The whole argument of causal sequences continuing on when not perceived is  begging the question. For you are still assuming that things that happen when perceived continue on when not perceived, and that is the thing in question. So let us return to John and his fire. If John stays in the room as he builds the fire and keeps it going till it is done, which takes about an hour, he observes a certain sequences of the phenomena. The sequence follows like this, m, n, o, p, q, r,  s, t, u. Now if John leaves the room after it starts, and returns half an hour, he will see it at sequence q. If John leaves the room after that sequences and returns to it in a quarter-hour, he will get the sense experience of s. And on this goes. John will thus ‘infer’ that m,n,o, & p have occurred in his absence and that of any other mind. However, the only way this inference can be made is with the belief that things go on in his absence, or as if he were there. John cannot infer the conclusion of things going on unperceived as they do when perceived, because of his belief in uniform causal sequences rests on belief in the general belief in continuity of nature, i.e. continued occurrence of events when he is not perceiving them. He has to first come to the belief in continued existence when no one is perceiving things before he can believe in uniform causal sequence when not being perceived. Thus, he cannot logically make the inference that he does.

As David Hume once said: “The only existences, of which we are certain, are perceptions, which being immediately present to us by consciousness, command our strongest assent, and are the first foundation of all our conclusions. The only conclusion we can draw from the existence of one thing to that of another, is by means of the relation of cause and effect, which shews, that there is a connection betweixt them, and that the existence of one is dependent on that of another. The idea of this relation is derived from past experiences (perceptions), by which we find, that two beings are constantly conjoined together, and are always present at once to the mind. But as no beings are ever present to the mind but perceptions; it follows that we may observe a conjunction or a relation of cause and effect between different perceptions, but can never observe it between perceptions and objects (things outside of perception). ‘Tis impossible, therefore, that from the existence or any of the qualities of the former, we can ever form any conclusion concerning the existence of the latter, or ever satisfy our reason in this particular.” Thus, cause and effect only holds between perceptions, and when we are not having a perception and saying cause and effect is working in things not perceived with the senses, we are applying cause and effect to things that are never known to hold or can ever be known to hold.

Now here is the way, or a way, that we come to the category of causality, which originates within perceived experiences. We have a sufficient sequences of m-n actually perceived, and give us the conception of causality. So the existence of a similar causal sequences outside of actual perception is assumed on exactly the same grounds as the existence of unperceived presentations is assumed, i.e. by mental construction which we base upon the mind’s necessity to simply its world and economize its thoughts. This belief of causal sequences outside of perceptions is a particular case of the construction of a general belief in an independent external world.

So we find that causal sequences occurring when John and Jane, or minds, are perceiving things. We have no right to say that this continues when no mind is observing anything, and no argument can justify such an inference. We must hold to mental acrobatics try trying to invoke logic to escape into something that logic cannot support. So the fundamental principle of no amount of perceiving things, objects, presentations, causal sequences, or anything else, can ever prove or show, that anything exists unperceived.

So why does John and Jane go on to think that things exist when they are not perceived by any mind? We have seen with the 3rd construction that John goes on to think that the things that he does not experience/presentations, continue on when Jane is perceiving them. This was a simplification of thought, and so too is the 4th construction that we are going over now.

The 4th construction introduces a new conception of existence. The solitary mind of Jane became accustomed to think of existence of everything being identical with the appearances itself.  Jane left this point of view and came to think of her presentations might go on existing other minds, though unperceived by her. If they can not only exist outside of Jane’s mind, then they can exist outside of John’s, Jill’s, Johnny’s, Janet’s, and etc minds. Of course, there is no evidence to support such an idea. However, the paradox of believing that presentations do go on to exist outside of that  particular mind, like Jane’s, has already been established by the 3rd mental construction. Thus to extend this belief to cover presentations existing unperceived by any mind, can help to explain the facts of 60 black patches to appear to 60 different minds at 60 different times separated by time intervals, by a simple theory of their being only one black patch in the outer world that goes on existing unperceived.

We would not be able to make this step, believe in the existence of unperceived things, if we continued to hold to the view that presentations must be perceived by some mind in order to exist or know that they do. For if we did, there could be breaks in the universe. For instance, Jane’s black patch would continue to exist if it were perceived by John before he closed his eyes. However, if John closed his eyes first, before Jane became aware of the black patch, the it would be impossible to hold that it was the same black patch which John and Jane saw. The black patch could be passed on like relay racers handing off the baton to each other, yet there is always the possibility of one of the runners dropping the baton. And like that, the black patch would go out of the existence.

Thus, Jane could pass on her black patch to John, Janet, Johnny, Jill, Julian, and etc, but let us suppose that Jill happened to fall asleep at the moment Johnny handed off his black patch to her. Jill could wake up a 15 minutes later and see the black patch. However, in those 15 minutes when no one was seeing the black patch, we would have to necessarily hold that it had gone out of existence, and that Jill’s black patch was not the same as Johnny’s black patch, and that it was a new one. Thus, if every mind fell asleep at some time, it would become necessary for all of them to hold, upon them waking up, that an entirely new universe had come into existence.

Thus, the 3rd construction is only a stepping stone, and we must make the next step. The house is half-finished, and now we must finish it by taking that extra step. It has been established with other minds that there is a common world (2nd construction & 3rd). We have abolished a multitude of universes and established a simpler one of just one universe. This produces simplicity in our thought, and allows for easier means of communication with one another. However, this simplicity is incomplete, and we must take another step. For this has depended on everyone staying awake and alert to see things in the universe do not get loose and go out of existence. Thus, it would be simpler if things could go on without a mind perceiving them. From this view, the mind is compelled to adopt the 4th construction, and believe things go on existing when not perceived by some mind.


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