Truth suffers from too much analysis

Construction of the External World Pt. 5

Posted by allzermalmer on May 15, 2011

Here is the 5th blog of 6, on the construction of the external world. You can read the previous blog on it here.

Construction Five: That there exists ‘things’ or ‘objects’, which are not identical with presentations; and that the presentations are ‘qualities’ of the ‘things’; and that the ‘qualities’ may change while the ‘things’ remain the same.

As we noted before, each mind lived in their own private world of presentations. Than, eventually, we cam to connect these worlds into one public world. However, we find that there were agreements in the worlds, but there were also disagreements about the world.

We discovered that when a number of minds, like John, Jane, Jack, Jill, Johnny, and Janette, all get together, they are looking at something that they regard as the same thing. Thus, say that they are looking at a penny, a brown patch. The sameness of a brown patch is what they all is noticed. When John looks at it, he sees the brown patch and notices it is circular. When Jane looks at it, she sees the brown patch and notices it is an ellipse. Jack sees a brown patch and a narrower ellipse. Jill sees a brown patch and thin band or rectangle. To John the brown, circular, patch nearly occupies its whole field of vision. To Jane the brown, elliptical, patch it occupies a smaller field of vision. To Jack and Jill, it is small brown patch that looks like a speck in their field of vision. This is because they are at varying distances from the patch, but we have to account for these differences. These differences make themselves known not only in vision, but also, touch, taste, smell, and sound. The ‘same’ sound can be loud to John and faint to Jane.

Now this is a contradiction to the common world that all the minds have come to accept. How can the ‘same’ brown patch be at the same time circular, not circular (elliptical and rectangular)? How can the same sound both be loud and not loud? That brown patch, and sound, cannot have these shapes at once and the same time, and we have already established with one of our previous constructions that what John experiences is the same was what Jane experiences. These contradictory characters cannot exist at the same time in the same presentation.

Thus, the mind creates a new construction in order to escape this paradox. We have one ‘entity’ to bear the differences and give it another identity. We invent the concept of ‘thing’ which is supposed to lie behind the presentations of our minds. The presentations are different for John and Jane, yet the ‘thing’ remains identical with itself, which avoids the contradiction. The presentation becomes ‘appearances’ of the ‘thing’ that lies behind the presentations. Thus, John seeing ‘circular’ brown patch, and Jane seeing an ‘elliptical’ brown patch, are to be regarded as if many appearances of one single ‘object’, which is the penny.  This helps us avoid the paradox, and we apply this everywhere in the one universe that we have constructed. The world no longer becomes one of presentations, and it becomes full of objects.

Now there is no reason to suppose circular since some presentations are elliptical or rectangular. And circularity, elliptical, and rectangular, are all based on presentations, and how can they be characterized by what is by hypothesis different from the presentation? They are just vague points of view when we talk about the thing behind the presentation, and we do this in order to create our common world, in the one universe.

When we create the concept of ‘thing’ or ‘object’, it possess an advantage, even though it is based on paradox. The reason this view was adopted was that when different minds were viewing simultaneously what they decided to regard as the ‘same’ presentation, there were still differences between presentations. Now the same presentation was different to different minds viewing it at the same time, it was also different to the same mind viewing it at different times. For example, John watches the colors change, and their shape, and their position. He watches a green patch turn gradually orange, and then yellow. He watches a brown patch change from circular to elliptical to rectangular.

The concept of thing helps us avoid the difficulties that we find. For now we can say that ‘thing’ remains the same, even thought its qualities, which are the presentations to our minds, change. Jane watches the leaf turn green in summer to yellow in autumn. Yet through all of these changes in color, it is still to be regarded as the ‘same’ leaf all through the different presentations. However, we could not do this if we had not invented the mental construction of ‘thing’ or ‘object’. If the presentations were all that existed, then the green patch (leaf in the summer) is obviously not the same presentation as the yellow patch (leaf in autumn). Thus, there would be two different leaves, not one. However, by the construction of ‘thing’, we circumvent this problem. Thus, Jane can say that the color has changed, but the color is not the ‘thing’. The color is only a quality of the thing. Thus, the color has changed, the thing itself remains the same. We thus have this general important conception: a thing may remain the same and self-identical while all its qualities change.  This is a construction to simplify our view of the world.

This mental construction has the characteristic that it cannot be proved true, is not derived from experience, and is simply invented by the mind to fill up the mind’s schematics of knowledge. Thus, the thing behind the presentation cannot be sensed directly or directly experienced. For if we could, then that would itself be a presentation. Neither can we infer it from the existence of our presentations. Any inference would have to pass from the perceptible world to unseen and unknown world behind it. For to argue from presentations to causes outside of presentations, and this ’cause’ is the ‘thing’. For causation is the relation between what we find in experience, and we are moving beyond experience. Thus, we are just replacing presentations.

When we say that m-n constitutes causal series, we mean this series is necessarily in our actual perceptual experience. Experience allows us to asserting these causal series. However, this gives us no right to say that there must be, or are, causes behind presentations in a world that we never experience.

So the conception of ‘thing’ is not inferred from presentations, or are giving by presentations, and so it is a mental construction to get out of our logical difficulties that arise in our constructed common world. The construction of ‘thing’ or ‘object’ gives us plausibility in our theory of a common world, and it gets ride of the contradictions that came about when we find that John and Jane are experiencing the same brown patch, yet it is both elliptical and circular.

Constructions that assert the exist of anything take a hypothetical form. And such constructed existence is unperceived. So the mind’s assertion amounts to ‘If…, we could perceive it. This is presented in the 5th construction. Thus, to affirm an unperceived ‘things’ existence behind our presentations will only mean, that if we could get behind our presentations we should perceive it. Yet to do this is full of contradictions. For if we could perceive the thing behind presentations, then it would become a presentation, yet it is supposed to be something unperceived. Yet if it were to become another presentation, then there would have to be a presentation behind that, and this would lead to an infinite regress. And to perceive things apart from their qualities is impossible, since we only perceive qualities of the thing.

We say that the thing is separate from the qualities, since the qualities are contradictory for different minds, and the thing lies behind the presentations and supports the presentations. We do this because it helps us explain why people have contradictory presentations when dealing with the same thing, like how Jane and John can both view the same penny and find that one sees it as circular and the other as rectangular.  Thus, in order to do this, we state that the ‘thing’ is different from the presentations, and remains unaffected by the contradictory characters of the presentations. Now since the ‘thing’ lies behind the presentations, we can never come to know the ‘thing’ itself. And if we say that we can know the thing based on the qualities that are present to us, then we are involved in a contradiction.

Now as we have constructed the external world (a common world shared by different minds), we have found that there are inherent contradictions in it, yet we overlook this in order to have this common world. We live with them, and our minds ignore them till they impinge on us. We just come to let these things pass so that we can keep the external world, or our common world. ‘Thing’ and ‘object’ allow us to do it, even though it is contradictory.


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