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The External World

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  • james tan
    chris said:
    Message 1 of 92 , Dec 2, 2002
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      chris said:

      <<Philosophy really isn't concerned with the idea that the external world
      may be a dream or illusion.>>

      i may be missing the pt of ur post or tt of swm's; but what the heck.

      chris, like u said, things like telescope, microscope, mri scan, etc are
      extension of our senses. and, having identified something, we need to NAME
      what we saw under those lens, so tt talking about what is discovered is
      possible, if not among professionals, among laymen as well if the 'language'
      get common enough. technical language is just but one variety of languages,
      and the idea of language in general i think is what swm is talking about;
      nevermind if it's the quantum physics or the musical. maybe wittgenstein is
      not really discrediting scientific empiricism, or its potential contribution
      to the furthering of our knowledge, as u seem to suggest. the discussion of
      language is done so perhaps in the context of some metaphysical question,
      such as the reality of external world. descartes, berkeley, hume, kant,
      husserl, to name a few, were indeed interested in such (oh, academic,
      somewhat idle) topic of whether there was really a external world (contrary
      to ur quoted assertion).

      perhaps, not tt language per se prove the external world. but the fact tt
      there has been use of language indicate the existence of external world. in
      my philosophical naiveness, i look at it in this way (common-sensical): say,
      chris, u see a lady in red. in her presence, u point her to me and say: this
      is a lady, and she is wearing a red dress. so, u see, there is a connection
      between language and reality. the problem with name is tt they can always be
      spoken in the absence of the things spoken. so, u can tell me: hey, i saw a
      lady in blue just now. but whether the lady is present or not, there is
      always a experiencer of the ladies: chris. so if chris say "this is a ....."
      to me, the "this" is always accompanied by a subject (chris) whether the
      object is actually present or not. thus, so long as there is a "this", the
      "this" has a meaning too. so when we pt to an object (external reality) and
      say the name, or say "this", it seems as if something instantaneuos happens:
      the filling of a word with meaning by means of an objectively grounded
      mental act. so there are 2 components: 1, the presence of objects (external
      reality), and 2, intending just tt object by this word. i guess tt is how i
      pick up my english as a second language so tt some communication between me
      and english-speaking man is possible. if i say i met a very fat and sweaty
      lady in bikini under the hot tropical sun sunbathing and flirting, u know
      exactly what i am talking about. if i say it is more important to be kind
      than to be right, u understand too. whenever i pt to an object (or
      behaviour) and say a word, the act is meaningless except insofar as it is
      already commonly understood (thus the need of dictionary). pointing at an
      object and uttering a sound could be a command, or it could be calling
      attention to the shape or color or shade of color or the number of the
      object or objects. or, depending on the circumstances, it could be calling
      attention to the difference between this object and some other. i believe
      when swm said: << OUR LANGUAGE FULLY ENCOMPASSES WHATEVER WE CAN KNOW AND
      THAT "KNOWING" THE EXTERNAL WORLD IS ALREADY EMBEDDED IN THE LANGUAGE
      THAT WE SPEAK. THUS, TALK ABOUT EXTERNALS MEANS EXACTLY WHAT IT
      PURPORTS TO MEAN AND THERE IS NO SENSE IN LOOKING FOR>>, what he meant (as i
      understand him) is tt it is no mere accident tt we utter a word, use a sign
      (nevermind if tt sign is a english word or a chinese character): we feel tt
      when we say "thing" or "this", even though we are using a sign, the sign is
      of little account, actually a distraction from what it is a sign for;
      implying implicitly tt there is a reality or a external world out there by
      the mere fact tt we attempt to use language. ["killing the enemy" does not
      just reveal the killing, but tt there is a enemy as well. or, sea wave dont
      just imply the wave, but the sea water as well; likewise, language imply a
      external reality; i suppose language arise out of the need to communicate
      with each other tt external reality]. we feel as though it is accidental tt
      we have to use sign: we want to indicate the thing in its thingness, and
      would like to do it without signs (language), but we cant. but of course, tt
      doesnt mean we confuse the words for the object tt word is meant for.
      imagine, making love to a lady (actually) is different from making love to
      the word "lady". it does mean tt language somehow imply a reality out there,
      as swm (a la wittgenstein) seem to suggest. the word "lady" dont just come
      out of nowhere, and most men will have no problem in accepting tt. the
      problem then come with word like "god": can u pt to god? while swm may coin
      a word like "noumenon" to cater to the existence of god, i think i will
      stick to wittgenstein: "What can be said at all can be said clearly; and
      whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent." Tractatus
      Logico-Philosophicus (1922) preface. i dont think we can speak very clearly
      of god or the noumenon or undifferentiated reality. but chris, my take is tt
      the use of language do suggest the reality of external world.

      scientific advances simply means our world via language get richer, it
      doesnt negate the insight of wittgenstein concerning language.

      james.





      From: "Christopher Bobo" <cbobo@...>
      Reply-To: WisdomForum@yahoogroups.com
      To: "Wisdom Forum" <WisdomForum@yahoogroups.com>
      Subject: [WisdomForum] The External World
      Date: Sun, 1 Dec 2002 23:46:45 -0800

      SWM said elsewhere in connection with a different discussion, about the idea
      of the "external world":
      >>PHILOSOPHY DOES MAKE A WHOLE TO DO ABOUT THIS IDEA AND IT LED
      PHILOSOPHERS TO WONDER, SINCE DESCARTES, HOW WE CAN REALLY KNOW
      ANYTHING ABOUT THIS WORLD AT ALL. WE NORMALLY MOVE ABOUT IN IT IN A
      COMMON SENSE SORT OF WAY, OF COURSE. BUT HOW DO WE KNOW WHAT IT
      REALLY IS, THAT IT'S REALLY THERE AND NOT JUST A DREAM, ETC, ETC. IN
      ORDER TO ADDRESS THESE CONCERNS, PHILOSOPHERS STRUGGLED WITH
      ACHIEVING CONFIDENCE IN THE EXTERNAL WORLD, "CERTAINTY" IF YOU WILL.
      TO DO THAT THEY SUGGESTED THAT WE KNEW THE WORLD TO BE REAL BY
      REASONING, EITHER DEDUCTIVELY OR INDUCTIVELY. YET IT WAS ULTIMATELY
      SHOWN THAT NEITHER METHOD COULD DEFINITIVELY ACCOUNT FOR THE
      INDUBITABLE REALITY OF SUCH A WORLD. SO WERE WE DOOMED TO OPERATE
      FOREVER IN A WORLD OF UNCERTAINTY, TO QUESTION EVERYTHING, TO NEVER
      REALLY KNOW? G.E. MOORE SWUNG THE PENDULUM BACK TO A KIND OF RAW AND
      INTUITIVE COMMON SENSE APPROACH BUT THIS DIDN'T REALLY DO ANYTHING
      EXCEPT THRUST THE ISSUE OUT OF THE WAY. THEORETICALLY, PHILOSOPHERS
      WERE NO CLOSER THAN BEFORE TO CONVINCINGLY DEMONSTRATING THAT THE
      WORLD IN WHICH WE THINK WE OPERATE IS REAL (TO ALIGNING PHILOSOPHY
      WITH EVERY DAY COMMON SENSE). WITTGENSTEIN RIGHTLY SHOWED WHY MOORE'S
      COMMON SENSE DOCTRINE MAKES SENSE AND HE DID THIS LINGUISTICALLY, BY
      SHOWING THAT OUR LANGUAGE FULLY ENCOMPASSES WHATEVER WE CAN KNOW AND
      THAT "KNOWING" THE EXTERNAL WORLD IS ALREADY EMBEDDED IN THE LANGUAGE
      THAT WE SPEAK. THUS, TALK ABOUT EXTERNALS MEANS EXACTLY WHAT IT
      PURPORTS TO MEAN AND THERE IS NO SENSE IN LOOKING FOR SOME METHOD OF
      REASONING TO ASSURE US THE EXTERNAL WORLD IS THERE BEFORE US. WE
      ALREADY KNOW THIS IN TERMS OF THE VERY MEANS WE ENGAGE THE WORLD,
      THROUGH OUR LANGUAGE.<<

      I decided to post this here rather than discuss it on the forum on which it
      first appeared because I'm afraid that my comment would be off-topic on the
      other forum, which is dedicated to the thought of Wittgenstein.

      As I was reading this, I was struck that it seems to profoundly
      misunderstand what philosophy is about. (And perhaps underlies my
      reservations about Wittgenstein.)

      Philosophy really isn't concerned with the idea that the external world may
      be a dream or illusion. That is an extreme form of skepticism that aims at
      highlighting a genuine problem of human epistemology.

      The pre-philosophical view of human beings sees them as some kind of being
      that rides around in a body and looks out of the world through the senses,
      principally the eyes, as one does while riding in one's car. To borrow
      Koestler's terms, we envision ourselves as ghosts in a biological machine.
      Philosophy enters the picture and says: No, this understanding is mistaken.
      We aren't just looking out at the world through a windshield, so to speak.
      We know this because our perceptions have a funny feature--they can be
      wrong, we can think we see things that aren't there, we see sticks that we
      know are straight that appear to be bent when stuck into water. Something
      is not right about how we think of ourselves. No one ever said that there
      was no reality, or that it was an illusion or a dream. The philosophical
      insight is that things weren't exactly how they seemed. Over time, we came
      to understand the senses as a projection systems. Somehow, they gather data
      and project effects of that data into our consciousness. We touch things
      and experience them as hard or soft, hot or cold. We see things and they
      have shape, extension and color. We hear things due to vibrating soundwaves
      that impact our ear drums and send various stimuli down our auditory nerves.

      One thing this insight about the "external world" and our "inner
      perceptions" lead us to conclude is that we may not be getting everything
      that exists. Dogs seem to hear sounds that we don't. Bats seems to be able
      to see things that we can't--in the dark. Cat's seem to sense earthquakes
      before we feel them. Eagles seem able to see things that we can't from the
      same distance. Hmm, the philosopher wonders. What are our limitations and
      why do we have them. Thus we invent the magnifying glass, the prism, the
      microscope, the hearing funnel, the telescope, the stethoscope, the
      thermometer, the telephoto lens, the X-ray, radiation detectors, litmus
      paper, photographic emulsion, the CCD photon detectors, EKGs, ultrasounds,
      the MRI, infrared detectors, electron microscopes, linear accelerators, the
      Hubble Space Telescope, etc. all to overcome the limitations of our senses
      and aide our understanding of the "external" world that we are in.

      Now, suppose instead of inventing all of these wonderful extensions of our
      senses a wise prophet, call him LW, had come along and said: "Humans, don't
      worry. Be certain. We know the external world because with our language we
      talk about it. Our language assumes the reality of the external world. You
      need not worry about the limitations of your senses or the reliability of
      your consciousness. Our very words assure us that we need have no such
      concerns! We cannot question our language because to do so would render all
      that we have said and all that we do everyday ridiculous. No, it's not so!
      Rather you should doubt the philosopher who asks you to question your senses
      and your consciousness and the way you and your forefathers have talked
      about the world." Suppose further that his sage had silenced the first
      philosopher who asked these first annoying questions. We might still be at
      the level of the sea slug. I can easily imagine some day one sea slug saying
      to another--do not worry yourself over your doubts about what you think
      constitutes the external world and whether your sense of dry and wet, warm
      and cold, are the limits of all there are. Be certain that we can talk
      about "wet" and "heat" and know "food" when we smell it. That's all the
      certainty of the external world that you need. Now, if you understand me
      aright you will see that what I have said is therapeutic. I have cured you
      of the questioning but that so troubled you. Now, let's go much a piece of
      decaying halibut."






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    • louise
      ... Live ... that was ... like a ... have done if ... the ... for ... On Behalf ... start. ... or ... Jim, I believe it is incumbent on us to recognise to whom
      Message 92 of 92 , Jan 19, 2008
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        --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, eduard at home <yeoman@...> wrote:
        >
        > eduard ---
        > I said I found it interesting. Like in that movie "You Only
        Live
        > Twice". Can you imagine the amount of organization and management
        that was
        > required to hollow out a volcano and install a tin roof that looks
        like a
        > lake?? You really have to admire Blofeld. Think what he might
        have done if
        > he chose to do something good.
        >
        > Why is "order out of chaos" disturbing?? What is wrong with
        the
        > virtues of "order"?? Surely that is what philosophers have strived
        for
        > since the beginning.
        >
        >
        > -----Original Message-----
        > From: existlist@yahoogroups.com [mailto:existlist@yahoogroups.com]
        On Behalf
        > Of jimstuart51
        > Sent: January-19-08 7:28 AM
        > To: existlist@yahoogroups.com
        > Subject: [existlist] Re: order out of chaos
        >
        > Eduard,
        >
        > You wrote:
        >
        > << Well ... no Nooist has yet killed anyone. So we have a good
        start.
        > As to Jack the Ripper and such ... I am pointing out the benefit of
        > having purpose and direction ... not that one should go out with a
        > bag full of knives.>>
        >
        > Well, that's good to hear.
        >
        > However I have to say that I found your post "Order out of chaos"
        > disturbing. For a start, I am deeply suspicious when a philosopher
        or
        > a politician talks of the virtues of "order".

        Jim,

        I believe it is incumbent on us to recognise to whom we address
        remarks, at existlist. As contributors, we may be alluding to
        politics, in discussing what existentialism means for the
        contemporary world, but none of us here are politicians. Personally,
        I am deeply suspicious of all kinds of political language, including,
        for instance, talk of human rights. This is a complex matter. I
        have never been opposed to the humane treatment of our fellow human
        beings, even if they have perpetrated inhuman horrors. That is one
        reason that I describe myself as a liberal. I am a 'love the sinner,
        hate the sin' sort of a Christian, approximately. Some intellectual
        crimes, however, are not sins. The complacent and intolerant
        sloppiness of thought that often passes itself off as a form of
        liberal values only turns my stomach. Nooism is not guilty of such
        error: it is realistic and responsible to the human condition.

        Louise


        >
        > Secondly, the overall argument of your post seemed to be saying
        that
        > the bad person lives more authentically than the good person. Is
        this
        > a misinterpretation of you post 43397?
        >
        > Jim,
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > Please support the Existential Primer... dedicated to explaining
        nothing!
        >
        > Home Page: http://www.tameri.com/csw/exist
        > Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
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