Tag Archives: Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Epistemically Accessible Possible Worlds, Compatibility, Failure Of Bivalence, And Inconsistent Situations

Caravaggio’s painting the CARDSHARPS nicely encapsulates the structure of a situation, and illustrates the three-place relation Rstu. Situations and their structure I will be discussing extensively in this essay in order to arrive at a satisfactory statement of the truth conditions for negation. This statement will be needed to resolve the paradoxes of Classical Logic’s Material Implication, paradoxes which Strict Implication does not completely resolve. Rstu I will be discussing in a different essay

I start by attempting to define situations (as opposed to possible worlds) in terms of parts of possible worlds that are epistemically accessible to me from my situation in the actual world. This will let me show how A v ~A can be false for a situation. In other words, both A and ~ A are false for that situation, though not for a possible world. The situation therefore counts as non-bivalent. I will show this by way of a set of truth conditions for negation that rely on a concept of a compatibility relation between situations that relies on possible worlds that are epistemically accessible from the actual world for a sentient being S.

I will then add ‘ostensible objects’ to my account of situations. This will let me show how ‘A and not A‘ can be true for a situation, a situation that would therefore count as inconsistent. I will show this employing a concept of an incompatibility relation between situations that relies on (impossible?) worlds that are epistemically inaccessible from the actual world for a sentient being S.

Both non-bivalent and inconsistent situations are needed for Relevant Logic, a paraconsistent logic, in order to eliminate countless irrelevant implication propositions that would otherwise be true.

I am willing to ‘go there’, so to speak, because I will do practically anything (even becoming one of those squeegee car-window washers waiting to pounce on cars at intersections in the hopes of gaining a quarter) to avoid making the following true:

If Cliff lives in Houston, then the earth has at least one moon

If Paris, Texas is the capital of France, then Calypso music originated in Wisconsin

If I vote for Hillary Clinton, we will end up with a criminal president who is under investigation from day one

All of the above statements are true in Classical Logic but false in Relevant Logic.

Let me start, then.

Nota Bene: in what follows, I will be enclosing the names of words and phrases in double quotes, and the names of concepts, relations, and propositions within single quotes. I will use | to mean “alternatively”. The first occurrence of an important technical term will be in bolded italic.

Although the contents of this paragraph will probably seem a bit opaque to a reader who is not already familiar with these issues, I will list out anyway the points I will be making here. We can analyze ‘compatibility’/’incompatibility’ in terms of (parts of) epistemic possible worlds. We do not need to leave these concepts as primitives. Since, as it will turn out, situations have everything to do with knowledge/information, it should not surprise us that the concept ‘epistemic possible world’, as well as related epistemic concepts, should be useful for analyzing them. The method I employ in the following will itself also rely heavily on the concept of epistemic possible worlds. All of the above will be used to analyze a truth condition for negation that will allow for the existence of situations that fail to bivalent and that fail to be consistent. And ultimately, of course (though I will not be discussing this in detail here), the aim of doing that is to show how the above implications can be regarded as false.

Here is the crumb-trail for this disquisition. First I will be discussing possible worlds in general, then possible worlds that are epistemically accessible for an agent S from another possible world (especially the actual world). I will then discuss situations, which discussion will branch off into two streams. In one stream, I will discuss what in a situation (as opposed to a possible world) is truth-making for a sentence. In the other stream, I will discuss the binary compatible/incompatible relation among situations. These two streams will converge in a statement of the truth condition for negation, which is (spoiler alert) as follows:

A situation makes ~A true if and only if every situation compatible with it fails to make A true

RL p. 75

This truth condition for negation will then let me show how situations can fail to be bivalent and fail to be consistent. The discussion of inconsistent situations will include a discussion of ostensible objects.

But to get to this truth condition, I will need to discuss what it means to “make” a sentence true, and what it means to say one situation is compatible with another. And in turn, to get to those discussions, I will need to discuss possible worlds, and those parts of possible worlds called “situations”.

Here are the topics I will be discussing, in order: Possible Worlds Spawned-From-The-Known Possible Worlds Spawned-From-The-Unknown Possible Worlds Possible Worlds That Are Epistemically Accessible To Me From The Actual World Situations Epistemic Possibility Epistemic Truth Compatibility/Incompatibility Situations Drawn From Spawned-From-The-Unknown Possible Worlds Situations Drawn From Spawned-From-The-Known Possible Worlds Bivalent and Inconsistent Situations Making A True

Possible Worlds

At least for now — until I am forced to change — I will take a possible world to be defined by a set of natural-language descriptions, each one of which corresponds | fails to correspond to a state of affairs which, because it obtains | fails to obtain at a time t, is (to follow Chisholm) identical with a proposition. There is therefore a one-to-one relationship between a state of affairs and a proposition that obtains | fails to obtain at t. There is, of course, a many-to-one relationship between natural-language descriptions and a proposition aka state of affairs at t. “Umuulan” uttered in Manila as one holds an umbrella and “It is raining” also uttered in Manila while holding an umbrella are natural-language descriptions in Tagalog and English respectively which both express the proposition named by ‘it is raining’.

A sufficient condition for a state of affairs’ obtaining is its having a set of objects located in space-time and bearing the relevant relations to one another. For example, the state of affairs expressed by the sentence “Our Unix SA is standing to Genghis Khan’s right; and my brother Dan is standing to Leon Trotsky’s left who in turn is standing to Genghis Khan’s left” obtains if our Unix SA, Genghis Khan, Dan, and Leon Trotsky have a location in space-time at t and are spatially related to one another in the way just described.

The description that expresses the proposition are sentences in a natural language that are used to perform a speech act of describing. If my cat Tiger is now sitting on the mat in my apartment, that state of affairs obtains, and the description performed by uttering the English sentence “My cat Tiger is now sitting on the mat” expresses a proposition that is true because it corresponds to this state of affairs. In a derivative way, the description/sentence also corresponds to this state of affairs and is also true. If Tiger is not now sitting on this mat, the aforementioned state of affairs does not now obtain, and the aforementioned proposition does not correspond to anything in my apartment that would make it true. The proposition is false, as is the sentence expressing that proposition whose utterance performs the speech act of making a false description.

I will leave ‘state of affairs’ as an unanalyzed primitive, explicating it only by providing examples. ‘Corresponds’ I will also not say much about, except to say that it is a relation between a proposition and a state of affairs, and the relation might be, as Chisholm thinks, identity at a time t.

As one possible world among others (if something is actual, it is also possible), the actual world comprises that set of descriptions, each one of which expresses a proposition that corresponds to a state of affairs that obtains. In the actual world, the color of the walls in my apartment is a nice, subtle portobello mushroom. The description “my apartment has portobello-mushroom colored walls” corresponds to this particular state of affairs, this particular piece of the actual world. It is a member of the set of descriptions that defines the actual world. I will say that the description maps to the state of affairs. I conceive of states of affairs that obtain as akin to bricks building up the actual world.

In the actual world the color of the walls in my apartment is not a wild fuchsia. The description “fuchsia-colored walls” does not correspond to this particular piece of the actual world. That this state of affairs fails to obtain (i.e., my apartment walls being wild fuchsia) means that it is not part of the actual world. The actual world contains just the one portobello mushroom brick, so to speak, and not a fuchsia brick.

Spawned-from-the-known possible worlds. Through a kind of wave of the hand, I can specify a possible world distinct from the actual world by saying “everything is the same as in the actual world, except the color of the walls of my apartment is a wild fuchsia.” In doing this, I have just spawned, so to speak, or “accessed” a possible world (which, henceforth, I will call the “fuchsia-wall possible world”) by taking a description of a state of affairs I know to obtain in the actual world (“the walls of my apartment are a nice subtle portobello mushroom”), a state of affairs that is exposed to me, so to speak, and substituting for it a different description (“the walls of my apartment are a wild fuchsia”), a description which fails to map to any obtaining state of affairs in the actual world. I will call possible worlds accessed this way “spawned-from-the-known possible worlds.”

These possible worlds are defined by sets of descriptions some of which map to the states of affairs that “build up” so to speak the actual world and others which do not map to or correspond to any states of affairs obtaining in the actual world. When a description does correspond to a state of affairs obtaining at t in the actual world, I will say that the description is satisfied by the state of affairs.

A state of affairs is actual when the objects it comprises have a location in space time. For all I know, there may be more than one space-times. Here, however, I will assume there is just one, and that there is, therefore, just one actual world comprising all actual states of affairs. will assume that there is only one actual world. The actual world is one possible world among others, but it is the only one in which every description in the set of descriptions that defines it maps to the corresponding state of affairs which obtains.

If I may be allowed to indulge in wild metaphor for the moment, I will say that the fuchsia-wall possible world is composed of the same bricks as the actual world, with the exception that the portobello mushroom brick has been taken out and replaced with a written note saying “this is a fuchsia brick”.

I will call phrases such as “fuchsia walls” “key descriptions”, since these are the descriptions that, with the aid of the “everything else is the same” hand wave, are key to defining the fuchsia-wall possible world and opening up so to speak that world to me. It will be seen shortly that key descriptions are not limited to generating or “accessing” spawned-from-the-known possible worlds. When a key description is not satisfied by a state of affairs in the actual world, I will say that the content of that description is merely “posited“.

A positing may be actually realized by a person performing it, or it could be something potentially realized. An hour ago, for example, I had not posited a butterfly with black and white wings fluttering about in the Amazon at GPS location xyz, but I am now. An hour ago this particular possible world was just a potential one, contemplated perhaps by an infinite mind but by no one else. Compare this notion with that of a line in geometry that, potentially, is infinitely divisible, but each of whose segments is known by an infinite mind.

While I am still here, let me “access” (henceforth I will not be placing scare quotes around the word “access”) a couple more spawned-from-the-known possible worlds. I can say “everything is the same (even the color of my apartment walls) as in the actual world mutatis mutandis, except that water flows uphill.” Again, I have “generated” or accessed a possible world from a known fact in the actual world, namely, that water flows downhill. Or: “everything is the same as in the actual world, except that donkeys talk”. I have accessed a possible world by using a known fact in the actual world namely, that donkeys don’t talk. Naturally, the “mutatis mutandis” (would very much else really be the same if donkeys talked or water ran uphill?) makes me a bit uncomfortable, but I won’t try to deal here with the issues it may raise.

Spawned-from-the-unknown possible worlds. I can access a possible world, though not one necessarily distinct from the actual world, by using as my raw material a piece of the actual world about which I do not have knowledge. Suppose, for example, that, in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, near Western Avenue, Elizarraraz (from whom I was renting living quarters and studio space for a while … “Elizarraraz” is Ladino, the Iberian Sephardic counterpart to the Ashkenazim Yiddish, for “poor king”; many people of Jewish descent managed to make their way to Mexico, from which country Elizarraraz’ paternal ancestors hail, in order to place as much distance as possible between themselves and the Spanish Inquisition … but I digress) . . . as I was saying, suppose that Elizarraraz has set up a shell game comprising three shells under one of which lies a peanut. I do not know, of course, under which shell the peanut lies hidden.

Might this be the infamous rogue peanut?

I can generate three possible worlds from these three unknowns by filling in the “holes”, so to speak, with key descriptions taking the form “the peanut lies under shell #x”. In one possible world, the peanut lies under shell #1 and everything else is the same as in the actual world; in the other it lies under shell #2 and everything else is the same as in the actual world; in the third it lies under shell #3 and everything else is the same as in the actual world.

Possible Worlds That Are Epistemically Accessible To Me From The Actual World: I do not know anything that would rule out the identity of any of these possible worlds with the actual world. Following the literature, I will say that these are possible worlds that are epistemically accessible for me from my location in the actual world.

We can talk about the relation of espistemic [sic] accessibility. A world w0 is epistemically accessible from w for an agent S (in w) iff S knows nothing that would rule out the hypothesis that w0 = w. Then, p is epistemically necessary (for S) iff p is true at all possible worlds that are epistemically accessible from w (for S).

http://fitelson.org/125/accessibility.pdf

I modify the above to the following:

A world w0 is epistemically accessible from w for an agent S (in w) iff nothing in the body of knowledge possessed by S would rule out the hypothesis that w0 = w.

I want to talk about ‘a body of knowledge’ to segue more easily into a discussion of probability which I will be doing shortly. According to Henry Kyburg’s account of probability, which I find useful, a probability is always asserted relative to a body of knowledge or evidence:

My own conception of probability is, like Keynes’s and Carnap’s, a logical one. Probability statements are logically true, if they are true at all. A probability is asserted always relative to a body of evidence; relative to different bodies of evidence different probability statements will be true. … I do not want to regard this body of knowledge as fixed in any absolute sense; over a period of time, however brief it changes. But in order to clarify the process of inference we introduce the logician’s standard idealization and regard the inference as taking place at a timeless moment. In this moment there are statements are open to question and statements that are not open to question — though in another moment, or from another point of view, they could of course be questioned.

Henry E. Kyburg Jr., EPISTEMOLOGY AND INFERENCE (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1983), p. 137

Adding to this account the claim that one does not necessarily know or even believe they know something that the they actually do know will save me a fair amount of agony and grief. A skeptic, for example might persuade me that I do not know that I am awake and not dreaming when in fact I do know that I am awake and not dreaming. Someone may be told by someone who completely convinces them for a moment “Who are you going to believe: me or your lying eyes?” [[It is possible to hold conflicting beliefs at the same time.]]

The actual world is, of course, a possible world that is epistemically accessible for me and to everyone existing in it because I, along with everyone else, know nothing that would rule out the identity of the actual world with the actual world. Since the actual world is my primary concern here, I will assume that the possible world w that S is located in and from which they access other possible worlds, is the actual world. I will sometimes replace ‘S knows nothing that would rule out the hypothesis that’ with ‘so far as S knows’ or ‘to the extent of S‘s knowledge’.

Not every spawned-from-the-unknown possible world is a possible world epistemically accessible to me from my location in the actual world. I could, for example, also generate a possible world from the three unknowns just mentioned by positing a peanut that is always, of its own accord, switching between shells and sometimes even finding itself on the nose of the Mona Lisa, mimicking thereby the possible behavior of a rogue electron as described by a chemistry TA I once had as an undergraduate. But we know things (I think … I hope) that rule out the identity with the actual world of the possible world in which peanuts behave this way: namely, that peanuts do not behave this way in the actual world. Although electrons may behave this way (if I can trust my memory of what my undergraduate chemistry TA told me), peanuts do not jump from shell to shell and they never find themselves of their own accord on the nose of the Mona Lisa. This possible world is not epistemically accessible for me from my location in the actual world.

No peanut here — so far

Possible worlds spawned from unknown pieces of the actual world, then, fall into two categories: those that are epistemically accessible for a knower S from S‘s location in the actual world (every now and then I will be referring to these just as “epistemically accessible possible worlds”), and those that are not.

The possible world w0 in which Bigfoot is roaming the forests of western Washington state is epistemically accessible for me because I know nothing that would absolutely rule out the identity of this possible world with the actual world. Likewise, the possible world w1 in which Bigfoot is not roaming the forests of western Washington state is also epistemically accessible for me because I know nothing that would rule out the identity with the actual world of this possible world. I think the chances are greater than 50% that Bigfoot is not roaming these forests, but that is not the same as my knowing this.

These two possible worlds are incompatible; they cannot be the same possible world. The one world precludes the other. One makes ‘Bigfoot is roaming…’ (A) true; the other makes ‘Bigfoot is not roaming…’ (~A) true. A possible world answers every question: for any given possible world, either Bigfoot is roaming in the possible world or she is not. One must be true but not the other. Both cannot be true. So in all possible worlds A ^ ~A is false. A possible world cannot be inconsistent.

(At least for now, I won’t try to deal with possible counter-examples to this assertion. One such possible counterexample is Graham Priest’s contention that a person walking out of a room is, for one moment, both inside the room and outside the room when the center of their gravity aligns with the center of the door space. I am tempted to think that ‘inside the room’ and ‘outside the room’ are two different situations which have a common boundary, with the result that the description “outside the room” is not always the negation of “inside the room”. But I won’t try to expand on this now. At the moment I will simply assume that in all possible worlds A ^ ~A is false.)

Which possible world we are talking about hinges on how it answers the Bigfoot question (A or not A?). The identities of w0 and w1 depend upon this answer. The identity of possible world w0 depends upon that world’s not being possible world w1. If I exist in a possible world in which A is true at a time t then all of a sudden per impossibile I am existing in a possible world in which A is not true at this same time t, then I have been transported to a different possible world. (Maybe Scottie beamed me into it.)

And one of them (at any given time), A or not A, must hold in w0 and w1. In neither world can neither ‘Bigfoot is roaming the forests of Western Washington State’ nor ‘Bigfoot is not roaming the forests of Western Washington State’ be true. The worlds must be bivalent. One or the other — at least one and at most one — A or not A, must be true for these possible worlds to be the possible worlds — mutually exclusive worlds — they are. To remove A from w0 would be to strip that world of its identity; likewise, to remove not A from w1 would be to strip that world of its identity. Neither w0 nor w1 can be a non-bivalent world. In all possible worlds, ‘A v not A‘ is true. ‘A v not A‘ is necessarily true, which means that ‘If A then A‘ is also necessarily true.

So the falsity of ‘A ^ ~A‘ and the truth of ‘A v ~A‘ stems from the criteria for the identity of possible worlds. Possible worlds have to be complete, answering every question (Is there, or is there not, a butterfly with violet wings fluttering about in the Amazon at GPS point xyz?). They have to be consistent. They must be bivalent. They would undergo serious ‘criteria of identity’ crises were these conditions not fulfilled.

To sum up this discussion of possible worlds: possible worlds fall into two categories: those possible worlds that are spawned from the known and those that are spawned from the unknown. In turn, spawned-from-the unknown possible worlds fall into two categories: possible worlds that are epistemically accessible to a sentient being S and those that are not so accessible. Unlike situations, to which I am about to turn, possible worlds must be complete (must answer every question, including what is happening at GPS point xyz in the Amazon), must be consistent, and must be bivalent.

I now turn to a discussion of situations and their compatibility/incompatibility. I will be discussing almost exclusively what I will call informational or epistemic situations, which, naturally, will be analyzed in terms of information and as parts of epistemic possible worlds. Unlike possible worlds, situations can be incomplete, inconsistent, and non-bivalent.

Situations

I now relate the concept of epistemically accessible possible worlds to the concept of a situation. A situation is a part of a possible world and comprises one or more states of affairs. A situation is not necessarily a proper part of a possible world; for I count each possible world, including especially the actual world, as a situation. Nonetheless, when I talk about situations, I will have mainly in mind situations that are proper parts of possible worlds.

Among those situations that are proper parts of a possible world are those whose states of affairs they comprise correspond to the key descriptions defining possible worlds. As we have seen, the key description “the walls of my apartment are fuchsia” defines, along with the hand-wave “and every other state of affairs is the same as in the actual world” the possible world in which the walls of my apartment are fuchsia instead of portobello mushroom. This state of affairs, had it obtained, would have had the aforementioned key description corresponding to it. I will call the situation which comprises this state of affairs a “key-description situation”.

A situation that comprises just a single state of affairs I will call a “singleton situation”. There is a many-to-one relationship between single states of affairs and the set of objects existing (actually or possibly) in whatever relationships among one another and having whatever properties. The state of affairs named by 788UIOYOIYTYTIURRRBBBB4yt76876%^%$##DYCbHGFUIYTDTFJvDIYOBOvo ‘Tiger is now sitting on the keyboard of my laptop’ FI^T%$^%DXGDIGVHLOUFC:”}{PVTDXERhjkakb sdkdvsdwlebwhcjhsasssdff is a single state affairs obtaining at t; the state of affairs named by ‘Tiger’s color is silver’ also obtains at t and is a distinct single state of affairs. There are therefore at least two singleton states of affairs here mapping to the set comprising my cat Tiger at t.

Situations that are proper parts of possible worlds are limited in some way. They are finite in one way or another. A major cause of finitude of course, is being born. One’s (merely possible or actual — but from now on I will assume ‘actual’ unless otherwise noted) entry into a (merely possible or actual — but see the previous parenthesis) world results in their getting plunged into a world which has them as one center (among countless others, not totally unlike Nicholas of Cusa’s description of space as infinite and having infinite centers) and a horizon that extends only so far. One exists in the thick of a mileau with which they must constantly cope. A certain portion of the actual world gets exposed, or unconcealed (I try to define “exposure” below) to one, starting at birth and continuing through one’s lifetime. That is to say, one acquires and has available to them information. I will be leaving the term “information” undefined, except to accept Dretske’s claim that information can be either conceptual (information grasped intellectually or in terms of categories) or non-conceptual (information not grasped intellectually, for example information felt, as Nelson Goodman put it in his LANGUAGES OF ART, in the bones and in the muscles). I use the term “exposure” partly to avoid the implication that what I am talking about is necessarily conceptual in character. It is thoroughly obvious that any being that is not omniscient will have only a limited portion of the actual world exposed to them. Like being born, not being omniscient is a major cause of finitude.

Caravaggio’s painting THE CARDSHARPS very nicely illustrates, I think, four typical features of situations. First the boundaries of the information that is available to one form the boundaries of a situation. Second, to be in a situation is to be placed in the thick of things: one is grappling with the exigencies of a situation. Third, the information might be information grasped not by the mind but felt by the bones and muscles, emotionally. Fourth, there can be a conduit of information from one situation to another.

Caravaggio,, THE CARDSHARPS
 

Caravaggio’s painting depicts three situations. One situation comprises the situation of the callow young man, apparently of some wealth and status and vulnerable to being considered as a mark, who is pondering his cards. Exposed to him are one side of the cards, the table, and the front of the worldly-wise teenage cardsharp. Although he is directly looking at just the cards at the moment, I think it is safe to assume that in the very recent past he has acquired information about and has available to him information about the teenager and about the middle-age-ish man behind him. The young man, the mark, is a center of a situation within which a certain amount is exposed and from which much is hidden. The cards nicely serve as a visual symbol of the fact that his situation has boundaries shaped by a perspective and a point of view.

The teenage cardsharp of course has his own perspective, his own point of view, on the scene. What he is exposed to includes the back of the mark’s cards, the table, the cards he feels with his hands as he draws them from his back, the knife’s-edge tension he feels arising from the fact he has to accomplish his move perfectly, the feeling of danger arising from the fact the scene could very easily explode into violence — fists or swords — if he is not smooth enough. His own vulnerability, the fragility of his enterprise and its danger he cognizes in the bones and the muscles. Included in his situation is a kind of very broad present perfect. He has been shaped by a larger world which — if I remember my European economic history correctly — that has been suffering from harder times for a while now; and this card game is where he is now. All of this is his situation.

Oh, and yes — I almost forgot — part of the cardsharp’s situation includes a view of his confederate signalling to him the content of the mark’s cards. The confederate is in the thick of his own situation and of course he feels the knifes’s edge tension and danger, the fragility of their endeavor and the not at all improbable chance it could go wrong. These aspects of his situation are exposed to him, just as they are to his younger confederate. This situation serves as a conduit of information linking the mark’s situation with the teenager’s.

If I may be permitted to foreshadow what belongs to another post, we have here the 3-place accessibility relation between situations Rstu, where s is the signaler’s situation, t the teenager’s situation — a situation that includes a view of the signalling — and u is the mark’s situation. But more of that later, in a different post.

Any key or potential description that opens up a possible world maps to a situation. The key description ‘the walls of my apartment are fuchsia’ opens up, along with the phrase ‘and everything else is the same as in the actual world’ for me that possible world. The key description maps to the key situation that is part of this possible world, namely, the situation in which the walls of my apartment are fuchsia. I will say that situations hold in a possible world, including the actual world. That the walls of my apartment are portobello mushroom is a situation that holds in that possible world which happens to be identical with the actual world.

A situation comprises one or more state of affairs that obtains or could obtain. I use “comprise” for its suggestion that a situation surrounds, encloses, includes the states of affairs. The situation of my apartment in the actual world, for example, comprises the states of affairs ‘my cat Tiger is sleeping at my feet’ and ‘the walls of my apartment are portobello mushroom’, both of which obtain. Each of these states of affairs can be splintered off to comprise a distinct situation by itself.

“Known” aka “exposed to” aka “unconcealed” counts as a key description. That part of the actual world which I actually know, i.e., actually have information about, am cognitively exposed to, comprises my comprehensive actual situation. Everything that Smith has information about, everything that Morgenstern has information about, everything that Elizarraraz has information about, everything that an omniscient being has information about, comprises the comprehensive actual situation of Smith, Morgenstern, Elizarraraz and the omniscient being respectively. I will dub situations carved out this way from a possible world (including and primarily the actual world, of course) “informational” or “epistemic situations”; henceforth I will be using “situation” to refer to epistemic situations only, unless otherwise noted. A sentient being exists in an informational situation; this being is in the thick of things which press upon them and with which they must cope. That situation is defined by the information that is available to this being.

My own informational situation, the situation I am in, includes everything I am familiar in my apartment, as well as the view of the courtyard outside. It includes my knowledge that Houston is in Texas, Seattle is in Washington state, and St. George and Salt Lake City are in Utah. It includes all my old haunts in downtown Chicago and in that city’s Rogers Park, Near West, and Pilsen neighborhoods. Taken together, all this knowledge, all this information — both knowledge that and in-the-bones-and-muscles knowledge, comprises, along with the objects the information is about, what I will call my comprehensive actual situation.

My comprehensive actual situation includes numerous sub-situations — my cat Tiger’s sitting on a mat, the doorbell’s ringing inside my apartment. I will say that one is in a comprehensive actual situation or sub-situation; sometimes I will say that a situation — especially a sub-situation — holds for one. Sometimes, to emphasize the fact that the things within one’s situation are, typically, things with which they must cope, I will say one is grappling with and in the thick of a situation.

A bit later, when I discuss ostensible objects, I will be dropping the word “actual” and talk only about my “comprehensive situation.”

Now anything which blocks information from me … distance, shells, the practical difficulties (including getting the needed funding) of searching for probably-mythical creatures … will create a space for a possible world epistemically accessible for me from the actual world in which I exist. All that is required for the generation of a possible world that is epistemically accessible for me from my location in the actual world is that what I posit to “fill in” these spaces (a peanut in either shell #1 or shell #2 or shell #3; a Bigfoot | alternatively an absence of a Bigfoot roaming the forests of western Washington state; the sea-glass green or Venetian red or goldenrod yellow or periwinkle blue color of my neighbor’s walls) not be ruled out by what I know about the actual world.

The range of information available to me is obviously limited. It does not include enough information to absolutely rule out the identity of w0 (Bigfoot is roaming the forests of western Washington state) with the actual world, nor the identity of w1 (no Bigfoot is roaming the forests of western Washington state) with the actual world. It will not include enough information to rule out the identity of any other possible world that is epistemically accessible for me from the actual world — for example, the possible world in which the peanut lies under shell #1, the possible world in which it lies under shell #2, or the possible world in which it lies under shell #3. Nor does my comprehensive actual situation tell us whether, for any given GPS point in the Amazon, a butterfly is flapping its wings there, and if one is, whether its wings are purple or chartreuse. Nor does it tell us whether the walls of my neighbor’s apartment are colored sea-glass (viridian) green or Venetian red, a brick wall blocking this information from me, and my not having any other source of information that would tell me what the color is.

So unlike a possible world (including the actual world) which is “dense” in the sense that it answers every question, a situation has “holes” in it in the sense that it does not answer every question. It is littered with pockets of missing information. The situation comprises the actual world minus all the holes in which epistemically accessible possible worlds can be generated by any positing whose content does not rule out, given what I know about the actual world, its being a component of the that world. If a possible world is dense like a slab of most cheeses, a situation possesses many “holes” — pockets of missing information that can be filled in by positings consistent with what I know about the actual world — and is in that regard like a slab of Swiss cheese.

Or, to switch metaphors, my comprehensive actual situation is like a mesa (comprising all the knowledge/information I have) in southern Utah surrounded by a fog-covered plain. Lurking within within this fog are countless possible worlds that are epistemically accessible for me from my location on this mesa in the actual world.

Caspar David Friedrich, WANDERER. Okay — this isn’t Utah … but it’s close enough for government work

Since my comprehensive actual situation could be (in a sense of “could” that I will be clarifying shortly) identical with the Bigfoot possible world, or with the non-Bigfoot possible world, or with the ‘my neighbor’s walls are wine red’ possible world, and so on, my comprehensive actual situation could exist in more than one possible world. One is constantly finding out which possible world their comprehensive actual situation belongs to (and therefore which possible world the actual world belongs to). Is this the possible world the one in which the peanut is lying under shell #1 or the one in which shell #1 hides nothing except a piece of table top? Is this the world in which Bigfoot is roaming the forests of western Washington state, or the one in which no such creature is roaming those forests? Is this the world in which my neighbor’s walls are wine red, or the world in which they are some other color?

The key descriptions of these (epistemically accessible for me from my location in the actual world) possible worlds define circumscribed situations within those worlds. These descriptions might or might not be satisfied by the actual world. On the table in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago (that somber city) on which Elizarraraz has set up a shell game, the peanut may or may not be under shell #1. In the forests of western Washington state, Bigfoot might or might not be roaming. I will call these situations “derived from epistemically accessible possible worlds situations”, or “epistemic situations”. These are situations which the various epistemically accessible possible worlds that lurk in the holes in the swiss cheese, or in the fog surrounding the mesa, comprise.

Truth And Possibility

Epistemic Possibility. If I know nothing that rules out the identity with the actual world of the possible world which has as its key description ‘the peanut is under shell #1’, there is one possible world epistemically accessible for me from my location in the actual world in which the peanut is under shell #1. It is therefore possible — epistemically possible — that the peanut is under shell #1. That the peanut is under shell #1 is a possibility. As part of the possible world that has this as its key description, the peanut’s being under shell #1 could be a situation that is part of the actual world and therefore could become part of my comprehensive exposed actual situation. It’s being so, if I may be permitted to risk wearing out the word, is a definite possibility. Possibility defined in terms of what I do not know — my ignorance. This is the sense of “could” that is operative when, before the shell is turned over, I can truthfully and non-misleadingly say that the peanut could be under the shell, but then can no longer truthfully say this once the shell is turned over and turns out to be hiding nothing but empty air and a patch of table surface. This is a sense of “possible” that requires ignorance, not knowing. [See P.Z. Myers.] I will call possibility understood this way “epistemic possibility”.

Given my knowledge that the peanut lurks underneath one of the shells and that Elizarraraz would not do anything funny to manipulate the odds, there is a probability of 1 in 3 that the shell I select hides the peanut. Say I select shell #1. The credence I can assign to there being a peanut there is 1 in 3. This is the measure of the credence I can give to ‘this shell’ (say shell #1) ‘hides the peanut’. Once I overturn the shell to expose the peanut | a small expanse of tabletop the credence that there is a peanut there | nothing there becomes 1. Before that, when I observed just a shell, the credence to assign to there being a shell there is 1. Likewise, when I first observed the color of my apartment walls, the credence to assign to that color’s being portobello mushroom is also 1. This credence, or “probability”, is assigned relative to a body of knowledge that includes such propositions as those expressed by “I am not dreaming at the moment” and “I am not hallucinating at the moment”. I might be wrong about what propositions are to be included in this reference body of knowledge — for example, notoriously, I might believe that I am awake when in fact I am dreaming — but we should not automatically assume that having a false belief about what is included in my body of knowledge means that I do not know that thing. Also, I might not necessarily be able to express in a natural language (or in a formal language, for that matter) a proposition that is in fact part of my body of knowledge. [[[Present pluperfect]]]

Let me say, then, that a state of affairs is exposed, or unconcealed (I will use the two terms interchangeably; I will be using “unconcealed” when I am in a more Heideggerian mood), in a situation when, given the body of knowledge possessed by the sentient being whose situation it is, the credence to be assigned to that state of affairs is 1. When that credence is less than 1, that state of affairs counts as hidden or concealed.

Since my comprehensive actual situation is that part of the actual world that is exposed for me, every state of affairs in it is an exposed state of affairs. If a state of affairs is hidden, it is not part of my comprehensive actual situation.

Epistemic Truth: Correspondence is the truth-making factor, whether the state of affairs lies within a possible world or within a situation. But a sentence can correspond to a state of affairs with in a situation only if that state of affairs has been exposed within that situation: a situation comprises exposed states of affairs only. So when I utter a sentence that is true because it corresponds to a state of affairs within my situation, for example:

The walls of my apartment are portobello mushroom

it corresponds to an exposed state of affairs. All sentences that are true because they correspond to a state of affairs in my situation will be corresponding to an exposed, an unconcealed state of affairs.

Let me say that a sentence is true in a situation when it corresponds to a state of affairs within that situation. (For the best defense of the correspondence theory of truth that I have seen so far, see Joshua Rasmussen, Defending The Correspondence Theory Of Truth, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2014). Let me also say that a situation makes the sentence true when a state of affairs within that situation corresponds to that sentence. Since a state of affairs is not comprised by a situation unless it is exposed within that situation, exposure, unconcealment, is a necessary condition for a situation’s making the sentence true. A situation cannot make true a sentence that corresponds to a hidden state of affairs, since that state of affairs cannot count as within or being a part of, that situation.

So if any of the following sentences is true, my comprehensive actual situation does not make them so. The states of affairs that would make them true are states of affairs in different situations.

1) The butterfly fluttering about in the Amazon at GPS point xyz has chartreuse wings

2) Shell #1 is hiding the peanut

3) The walls of my neighbor’s apartment are wine red

4) Bigfoot is roaming the forests of western Washington state

The first sentence, 1), might be generated by my laptop which I have programmed to spit out sentences of that form. Relative to my situation, it is an epistemic possibility: the situation that comprises that state of affairs could be drawn from a possible world whose identify with the actual world cannot be ruled out by anything in my body of knowledge. The number of variants of this situation is humongous, so the credence/probability to be assigned to 1) is extremely low. The probability to be assigned to 2) is 1/2. The credence to be assigned to 3 is 1 divided by the number of paint colors out there. My own Bayesian priors for 4) is about 1 in 100. (I know, I know — I have just lost any credibility any reasonable person might have been willing to grant me.)

Sentences 1 through 4 may or may not be made true by states of affairs exposed in other situations. For example, they may be made true by the comprehensive actual situation of an omniscient being to whom every state of affairs in the actual world is exposed, and for whom there are no brick walls, no funding difficulties blocking off the flow of information — a situation to which I will apply the label ‘worldly situation’. But none of them is made true by my comprehensive actual situation. Nor, as we will see, does my situation make true the sentences formed by prefixing “It is not the case that” to each one. The worldly situation does make at least one of A or ~A true in each case, so one would be justified in exclaiming “but surely A v ~A is true for each of these!” Yes — but it isn’t my comprehensive actual situation that makes them true.

Were however a conduit of some sort to link the situations relevant to 1 through 4 to my situation, either each sentence or its negation would be made true by my situation and in my situation. If my neighbor is reliable and he tells me that the walls of his apartment are wine red, he would have provided a conduit linking his comprehensive actual situation to mine and exposing in my situation the wine-red color of his walls. This state of affairs would then become part of my situation, having a probability of 1. [[[Need to discuss how something can fail to be a logical truth and still have a probability of 1.]]] Likewise, I might employ something like Google Earth to zoom in on that particular spot in the Amazon and discover there is indeed a butterfly with chartreuse wings fluttering about there. A sonar peanut detector might reveal to me that shell #1 is hiding the peanut, a conduit that perhaps is not quite totally kosher, like the one depicted in Caravaggio’s CARDSHARPS.

And a cryptozoologist with impeccable credentials might inform me that she was able to ascertain beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Bigfoot-like creature gallivanting around the various campsites in western Washington state impishly waving hello to campers and clearly enjoying their reaction, really is Bigfoot and not, as I had at first assumed it would have to be, my DFH friend Shaggy.

In each of these cases, an epistemic possibility — the ‘could’ generated by my ignorance — gets converted to an exposed actuality. Something that has an location in space-time gets unconcealed. Something gets made true in my situation by the exposure of a previously hidden state of affairs in a different situation. A probability of less-than-one gets turned into a probability of 1. To get exposed or to have been exposed is to have a probability of 1, where that probability is relative to one’s body of knowledge.

Knowledge has as one necessary component truth. I do not know that p unless p is true. Epistemic truth would reverse this relationship; p is not true in a situation (made true in that situation) unless p is known, exposed unconcealed — unless information, conceptual or non-conceptual, is available about it.

Here then, is the main take-away from this section: a situation cannot make true a sentence that corresponds to a hidden state of affairs. As a complete possible world, the actual world has sufficient resources, so to speak, to make true any sentence that corresponds to any state of affairs, hidden or exposed, within that world. But a situation does not have these resources. It is unable to expose every truth, and no sentence is true in a situation unless it has been exposed. Just as one does not go to Judge Judy to expose the truth in the murder trial of the century, I do not use my (current) comprehensive actual situation to expose the truth regarding whether there is a butterfly fluttering about at GPS location xyz in the Amazon, and, if so, what color its wings are.

Judge Judy trying to expose the truth of the Amazonian Chartreuse Butterfly Sentence

So much for truth. Let me turn now to compatibility/incompatibility. I will then combine these two separate discussion streams into a discussion of the truth condition for negation that will leave room for relevant implication.

Compatibility/Incompatibility

Compatibility and Incompatibility are binary relations holding between situations. I discuss these relations as they hold between situations drawn from spawned-from-the-unknown possible worlds and spawned from the known possible worlds respectively. I give a nod to the concept of defeasibility.

Situations Drawn From Spawned-From-The-Unknown Possible Worlds: The possible world in which the walls of my neighbor’s apartment are Venetian red is epistemically accessible to me because nothing in my body of knowledge rules out the identity with the actual world of this possible world. This possible world has “my neighbor’s walls are Venetian red” as its key description. The hand-wave “and everything else is the same as in the actual world” accomplishes the rest of this definition of the possible world. This world could (epistemic “could”) be identical with the actual world, and, upon the exposure to me of my neighbor’s walls as in fact being Venetian red, that particular situation (a singleton comprising just one state of affairs) drawn from this possible world would become part of my comprehensive actual situation.

Epistemic Compatibility: When a key-description situation s1 is drawn this way from a possible world that is epistemically accessible for me from my location in the actual world (remember, I will sometimes refer to these simply as “epistemically possible worlds” to save breath) and would therefore become part of my comprehensive actual situation s0 upon exposure, I will say that s1 is epistemically compatible with s0. Every situation s1 defined this way will be epistemically compatible with s0; this manner of definition provides a sufficient condition for epistemic compatibility.

So the key descriptions of all the epistemically accessible possible worlds lurking within the fog surrounding the mesa, all those ghost-worlds haunting all those holes in the lump of swiss cheese … all of these key descriptions define situations that are epistemically compatible with my comprehensive actual situation. No epistemically possible world will have a situation-defining key description that is incompatible with my comprehensive actual situation.

If I may be allowed to go out on a limb for a moment, compatibility is to be analyzed in terms of possibility, which in turn is to be analyzed in terms of possible worlds. As I will show shortly, different accessibility relations will allow some pairs of compatible situations and disallow others.

[[[A little reflection will show that every situation mapping to a key description of a possible world that is epistemically accessible for me from my location in the actual world will be epistemically compatible with my comprehensive actual situation. For any given key description, were there anything in my body of information and knowledge that ruled out its being part of the actual world, it would not be a key description for a possible world that is epistemically accessible for me. It therefore would not map to — really, be — a situation within an epistemically accessible world. It is not the case that it could be a part of the actual world; a fortiori, it is not the case that it is could be part of the actual world known to me or about which I have information. That is to say, it is not the case that it could be part of my comprehensive actual situation. Therefore all epistemic situations [define these above] are epistemically compatible with my comprehensive actual situation.]]]

Two situations can be epistemically compatible but incompatible in other ways. It is not completely inconceivable that, were I completely omniscient, or at least close to it, I might discover that the following two situations are nomically incompatible: the walls of my apartment are portobello mushroom, and the walls of my neighbor’s apartment are primrose pink. For suppose the universe is deterministic, at least on the post-quantum level. An incredibly complicated chain of events starting from the big bang, knowable only by an omniscient being, has resulted in the color of my apartment being portobello mushroom. This situation holds in all possible worlds that are a) nomically accessible from this world — i.e., the same laws of physics hold as in this actual world; and b) have the same initial conditions. Conceivably, there is just one such world, the actual world.

Another incredibly complicated chain of events starting from the big bang with the same initial conditions, also knowable only by an omniscient being, has resulted in my neighbor’s walls being chicory-flower blue (a beautifully paled even somewhat chalky ultramarine with a hint perhaps of violet). This situation also holds in all possible worlds nomically accessible from this world which have the same initial conditions. There might be just one such world, but it would still be true that in all possible worlds accessible from the actual world in the way described my walls are portobello mushroom and my neighbor’s walls are chicory-flower blue.

Necessarily, then, (nomically-plus-initial conditions necessary), my neighbors’ walls cannot be primrose pink at the same time my walls are portobello mushroom. The two situations preclude one another. They are incompatible.

To talk about two situations existing in the binary relation ‘incompatible’ is to talk about their necessarily not holding at the same time in the same possible world. In one sense or another of “cannot”, they cannot hold at the same time in the same possible world. Here the sense of the modal “cannot” is nomic-and-initial-conditions necessity. There is no possible world accessed this way from the actual world in which my walls are portobello mushroom and my neighbor’s walls are primrose pink.

Which sense of “cannot” is in play, which situations get included in the incompatibility relation will depend upon which accessibility relation one chooses. ‘Portobello mushroom in my apartment’ precludes and is incompatible with ‘primrose pink next door’ if the accessibility relation is ‘nomic and same initial conditions’, but not if the accessibility relation is ‘nothing in my body of knowledge rules out the identity with the actual world of the possible world in which my walls are portobello mushroom and my neighbor’s walls are primrose pink’. Because I am definitely not omniscient, my knowledge being limited and my ignorance vast, the two situations remain epistemically compatible. The latter epistemic accessibility relation renders the two situations compatible — epistemically compatible.

The situation described above whose corresponding description forms the key description for the rogue peanut world is not epistemically compatible with my comprehensive actual situation or with any of its sub-situations. For that situation would have to be part of the actual world; yet in the actual world peanuts do not jump around from shell to shell and never end up on the nose of the Mona Lisa. This is true of any world for which this is the key description: for example, the world in which Elizarraraz has painted the exterior of the building he owns goldenrod yellow instead of its very bright viridian green but the peanuts in his shell games went rogue; or the possible world in which the peanuts have also gone rogue but the sunflower in front is ever so slightly to the left … and so on ad infinitum. If I may be permitted a slight leap, then, I will assert that in all possible worlds in which peanuts have gone rogue, the key situation is epistemically incompatible with my comprehensive actual situation or any of its sub-situations. My situation (and each of its sub-situations) precludes any of the key situations, which means that never in any world shall the twain hold together at the same time.

Looking at situations drawn from spawned-from-the-known possible worlds will illuminate two dimensions of the epistemic incompatibility relation: the idea of difference, and the defeasibility of the aforementioned “cannot”.

Situations Drawn From Spawned-From-The-Known Possible Worlds: All the sub-situations within my comprehensive actual situation are, of course compatible with one another. That they are all holding at the same time is proof of their compatibility. Clearly, they do not preclude one another.

It will be worth keeping in mind (if only for the sake of clarity) that among these compatible situations are singleton situations mapping to a set comprising the same objects. For example, the situation that maps to the state of affairs named by ‘Tiger is sitting on my keyboard’ is clearly compatible with the numerically distinct situation named by ‘Tiger’s color is silver and the color of the Chromebook keyboard he is sitting on is Payne’s grey with a slight greenish undertone’. Clearly, ‘Tiger is sitting on my keyboard’ is compatible with ‘Tiger’s color is silver and the color of the Chromebook keyboard he is sitting on is Payne’s grey with a slight greenish undertone’

One would normally expect key situations defining spawned-from-the known possible worlds to be incompatible with the situation serving as its “raw material” so to speak if those two situations are taken to hold within the same possible world. If I access a possible world by taking the description “portobello mushroom walls” (the description for what I will call the “raw material situation”) and substituting for it the description “fuchsia walls”, the portobello mushroom wall situation and the fuchsia wall situations surely must be in different possible worlds. (Warning — this “must” is about to be caveated to death.) I am not, after all, trying to land in the same possible world I started with! I am trying to imagine what the effect would be if the color of the walls were different from what they are now.

And my walls — at least not in the same expanses — cannot be fuchsia and portobello mushroom at the same time in the same possible world. This I am willing to bet my paint brushes on. Unable to hold at the same time in the actual world — or in any other possible world — the two situations are incompatible. The one precludes the other from holding. If one holds in a possible world, the other cannot hold in that same world.

In positing a different possible world, one needs a feature, after all, that is, well, different from the raw material feature one is using. Without a difference in the key descriptions, one does not access a possible world different from the actual world. This leaves open the possibility that while one thinks there is a difference in key descriptions, there is in fact no difference.

What does count as a difference in the key descriptions? If we take color as our guide, we can, I think, confidently say that the fact my apartment walls are portobello mushroom means that the same expanse of wall cannot be fuchsia, periwinkle yellow, cornflower blue, or any other color at the same time it is portobello mushroom. The sub-situation within my comprehensive actual situation that is defined by ‘my walls are portobello mushroom’ cannot be identical with any situation defined by ‘my walls are x‘, where for x one can substitute any color name except “portobello mushroom”. Again, I am willing to bet my paint brushes on this. I mean, I certainly have never seen any wall that is both (in the same expanse) portobello mushroom and some other color. Nor can I imagine this. I will go so far as to say I cannot conceive this — not in this actual world nor in any other possible world. Necessarily, a wall cannot be portobello mushroom and some other color at the same time and in the same expanse.

But why should one think this? Knowing that two situations hold at the same time in the actual world if dispositive for their being compatible. But what is dispositive for the incompatibility of two situations within the same possible world? Look as hard as I may in the actual world for a wall that is both fuchsia and portobello mushroom in the same expanses at the same time, I will surely never find one. But isn’t a search like this a bit like searching for an elephant-sized swan? I may never find one — but that is not an absolute guarantee I never will! As Tom Kyte, the database guru likes to remark, you can’t prove a negative such as “no swans the size of an elephant exist”.

Certainly I am unable to imagine a wall that is both of the aforementioned colors at the same time. It would seem, then that I cannot conceive of these two situations holding at the same time in the actual world, right?. (Spoiler alert: no.) And isn’t the inability even to conceive this co-holding evidence that the concept of their compatibility is incoherent?

It is also true, however, that I cannot imagine a mass being at the same time a wave. Yet on my layman’s Wikipedia-level understanding of physics, every mass is also a wave. The situation to which corresponds the description “lumbering mass furiously scribbling away on a Chromebook” exists at the same time as the situation corresponds to the description “tiny petite wave furiously scribbling away (more precisely, keyboarding away) on a Chromebook”. So the two situations must be compatible. How can that be?

The apparent incompatibility can be resolved, I think, if we heed Leibniz when he tells us that imagining is not necessarily conceiving. I cannot really imagine a icosahedron with its 20 equal faces. But I can conceive of one. I suggest, then, that while one may not be able to imagine the situations “lumbering mass” and “tiny petite wave” holding for the same entity at the same time, one may be able to conceive this.

Certainly I cannot conceive this — my conceptual resources are too limited. But I am willing to bet that the physicist, as they delve into the properties of this mass in an ever-more sophisticated way, will end up ascribing properties to this mass that are also properties of a wave. For all I know, I have wave-properties such that, were the wave (per impossibile) long enough, I would be able to pass through two separated doors at the same time, just as, if I am not mistaken, an electron is able to pass through two separated slits at the same time. Let us suppose that there is a long series of mathematical equations that describe this; and let’s call this description a “conception of a lumbering mass that is identical with a tiny petite wave”. This description would correspond to a single situation — a mass that is identical with a wave. Given enough knowledge, the description ‘mass’ merges into the description ‘wave’; and the situation named by ‘is a mass’ is identical with the situation named by ‘is a wave’. The identity of the “two” situations is, of course, a sufficient condition for their compatibility.

Let me pause for a moment and elucidate a couple of matters, just for the sake of clarity. First, identity is a two place relation, with one singleton situation bearing one name related to the same singleton situation bearing a different name. The “two” situations are numerically one, comprising the same proposition aka state of affairs at t. Other propositions/states of affairs might comprise the same objects, but be comprised by different situations. The same lumbering mass/petite tiny wave may be part of the state of affairs named by ‘lives in Houston’ and also part of a different state affairs named by ‘studied philosophy in Chicago at Loyola University’, with the result that it is involved in three numerically distinct situations each comprising a different state of affairs.

I continue. I have never encountered a wall that is both fuchsia and portobello mushroom in the same expanse and at the same time — just as I have never encountered a large mass that in any obvious way is also a wave. I am unable to picture imaginatively a wall that is both colors at hte same time — just as I am unable (at present) to picture imaginatively a large mass that is also a wave. I am lacking a non-pictorial conception of a wall that is both colors (henceforth “at the same time and in the same expanse” will be understood) — and until I have such a conception, I will continue to regard the two wall-color situations as incompatible. In no possible world in which walls (or anything for that matter) have colors are the walls of my apartment both fuchsia and portobello mushroom. As parts of states-of-affairs-comprised-by-situations-that-are-parts-of-possible-worlds these two situations must be parts of possible worlds. To put the matter a bit more simply, the walls cannot be these colors without being in different possible worlds. I am in the same position with regard to the wall colors as one would have been with regard to mass/wave situations before our knowledge of physics expanded enough to give us a conception of the fact that a lumbering mass is also a wave.

For all I know, we may eventually broaden our knowledge enough to allow us to conceive an identity in the same possible world of the fuchsia wall situation and the portobello mushroom situation. Or maybe an infinite or at least extremely large intelligence already has such a conception. I am not willing to bet my paint brushes, however, on anyone arriving at such a conception in my lifetime, or ever. Nor am I able to ground the assertion that this conception will never arrive, no more than I can ground the assertion that we will never discover an elephant-sized swan. Someone in 1801 might have made the same assertion regarding large masses and tiny waves. All I can say is “so far as I know, the same expanse of wall cannot be, in the same world, at the same time, and in the same expanse both fuchsia and portobello mushroom.

In other words, there is nothing in my body of knowledge that would rule out the hypothesis that, among all the possible worlds in which a wall can be some color and in which what it is to be a color (however that may be articulated) is the same as it is in the actual world, there is no world in which the same expanse of wall is both fuchsia and portobello mushroom at the same time. So far as I know there is no possible world in which ‘fuchsia-wall’ and ‘portobello-mushroom wall’ are two names for the identical situation. The necessity, and therefore the incompatibility, are epistemic, grounded in my lack of knowledge, my ignorance. The necessity and the incompatibility are defeasible.

Side note for the sake of clarity: I have moved, then, from discussing individual worlds that are epistemically accessible for a sentient being S (the possible world in which Bigfoot does indeed roam the forests of western Washington state; the possible world in which the walls of my neighbor on the other side of the brick wall I am facing as I write this are wine-red) to sets of possible worlds that ground epistemic necessity (there is nothing in my body of knowledge that would rule out the hypothesis that, in the set of possible worlds that are accessible in such and such a way from the actual world, none comprise situation s).

Strictly speaking, epistemic necessity is compatible with, does not preclude epistemic contingency (there is nothing in my body of knowledge that would rule out the hypothesis that, in the set of possible worlds that are accessible in such and such a way from the actual world, there is at least one that comprises situation s). This is perhaps a bit like saying “all unicorns (all zero of them) are yellow ocher” and “all unicorns (all zero of them) are rainbow-colored”, where the particular set of rainbow colors in question excludes yellow ocher. Unlike the usual uses of “necessary” and “possible” “epistemic necessity” cannot be defined as “not epistemically possible” and vice versa.

Nonetheless I do think there is a certain asymmetry between epistemic necessity and epistemic contingency. Reviewing possible worlds to try to find one in which the walls in it are (at the same time and in the same expanses) both fuchsia and portobello mushroom is rather pointless given that one does not know what it means for a wall to be both these colors at once. And one does not know what this means because one does not have access to the truth conditions for “this wall is fuchsia and portobello mushroom at the same time”. (Henceforth I will call this the the “fuchsia/portobello mushroom wall sentence”.) Currently, one lacks the means for getting these truth conditions. Imagination would have been one means. My imagining Tiger sitting on my Navajo mat suffices to give me the truth conditions for the English sentence “Tiger is sitting on my Navajo mat”. I know the meaning of that English sentence because, via the imagination, I know what would be the case if the sentence were true. But imagination certainly does not give me a way to get at the (quite possibly non-existent) truth conditions for the fuchsia/portobello mushroom wall sentence. My imagination can fail me in giving me the truth conditions for the English sentence “this humongous lumbering mass is also a tiny petite wave”, but someone (I am confident) has a conception stated in the mathematical language of physics of precisely this. (Maybe, in honor of Hilary Putnam’s division of semantic labor which relegates to certain experts the distinction between a beech and an elm, I will ask a physics undergraduate to write this down for me.) But no such mathematically-expressed conception seems to exist to give us the truth conditions for the fuchsia/portobello mushroom wall sentence. That is to say, so far as I know no such conception exists.

At the time of this writing, I can state confidently that I do not have a conception for the fuchsia/portobello mushroom wall situation that would give me access to the truth conditions for the fuchsia/portobello mushroom wall sentence. I also lack a conception for the humongous lumbering mass/petite tiny wave sentence (I will need to make sure above that I have named this sentence). But I am fairly confident that I can appeal to someone in my linguistic community (some physics undergraduate, for example) who does have a conception ghat gives them access to the relevant truth conditions, just as Hilary Putnam in his MEANING OF MEANING can appeal to a tree expert for the truth conditions of ‘is an elm’ versus ‘is a beech’ even though he lacks access to those truth conditions by himself. The access is distributed across members of a linguistic community unlike epistemic accessibility, which — at least given how the concept has been defined so far — is restricted to individual sentient beings. Let me define, then, what I will call semantic accessibility in the following way:

A world w0 is semantically accessible from w for an speaker S (in w) in linguistic community L to which S belongs iff S is able to consult with speakers in the linguistic community L to which S belongs who have a conception giving them access to the truth conditions of the key description of w0.

Then, p is semantically necessary (for S in L in w) iff p is true in all possible worlds that are semantically accessible from w (for S in L in w). And p is semantically possible (for S in L in w) iff p is true in at least one possible world that is semantically accessible from w (for S in L in w).

I am call this accessibility relation “semantic” of course because it is concerned with truth conditions. A “conception” that gives one access to a particular set of truth conditions is whatever resources one possesses that lets one know what it would be for the sentence “snow is white” to be true (namely, that snow is white). Since semantics is concerned with language — the meanings of words — and language is a communal enterprise, it is natural that the definition of semantic accessibility should include a reference to a linguistic community.

I started my discussion of possible worlds by asserting them to be identical with sets of descriptions, some of which are satisfied by states of affairs in the actual world (a “brick”, to speak metaphorically), and others which are left unsatisfied (a “written description” is in place where the brick should be). Without access to the truth conditions of a description, one has no access to what the description means. One therefore has no access to the possible world the key description is meant to open up. If, say, an omniscient mind knows the truth conditions, that mind has access to that possible world. For us more limited creatures, however, we may not necessarily know if there is a possible world out there we can ever hope to gain access to in the first place. As time goes on and — as in the case of humongous lumbering masses/tiny petite waves worlds — we may gain a conception which gives us access to the world and opens it up to us. I can no more definitively say this won’t happen for the fuchsia/portobello mushroom wall world any more than I can say that I will never encounter an elephant-sized swan. I am willing to bet that the communal body of knowledge — the resources available to members of the linguistic community to form the needed conception — will never expand so as enable anyone to access the truth conditions for the fuchsia/portobello world, but….

So we can divide worlds — the sets of descriptions, satisfied or unsatisfied, real or merely purported [[expand on this — difference between nonsense such as “trd4r3e3bbubijvbhjihyiurhtrg” and words that are intended to be used to describe but fail in that function because the truth conditions are lacking) into those worlds regarding which there is nothing in the communal body of knowledge that would rule out (preclude) their belonging to the set of possible worlds, i.e., the set of worlds, that is to say, the set of descriptions whose truth conditions one has access to. If a world is not a possible world, it is an impossible world, a status that it may (epistemic “may”) or may not have permanently.

[[[Let me note parenthetically that the entities I have defined with reference to a personal or communal body of knowledge — epistemically accessible possible worlds, epistemic probability, semantically accessible possible worlds rather paradoxically depend for their definition precisely on what is not in the body of knowledge. For probability part of the relevant body of knowledge consists in knowing what one doesn’t know — I don’t know under which shell the peanut lies, though I know that there is one peanut and that it lies under one of the shells.]]]

[[[Explain this a bit more. Compare with probability as a number relative to a body of knowledge.]]]

To continue: I propose, then that every key situation to which corresponds a key description generating a spawned-from-the-known possible world be regarded at first as (epistemically) incompatible with the situation in the actual world that formed the raw material of this key description. As far as one knows — that is to say, unless and until one’s body of knowledge has expanded sufficiently — the possible situation has to be seen as belonging to a possible world different from the actual world and as numerically distinct from the situation that forms its raw material.

Epistemic incompatibility, then, is the converse of epistemic accessibility. A possible world is epistemically accessible for me from my location in the actual world if there is nothing in my body of knowledge that would rule out its identity with the actual world; and a situation within that possible world could (epistemic “could”) be part of the actual world. For example, there is nothing in my body of knowledge that would rule out the identity with the actual world of the possible world in which my neighbor’s walls are wine red; and the situation named by ‘my neighbor’s walls are wine red’ could be a situation within the actual world. Correlatively, there is nothing in my body of knowledge that would give me the conceptual resources to conceive of my neighbor’s walls being both wine red and sea glass green in the same possible world; or of my own walls as being both fuchsia and portobello mushroom in the same actual world; or any wall in any possible world in which there are things called “walls” that have colors having two distinct colors at the same time and in the same expanses. There is nothing in my body of knowledge that would rule out the non-identity with the actual world of the possible world in which my apartment walls are of a different color. More generally:

A world w0 is epistemically distinct from w for an agent S (in w) iff there is nothing in S‘s body of knowledge that would rule out the hypothesis that w0 != w.

And:

A key description d0 is epistemically incompatible with a key description d for an agent S in world w for whose definition d is key iff every world w0 accessible for S by way of a key description d0 is epistemically distinct from w.

[[[[Two descriptions d0 and d1 are epistemically incompatible for an agent S (in w) iff, given the body of knowledge possessed by S, d0 and d1 together fail to provide a key description giving S access to a possible world.]]]]]

And:

Two situations s and s0 are epistemically incompatible iff the key descriptions to which they correspond are epistemically incompatible.

That two situations are incompatible is defeasible. [[Need a similar definition of compatibility.]]

To sum up this discussion of epistemic compatibility/incompatibility: Key description situations drawn from spawned-from-the-unknown possible worlds are epistemically compatible with the corresponding situation in the actual world when they are epistemically accessible from the actual world. Otherwise they are incompatible. Key description situations drawn from spawned-from-the-known possible worlds may at first be assumed to be epistemically incompatible with their “raw material” situations in the exposed part of the actual world, but then may become epistemically compatible as our knowledge grows. I dare say, however, that it is rarely — if ever — the case that one should bet the ranch — much less one’s paint brushes — on the incompatibility between two situations ever morphing into compatibility.

[[[[Lumberoom: Imagination, then is not an absolutely reliable guide to incompatibility. The mere inability to imagine two situations as being the same situation is not exactly an absolutely reliable guide to their being incompatible and therefore forever doomed to non-identity. My mere inability to imagine that the walls of my apartment, in the same expanses, are at once fuchsia and portobello mushroom does not suffice to guarantee that they cannot be. At the same time, I do not know what it would be for the walls (in the same expanses — henceforth this will be understood) of my apartment to be both portobello mushroom and fuchsia at the same time. I do not know — I haven’t the faintest idea — what would be the case if the sentence “the walls of my apartment are both fuchsia and portobello mushroom at the same time” were true. The truth conditions for that sentence are lacking for me — I don’t have access to these truth conditions. I am therefore unable to posit a possible world which has this sentence as its key description.]]]]

[[[[But I do have access to the truth condition for the possible world in which the walls of my apartment are fuchsia, not portobello mushroom. I know what would be the case if the sentence “the walls of my apartment are fuchsia” were true. I have the knowledge expressed by the sentence “this is fuchsia” and the knowledge of what it is to paint walls a certain color and whatever other knowledge is required to give me the conceptual resources to know this truth condition. I am therefore able to posit the fuchsia apartment wall possible world.

At one time, no one would have had the conceptual resources to know the truth conditions for the possible worlds (one of which which happens to be the actual world) in which “lumbering mass at work on its laptop scribbling away” is describes the same situation as does “petite tiny wave at work on its laptop scribbling away”. I am not sure I have the conceptual resources to know these truth conditions. I am confident, however, that a competent physicist would. Perhaps even they would not be able to imagine these truth conditions pictorially; but perhaps the ability to produce a series of equations describing the situation would count as knowing the truth conditions. At one point in time (t0) no sentient being S had the conceptual resources afforded by the needed body of knowledge; then at another point in time (t1) some agents do. At t0 the prudent thing to say would have been “so far as I know, ‘is a wave’ and ‘is a particle with mass’ are incompatible descriptions of the identical situation (namely, this person scribbling away)”; at t1 one can now say they are indeed compatible descriptions of the same situation.

Now, I submit, at the time of this writing, the prudent thing to say is that so far as I know, ‘the walls of my apartment are fuchsia” and “the walls of my apartment are portobello mushroom” are incompatible descriptions of the identical situation (namely, the walls of my apartment being such and such a color). But obviously I have no guarantee that my current body of knowledge and the resulting conceptual resources available to me will always be the same. Perhaps these can change just as they did in the case of the mass that is also a wave. The only entity that could provide such a guarantee would be an omniscient being. My being finite — i.e., my being situated — means that the ability to provide such a guarantee is likely to be forever beyond my reach. So I have to rest content with the “so far as I know”.

Let’s say, then, that incompatibility is relative to a body of knowledge, just as epistemic accessibility and probability (at least according to Kyburg) are. The incompatibility of descriptions d0 and d1 is relative to the body of knowledge possessed by a (possibly fictional) omniscient being who knows (if they do know this) that the two can never describe the same situation at the same time. The epistemic incompatibility of d0 and d1 is relative to a body of knowledge that fails to provide the resources — a failure that quite possibly will never be remediated — to give one access to the truth conditions for a single situation’s holding for which both d0 and d1 serve as key descriptions at the same time. [[[To have access to the truth conditions is to have access to a possible world.]]] This incompatibility means that d0 and d1 can never, together, provide a key description giving one access to a possible world. ]]]]]

[[[[[[

To gain access to a possible world is to have the ability, provided by one’s body of knowledge plus whatever other abilities, to conceive or represent the truth conditions of that world’s key description. If, given one’s body of knowledge and one’s cognitive abilities, one cannot cognize the truth conditions of the combination of d0 and d1, that combined description cannot open up or give one access to a possible world. The one description precludes the other. And there is no situation that they, in combination, correspond to. This absence of truth conditions is what provides the meaning of epistemic incompatibility.

Generally, one would expect that coming up with an ostensibly different key description (my walls are fuchsia, not portobello mushroom; Tiger is from planet XZDOIN#K deep in the Orion galaxy, not planet Earth) would result in pairs of incompatible descriptions and therefore incompatible situations which cannot hold at the same time in the same possible world (especially in the actual world). “Different” means “not identical”. Different description, different situation.

The one exception to different descriptions generating different situations would be when the descriptions are parts of a longer description whose individual sentences (perhaps in the forms of mathematical statements) cohere — maybe surprisingly –into a single description. The physicist starts with a mathematical description of a lumbering mass…and when they finish, end up with something that also describes a very small wave. They may still be unable to picture something’s being both a lumbering mass and a tiny petite wave at the same time — nonetheless, their long mathematical description constitutes a setting forth of the truth conditions. ]]]]]

[[[Need now to show how room is left for a situation not to be compatible with itself]]]

I now join these two streams: the discussion of truth, and the discussion of compatibility/incompatibility.

Non-Bivalent And Inconsistent Situations

Non-Bivalent Situations: The binary relation ‘compatibility’ holding between two situations gives us a truth condition for negation that will let us see how situations can be both bivalent and inconsistent. The case for bivalent situations is perhaps a bit less … venturesome … than the case for inconsistency. We will see where I end up. Let’s take a look at this truth condition for negation, but modified so as to be talking about epistemic compatibility, not compatibility per se.

A situation makes ~A true if and only if every situation [epistemically] compatible with it fails to make A true.

RL, p. 75

Making A True: Above, we have seen that a situation makes A true when that situation contains a state of affairs to which A corresponds. But the situations we are concerned with, epistemic situations, contain only states of affairs that are exposed, that is to say, unconcealed. So a situation makes A true only when A corresponds to an exposed state of affairs within the situation.

Epistemic Compatibility: As we have seen, every sub-situation within my comprehensive actual situation is epistemically compatible with every other such sub-situation and with my comprehensive situation itself. The fact that all these sub-situations hold at the same time in the actual world ices their all being compatible. [[[Be sure to reconcile this with the impossible cube. The impossible cube can never be actual.]]] Drawn from the actual world, these sub-situations are also epistemically compatible with any other situation drawn form the actual world by virtue of the fact that the actual world is epistemically accessible from the actual world. For any key description that is used to define the actual world, there is nothing in my body of knowledge that would rule out, i.e., preclude its being a part of the actual world.

All these actual situations are compatible with one another by virtue of the fact that that all situations drawn from possible worlds (one of which is the actual world) that are epistemically accessible for me from my location in the actual world are epistemically compatible with my comprehensive actual situation. And as we have seen, all possible situations — not just those possible situations that happen also to be actual — that are drawn from epistemically accessible possible worlds are epistemically compatible with my comprehensive actual situation. [[[Make sure I am not committing some part/whole fallacy.]]]

Negation: Negation works unproblematically for the dense parts of the lump of swiss cheese, for the mesa surrounded by the fog, for that part of the actual world which is exposed to S. Let’s take, for example, ~A to be the sentence “It is not the case that the walls of my apartment are fuchsia.” My comprehensive actual situation makes that sentence true.

Now we have seen that a sub-situation is compatible with the situation of which it is a part. So every sub-situation within my comprehensive actual situation s0 is epistemically compatible with s0. For no sub-situation within my comprehensive actual situation makes A (“It is the case that the walls of my apartment are fuchsia”) true. One of these sub-situations is, of course, the singleton situation comprising the state of affairs at t identical with the proposition expressed by “the walls of my apartment are portobello mushroom”, namely A. That situation especially fails to make A true. Tiger trying to get onto the keyboard as I write this; the doorbell ringing, the chalky Venetian red color of the cliffs in Southern Utah — list them all — each is epistemically compatible with s0 and each fails to make A true.

And surely every situation outside my comprehensive actual situation will also fail to make A true. [[[Discuss situations outside s0.]]] For example, whatever the color of my neighbor’s apartment walls may be, that is not a singleton situation what will make it true that the color of my apartment walls are fuchsia. I think it is fairly safe to go out on a limb, then, and say that every situation epistemically compatible with s0 fails to make “it is the case that the walls of my apartment are fuchsia” true. s0 therefore makes the sentence “it is not the case that the walls of my apartment are fuchsia” true.

Note that if nomic-and-initial conditions compatibility were in play, my neighbor’s walls being periwinkle yellow, say would make it true that my walls are fuchsia if the initial conditions at the big bang deterministically led up to these two causal lines. But I think it would violate our sense of what ‘not’ means if my neighbor’s walls being wine red made “it is not the case that my walls are fuchsia” true. This is why I think “compatible” should be taken to mean “epistemically compatible” in the truth condition for negation.

Negation works unproblematically for the dense parts of the lump of swiss cheese, for the mesa surrounded by the fog, for that part of the actual world which is exposed to S. But matters are different inside the holes in the lump of swiss cheese, or down in the depths of the fog surrounding the mesa. Consider the sentence “the walls of my neighbor’s apartment are wine red”.

Consider the situation in the possible world, epistemically accessible for me from my location in the actual world, that has as its key description “the walls of my neighbor’s apartment are wine red”. Within this possible world, the key situation (a singleton) would, if the state of affairs it comprises obtained in the actual world, make the sentence “It is the case that the walls of my neighbor’s apartment are wine red” true. Let this sentence be A at the moment.

As part of a possible world that is epistemically accessible for me, this key situation counts as an epistemic situation. As a situation that is hidden from me, as being attached to a probability less than 1 (but presumably greater than 0), it is not part of my comprehensive actual situation, which comprises only exposed states of affairs with a credence of 1. But being an epistemic situation, it is epistemically compatible with my comprehensive actual situation.

A mere probability does not make a sentence true. The probability that the peanut is under shell #1 is 1/2, as is the probability that the peanut is not under shell #1. But this probability does not make either “The peanut is under shell #1” or “The peanut is absent from shell #1” true. The probability is not the truth-making factor. The assertion “the probability is 1/2” does not answer the question “what makes it true that the peanut is under | is absent from shell #1?” What answers that question is rather the peanut’s presence under | absence from shell #1.

Likewise, the probability that my neighbor’s walls are wine red is something like 1/the number of wall paint colors that are out there. Let’s say the probability is 1/10000. The assertion “The probability is 1/10000” is not the answer to the question “Are my neighbor’s walls wine red?” (Henceforth the “wine red question”.) The proper answer to that question would be “That my neighbor’s walls are wine red”. That the probability is 1/10000 gives one the possibility that my neighbor’s walls are wine red. But wine-red walls are what make the sentence true — if it is true — not the mere possibility of wine-red walls. The sentence “My neighbor’s walls are wine red” corresponds | fails to correspond to whatever state of affairs obtains as to the color of my neighbor’s walls, not to whatever state of affairs might obtain.

[[[To say that a sentence is “merely probable” is not yet to say that it is true, though of course it might also turn out to be true in the end. The mere probability that the peanut is under shell #1 is not a truth-maker.]]]

Every brick that composes this particular epistemically accessible possible world is present and is the same brick that composes the actual world, with the exception of one missing brick. In place of this brick is a piece of paper on which is written “The walls are wine red”. In order to be true, the wine-red sentence has to correspond, so to speak, to the brick, not to the inscription.

Nothing within my comprehensive actual situation makes the wine-red sentence true: not the portobello mushroom color of my walls, not Tiger’s sitting on the mat, not my doorbell’s ringing — no sub-situation in this situation comprising whatever states of affairs does. And as we have just seen, neither does the singleton situation that, outside my comprehensive actual situation, is part of the for-me epistemically accessible my-neighbor’s-walls-are-wine-red possible world. So according to the above truth condition for negation, it is false. A, that is to say, “It is the case that my neighbor’s walls are wine red” is false.

But if bivalence held for my comprehensive actual situation, [[[remember to distinguish between holding in and holding for a situatioun]]], then ~A would have to be true: “It is not the case that the walls of my neighbor’s apartment are wine red”. Then the following sentence would have to be true: “My neighbor’s walls are sea-glass green; or my neighbor’s walls are Navajo white; or my neighbor’s walls are goldenrod yellow; or my neighbor’s walls are Tiepolo pink; or my neighbor’s walls are cornflower blue; or my neighbor’s walls are ultramarine blue; or my neighbor’s walls are Venetian red….” and so on for every wall color except for wine-red.

But using the same reasoning as for wine red, each of these or’d sentences is false for my comprehensive actual situation. That is to say, no situation epistemically compatible with my comprehensive actual situation s0 — no sub-situation in or within s0, and no situation drawn from a possible world epistemically accessible for me from my location in the actual world — makes any of these or’d sentences true. So the entire sentence that comprises them is false. So for my comprehensive actual situation s0 and for all situations epistemically compatible with it, both “It is the case that my neighbor’s walls are wine red” and “It is not the case that my neighbor’s walls are wine red” are false.

Bivalence holds within an epistemic situation (i.e., states of affairs are exposed to a sentient being), in that way my comprehensive actual situation is like a possible world. But bivalence fails for my comprehensive actual situation i.e., when I reach outside that situation to consider situations that are hidden from one and sentences whose truth is merely probable. When considering the truth of A requires a reach into the fog surrounding the mesa, or into one of the holes in the lump of swiss cheese, both A and ~A are false. One’s comprehensive actual situation turns out to be not enough to render at least one of these sentences true. This in turn means that there exist situations for which, for certain sentences A (obviously not all), “If A then A” is false. In this way, Relevant Logic can avoid the Classical Logic paradox: “A –> (B v ~B)”, alternatively, “A –> (B –> B).

Complete, a possible world answers the wine-red question as well as the peanut question as well as the Bigfoot question as well as the Amazonian chartreuse butterfly question. Finite and fragmentary, a situation cannot. A situation is partial. Like Judge Judy’s courtroom being the wrong tribunal for answering the question who is the culprit in the murder of the century, a situation is the wrong tribunal for answering the wine-red and the peanut (is the peanut under shell #1 or under one of the other two shells?) questions.

Partial situations allowing for this can exist because situations are not complete. They do not answer every question. (Does a Bigfoot creature roam the woods of western Washington state or does it not? Is there a butterfly fluttering about in the Amazon at GPS location xyz or not; and if there is, are its wings chartreuse? Is the peanut under shell #1 or does that shell hide only a small expanse of table-top? Are the walls of my neighbor’s apartment wine red or some other color?) My comprehensive actual situation remains the same whichever happens to be the correct answer. The identity of this situation does not depend upon the answer. This sameness leaves room for non-bivalent situations. [[[[Expand on this]]]]

But as we saw above, the identity of a possible world does depend upon the answer. The Bigfoot possible world is not identical with the non-Bigfoot possible world. So possible worlds do not allow for the failure of bivalence. In any possible world, including the actual world, either a Bigfoot creature roams the woods of western Washington state or does it not. Unlike situations, which can be partial, a possible world must be complete. It must answer every question.

All of the above is my attempt to nail down, by putting in my own terms, Mares’ discussion of non-bivalent situations in his RELEVANT LOGIC: A Philosophical Interpretation. This is an exercise in writing to learn. In particular, this is my attempt to nail down the following passage from Mares:

Partiality is straightforward [ahem! Cough cough], so we will start with that. Consider the situation that consists of the information that is currently available to me. The includes what is going on in my study as I write this section of my book, and what I can see through my window. Nothing happening here makes it true that it is currently raining in Toronto (which is on the other side of the globe). But situations in which it is raining in Toronto are compatible with my current situation. So neither ‘It is raining in Toronto’ nor ‘It is not raining in Toronto’ is true in my current situation. Thus bivalence fails for this situation and the situation is partial.

RL, p. 75

Let me turn now to inconsistent situations.

Inconsistent Situations: Dealing with inconsistent situations is a bit more of a stretch. But let me venture (as I try to strengthen my shaking knees) the following attempt to use the concept of ostensible objects to allow for inconsistent situations. There are singleton situations, I claim, that are incompatible with themselves because they comprise impossible objects. ‘Compatible’ is not always a reflexive relation for a situation.

First, some words on the concept ‘incompatible’.

Compatibility Again: Situation s1 is compatible with situation s2 when s1 and s2 can hold at the same time. For example, the situation that corresponds to the description “Tiger is sitting on the mat” (where I have deposited him to keep him off my keyboard) holds at time t. The situation that corresponds to the description “The doorbell is also ringing in my apartment at t” also holds at t. [[[Need to say something about “corresponds” vs. “defines”]]] That the two situations hold at the same time clearly means they are compatible. Their co-holding is dispositive. And as two sub-situations within my comprehensive actual situation s0 (I will be reserving “s0” to name my comprehensive actual situation unless otherwise noted), one would of course expect them to be compatible, as are all sub-situations within s0.

In the actual world, my cat Tiger was born on earth and did not travel here from the planet XZDOIN#K deep within the Orion galaxy. But surely the situation whose description forms the key description of the possible world in which Tiger is from XZDOIN#K (with cats, those creatures of mystery, one always has one’s suspicions) is also compatible with the doorbell’s ringing and with many of the sub-situations within my comprehensive actual situation. Since this is a situation drawn from a spawned-from-the-known possible world, it is perhaps fairly safe — though as we have seen, not absolutely safe — to say that this situation is not compatible with the situation that formed its “raw material”, Tiger’s origins being the planet earth. Surely the situation defined by the situation “Tiger is from planet earth” cannot co-hold with the situation defined by “Tiger is from planet XZDOIN#K deep within the Orion galaxy”. The two situations are different. They cannot be identical situations. The two situations are not compatible. The one precludes the other.

However, the mere fact that two descriptions seem like they cannot be descriptions of one and the same situation does not mean that these two descriptions cannot correspond to the identical situation. What is more, one of the differing descriptions may be a key description of a spawned-from-the-known possible world and the other may be the “raw material” of this description. One may think they have accessed a possible world numerically distinct from the actual world, but end up landing in the same old actual world anyhow.

Above, I have said that two situations s and s0 are epistemically incompatible iff the key descriptions to which they correspond are epistemically incompatible. In turn, a key description d0 is epistemically incompatible with a key description d for an agent S in world w for whose definition d is key iff every world w0 accessible for S by way of a key description d0 is epistemically distinct from w. [[[[Two descriptions d0 and d1 are epistemically incompatible for an agent S (in w) iff, given the body of knowledge possessed by S, d0 and d1 together fail to provide a key description giving S epistemic access to a possible world.]]]]]

Ostensible Objects:

[[[This particular expanse of wall cannot be portobello mushroom or sea-glass green at once. The one situation precludes the other. The two situations are not compatible. And their inability to exist at the same time is dispositive for their being incompatible.

Likewise, the holding of two situations at the same time is dispositive for their being compatible, their not precluding one another. My cat Tiger’s being on the mat (where I have just deposited him to keep him from sitting on my keyboard) at the same time that the doorbell is ringing definitively shows that these two situations are compatible. ]]]

Now I will try to show that ‘compatible’ is not always a reflexive relation. A situation can be incompatible with itself. If a situation is incompatible with itself, it excludes itself. This is a funny position for a situation to be in, a bit like Mark Twain or Groucho Marx or whoever said he refuses to belong to any club whose standards are so low as to have him as a member. But there we are.

Take a look at a depiction of an impossible cube, inspired by the Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UibfZnfNYyc

If you see the cube as if a bit from above, take a look at the vertical bar closest to you, and the bar that gets experienced as running horizontally behind that bar to connect to two lower vertices behind it. Were this an actual object existing in the physical world and you were requested to touch the horizontal bar behind, you would reach past the vertical bar just mentioned and move your fingers along the horizontal bar behind from one vertex to the other. I hypothesize that this potential touching informs your visual experience of the bar behind so that your visual experience is that of a ‘bar behind’. The horizontal bar looks ‘behind’ just as a paper shopping bag looks heavy when one knows it contains groceries and looks light when one knows it is empty. This, I take to be one example of Merleau-Ponty’s contention that the different senses fuse together (see his Phenomenology of Perception), a view not totally dissimilar to George Berkeley’s contention that sight and touch are “entangled” (see his A New Theory of Vision). Those willing to sign a waiver releasing the author from any liability for any resulting brain damage might also want to consult a certain Cliff Engle Wirt’s journal article The Concept of the Ecstasis.

But the (more or less) horizontal bar is also experienced as cutting in front of the vertical bar. If the experience ‘behind’ is salient enough, the eye just accepts this, even though there is no visual experience of the horizontal bar coming from behind to wrap itself in front of the vertical bar then back again on its journey to the other vertex. In the physical world, these two states of the horizontal bar exclude one another. The horizontal bar cannot, at the same time, be behind and in front of the vertical bar. The two situations are not compatible.

But the visual experience of ‘horizontal bar in front’ is compatible with the visual experience of ‘horizontal bar behind’. For the situation comprising the one experience can and does hold at the same time as the situation comprising the other experience. That the two situations should be compatible may seem strange at first, but really should not. For just as, as John Searle constantly points out, the visual experience of a blue object need not be itself blue, and the visual experience of a square object need not itself be square, the visual experience of ‘bar simultaneously in front and behind’ need not itself have the (impossible) property ‘simultaneously in front and behind’.

Now visual experiences are of ostensible objects which usually actually exist but sometimes do not. My visual experience of my cat tiger (with a mouse) at my left as I write this has as its ostensible object a cat that actually exist. Tiger, although he is, yes, an ostensible object of my vision, is not merely an ostensible object of my vision.

My visual experience of the periwinkle-pink rhinoceros grazing peacefully at my feet while I write this … er…. I mean, were I to have such a visual experience … is (or rather, would be) of an ostensible object that does not exist. There is in fact no purple rhinoceros grazing, peacefully or otherwise, at my feet. The purple rhinoceros is merely an ostensible object of my vision. Nonetheless, I can still talk about him and even give him a name (say, “Alfred”). I can even get upset if he seems miffed and refuses to show up for a few days.

Likewise, my visual experience of the impossible cube I “see” on my laptop screen is of an ostensible object that in fact does not exist. It is merely an ostensible object. It no more exists in the physical world than does my periwinkle-pink rhinoceros. Even so, it does seem to make sense to talk about impossible cubes. We talk about ‘this impossible cube’ among different, varying impossible cubes (say, some with differently colored bars). An ostensible object is an object, existing or not existing, actual or possible or impossible, that can be talked about

Now I propose that we regard one’s comprehensive actual situation and sub-situations as comprising at least those objects that one is involved with. From this it follows that my comprehensive actual situation and all sub-situations comprise ostensible objects, both merely ostensible objects and more-than-merely-ostensible objects. My involvement with my cat Tiger consists in my bond with him. My involvement with the impossible cube consists in my preoccupation with this object as a possible avenue to show how inconsistent situations can exist.

Now if we allow the situation ‘Cliff in his apartment typing away at the keyboard of his laptop to produce disreputable screeds’ to comprise the superset ‘ostensible objects of perception’, not just the proper subset comprising ‘physical objects existing in time and space’, that situation will contain, as a sub-situation, the impossible cube I visually experience on my screen. The situation comprising this impossible object is not compatible with itself. It is constantly excluding itself. In a way that sounds very Hegelian, it is incoherent, existing in contradiction.

One would expect such an object to be unstable, and this one in fact is. The horizontal bar behind is constantly threatening to become the horizontal bar in front of the vertical bar, with the result that the cube suddenly switches from being vied from above to being viewed from below.

Now let’s take s to be the singleton situation that comprises the impossible cube depicted on my laptop screen. Let A be the proposition expressed by the English sentence “The horizontal bar is behind the vertical bar”. (That this proposition is about the impossible cube is given.) I venture the claim that no situation compatible with s makes A true. For surely the only situation that could possibly (I will leave ‘could possibly’ undefined) make A true is s itself. But as we have just seen, s is not compatible with itself. And surely no situation that is compatible with s will make A true. For example, that Tiger is to my left is compatible with s (this situation holds at the same time as s), but clearly does not make A true. Nor can I think of any other situation apart from s that would make A true.

Therefore, ~A counts as true according to the truth condition for negation stated above. But it is also the case that no situation compatible with s makes ~A true. Only s could make ~A true. For example, that Tiger is lying to the left of me, always about to press his paw onto the keyboard, clearly does not make true ~A, ie., “The horizontal bar is not behind the vertical bar”. But s is not compatible with itself. So ~(~A) is true, which means of course that A is true. So the truth condition for negation gives us the result that a situation exists for which A ^ ~A is true. Inconsistent situations do exist.

This way we can avoid the Classical Logic paradox (A ^ ~A ) –> B. That is to say, from a contradiction every proposition follows — the Principle of Explosion. This principle would, of course, allow for multitudinous irrelevant implications and therefore cannot hold in Relevant Logic. We can avoid the principle of explosion if we maintain that situations comprise ostensible objects, which include not just actual objects, and not just possible objects, but also impossible objects.

Naturally, a possible world cannot contain impossible objects. (Duh.) Unlike situations, possible worlds must be consistent. So, as Mares notes, a possible world must be both complete and consistent:

First, whereas worlds are complete, situations can be incomplete. To use the terminology of Barwise and Perry … worlds decide every issue. That is, they tell us, for any proposition, whether that proposition is true or false. Situations, on the other hand, do not decide every issue. In some situations, the information whether a given proposition [e.g., “Bigfoot roams the forests of western Washington state”] is lacking. This property of situations is sometimes expressed by saying that at some situations ‘the principle of bivalence fails’. Second, situations need not be consistent. That is, there are some situations that make contradictions true. Possible worlds, on the other hand, are completely consistent.

Mares, RL, pl 27

I have tried to use the concept of possible worlds that are epistemically accessible to a knower S as a way of making sense of the concept ‘partial situation’, that is to say ‘non-bivalent situation’. Partial aka non-bivalent situations are ones in which A v ~A and A –> A may not be true. Trimming out all the possible worlds (that is, all the ones not identical with the actual world) that are epistemically accessible to me leaves me with that portion of the actual world about which I have information — Cliff’s comprehensive actual situation. Defining this situation this way already makes it relative to a knower, i.e., a person in a situation. A situation has a center — this person.

Likewise, I have tried to use the concept ‘ostensible object’ to make sense of the concept of an inconsistent situation. As the center of my comprehensive actual situation, my perceptual apparatus gives me the ability to experience ostensible objects that do not exist as well as ostensible objects that do exist. Some of the merely ostensible objects are possible objects (e.g., the purple rhinoceros gazing peacefully at my feet); others are impossible objects (e.g., the impossible cube inspired by Escher). A ^ ~A is true for at least some situations containing impossible objects.

So now Cliff’s comprehensive situation includes more than just the actual world. As a possible world, the actual world cannot contain impossible objects. Containing a surplus, so to speak, over and above the actual world, my comprehensive situation can no longer be described as just a restriction of the actual world. We need now to speak of just ‘Cliff’s comprehensive situation’, leaving out the ‘actual’.

The falsity of A ^ ~A and the truth of A –> A (aka A v ~ A) still hold for possible worlds. So aficionados of the law of the excluded middle and of the principle of non-contradiction need not freak out. These fail to hold only for situations. On the other hand, situations are better suited than possible worlds to account for natural language:

…the ubiquity of expressions that clearly depend on restricted parts of the world gives us reason to believe that natural language is built primarily to talk about restricted parts of the world and not talk about complete possible worlds.

Mares, RL, pl 40

The End: And here I will end this installment of my writing-to-learn project for Mares’ Relevant Logic A Philosophical Interpretation. My tiny fragile bark is already way out as it is in the open sea, trying, far from the safety of any shore, to cope with some huge and frightening waves. I do not need to go any further at the moment. I leave you, gentle reader, with Emil Nolde’s depiction of a person, in their finitude, in the midst of, in the thick of a situation they must grapple with.

Emil Nolde, The Sea I

Lumber Room:

Compatibility/Incompatibility:

What follows is a series of points that I will be trying to shoehorn into this essay as I revise it now that I have hammered it into at least an initial shape.

[[[Let me say that a situation such as the shell #1 situation is epistemically compatible with another situation — say, my comprehensive actual situation — if it is epistemically possible for it and that situation to combine so as to comprise a larger situation. The situation whose defining description forms the key description of the shell #1 possible world is a possible part of my comprehensive actual situation. It is therefore compatible with that situation, and that situation is compatible with it. ]]]

[[[Conversely, every situation that maps to a key description of a spawned-from-the unknown possible world that is not epistemically accessible for me is epistemically incompatible with my comprehensive actual situation. Above, I gave an example of a spawned-from-the unknown possible world in which there is always the possibility of a rogue peanut in one of Elizarraraz’ shell games, taking its cure from the behavior of electrons as described by my undergraduate chemistry TA, ending up on the nose of the Mona Lisa. Given our knowledge that peanuts (nor any other objects on the post-quantum level) do not behave this way in the actual world, we know something that rules out the identity of this possible world with the actual world. The rogue peanut world is not epistemically accessible for me from my location in the actual world, which means that the rogue peanut situation is not compatible with my comprehensive actual situation. To rule out is to exclude; to exclude is to render incompatible. Conversely, to fail to rule out is to fail to exclude; to fail to exclude is to render compatible.]]]

[End with drive towards inconsistent situations?]

. [[[This knowledge may or may not be knowledge that I can access immediately, or even knowledge that I know I have. ]]]

[[[[[[[That the peanut be under shell #1, for example, fits in with, does not conflict with, is not ruled out by the knowledge I have about the actual world. I make this claim rather confidently — in fact, I am willing to bet my paint brushes on its truth. Nonetheless, unless I can be said to both to know and to have at my fingertips everything I know, perhaps I cannot be absolutely certain that in the body of knowledge I possess, there is an item of information that would rule out the the peanut’s being under shell #1 within the currently unknown-to-me part of the actual world. I might, while sleepwalking, for example, have one-twentienth consciously seen Elizarraraz filling shell #1 with cement, rendering the presence of the peanut there physically impossible. (In no possible world nomically accessible from the actual world can a shell filled with cement hide a peanut. I assume.) ]]]]]

[[[[[This visual information might be stored in my brain, ready to pop out at any time, or perhaps accessible only through deep hypnosis, but at any rate information unknowingly possessed by me. In that case, I would possess information that would rule out the situation’s being part of the actual world. This is so even if at the same time I also have the opposite belief. I can be in two cognitive states at the same time whose contents directly contradict one another. This point will become important later when I consider inconsistent situations. ]]]]]]

[[[[[Nonetheless, I rather doubt that anyone would want to gainsay my ‘I know nothing that would ….’ claim should I make it. And certainly there is a fact of the matter regarding whether this claim is true — whether there is nothing in my body of knowledge that would rule out the presence of the peanut under shell #1 in the actual world. ]]]]]]

I[[[The descriptions “the shell is empty” and “the shell hides the peanut” clearly preclude one another; they are metaphysically incompatible. ]]]]] Likewise, I might discover later that what I took to be the hollow of the shell was in fact filled with concrete, rendering its hiding the peanut physically impossible. The descriptions “the shell is filled with concrete” and “the shell hides the peanut” clearly preclude one another; they are physically incompatible.

But until I know things like this, the possible situation in which the peanut lies under shell #1 could be — in some sense of “could be” — a part of the actual world. The ‘could be’ is epistemic, stemming from the epistemic concept of relative ignorance, or lack of knowledge. So far, I do not know anything that would rule out the situation’s being part of the actual world, so this being a part of is still a possibility. Nothing that “automatically precludes from the get-go its being a part of the actual world and therefore something that could eventually be discovered to form part of my comprehensive actual situation.]]]]]

[Logically/metaphysically accessible possible worlds and nomically accessible possible worlds do not need to refer to an agent S. Possible worlds that are epistemically accessible for S do need to refer to an agent S. These are possible worlds that smuggle in the concept of a center. They invite the notion of a situation.]

Two situations are compatible within a possible world at time t if and only if they can (epistemic “can”) hold at the same time within that possible world. Let me produce some examples. [Non-normal situations can be incompatible with themselves. Satisfied descriptions. ]

[[[If my cat Tiger is sitting on a mat (where I have deposited him to keep him off my keyboard) at the same time that the doorbell rings, the situation ‘Tiger is sitting on the mat in my apartment’ is clearly compatible with ‘the doorbell is ringing in my apartment’. That these two situations hold at the same time t in the actual world is proof positive that they are compatible in the actual world at t. Now I know nothing that would rule out the identity with the actual world of the possible world in which this situation in my apartment holds. Which is good, because the actual world is identical with this possible world. The fact that the two situations do hold at the same time in this one possible world, namely, the actual world, shows that they can hold at the same time in this world; and this possibility is (at least) an epistemic possibility. ]]]]

[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[Identity a sufficient condition for compatibility for normal situations. Two descriptions — stable. Not flashing this way then the opposite. Not like “This sentence is false”.Bring up the over/under business much much earlier.]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]

Now let me circumscribe the rogue peanut world to just one situation s1 within that world, namely, the shell game the Elizarraraz has set up in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, that somber city, within an easy walking distance of Western Avenue.

To rule out is to exclude; to exclude is to render incompatible. submit, then, the following. Our knowledge (at least I hope that is what that is) that rogue peanuts do not exist in the actual world rules out s1‘s being a situation in the actual world. Therefore, s1 excludes my comprehensive actual situation, s0. s1 and s0 are incompatible situations; and s1 is incompatible as well with any situation within s0. To rule out is to exclude; to exclude is to render incompatible. Therefore, no situation drawn from a spawned-from-the-unknown possible world is compatible with my comprehensive actual situation or with any of its sub-situations.

If it were so ruled out. I submit that, conversely, every situation drawn from a possible world that is If it were so ruled out. epistemically accessible for me from my location in the actual world is compatible with my comprehensive actual situation s0 and with every sub-situation of s0. For every such situation is possibly — in the epistemic sense of ‘possible’ noted above (think: ‘the peanut is possibly under shell #1) — a part of the actual world. The description mapping to every such situation fails to get ruled out by my knowledge (if it were so ruled out, it obviously would not be part of a possible world epistemically accessible for me from my location in the actual world). Failing to get ruled out is failing to get excluded is failing to be incompatible. Failing to be incompatible is to be compatible.

[[[[[An example of failing to believe that an item of knowledge is part of my body of knowledge.]]]]]]] Likewise, I may falsely believe that a situation is compatible with my comprehensive actual situation when it fact it is not. Suppose, for example, that I really have taken the eight graduate courses in quantum mechanics (with a grade no lower than a B+ in any of them and I got that B+ in just one of the courses) came in just one course. Suppose, further, that I acquire the knowledge that peanuts cannot, while obeying the laws of nature, behave like electrons in the way described by my undergraduate chemistry TA. But all my friends are still New Age crystal devotees who think that peanuts can behave like electrons and display the same effects as they. In the midst of a party in which I imbibe too much in their company and watch too many You Tube videos with them about quantum physics and stare at too many crystals, the wages of tribal identity set in for a moment and I come to believe during the party that peanuts, which only the moment before had been contently abiding under one of Elizarraraz’ shells, can suddenly find themselves the next moment on the nose of the Mona Lisa. The morning after, I come to my senses, no longer under the intoxicating tribal influence of my peers, and no longer believe this. But during the party I held a belief that conflicted with my knowledge. Beliefs can conflict with other believes and with knowledge.

Even during the party, however, my belief did not determine my comprehensive actual situation. My knowledge, which although not occurrent at the moment, was nonetheless not wiped away by the party, continued to define my comprehensive actual situation. The rogue peanut situation continued to be incompatible with, ruled out by, my comprehensive actual situation.

Satisfaction of a description is important also in analyzing compatibility/incompatibility. The impossible cube is not satisfied by any object in the actual world. Since situations are descriptions (descriptions which are (were/will be) satisfied by the actual world when they are actual situations and not satisfied by the possible world when they are merely possible situations), two situations are compatible | incompatible in a possible world if their defining descriptions can be | cannot be satisfied in that world.

[Why use epistemic could and not, say nomic could? Because we are talking in finite situations. So at least theoretically two situations could be epistemically compatible but nomically incompatible. I submit, however, that we should stick to the epistemic notion of compatibility in analyzing human language and human coping with the world. That my neighbors’ walls could be cornflower blue is quite live and real for me. And, as I will show in a moment, one can use that ‘could’ to provide the truth conditions for “not” in the sentence “The walls of my apartment are not fuchsia” that can be comprehended by a finite human being. The corresponding nomic ‘could’ cannot be used that way. ]

[Finite situations appropriate for human language. This is a concept of compatibility that is in harmony with the notion of situations, which emphasizes their local and fragmentary character. My situation is a bunch of so far as I knows. My situation does not comprise the entire actual world because I am not omniscient. ]

[Henceforth, unless otherwise noted, I will be using “compatible” to mean “epistemically compatible”.]

Cannot be satisfied at the same time. My apartment walls cannot be portobello mushroom and fuchsia at the same time. The two descriptions are not compatible. They cannot be fulfilled by any situation in the actual world at the same time. The portobello mushroom situation and the fuchsia situation cannot obtain in the same possible world.

Identity in satisfied situations and simultaneity, then, are two sufficient conditions for compatibility. But there is a third sufficient condition that I want to consider, namely ignorance, my not knowing everything. Nomic and initial conditions example.

There is nothing so far in what I know that would render the description ruled out by what I know.

Truth:

[[[Situations whose boundaries are determined by the limits of one’s knowledge would divide the actual world into what is exposed to one — the finite situation itself — the dense part of the lump of cheese, the mesa surrounded by the fog — and everything that is hidden from one — the holes in the lump of swiss cheese; the fog surrounding the mesa.]]]

[[[Is the truth of the sentence a matter of change from the perspective of one’s own situation? If yes, then one’s own situation is not making the sentence true. Truth is never a gamble]]]

[[[There is no doubt that there are three shells before my eyes. This is so even if ‘there are three shells before my eyes’ is defeasible. If 1 through 4 have credences of less than 1, every exposed state of affairs within my comprehensive actual situation has a credence of 1. There is no doubt that there are three shells before my eyes. This is so even if defeasible. A credence is a number that is assigned; and I shall assign a credence of 1 to all those states of affairs in my comprehensive actual situation for which any doubt seems merely theoretical, not to be taken seriously in the course of one’s affairs. David Hume, for example would or at least should, assign a credence of 1 to the billiard table and the balls when he gets up from his skeptical studies to play a game of billiards. Certainly he would know nothing that would rule out the identity with the actual world the possible world in which the pool table actually does exist in space/time. But to discuss this further would take me too far afield.]]]

[[[Now if there is anything that could serve as a conduit of information between the hidden situation and my comprehensive actual situation such that states of affairs in the former could become exposed to me in my position in the latter, the probability-as-credence of this state affairs would increase to 1. If my neighbor is completely reliable, for example, the color of his walls would become exposed to me were he to tell me they are wine red. The probability/credence that they are wine red would increase from 1 divided by the number of paint colors to 1. That the walls are this color then becomes part of my comprehensive actual situation.]]]

[[[For a sentence to “reach out” so to speak to a hidden situation and to be ‘made true’ is for the probability/credence to increase to 1 from a lesser number. For a sentence that is about a state of affairs within a finite situation to be made true, it needs to have already been exposed and the garden-variety credence given to it to be 1 already. For a situation to make a sentence true is for the sentence to correspond to an exposed state of affairs.]]]

Within my comprehensive actual situation, the resources are lacking to make 1 through 4 true. As I will show when I get to the truth condition for negation, the resources are also lacking within that situation to make the negations of 1 through 4 true. Let A be any of the sentences 1 through 4. A is not true. If we adhere to a 2-valued logic, this means that A is false within the situation. But, as I will show, the situation also fails to make ~A true. So ~A is also false within the situation. A v ~A would be false because both A and ~A would be false. Bivalence would fail for my comprehensive actual situation.

And once it is turned over, it will be the case, I am rather inclined to think, that nothing in my body of knowledge rules out the identity with the actual world of the possible world in which the peanut always was (from the time Elizarraraz placed it under one of the three shells) present | not present under shell #1 the whole time. But there is something in my body of knowledge that rules out the identity with the actual world of the possible world in which the peanut was present | not present under the shell the entire time — namely, that peanuts do not behave like electrons. Or at least I hope that I know this. I might add parenthetically, by the way, that whether this really is an item in my body of knowledge is independent of whether I believe it to be.

[[[Need to discussion situation types vs. individual situations]]]

So while nothing in my comprehensive actual situation makes it true that either A (“the peanut is under shell #1”) or makes it true that ~A (“it is not the case that the peanut is under shell #1”), one is likely to be proceeding on the strong assumption that this is so. But if we confine ourselves to just the situation, the situation does not have the resources to make either A or ~A true.

[[[Within the worldly situation of such a being, every sentence would either be made true within the situation or fail to be made true. The probability of 1 through 4 each would be 1.]]]

[[[The epistemic version of truth, i.e., the correspondence to something actual, would then be the correspondence to something known to be actual.]]]

[[[So we have local truth on the one hand and global truth on the other. Local truth is not relative truth.]]]

Bivalence

[[Exposure makes the epistemically accessible situation a part of s0. I asserted above that a situation such as the shell #1 situation is epistemically compatible with another situation — say, my comprehensive actual situation — if it is epistemically possible for it and that situation to combine so as to comprise a larger situation. It could be (epistemic could) the case that the peanut is under shell #1, in which case the presence of the peanut there would become, upon exposure (say by turning over the shell or through a sonar device that is designed to detect the presence of peanuts under shells) a part of s0. Or it could be (again, epistemic could) the case that the peanut is not under shell #1, in which base the absence of the peanut there would be what becomes part of my comprehensive actual situation. ]]

[[That the walls of my apartment are portobello mushroom has already gotten exposed in the situation comprising my apartment in particular and in my comprehensive actual situation in general. Even if somehow I haven’t really noticed the color of my apartment walls (say, when I entered the apartment for the very first time), nothing blocks me from focusing my attention on it for a moment and saying “Aha, portobello mushroom”. The color of my apartment walls lies exposed in my situation. ]]

[[[Situations drawn from possible worlds epistemically accessible to S from their position in the actual world are the graveyard for the truth of A v ~A.]]] [[[Important that on my account the compatibility relation could hold between situations in different possible worlds, as long as the situations could be part of the actual world. I don’t know what trouble this will pose for me. Important to discuss the Tiger from a different planet possible world.]]]

[[[But every other sentient being is situated, that is to say, is plunged into a concrete situation that has them as its center and from whom much is hidden, and to whom some is exposed.]]]


We Are Surfaces

The following passage from Gaston Bachelard’s THE POETICS OF SPACE is extremely suggestive:

The phenomenology of the poetic imagination allows us to explore the being of man considered as the being of a surface, of the surface that separates the region of the same from the region of the other.  It should not be forgotten that in this zone of sensitized surface, before being, one must speak, if not to others, at least to oneself.  And advance always.

Gaston Bachelard, THE POETICS OF SPACE  (Beacon Press, Boston), p. 222

I do not pretend to have a very precise grasp of (certainly not a ‘maximal grip on) what Bachelard meant by the above paragraph, nor of what the best interpretation of that paragraph might be (regardless of what his author’s intention was).  In particular, I do not have much command over his phrase ‘the phenomenology of the poetic imagination’.

I am, however, reasonably confident that I do know what I want to do with many of the same words, namely, these:

Let’s explore the being of man considered as the being of a sensitized surface, of the surface that separates the region of the same from the region of the other.

There is more that I want to draw from Bachelard’s paragraph, but this is what I think (delusionally or not) I currently have the best grasp on.  In the not too distant future — the exigencies of my paid work permitting — I will be articulating what I intend to say with these words (whether or not my intention was also Bachelard’s).

To foreshadow what I want to say:  each one of us is a surface, not an interior space inside a physical cranium or inside the non-physical boundaries of a non-physical mind.  The mind bears a close analogy to the skin.  And once we see this, at least a few philosophical conundrums will come to seem at least a little bit less puzzling.  Maybe.

In articulating this insight (or is it a delusion?), I will be drawing on Berkeley, Leibniz, and Merleau-Ponty.  Will I come up with anything coherent?  We will see!

*****

Today’s homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM is Channing Tatum posing as a grease monkey.

Channing Tatum As Grease Monkey

Channing Tatum

 

Although the denotational power of words certainly fail me, I am able at least to fall back onto the expressive power of a rapturous sigh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Berkeley’s Direct Tactile Realism In His NEW VISION

Oddly enough for those of us used to thinking of Berkeley as a thoroughgoing idealist, Berkeley maintains in his AN ESSAY TOWARDS A NEW THEORY OF VISION a direct realism regarding tactile perception.  Whereas the objects of vision — for example, the visible moon — do not exist outside the mind, the objects of touch — what is touched, tangible physical objects — do exist outside the mind in external space.  As George Pitcher puts it, speaking of what Berkeley is claiming in black and white in the NEW THEORY OF VISION:

What we feel are the tangible objects — i.e., the objects that are spread around us at various points in physical space.  What we see are objects that exist only in the mind.

George Pitcher, BERKELEY: THE ARGUMENTS OF THE PHILOSOPHERS  (Routledge, London and New York), p. 28. Henceforth BERKELEY

Tangible objects, in the system of the Essay, exist around us in real physical space.

George Pitcher, BERKELEY, p. 43.

And from the Master himself (passage 1):

Passage 1

For all visible things are equally in the Mind, and take up no part of the external Space.  And consequently are equidistant [in the next sentence Berkeley says ‘Or rather to speak truly…are at no Distance, neither near nor far…] from any tangible thing, which exists without the Mind.

George Berkeley, AN ESSAY TOWARDS A NEW THEORY OF VISION, paragraphs CXI and CXII, in The GEORGE BERKELEY COLLECTION: 5 CLASSIC WORKS, Amazon Print-On-Demand Edition, no pagination.  Henceforth A NEW THEORY OF VISION. 

Perceiving/sensing/understanding (for now I will take these terms to be more or less equivalent, as I think they are for Berkeley) for Berkeley is always a two-place relation between a Mind that perceives something and the thing that is perceived — the object of perception.  Berkeley calls the direct, that is to say, the immediate object of sensing/perceiving/understanding an ‘idea’:

Passage 2a

… I take the word idea for any immediate object of sense, or understanding — in which large signification it is commonly used by the moderns.

George Berkeley, AN ESSAY TOWARDS A NEW THEORY OF VISION, in BERKELEY Essay, Principles, Dialogues With Selections From Other Writings (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York) 1929) p. 36.  Henceforth A NEW THEORY OF VISION when referring to that Essay in this volume.

So henceforth I will be treating the terms ‘idea’ and ‘object (of touch, of vision, of hearing, etc.)’ as equivalent, except when the context makes it obvious that ‘idea’ is being used in another way.

Visible things, visual ideas — the objects of vision — for example, the Visibile Moon … these things have visible properties. The Visibile Moon, for example, has a round shape, is flat, luminous, and is of a kind of non-saturated yellow color. That this should be so ought not perhaps be too surprising. Things have properties, right? Shouldn’t visible things have visible properties? And should their bearing properties be gainsaid by the fact that these things exist only in the mind? I can see a wine red or viridian green or burnt sienna afterimage, right?

Vision is, I have said, assuming for the moment the guise of Bishop Berkeley, a two-place relation between the Mind and an object that exists only in the mind, a visual Idea. In the case of touch, this relation is a two-place relation between the Mind and a hard or soft or rough or smooth or sharp or rounded…physical object existing in external space. [By ‘physical object’, I mean ‘object that obeys the laws of physics,’ and I take it this is what Berkeley is also thinking of when he talks about things existing in ‘external space’.] Shortly, I will be talking about what these relations might be.

As regards vision, I do perceive an extra-mental object existing in external space — but only indirectly, or mediately, in a three-place relation. This relation comprises my Mind (me), the Visibile Idea (e.g., the Visibile Moon) to which my Mind is related directly, and the external object (the physical, tangible Moon) for which the Visibile Moon serves as a sign.  So with regard to vision, Berkeley maintains in the NEW VISION a representational theory of perception.  He is an indirect realist with regard to vision:  we see the physical object in external space just indirectly, in a way mediated by the mental object of color and shape that we do see directly.

But with regard to touch, Berkeley is a direct realist.  We perceive the physical object directly through touch.  We don’t perceive it by ‘touching’ or ‘feeling’ a mental object that represents the physical tangible object.  We are in contact with the object itself.  Put another way, our perception reaches all the way to the felt object.  In the case of touch, the perception is a two-place, not a three-place relation.

This direct realism in the case of touch comes as a bit of a surprise to those of us who think of Berkeley as a thoroughgoing idealist who thinks that everything is mental.  And in fact Berkeley apparently claimed in later writings that he theorized touch this way only to prevent his readers from freaking out from far too much counterintuitive idealism (Pitcher, BERKELEY, p. 28) which would only have served to distract his readers from what he wanted to focus on, namely, vision. In his own thoughts, ostensibly kept to himself at the time of A NEW THEORY OF VISION, he regarded the objects of touch as in fact mental.

But regardless of what the historical George Berkeley thought or did not think inwardly as he wrote that tract, treating touch in a direct realist fashion as involving direct perceptual contact with the touched/felt physical object is strongly motivated by two things.  First, Berkeley’s treatment of the objects of vision as being both mental and possessing visual properties leads to absurdities if applied to the objects of touch.  The absurdity disappears once one regards the objects of touch as being extra-mental, existing outside the mind.  Second, reflecting on the nature of vision and the nature of touch motivates (without forcing!) a direct realist theory of touch and an indirect realist theory of vision.  .

I’ve been speaking of the objects of vision and the objects of touch, whether these be the same [be sure to cash this out], or different, as Berkeley thinks. The object of vision is what is seen; the object of touch is what is touched. Berkeley calls the former the visual Idea, and the latter … well, to anticipate, I think one is likely to feel some discomfort in calling what is touched, the physical object, an ‘Idea’, given that Ideas are normally regarded as mental, as Berkeley regards the (direct) objects of vision. Be that as it may, objects have properties.

So it is not terribly surprising to see (as I have discussed in a previous post, The Truth Of Bishop Berkeley (Part 0)) Berkeley treating the visible object as having visual properties (what other kind would it have? [Yes, this is a trick question]).  The Visibile Moon, for example, is round, flat, luminous, and (although Berkeley never assigns it a specific color) of a certain pale cheese-like yellow. If I may be permitted to go at least a little distance out on a limb, I ascribe to Berkeley the idea that for a mind to sense ‘moon yellow’ and the other sensed properties of the Visibile Moon is simply for that object to have those properties and to exist in the mind.

But we run immediately into trouble if we try to apply that idea to the objects of touch. It seems rather strange to say that for a mind to sense rough, smooth, hard, soft and so on is for a rough (or smooth, hard, soft) object to exist in the mind. But surely no mental things can be rough etc.  Only physical objects — for example, the bark of a tree, the cool smoothness of marble — can have these properties.  Thus conceptualizing Ideas, the objects before the Mind, as having properties puts Berkeley straightway on the road to regarding physical objects existing in extra-mental space as the objects of touch.

But what happens, then, to the idea that to sense an object with its properties directly is for that object with its properties to exist in the mind? The object of touch with its roughness etc. exists outside, not inside the mind. How, then, can it be an Idea? An Idea, surely, is something that exists in the mind. And an Idea, remember, is what is sensed, what is perceived — the object of touch or of vision. If one ever suffered from the delusion that the Berkeleyan Idea was not a problematic concept, they should be stripped of that delusion now. [ It would seem that Berkeley would either have to jettison either the notion that an Idea is a mental object (with properties) in the mind, or that it is an object, mental or not, before the mind. the notion we have ascribed to him that ]

[What is this relation? At least in the case of vision, Berkeley seems to conceive of this relation in quasi-spatial terms — and he is not, of course, the only one to do so.  For him, to sense wine red, for example, is for wine red (deep crimson red) to be “in” (yes, do note the scare quotes) the mind. The origin of this spatial metaphor doubtlessly lies in a causal story of perception. Light bounces off the object (say, a translucent wine-red paper weight), strikes the retina, triggering other events that end up quite literally in the brain…and from there (though no story about the pituitary gland) ideas somehow slip into the mind. That Bishop Berkeley easily flips from talking about brains and physical processes to talking about minds and the ideas contained therein. As shown here, he starts out talking about retinas and brains, then suddenly corrects himself midstream and starts talking about minds. These easy flips make it more likely he will apply in a metaphorical or derived way to minds and mental objects spatial terms such as ‘in’ whose use is quite literal when applied to brains inside skulls. ]

[For now, I will leave the terms ‘mind’ and ‘mental’ as primitives, and assume that I and my readers understand them in roughly the way Bishop Berkeley understood them. We are all, after all, still swimming the still-powerful current of Cartesian dualism.]

[What is this relation? At least in the case of vision, Berkeley seems to conceive of this relation in quasi-spatial terms — and he is not, of course, the only one to do so.  For him, to sense wine red, for example, is for wine red (deep crimson red) to be “in” (yes, do note the scare quotes) the mind. The origin of this spatial metaphor doubtlessly lies in a causal story of perception. Light bounces off the object (say, a translucent wine-red paper weight), strikes the retina, triggering other events that end up quite literally in the brain…and from there (though no story about the pituitary gland) ideas somehow slip into the mind. That Bishop Berkeley easily flips from talking about brains and physical processes to talking about minds and the ideas contained therein. As shown here, he starts out talking about retinas and brains, then suddenly corrects himself midstream and starts talking about minds. These easy flips make it more likely he will apply in a metaphorical or derived way to minds and mental objects spatial terms such as ‘in’ whose use is quite literal when applied to brains inside skulls. ]

[For now, I will leave the terms ‘mind’ and ‘mental’ as primitives, and assume that I and my readers understand them in roughly the way Bishop Berkeley understood them. We are all, after all, still swimming the still-powerful current of Cartesian dualism.]

[But why doesn’t regarding the objects of vision likewise put one right on the road to viewing the objects of vision as extra-mental entities? Can a mental object be yellow, luminous, round, and flat?]

Whether such a reading is historically accurate or not, I am tempted to read the following passage (passage 2) as motivated by a discomforting sense on the part of Berkeley that there is something problematic about the notion of an Idea. What better way to eliminate the discomfort than to say the opposite? ‘There is nothing problematic about the notion of tangible ideas’, my psycho-analyzed version of Berkeley would say. ‘I am just using the phrase as everyone else among us moderns uses it’.

Passage 2

Note that, when I speak of tangible ideas, I take the word idea for any immediate object of sense, or understanding — in which large signification it is commonly used by the moderns.

George Berkeley, AN ESSAY TOWARDS A NEW THEORY OF VISION, in BERKELEY Essay, Principles, Dialogues With Selections From Other Writings (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York) 1929) p. 36.  Henceforth A NEW THEORY OF VISION when referring to that Essay in this volume.

But what is directly, i.e., immediately, i.e., im, that is to say, not mediately touched is the extra-mental physical object itself.  Given the passage just quoted, that would mean the physical object is an Idea — a tactile Idea — , at least when it is being touched.  Visual Ideas may be mental, but it would seem that tactile Ideas are not.  But surely, in the large signification the word ‘Idea’ is used by the moderns, as well as by all of us captive to what is still a Cartesian common sense, an Idea is something mental, something in the Mind.  Passages 1) and 2) are clearly in tension with one another.

One way to reconcile 1) and 2) is to reinterpret the concept of an Idea by applying to it a distinction between the content of intentional states such as seeing and touching and the object of these states.

A Berkeleyan Idea, I propose, is ambiguous between content and object.  In the case of feeling/touching [I shall use ‘feeling’ interchangeably with ‘touching’], the Idea is a mental content without properties but describable by seeking answers to the question ‘how’, or adverbially.   The intentional state with this content has a physical thing with properties as its object.  In the case of vision, the Idea is an “inner” mental object [I will take ‘inner’, ‘mental’, and ‘mind’ as primitives and pretend, at least for now, that there is nothing problematic about these terms] with properties.

Let me explain this distinction by making an analogy to the (commonly made in this context)  distinction between kicking a tree (an action directed towards an object) and kicking a kick (an action that may or may not be directed towards an object).  Let’s say that Dr. Johnson kicks a tree (while exclaiming ‘I refute Berkeley thus!’)  This event can be described in two ways:  ‘Dr Johnson kicked a tree’, and ‘Dr. Johnson kicked a kick’.  The kick, is of course, identical with Dr. Johnson’s action of kicking the tree and is, in spite of the direct-object grammatical role played in the sentence by the word ‘kick’, not the object of the kick.

Dr. Johnson is both kicking a kick and kicking a tree.

Now suppose that  Bruce Lee is demonstrating a particular martial art move which includes a kicking action.  The kick is directed towards the air, towards anything that might [the futural dimension] meet its thrust, in other words, to nothing in particular.  It is not directed towards any actual existing object.  Bruce Lee is kicking a kick, but the kick is not directed towards an object.

Continuing with this analogy, let’s say that the tactile Idea is like kicking a kick that may or may not have an object.  Suppose I am resting my elbow on a marble countertop.  I feel the coolness of the marble.  At the same time, I feel the equal and opposite force of the cool, smooth, hard marble as it meets my weight at my elbow while I lean into it. In feeling this equal and opposite force impinging upon my body, I  feel the marble’s hardness and resistance to my body.  Likewise, I feel the pressure on my somewhat rubbery skin as both the marble and the bone of my elbow press into it.   Oh no!  I have placed too much pressure on the countertop!  A piece of it has broken off and smashed into my toe! I feel the marble’s force, and my toe throbs painfully with such a salience that it becomes difficult to attend to anything else.

In the course of all this, I have enjoyed/suffered the following:  a coolness feeling, a force feeling, a hardness feeling, a resistance feeling, a pressure feeling, a pain feeling.  Some of these, although named by different words, may be identical events (e.g., hardness feeling, resistance feeling, force feeling).  These start, continue for a while, then end (I stop leaning on the counter; my toe eventually stops throbbing painfully).  They are, in short, events that have the same structure as the event kicking a kick.  I was feeling a hardness feeling, feeling a resistance feeling, feeling a coolness feeling, feeling an equal-and-opposite-reaction-comprising-a-force feeling, feeling a toe-throbbing-painfully feeling.

These ‘feeling a feeling’s I will call the content of the intentional state of feeling the marble countertop. In each case, the feeling is not the object of the various tactile events, but is identical with those events.  The object of  the events is the marble countertop itself and its various properties and capacities:  its hardness, its resistance to forces impinging upon it, its presenting those forces with equal and opposite reactions, its temperature. Dr. Johnson kicks a tree; I feel a marble countertop.

It is fairly safe to place the marble countertop in extra-mental space.  With just a little bit of work, I think, we can plausibly place the feeling inside the mind as a mental event.  I say ‘plausibly’ for now because later I hope to chip away a bit at any such clean separation of ‘mental’ from physical as would seem naturally intuitive to Berkeley and to anyone still caught up in the general thralldom of what is still common-sense Cartesian dualism.

Suppose I am now hallucinating the marble countertop.  I seem to be leaning my elbow on the countertop.  But there is in fact no marble countertop for me to lean on.  Instead, there are just the following:  a feeling a hardness feeling, a feeling a resistance feeling, a feeling a coolness feeling, a feeling an equal-and-opposite-reaction-comprising-a-force feeling, a feeling a toe-throbbing-painfully feeling.  These are, plausibly, events taking place inside me and only inside me.  They are taking place inside no one else.  If I am a Mind, a Spirit, then these events are taking place inside my mind.  They are mental events.

They are tactile Ideas.  When there is a marble countertop that I am feeling, they are tactile Ideas with both an object and a content — Dr. Johnson kicking a tree (object) and kicking a kick (content).  When I am hallucinating and there is no marble countertop that I am feeling, they are tactile Ideas with a content but no object.  They are Bruce Lee kicking a kick without kicking anything. Tactile Ideas are mental contents identical with events that may or may not have an object.

Regarding them as mental events, we need not think of them as objects with properties standing in front of the felt object and hiding it from our direct tactile view. Instead, they are best described by phrases that answer the question ‘how?’ and sometimes adverbially.  How am I feeling?  I am feeling impinged upon by a force that is equal and opposite to the force I am exerting on the countertop.  I am feeling impinged upon by the temperature of the marble.  I am feeling throbbingly/painfully in that area of space occupied by my toe.  Answers to the how question and (sometimes) adverbs better describe these events than do properties, states and capacities of objects (wine-red, translucent, cubical).

Thank goodness, because, as suggested above, if the tactile Idea had tactile properties such as hardness etc. by analogy with visual Ideas having visual properties such as luminosity and a particular shade of bright-moon-cheese-yellow, we would be in very strange territory indeed.  We would be faced with slabs of mental marble floating around (would something that has the property of heaviness float? — Maybe mental space is gravitation-free) in my mind possessing the properties of smoothness, coolness, and hardness, and capable of  exerting any force, whether gravitational or equal-and-opposite-reactional, upon any physical object, including upon that physical object that I am.  Were these allegedly non-physical objects actually capable of exerting/undergoing such forces, they would in fact be physical, that is to say, describable by the laws of physics. [By ‘physical’ I mean ‘describable by the laws of physics.]

(Later, however, I hope to submit to the consideration of my gentle reader the idea that maybe we should include the force exerted by the marble as part of the tactile sensation, the tactile Idea. )

By treating tactile Ideas as mental contents, Berkeley can retain his claim that touch gives us direct access to the physical object, without the mediation of any objects at all standing in the way — much less strange entities such as tactile Ideas seen as objects with tactile properties.  The tactile Idea is not an object mediating our access to the felt object in a three-place relation comprising mind, mediating mental object with properties, and physical object.  Rather, it is this access.

Of course, if visual Ideas are to be treated the same way, we would end up with a direct perception theory of vision, not a representational theory.  Visual perception would be a two-place relation between a mind and the physical object (when the visual experience has an object), not a three-place relation comprising mind, visual Idea, and physical object.  In the case of after-images and hallucinations, the visual experience would have a content (identical with the the event that is that experience), but it would have not object.  To the exclamation ‘surely you are seeing something when you see a wine-red afterimage or hallucinate that magenta rhinoceros grazing at your feet as you write this screed’, the proper rejoinder is ‘no, I am not seeing anything.’  For there is no inner, mental object that is wine red (in the case of the afterimage) or magenta (in the case of the hallucinated rhinoceros).

So if Berkeley is to retain his indirect, or representational theory of visual perception and admit the existence of physical objects as well, he has to retain the notion of a visual Idea as a mental, inner object possessing properties such as wine red, magenta, yellow ocher, or burnt sienna.  These objects stand in the way, between the mind and the physical object.

dfjdfkldjfdkljskljfksldjfkdljfkdjfkdjfkdjfdkjfdlkjfsljfksdljfdlkjfldjfldkjfdjfd

When I “see” a wine-red afterimage, it may seem odd to deny the existence of something that has the property wine-red.  As a matter of my personal biography, I have found this denial a bit counter-intuitive to make. I see this wine-red thing, dammit!  It’s right there before me!  (Even though no one else can see it.)  Likewise, when I hallucinate a magenta rhinoceros grazing peacefully at my feet (this is my study rhino) … er … I mean … were I to hallucinate a magenta rhinoceros, I see all this rather powerful vivid magenta, dammit!  (Even though no one else can see what I see.)  How could a color exist without being the property of a colored thing?  So how could there not be something magenta before me?  Do you really want to deny that magenta exists (er, I mean, would exist) in my visual field?

But neither the afterimage nor the hallucinated rhinoceros are physical objects.  Were I to try to touch the rhinoceros, no equal and opposite reaction would meet my action.  And there is no way I can even try to touch the afterimage — it does not exist in a space in which reaching for it can make sense.  If these objects are not physical objects, they must be mental objects.  These are “inner” mental objects with properties, such as wine red or magenta or  yellow ocher.

Add to this line of thought the fact that every perceptual or quasi-perceptual event has a cause, and you get a theory of visual perception that renders visual perception indirect in the way articulated above.  [Combine this line of thought with the idea that the object of perception must be present, not just on the sensory surface, but inside it (the sensory object must be where the causal chain ends), and you end up with the notion that every object of visual perception must be an inner, mental object.]  In the case of visual perception, the event of kicking, which it is without exception describable as kicking a kick, is always also kicking a tree.  Visual perception always has a mental entity as its direct object; at best, a physical thing can be just the indirect object of perception.

Would the same type of argument pack any punch at all in showing (or seeming to show) that tactile perception has just an indirect “grasp” of the physical object?  Since there does not seem to be anything like an “aftertouch” that would correspond to an afterimage, I will focus on the possibility of tactile hallucination.

Suppose that I am hallucinating the following:  I am resting my elbow on a marble countertop.  I seem feel the equal and opposite force of the cool, smooth, hard marble as it meets the weight I press into it via my elbow — that is to say, I seem to feel the (ostensible) marble’s hardness and resistance to my body.  Likewise, I seem to feel the pressure on my somewhat rubbery skin as both the marble and the bone of my elbow press into it.   Oh no!  I have placed too much pressure on the countertop!  A piece of it has broken off and smashed into my toe!

But I am hallucinating.  There is no physical marble outside my mind that my body is leaning against.  Nor is there any slab of mental marble floating around (would something that has the property of heaviness float?) in my mind possessing the properties of smoothness, coolness, and hardness, and capable of  exerting any force, whether gravitational or equal-and-opposite-reactional, upon any physical object, including upon that physical object that I am.  Were these allegedly non-physical objects capable of exerting/undergoing such forces, they would in fact be physical, that is to say, describable by the laws of physics.

I am hallucinating the events occurring in my body as well.  My body exists, thank God, but I am hallucinating the various events that are ostensibly taking place within it and to it:  my elbow bone pressing into my skin and other flesh that is ostensibly in contact with the ostensible marble countertop; the ostensible marble pressing into that same flesh from the other side; the piece of marble dropping onto my toe.  None of these events is actually happening.  For the same reasons there is no mental marble slab floating around in my mind like an object in the opening of the TWILIGHT ZONE — but wait!  One of the ostensible properties of the ostensible marble is weight — so this mental slab couldn’t be just floating —  there is no mental ‘my body’ floating around there either.

To feel an object is to impinge one’s physical flesh-and-blood-and-bone self upon it, or to suffer its impinging upon this flesh-and-blood-and-bone self.  This is why any completely convincing tactile hallucination — if any such ever occur — would need to include hallucinatory (and ostensible) events occurring in and to one’s physical body.  And it is also why any object of a tactile Idea has to be physical.  It is not possible to get one’s hands upon, impinge upon, a mental, non-physical entity.  The smoothness, coolness,  hardness, resistance, capacity to exert or suffer a force of an object become tactilely perceived properties of an object only given the impact/suffering of tactically sensitive flesh.

What we are left with is an event, an action that looks less and less “mental” (I shall now start placing this word in quotes in order to cease pretending I really know what this word means).  If the ostensible object of my touching does not exist “outside the mind”, it does not exist.  There is something occurring, however — an event of feeling.  Idea. This Idea, however, is similar in structure to a kick, which usually is directed towards an object but sometimes is not.  When the marble countertop exists, the tactile Idea is akin to kicking a tree (which act is also describable as kicking a kick).  But when the marble countertop does not exist because I am hallucinating, the tactile Idea is akin to just an objectless kicking a kick.  In a sense that will be clarified later on [promissory note], I am not feeling anything.

On the kicking a kick side, the force-feeling, the hardness-feeling, the coolness-feeling, the resistance-feeling.

But then have to bring in the physical — the fingers and elbows and toe getting smashed, and it starts getting a bit problematic to call this an Idea.

Nonetheless:

It is not at all plausible (to repeat the point already made in paragraph x above) to argue:  ‘There are no non-physical slabs of marble existing only in my mind possessing  the properties of smoothness, coolness, and hardness and capable of of exerting forces upon another

My body does exist, thank God, but it is not exerting/receiving any forces from material objects.  That body exists only in my mind — so I will say, but only as a first approximation.

Afterimages don’t push back.

Think of as having same structure as kicking a kick | kicking a tree.  Touch is both.  No mental slab of marble.  Vision is always kicking a kick according to the above.  What would be possible reasons for thinking this.

*********

Of course, this interpretation of Berkeley is ever so slightly (just slightly, I hope!) tendentious.  So far as I know, Berkeley never explicitly says that Ideas have colors or have other properties.  The interpretation relies on the his seeming to equate the objects of vision (for example, the Visibile Moon) with conglomerations of Ideas.  The Visibile Moon is luminous, implying that it has some color or other.  It is difficult to see how Ideas could be conjoined to form a conglomeration with luminosity and a color unless they were themselves luminous and colored; therefore it would seem that visual Ideas have to have properties.

But there are interpreters, such as George Pitcher, who argue that we can make more pieces of what Berkeley says cohere with one another if we think of his Ideas not as objects of sensation (and therefore not as entities with properties), but as events or “acts”.

An Idea on this interpretation would be an event that has the same structure as a kick.  Let’s say that Dr. Johnson kicks a tree (while proclaiming ‘I refute Berkeley thus!’)  This event can be described in two ways:  ‘This person kicked a tree’, and ‘this person kicked a kick’.  The tree in the first description of of course the object towards which the kick was directed; the kick in the second description is not such an object, but is identical with the kicking event itself.

A kick may have an object towards which it is directed, as when Dr. Johnson kicks the tree.  Or it might not.  Bruce Lee, for example, may be demonstrating a particular martial art move without actually kicking anything.  Just so, the tactile Idea of cool, smooth marble may have an object towards which it is directed — the marble counter top over which I am passing my hands, or it might not.  I might be hallucinating the feeling of cool, smooth marble.  If I am hallucinating, the noun phrase ‘tactile Idea of cool, smooth marble’ names not some object to which the sensation is directed, but a sensory event.  [I will try to claim the event normally has “non-mental” aspects, my physical fingers passing over the marble.]

Because of the grammatical similarity between ‘tree’ and ‘kick’ in the above kick sentences, both serving as grammatical objects in the sentences, one could theoretically think that there is some sort of special object called a ‘kick’ towards which the event of kicking is directed.

Practically speaking, I rather suspect this sort of confusion is unlikely to occur when we are talking about kicks.  But this confusion may be occurring should one think that sensing a wine red color and sensing an oblong shape , say, is to be analyzed in terms of an event, sensing, that has as its object an entity that is both wine red in color and oblong in shape.  In short, a thing with properties.  If one “sees” a wine-red, oblong afterimage, or hallucinates a magenta rhinoceros, there is clearly nothing present in extra-mental space that is wine red, oblong, magenta, or shaped like a rhinoceros.  But (it would seem) there is something that is wine red and oblong (in the afterimage case) or magenta and rhinoceros-shaped (in the hallucination case).  Since these things do not exist in extra-mental space, they must exist “in the mind” — maybe even in some sort of “internal space”.  I know — let’s call these things ‘Ideas’.  Visual access to the physical objects available to us via touch would then have to be mediate in character — accomplished not directly but through the intermediary of visual Ideas.

As we have seen in the section above, this kind of analysis falls apart in the case of tactile sensations — tactile Ideas. Should one hallucinate the tactile presence of a slab of cool, smooth marble, or the tactile presence of rough bark, there is surely no mental, i.e., non-physical object that is cool and smooth in a marble-like way, or rough in a bark-like way.

In these cases, sensing coolness and smoothness | sensing roughness would need to be treated along the lines of an objectless kicking a kick.  At a first approximation, the coolness and smoothness | roughness would be identical with the events ‘sensing coolness and smoothness | sensing roughness.  [footnote:  I say ‘at a first approximation because later I intend to modify this claim substantially into a quite different claim.  For now, however, I will let it stand and use it as a kind of guide-post helping to lead one into a more complete analysis]

In the case of touching a physical object that does exist, thank you very much (the slab of marble, the bark), the treatment would be that of kicking a tree.  Kicking a tree is also kicking a kick, but now the event has an object it is directed towards.  There being no mental object with the requisite tactile properties, there is nothing that serves as a mental intermediary between the sensing events and their objects.  There would be a direct perception of the marble | bark.

Because Berkeley holds in the NEW VISION (at least in black and white) that that we do enjoy/suffer direct tactile perception of physical objects, applying to tactile Ideas the kicking a kick/kicking a tree analysis just given seems like a good way to interpret his tactile Ideas.

George Pitcher thinks there are additional reasons as well to interpret Berkeley’s Ideas generally in this manner.  [Link to this and to my digestion of it.]  Certainly one would want a consistent interpretation of Berkeley’s notion of an Idea that holds good both for visual and tactile Ideas, especially given this:

Note that, when I speak of tangible ideas, I take the word idea for any immediate object of sense, or understanding — in which large signification it is commonly used by the moderns.

George Berkeley, AN ESSAY TOWARDS A NEW THEORY OF VISION, in BERKELEY Essay, Principles, Dialogues With Selections From Other Writings (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York) 1929) p. 36.  Henceforth A NEW THEORY OF VISION when referring to that Essay in this volume.

Berkeley’s use of the word ‘object’ here presents problems for those proposing a violent reading of the text, to say the least.  But it does seem plain that he wants an interpretation of ‘idea’ that would hold good both for visual and for tactile (or “tangible”) ideas.  If tactile ideas are events rather than objects with properties, visual ideas should be as well.

[Direction.  The physical body. Kicking.]

So subjecting sensing tactilely to a kicking a kick vs. kicking a tree type analysis removes

Clearly, Berkeley’s tactile Ideas would need to be interpreted this way if he is to make physical objects existing in extra-mental space their direct objects.

overOne can kick a kick, and one can kick, say, a tree (perhaps as a way of saying ‘I refute Berkeley thus’).  Sticking to the Berkeleyan framework, having an Idea of wine red, for example, that is to say, sensing wine red,  is more like kicking a kick than it is like kicking a tree:  there is no mental object (and, for Berkeley, there are no other kinds) towards which the event is directed.  What is meant by a kick in ‘kicking a kick’ is exhausted by the act of kicking; what is meant by ‘wine red’ in ‘sensing wine red’ (having an Idea of wine red) is exhausted by ‘sensing wine red’.

Of course, kicking a kick may also be an act of kicking tree rather than an objectless act (done say, to demonstrate a particular move in a martial art). Likewise, unless one is a Berkeleyan idealist, one is likely to think that there normally exists an extra-mental wine-red object one is directed towards when the event ‘sensing wine red’ occurs.  The Berkeley of the NEW VISION thinks that there is no such extra-mental object in the case of sensing wine red, but there

When an event of sensing the smoothness and coldness of polished marble occurs (when there is a tactile Idea of marble smoothness and roughness, to state things in a Berkeleyan way),

Distance and Location

Apart from what Berkeley said in black and white and what he may or may not have actually been thinking as he put down his sentences in black and white, a brief look at touch and vision themselves show that touch and vision invite, tempt us towards, the sort of treatment Berkeley gives them in the NEW VISION, whether or not we accept that invitation.  There is something about touch that wants, so to speak, to be direct, and something about vision that wants to be indirect.

Touch lends itself to a direct realist interpretation in a way that vision does not.  The felt object makes its presence … well … felt … directly on the sensing surface, the skin.  There is no gap to leap across, so to speak, to get access to the felt object.  It presents itself right here as it impinges upon and transfers energy to this sensory surface, one’s skin, whether by its motion towards and into one (say as one is catching a ball) or by the opposite and equal force it directs into one as one leans on their elbow at the desk, or as they stroke silk, pressing ever so lightly and delicately into the silk.

But the seen object at least seems to be at a distance from the sensing surface of the see-er.  It makes its presence apparent (feel the weakening of the adjectives as I go from ‘makes its presence felt’ to ‘makes its presence apparent’) via what at first sight looks like an intermediary, i.e., photons reflected from the object that enter the sensing surface, the retina, and transfer their energy to that other important part of the sensing surface, the brain.

It would seem then that what is seen directly are photons — light.  What we normally take to be the objects of vision — tables, tea pots, chairs, trees, houses, pineapples, cacti, cliffs and stars — would seem to be seen just indirectly.  (In the cases of the stars, however, perhaps a case could be made that what we are seeing is indeed light.)  [Footnote:  if I am not mistaken, in certain moods Berkeley thinks that what we see is light.]  This is the path we are led into if we have the intuition that the direct object of a sense must impinge upon the sensory surface.  The greater-than-zero distance from the sensing surface of what is normally taken to be the object of vision beckons us to enter that path, is extending an invite.

As I suggested above, we do not necessarily have to accept this invitation.  One way to politely decline it is    But wait — shouldn’t the objects of vision be regarded as the sensed wine-red, sensed sea-glass viridian green etc. inside my brain?  Well no — not if we think of sensing wine red or sea-glass green as kicking a kick as opposed to kicking a tree.  All right, then, let’s regard the sensing event as comprising the events going on in the brain and what is going on in the retina and what is going on at the lenses and what is going on with the photons bouncing off the table, pineapple, cactus etc.   Then we can get back out tables and trees etc as direct objects of vision.

By contrast, there is no such question     there is zero distance between the sensing surface of my skin and the rough bark of the tree as I run my hand along the bark’s surface. Through touch, I am in contact with the physical object itself.  There is no question of the tactile experience having to “reach out” to the object because a physical me — an entity with weight and heft –, engaging my physical hand, has already done the reaching out.  Touch is the direct realist sense par excellence. There is something about touch that wants to be direct.

And, as I hope to show (soon, or at least sometime before I die), the visual experience actually does reach out (in some sense of ‘actually does reach out’) to the physical object (Merleau-Ponty), or at least seems to so reach out (Berkeley) because of the way touch is implicated in the visual experience.  Touch informs the direct realist character (real or ostensible) of visual experience.

Impression.  Presentation as opposed to mere representation:  the object has a presence because it, in its fullness, is impinging upon one.  Felt impingement.

Given this, that the seen object is (with the exception of that portion of one’s body that is in their view) at a distance from one can seem a bit paradoxical.

*********

This time my homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM takes the form of Brad Pitt in THE FIGHT CLUB.  This image seems appropriate for a disquisition on touch and brutal physical reality.

Brad-Pitt-Fight-Club

If Plato can have a thing for Alkibiades, I can have a thing for gorgeous rednecks.  This particular redneck needs to stop smoking, however.


The Truth Of Bishop Berkeley (Part 1) — With Green Bungee Cords Again

In a previous post on Bishop Berkeley’s claim that depth cannot be seen, The Truth Of Bishop Berkeley (Part 0), I argued that this claim does follow from Berkeley’s theory of Ideas, at least as I construed that theory in that post.  Here, I want to argue for something like Berkeley’s claim without appealing to any version of his problematic theory of Ideas.  The motivation for doing so is to capture within a Merleau-Pontyian framework what I think is the germ of truth in Berkeley’s claims regarding depth.  This germ is the claim that, at least in the case of the planes seen or imaginatively pictured end-wise to one’s gaze, there is no straightforward (so to speak) visual presentation of depth.

There is not visual presentation of depth, but, paradoxically, there is a visual experience of depth.  In this experience, depth is present as absent in much the same way that the hidden side of a physical object, say, the opaquely red plastic pencil sharpener on my desk, is visually present as absent.  The pencil sharpener, with both its exposed and its hidden sides, is seen within a three-dimensional visual field.  This visual three-dimensional field gets formed through a sensory-motor projection of depth which gets discussed in my The Concept Of The Ecstasis.  I will be much occupied with this projection and the presence-as-absence it makes possible in future posts.

In the process of uncovering the germ of truth in Berkeley’s claims regarding the invisibility of depth, I hope to deal a serious blow to Berkeley’s Theory of Ideas, and advance one step (my first step) in my project, my essay, my attempt to see whether one can transform George Berkeley, bit by bit, into Maurice Merleau-Ponty.

Let me advance the following thought experiment.  The aim of this experiment is to show that as an edge (for the sake of simplicity, let’s say it is the left edge) of an initially wholly-frontal plane moves away from you in depth, you see less and less of any given section of that plane, and, of course, of the plane as a whole.  That is to say, less and less of these get presented visually to you.  Starting from the initial situation in which you see all of the plane and each of its sections, you end up seeing none of these.  At first these get visually presented to you in their entirety; then nothing of them gets presented to you visually.

The Thought Experiment:  Suppose that an extremely, extremely, thin square of gold leaf foil is stretched out in front of you, parallel to your face and to the front of your body.  The thickness of this foil is 0.134 microns, or about 500 gold atoms.  Thinner than the wavelength of light, this is too thin to see.  So were the foil to be turned edge-wise to your eye, it would surely disappear.  Nothing of it would be presented to you visually.

With the mind’s eye, you divide the foil square into four equal sections from the top.  A darker rectangle runs down from, say, in the third section from the right and taking up about a quarter of that section.  (Don’t ask me how this section would be made darker.  This is a thought experiment; you can do what  you like with the gold leaf as long as what you do does not violate physical law too blatantly.  So just do it!  Make the section darker than the rest of the foil square.)

Now suppose that the foil square is steadily turning in such a way that its left edge is moving away from you.  At some point, the darker rectangle will, after first turning into a blur, eventually disappear.  For at some point you are seeing so little of the darker rectangle that your visual system can no longer obtain a clear view of it…and eventually cannot get any view of it at all.

To step out of the thought-experiment for the nonce and into a real experiment, you can try the following.  (Of course, I am sure the claims I made above are not controversial…still…it is always good to cover one’s bases as completely as they can.)  Take a bungee cord, like the polyester-green one shown below.  Taking a gel pen or some other suitable instrument, mark a line segment on it.  At first holding the cord parallel to the front of your body, steadily move the left edge away from you.  You will observe the dark line segment becoming, first, a blur, then disappearing altogether.

BungeeCordPolyesterGreen

 

Back to the thought experiment.  The fact that you eventually saw so little of the darker section of the foil that it became a blur — and then saw nothing of it — strongly suggests that, as the foil was turning away from you, you were steadily seeing less and less of darker section.

Perceptual Constancy As A Fly In The Ointment (If I May Compare My Claims To Something Creamy and Oily, Such As An Ointment):   However, the phenomenon of perceptual constancy in general, and shape constancy in particular, prevents me from making this claim with absolute confidence.  For if this claim were true, the darker section would be steadily becoming thinner and thinner in the shape it looks to have.  But I have encountered theorists (I am looking at you, professor Suzanne Cunningham) who will deny this because they are prone to making extreme claims about shape constancy.  These theorists will deny that the darker rectangle is looking steadily thinner and thinner, just as they will deny that the two edges of U.S. 285, that absolutely straight road in New Mexico that goes on for mile after mile after mile after mile…these theorists will deny that the two edges of this road look to you to be converging at the horizon even while driving in the scene in New Mexico.  In the photograph, they will say, yes, the two edges converge.  When we project onto a 2-dimensional surface the very 3-dimensional Highway U.S. 285, then we get lines that actually converge.  But in the actual scene itself, one does not see (according to these theorists) lines that converge at the horizon.  Perceptual constancy ensures that we just see two lines in parallel:

 

RobertFrankNewMexicoHWY285

 

So it is claimed.

The point of this rather extreme denialism is to block one argument for the sense datum theory.  (The edges of the physical road do not actually converge; nonetheless, lines are converging; a fortiori there are things that are converging; and these must be something mental, i.e., sense data.)  I do not want to dismiss this hard-line take on shape constancy outright, since I think that, in fact, there is a certain amount of truth to it, and I will be discussing shape constancy in particular and perceptual constancy in general in a later post.

Nonetheless, I will point out now that at some point you no longer see enough of the darker rectangle to see it in a non-blurry fashion, and very soon thereafter, as the foil square turns away from you, you see nothing of the darker rectangle at all.  Were the extreme version of perceptual constancy mentioned above correct, this change from clear and distinct to blurry then invisible would have to be sudden and abrupt, something that strikes me as highly implausible.  Nonetheless, gradual or sudden, the change does occur at some point.

Then, when the foil square is completely edge-wise to your eye, you no longer see it at all.  It has disappeared.  There is no longer a visual presentation to you of the square of extremely, extremely thin gold foil.

As long as the foil was at a sufficient slant to you, there was a visual presentation of it in depth.  There was a visual presentation of depth at a slant.  But when the slant became too extreme, that visual presentation became a mere blur; and when the foil came to be completely edgewise to your eye, that visual presentation to you ceased to exist altogether.

A plane can be seen in depth only when it exists in depth at a slant.  By ‘plane’ I mean a physical surface whose thickness is too small to count and therefore can be abstracted away.  There is no visual presentation of such a plane in depth when that plane is situated completely edgewise to the eye.  If there is a steady diminishment in how much of the plane gets presented to you visually as it turns away from you in depth, as I think there is, then we can say that the more the plane is situated in depth relative to you, the less visible it is.  (Again, fuller argument to come later.)  The more depth, the less visibility (i.e., less gets presented to you visually).  When the plane is completely frontal to you, 100% of it gets presented (subject, of course, to the limitations of your visual system).  When the plane is completely in depth relative to you, 0% of it gets presented to you visually.

When the plane is situated at varying degrees of slant relative to you, then, to corresponding degrees less of the plane gets presented to you visually.  Or so I claim.  We will see whether, in the end, I can get away with this claim.

With these arguments/claims in mind, let’s modify the second paragraph of Berkeley’s A NEW THEORY OF VISION to make him say something like:

II.  It ought to be agreed by all, that Distance [of an object in depth], of it self and immediately, cannot be seen except when this is Distance at a slant.  For Distance being a Plane sufficiently thin as not to have a visible edge, it becomes invisible once it is directed end-wise to the Eye.

 

I think something like this was the content of the Aha Erlebnis I experienced some decades ago when I encountered Berkeley’s NEW THEORY OF VISION in that cottony-red book in my parents’ library.

So far I have been discussing just visual presentation, which will always include at least an element of receptivity/passivity.  The square of gold foil causally impinges on your physical body, and without this impingement you would not be enjoying/suffering the concrete visual presentation of the foil.  When the foil is situated at a slant to you, you have an experience of depth that includes this passive component.

But the experience of depth also includes an active element, which I would like to briefly discuss now.  This active element is projection.  One can imaginatively project the depth of the plane.  You can, for example, — or at least I can — visually imagine a point that is situated about half-way across the foil that exists edgewise to the eye.  In doing so, you posit, that is to say, place the point at that location.  (Interesting word, that is, ‘place’ — suggestive of a kinaesthetic action.)  The point can be pictured as a spot, say,  with some color (white, black, wine red, sea-glass green, burnt sienna, and so on) with just barely enough size to be visualized.  Or perhaps there need not be any visual image at all.  I might imaginatively feel, probe with the imagination’s finger, so to speak, the distance to what I think is the half-way point of the foil square, with the attendant sense that here is a point that could become large enough to be visualized, a potentially ‘visible’ point.  In other words, there is an easy translation from imagined feeling to imagined seeing.

I will be having much more to say about this imaginative projection in future posts.  In particular, I will be asserting that this imaginative projection is based on a more fundamental motor intentionality ala Merleau-Ponty.

The blur:  I noted above that, in the case of the bungee cord, one will eventually see a blur instead of the mark made by the gel pen, and, in the case of the foil square, a blur instead of the darker rectangular section.  This fact already creates trouble for Berkeley’s concept of a Minimum Visibile, and it becomes completely devastating to that notion when one brings into the picture empirical work attempting to define a threshold at which one becomes aware of a sensation.  And if the concept of a Minimum Visibile goes, then Berkeley’s whole notion of purely mental items called ‘Ideas’ that form the building blocks of our perception goes as well.

If you ever have had the extent of your visual field tested, you will have faced the following conundrum:  you are supposed to say ‘now’ when, keeping your eyes focussed at the center of the tester’s screen, a dot appears at the periphery.  At first, you say ‘now’ when a blur appears in the periphery — it will never be a distinct point with clear boundaries after all.  But did you wait too long?  After all, if you are at all like me, you had the distinct feeling something was there a moment before you said ‘now’.  Doubtlessly if you attended more to what you see (an attention distinguishable of course from the act of focussing your eyes on the point), maybe you would have discerned the point visually rather than merely having the feeling it was there.  You say ‘now’ again.  But did you really see the point at that moment?  Maybe you jumped the gun a bit.  And if you got it right, maybe it was by chance.  So doubtlessly the mapping of points onto the screen that define the limits of your visual field will be a bit irregular.  To get a true picture of the extent of your visual field, perhaps those points need to be averaged out to form a smoother mapping of the boundary.

The psychologists Weintraub and Walker describe this conundrum very well:

When thresholds [such as how close a point has to be to the center of the tester’s screen before it appears to you] are measured, no discrete threshold appears.  There is always a range of stimulus values — from stimuli so weak that detection is no better than chance, through values detected with increasing probability, to values that are always detected.  A ‘threshold’ is an arbitrarily selected value of the stimulus, such as the intensity of stimulation that is detected exactly 50% of the time.  This arbitrary value for the threshold will differ from subject to subject.  It will differ with minor differences in the conditions under which the measurements are taken.  It will differ with even minor differences in the nature of the response that the subject is asked to make, and it will differ widely between two different responses such as ‘accurate verbal report’ and a ‘significant GSR’ [galvanic skin reflex].

Weintraub and Walker, quoted in M.C. Dillon, MERLEAU-PONTY’S ONTOLOGY  (Northwestern University Press, Evanston, IL), pp. 60-61. Dillon takes the quote from Weintraub and Walker, PERCEPTION, (Brooks/Cole Pub. Co., Belmont, CA, 1966), p. 77.

 

The gel-pen inked line on the bungee cord should never have become blurry in the first place, since as it became “thinner” it should have simply disappeared the moment its size became less than that of a Minimum Visibile.  A Minimum Visibile is a binary affair with sharp boundaries; it is either on or off, distinctly there or not.  For how could it constitute a unit composing perceptual wholes along with other Minimal Visibles?  If their boundaries were fuzzy, would two Minimum Visibiles gradually merge into one another rather than functioning as distinct units?  And even were one to allow the blur, it seems unlikely, based on what Weintraub and Walker describe, that there is a consistent size threshold past which we can no longer say ‘yes, this line is still visible.’

Clearly, then, there are no Berkeleyian (or Humean) Minimum Visibiles that can function as unitary bricks set together to build up the visual field.  How can one build a brick wall when no brick has a fixed, determinate boundary?  (Perhaps we could call these fuzzy-boundaried bricks, subject to mere probabilities, ‘Schrödinger’s bricks’.)  Add to this the fact that anything perceived is always a figure against a background (the background can be in front of and around the figure as well as behind it) and therefore always existing in relation to a context determining what it is, it becomes blindingly obvious that the Theory of Ideas (aka Theory of Sense Data) is dead, dead, dead.1  Certainly any attempt to resurrect that theory without coming to grips with the opening chapter of Merleau-Ponty’s PHENOMENOLOGY OF PERCEPTION is scandalously irresponsible.  (I am looking at you, professor Arnold Vandernat.)

Just as I am quite confident that Bigfoot aka Sasquatch does not exist, I am confident that there are no mental tokens called ‘Ideas’ or ‘Sense Data’.

To sum up:  In this post, I have perhaps succeeded in recapturing the content of the Aha Erlebnis I had when I first encountered Berkeley’s argument that depth is not visible.  In the process, using an experiment with a green bungee cord, I have put ‘paid’ to Berkeley’s notion of a Minimum Visibile in particular and to his Theory of Ideas in general.  (This is perhaps the ten-thousandth time this notion has been conclusively refuted.)

Nonetheless, in future posts I will be indulging a certain affectionate tolerance for this notion when discussing Berkeley’s claims that sight and touch are thoroughly entangled with one another, and that depth is constituted by the tactile/kinaesthetic sense.  For I think Berkeley comes very close to the truth in making these claims.

NOTA BENE:  This is very much a work in progress.  I propose to complete this essay (‘essay’ in Montaigne’s sense of the word:  trial, attempt, experiment) by elucidating two notions:  1) the phenomenological concept, especially as employed by Alva Noë, of perceptual presence-as-absence (e.g., the hidden side of the Cafe Bustello coffee can), and 2) the concept of the ekstasis.

Perceptual Presence-As-Absence:  Just as we visually experience the currently hidden side of the coffee can even without an outright visual presentation of that side, we visually experience (pure) depth without enjoying an actual visual presentation of (pure) depth.  We visually experience pure depth as a visual presence-as-absence.  The visual field is three-dimensional — and this includes the hidden side of the coffee can.

The Ekstasis, As Explicated By A Certain Clifford Engle Wirt:  Not a presentation, (pure) visual depth is a projection.  This projection is to be explicated by the concept of a ‘position here’, which in turn is to be explicated primarily in terms of the tactile and the kinaesthetic.  Berkeley is quite correct in thinking of depth as to be elucidated in terms of the tactile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Lawrence Hass is very good at demonstrating this point. See his MERLEAU-PONTY’S PHILOSOPHY (Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, 2008), pp. 28-34.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Given that the today’s post deals so intensively with that Irish Bishop, George Berkeley, it is only fitting that today’s homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM should be a red-head.  Plato himself I suspect would have been more acquainted with red-headed Thracians than with red-headed Hibernians.

RedGingerHot-thomas-knights-red-hot_1

 

I am very much into red-heads at the moment.

There is too much beauty walking the earth for anyone to get anything done.

 

 

January 16, 2016:  Changed ‘perpendicular to’ to ‘end-wise’ in the first paragraph. Janu

January 17, 2016:  Made some other minor changes in an attempt to hide my scandalous lack of control over the subject matter….er, I mean, in order to streamline the argument a bit.

 


Lumber Room: Heap Of Scraps Comprising Varying Phenomenological And Philosophical Odds and Ends

In this post I will be collecting thoughts as they occur to me, regardless of whether I am able to fit them into any argument for a larger, more comprehensive and therefore more serious view.  These will be like odds-and-endsy scraps of lumber of varying dimensions that the furniture-maker does not want to throw away now because they think there is always the chance a use for them might be found later.  But for now none fits into any furniture project they have going on now.

Most of these (maybe all of them!) will be drivel, of course, and I will be continually updating this post as it becomes blindingly obvious to me that a given thought is completely unsustainable, at least in its current form.

Lumber Scrap #1:  Maurice Merleau-Ponty and John Searle on pains:

Stephen Priest on Merleau-Ponty:

Although the body-subject is the ‘percevant-percu’ (VI, 202) ‘perceiving-perceived’ (VIT, 248) it is paradigmatically the sensed (‘le senti’ VI, 302) which is the synthesis of the subjective and the material.  We can appreciate this already if we consider that the sensed seems to have both experiential and physical properties.  For example a pain both hurts and is spatially located in a part of the body.  Merleau-Ponty speaks of the sensed as ‘at the same time the culmination of subjectivity and the culmination of materiality.’ (VIT, 248).

Stephen Priest, MERLEAU-PONTY, THE ARGUMENTS OF THE PHILOSOPHERS, Routledge, 1998, p. 74

John Searle on two different senses of the phrase aware of:

I now want to expose the fallacy in the argument [against naive or direct realism].   One could object to various steps, but the crucial step is number three, which says that in both the hallucination and the veridical case we are “aware of” or “conscious of” something.  But this claim is ambiguous because it contains two senses of “aware of,” which I will call respectively the “aware of” of intentionality and the “aware of” of constitution.  You can see the difference if you contrast two  common-sense claims.  First, when I push my hand hard against this table, I am aware of the table.  And second, when I push my hand hard against this table, I am aware of a painful sensation in my hand.

a)  I am aware of the table.

b)  I am aware of a painful sensation in my hand.

Both of these are true and though they look similar, they are radically different.  (a) describes an intentional relation between me and the table.  I had a sensation where the table was its intentional object.  The presence and features of the table are the conditions of satisfaction of the sensation.  In (a) the “aware of” is the “aware of” of intentionality.  But in (b) the only thing I am aware of is the painful sensation itself.  Here the “aware of” is the “aware of” of identity or the constitution of the experience.  The object I am aware of and the sensation are identical.  I had only one sensation:  a painful sensation of the table.  I was aware of (in the sense of identity or constitution) the sensation, but I was also aware of (in the sense of intentionality) the table.

John R. Searle, SEEING THINGS AS THEY ARE:  A THEORY OF PERCEPTION, Oxford University Press, 2015, pp. 14-15

Contra Searle, however, it is clear that when one has a pain in their hand, a certain part of their body gets presented to them under (among other things) the aspect ‘having such and such spatial location and extent.’  One ‘condition of satisfaction’ for this presentation is ‘this part of my body exists at this location’; another is, perhaps, ‘something is wrong with that body part’.  Were one suffering from a phantom limb, the first of these conditions of satisfaction would not be satisfied, but perhaps the second would be (“Hell yes something is wrong with that body part!  It doesn’t exist any more!!!”)  At any rate, having conditions of satisfaction that can be satisfied/fail to be satisfied, one’s sensation of pain is just as intentional as their seeing or feeling the table.

As of this writing, I do not know whether this point poses any threat at all to Searle’s Theory of Perception. Incidentally, I also don’t know what threat, if any, the phantom limb poses to the various Disjunctive Theories of perception Searle expends so much energy sneering

Lumber Scrap #2:  John Searle on the subjective visual field:

This book is about perception….I want to begin by identifying the territory.  Close your eyes and put your hand over your forehead, covering your eyes:  you will stop seeing anything, but your visual consciousness does not stop.  Though you do not see anything, nonetheless you have visual experiences which are something like seeing darkness with yellow patches.  Of course you do not see darkness and yellow patches, because you do not see anything; but you still have visual consciousness.  The area of visual consciousness is quite constrained:  In my case, it extends, roughly speaking, from the top of my forehead down as low as my chin.  I am here speaking about the phenomenology and not about the physiological forehead and chin.  I am talking about how it seems to me consciously.  But the area of my visual consciousness is limited in that, for example, I have no visual consciousness behind my head or under my feet.  But I definitely have visual consciousness in front of my face even with my eyes closed.  That conscious area I just identified I will call the “subjective visual field.”

John R. Searle, SEEING THINGS AS THEY ARE:  A THEORY OF PERCEPTION, Oxford University Press, 2015, pp. 3-4.  I will sometimes reference this work as SEEING THINGS. 

Searle seems to want to identify not one, but two distinct kinds of visual fields:  a subjective visual field and an objective visual field.  And he seems to think we can identify both kinds within our ordinary, waking experience.  Let me start with the subjective visual field.

The subjective visual field is that kind of visual field in which, while one has visual experiences, one does not actually see anything.  The visual experiences have no objects.  Just as one sees nothing when they hallucinate a pink rhinoceros at their side (but they do have a visual consciousness that is like the visual consciousness they would have were they actually to be seeing a pink rhinoceros), one does not see anything in the subjective visual field.

Much of this book is about the relationship between the subjective visual field and the objective visual field.  The most important point I can make right now is:  in the objective visual field everything is seen or can be seen, whereas in the subjective field nothing is seen nor can be seen.

John R. Searle, SEEING THINGS AS THEY ARE:  A THEORY OF PERCEPTION, Oxford University Press, 2015, p. 4

Distinct from the subjective visual field is another kind of visual field, the objective visual field.  Searle defines one’s objective visual field as the set of identifiable-by-a-third-person objects and states of affairs that are visible from their point of view given the current lighting conditions in their environment and given their present physiological and psychological state (SEEING THINGS, p. 106).  Apparently, then, the objective visual field is just that section of space and the objects within it that are visible from one’s point of view (and given….and so on).  These are objects and space existing (normally) outside of one’s cranium.  Needless to say, one can identify the objective visual field in one’s experience because one does have experience of things and space outside of one’s cranium.

By contrast, the subjective visual field exists solely within the confines of one’s cranium:

My subjective visual field, on the other hand … exists entirely in my brain.

John R. Searle, SEEING THINGS AS THEY ARE:  A THEORY OF PERCEPTION, Oxford University Press, 2015, pp. 106-107

The subjective visual field is two-dimensional, but in a sense Searle feels the need to qualify:

Crudely, the subjective visual field is, so to speak, two-dimensional.  … [Of course t]he subjective visual field is not a visible object having two dimensions…. [But] … any impression of depth can be created by two-dimensional surfaces, as is shown by, for example, trompe-l’oeil paintings.

John R. Searle, SEEING THINGS AS THEY ARE:  A THEORY OF PERCEPTION, Oxford University Press, 2015, pp. 138-139

And, as we have seen in the first passage quoted above, Searle feels confident he has identified, and has given instructions for identifying, the subjective visual field by providing an example of one in his experience.  To repeat:

But I definitely have visual consciousness in front of my face even with my eyes closed.  That conscious area I just identified I will call the “subjective visual field.”

John R. Searle, SEEING THINGS AS THEY ARE:  A THEORY OF PERCEPTION, Oxford University Press, 2015, pp. 3-4.  

 

But, as I am about to show, Searle has identified no such thing.

For contra Searle’s claim that one does not see objects in the subjective visual field, one does in fact see objects when they follow Searle’s instructions to identify a subjective visual field and closes their eyes (the instruction he gives at the end of the first passage quoted above), or closes their eyes and places their hand over their eyes (the instruction he gives towards the beginning of that passage).  One sees objects in a clearly degenerate, drastically attenuated, highly defective way when they follow either one of these instructions, but they do see objects nonetheless.

For at the very least, one is seeing the shadow-side of their eyelids when they follow either of Searle’s instructions.

Let me explain.  And after explaining, let me politely suggest towards the end of this lumber scrap that in fact there are not two kinds of visual field, one objective and the other subjective, but just one single kind of visual field normally comprising both objective and subjective elements.  In certain unusual circumstances, this visual field might conceivably degenerate into one comprising subjective elements only;  nonetheless, there is just one kind of visual field.  In claiming there are two, Searle is seeing double.0

Through A Glass Darkly:  My Explanation:  When I slowly, gradually close my eyes, I visually experience a single horizontal band of somewhat warm darkness moving down at the same rate as my moving my eyelids down.  Along with and “entangled with” (as George Berkeley would say) my visual experience is a tactile experience of this band’s location.  For the band feels like it is on roughly the same vertical plane as my eyelids.  I get additional confirmation of this ‘feeling of location’ when I move my finger down with my eyelids, my finger touching the lids.   The same sense of tactile location and the same method of confirmation give me the sense that the width of the band is the same as (on the left) the outer edge of the eyelid of my left eye and (on the right) the outer edge of the eyelid of my right eye.  But there is no determinate visual terminus defining the band’s left and right sides.  (Promissory note:  this indeterminacy is extremely important, and will need further detailed discussion sometime.)   By contrast, there is a much more determinate, though still rather blurred edge at the bottom of the band.   This bottom edge gets more determinate, a bit less blurred as it moves down, and becomes more like the somewhat rounded edge of a body part such as an eyelid.  In certain lights, I see in a blurred way some striations when the dark band has come close to completing its downward movement.  These striations I confidently identify with my eyelashes.

Clearly the dark band is identical with the shadow-side of my eyelids.  Since this is a single band, not double, two views of my the shadow-side of my eyelids are getting merged into a single visual presentation.1  I am seeing the shadow-side of my eyelids when I see the downward-moving dark band.

That I am in fact seeing a physical object (actually, two physical objects the views of which have been merged into a single view or presentation) is strongly confirmed by the fact that when I move so that I am facing a direct light source, I sense light filtering through and visually experience a lighter, warmer, orangier color.  I am experiencing the visual effect of translucency — of light going through a not-100%-opaque flesh-colored object.  Skin, after all, is just a little bit transparent, as shown by the bluish veins one can see in one’s hand through a thin layer of skin.  Surely the most plausible explanation of this effect is that I am indeed seeing some translucent objects — my eyelids — presented in a single view.

That I am experiencing translucency in this situation is further confirmed  when I move my eyebrows up and down, I experience a darker band at the top of my visual field going up and down, along with (when the movement is down) a darkening, bluing, and cooling of the formerly lighter, warmer, fleshier and orangier color I had been experiencing.  Clearly, my retinas are picking up the shadow cast by my eyebrows where less light strikes them relative to what filters through my eyelids.

Again, when I touch my index finger to my eyelid.  I then see a cooler, darker shadow on my eyelid.  (Naturally, I sense the size of this shadow as equal to the felt size of my fingertip.)  This could not happen if my eyelid were not translucent and therefore visible to me even when it is covering my eyeball.

And again, when, both eyes shut, I partially follow Searle’s instructions above and cover my right eye with my right hand, the color of the dark field on the left remains warm and orangish, but the color on the right side of the field turns cooler and one notch darker.  Clearly my right hand is hindering light from entering through my right eyelid and casting a shadow.

The experience is very similar to pressing the shower curtain as close to my (open) eyes as I can get it.  The individual patterns on the curtain become very, very vague.  I lose most or all sense of the curtain’s texture, so that the curtain becomes (in this particular case) a whitish field of color occupying the entirety of my visual field, with its indeterminate boundary.  Objects beyond the curtain, such as my cat Munti, cast moving shadows across it.

In other words, attenuated as this visual experience is, I am still seeing a (somewhat) translucent objects even when it is extremely close to my eyes. For one, the shower curtain is causing my visual experience of it by transmitting light through it, light that hits my retina.  For another, my experience changes as this causal action changes — my cat moves this way and that, partially blocking this light.  For yet another, I am experiencing (in a defective way) a property of the curtain — its whitish color.  For still yet another, my visual experience occurs in the context of my being situated in a wakeful manner in an actual setting I am in contact with — the bathtub in my bathroom.  It is not like my “hearing” in a dream a lion roaring in a savanna, which sound turns out to be, upon my wakening, the roar of a car engine.  I am seeing a field, a ground, not a figure with demarcated limits on a ground.  But fields aka grounds are also things that I see — for example, the dark green blackboard around and running underneath the chalk figure visible on top of this ground.  Clearly, I am seeing the shower curtain, attenuated and defective as that vision is.

Likewise, I am seeing my eyelids when, in the circumstances described above, I close my eyes.  My eyelids are causing my visual experience by transmitting light through them, light that hits my retina.  My visual experience changes as this causal action changes — my eyebrows moving this way or that, my finger touching an eyelid.  I experience in a defective way the fleshy (though very much darkened and enshadowed) color of my eyelids, a color that, just like my flesh tones as seen normally, varies from orangish to bluish depending upon how the light hits/goes through them.  My visual experience occurs in the context of my continuing to be situated, even with my eyes closed, in the wakeful world of real, solid, tangible objects.  I don’t have any visual sense of the texture of my eyelids, a circumstance that probably lessens the chances that I will recognize that it is, indeed, my eyelids that I am seeing.  Indeed, I have probably spent most of my life not recognizing this.  But this absence of seen texture only means that my visual experience of my eyelids is highly attenuated so that my eyelids, like the shower curtain, get presented as a (single) field or ground, not as objects on a ground.  I am seeing my eyelids just as I would be seeing the shower curtain were snippets of that curtain were to replace the flesh of my eyelids.  (Imagine the transplanted snippets gradually getting more flesh-colored and thicker, so that the experience when I close my eyes becomes identical to that which occurred when my normal eyelids made of flesh were in place.)

Likewise, I am seeing the shadows cast by my eyebrows onto the translucent surface of my eyelids, and the shadow of my fingertip in the situations described above, just as I see the shadow of my cat on the shower curtain.

As Searle’s case clearly demonstrates, one can be seeing one’s eyelids and the shadows cast upon them without seeing that or recognizing that it is one’s eyelids and their shadow-play that they are experiencing.  This fact, though, does not mean that one is not seeing the shadow side of their eyelids when they close their eyes.  For of course one can see x without knowing that it is x.  Seeing is referentially opaque.  When at night, for example, I see a dark shape, just barely distinguishable from the enveloping darkness, I am in fact seeing my friend Chris even though I do not know who or what I am seeing, or even that it is a tangible being and not, for example, a ghost.  And since one’s cognitive concerns in the world almost always go past one’s eyelids and out into the world, it is perhaps not surprising that one’s perception of their eyelids is (perhaps normally and usually) cognitively as well as straight-up visually poor.

My eyelids are translucent.  I am seeing the shadow side of a translucent object, namely, my eyelids, when my eyes are shut and I am facing a direct light.  And even when I am not facing a direct light, it seems to me that I am always seeing the faint shadow, the slightly darker area, at the top of my visual field where my eyebrows — at least at the very upper edge of the eye-socket — are casting a shadow.  I submit, then, that there are no ordinary circumstances in waking experience when one sees nothing when they close their eyes.  I will go out on a limb and assert that, in ordinary circumstances, some light always gets through one’s eyelids.  (This is, of course, an empirically falsifiable statement.)  One can doubtlessly construct a situation in which no light gets through.  But this would be an unusual situation, and therefore useless for an appeal to identify in our ordinary waking experience something that Searle thinks he can identify, name, an object-less visual experience.

One sees the shadow side of their eyelids.  Case closed.  — Almost.

Of course, there is at least one problem here.  Initially, as I have said, the dark band as confirmed by my fingers is about the length from one outer edge of one eye to the outer edge of the other eye.  But when my eyes are completely closed, the length (as determined by my fingers as I press them on one part of the darkness I am presented with and then on another), the darkness I am visually presented with seems more extensive both horizontally and vertically than my eyelids (whose extent I also confirm with my fingers).  How could this be if I am seeing the shadow side of my eyelids?

An autobiographical note is in order here.  Yesterday, on November 26, 2015, I, Clifford Engel Wirt (Sometimes Cliff Engel Wirt, sometimes Clifford Engle Wirt, sometimes Cliff Engle Wirt, much of the time I pronounce the last name as the English ‘Wirt’, but sometimes, when I am tired, I pronounce it as ‘Veert’ … but I digress….) was completely convinced that the extent of this dark area was identical with the extent of what I see of my face when both my eyes are open.  In my case, that is the left edge of my left eye socket and the right edge of my right eye socket,  the lower part of my eyebrows, and part of the area where my cheek bones start jutting out.  (All of these I see in a rather blurry, undefined way, of course.)  This extent was, I assert confidently, was given through a tactile feeling, a feeling that was entangled (Bishop Berkeley again), or, as I prefer, integrated with my visual experience.

But today, on November 27, 2015, I am absolutely convinced that the upper area of the darkness I experience when my eyes are shut is co-extensive with my forehead.  I try to tap the upper part of this dark area, and I end up tapping the middle of my forehead.  Go figure.  I must have been influenced by the description Searle gives in the first passage quoted above.  — Please, Lord, don’t ever cause me to experience this dark area as in front of my face, as Searle would have it, as opposed to the way I currently experience it as coextensive with part of my face! —  Clearly the entanglement in/integration of my visual experience into the tactile sense of the location of the various parts of my face is a highly variable phenomenon, much open to suggestion.

It should not surprise one that this should be so.  For the visual experience I have when I close my eyes is highly degenerate.  It is much like my visual experience of the shower curtain when I press it very, very close to my eyes. I lose all sense of the curtain’s texture and most of its patterning.  It becomes just a white field.  It lacks clear boundaries because those boundaries are the thoroughly indeterminate limits of the visual field.  (See promissory note above.)  The shadows cast through it, say, by someone’s finger pressing against the curtain on the other side, are extremely vague, just as are those I see when I press my finger against my closed eyelid.  My visual experience of the shower curtain is very, very far away from the maximal perceptual grasp so famously discussed by Merleau-Ponty.  As a visual experience it is highly defective.

Even more so, then, will my visual experience of my eyelids be defective.  My eyelids, after all, are even closer to me than the shower curtain pressed to my eyes.  I have even less of a Merleau-Pontyian maximal grasp on this rather amorphous dark field, rather prone to intrusions by afterimages, than I do on the shower curtain.  The light coming in from the outside world and causing me to see my eyelids is, a bit like the light finally reaching that quasi-planet Pluto from the sun, a bit weak.  The visual experience is therefore weak and more vulnerable both to disruption (the intrusive after-images) and to odd influences (passages from Searle’s book, for example).  It should not surprise us, then, that the integration of this visual experience into my sense of bodily location and extent should also be highly variable and unstable.  Degenerate to the utmost degree, we cannot demand of it that it give us an accurate sense of how large the area of darkness is.  This would be contrary to its nature, as if we demanded of a horse that it lie down in a suitably genteel manner on a couch.  I therefore dismiss the notion that one cannot possibly be seeing their eyelids when their eyes are closed because the extent of the dark area visually experienced may not agree with the felt extension of one’s eyelids.

If I see my eyelids when facing a direct light with my eyes shut, I see them even when I am not facing a direct light when my eyes are shut.  The visual experience, after all, is not much different in the two cases.  Would anyone really care to contest this?

I assert, therefore, that I normally see my eyelids when my eyes are shut.

That Searle does not merely suggest, towards the beginning of the first passage quoted above, that one close their eyes, but also has one cover their eyes with their hand, suggests that he may be at least vaguely aware of everything I have said so far.  Searle seems to be aiming at a situation in which no light at all filtrates through the eyelids to strike the retina.  As for myself, I never succeed in getting to this state just by using my hand.  Some light always comes through no matter how hard I try, for example, through the intervals between the fingers which I cannot close completely, or from towards the bottom of the hand, which I cannot get to adhere to my face with suction-cup effectiveness.  So the attempt to follow Searle’s instructions has miserably failed, at least in my particular case, to generate the identification of a purely subjective visual field in which visual experiences have no objects.

Maybe one could take fairly drastic measures to ensure that absolutely no light filters through the eyelids.  I am sure that, with enough dedication and commitment,2 one could achieve this state. Maybe one would then have a purely subjective visual field in which there are visual experiences, but no visual experiences that have objects.  But until I get into this state, and until Searle gets into this state, neither of us has identified a subjective visual field in the course of our experience.  As I said above, Searle has identified no such thing, and he has not given instructions that would enable one to identify such a thing within their experience.

And even if one did have enough dedication and commitment to achieve this singularly unenlightened state, it is not obvious that one has enabled the identification within their experience of a subjective visual field considered as distinct in kind from an objective visual field.  All one has done, I submit, is create an extremely abnormal situation that causes one single visual field to degenerate so much that it no longer contains any objective elements.  All one would have created would be a bunch of flotsam and jetsam left over from the disintegration of a far richer, more integrated (integrating, for example, visual experiences with tactile experiences) visual field.

For it is certainly prima facie the case that in normal situations only a single visual field opens up for one.  This visual field contains both objective elements (the coffee cup when my eyes are open, the shadow side of my eyelids when closed) and subjective elements (the various afterimages I may sense in both the eyes-open and the eyes-closed cases; the “snow” I always “see” that arises from a visual abnormality I suffer from, causing me to wonder sometimes if I am seeing a very light rain outside the office window or if I am just sensing “snow” as usual, showing that the “snow” at least seems to be in the space outside the window; the “fields of force” manifesting themselves in the pulling together of three angles drawn on paper to form a triangle in the illustration from Gestalt Psychology…”fields” that I do not see but which are definitely an element of my visual field…; the silly cat sitting in the bookshelf I am hallucinating with my eyes open (no, not really…what do you take me for?);  the pink rhinoceros standing beside me as I write this (this is my study rhinoceros))….

Searle, then, has certainly not given sufficient warrant for the claim that there are two different kinds of visual fields, one subjective and the other objective.  [Why this matters.  Searle has not identified the territory — we are still lost without a map. ]

Although I am at the moment uncertain how to use the inability to distinguish two kinds of visual fields (one subjective, the other objective) to attack Searle’s theory of perception, the fact that Searle tries to distinguish and identify the two suggests the distinction is critical to his theory and that some sort of attack on these grounds should be possible.

Some strange compulsion forces me to add as a last note that ages ago, in a graduate seminar on St. Thomas of Aquinas, no one seemed to have the slightest idea of what I was talking about when I tried to describe what one sees when they close their eyes.  I think the moral of this is that Thomism will skew one’s perception of absolutely everything.  Or maybe that I am just nuts.  I report; you decide.

Update:  September 16, 2017:  Why should this matter?  It undermines a bit Searle’s attempted distinction between the content (subjective) of an experience and its object (objective).   (The purely subjective visual field versus the purely objective.)  Searle cannot point to an example of this distinction that occurs within normal everyday experience.  He would need to go to extra-ordinary breakdowns of normal experience — total sensory deprivation, for example, or hallucinations.  (The pink rhino grazing peacefully at my feet while I write this.)  Within normal, ordinary visual experience it is not easy to locate something purely subjective that is not a presentation of an object existing in the world.  The tie to the world is not so easily cut.

Lumber Scrap #3:  The coolness of a color and the warmth of a texture. 

My Color Personality is Sea Glass (starting from various shades of Viridian Green and going bluer), says the online quiz sponsored by Better Homes and Gardens on FaceBook.

Seaglass_0

 While I do have some doubts about the scientific validity of this personality test, I do find the below an interesting example of synaesthesia at work in everyday experience.  The shades of the color sea glass have cool undertones.  Textures such as weathered wood and rattan are warm.  So pair the two!

Give beachy a sophisticated shake with a sea glass palette. These mellow shades of green have cool undertones (meaning they have hints of blue rather than yellow) and pair well with gray blues and light neutrals. Incorporate natural textures such as weathered wood and rattan to add warmth.

http://www.bhg.com/bhg/xfile.jsp?item=/quiz/colorperson_new/colorquiznew&ordersrc=PRFBBP49210CO

WarmWeatheredWood

Warm-Weathered-Wood-Slatwall-Panel

That a color can be paired with a texture suggests a commonality.  Here the commonality is something belonging to the domain of tactile feeling:  coolness/warmth.

Color and texture form the most common instances of synaesthesia.  I see the roughness of the bark, the smoothness of polished marble.  Perhaps little tendrils of nerve fibers are sprouting from the visual center of the brain and connecting to whatever tactile center, but however it is done, the tactile is integrated into the visual as a single visual experience of bark or marble.  There are not little unitary bricks of Berkeleyian Minimal Visibiles existing “side by side” as it were with little unitary bricks of Berkeleyian Minimal Tactiles.  There is no ‘and of sensations’ when one sees the bark or marble.  Not matter how hard one tries to introspect (or, for that matter, look at the bark or marble), they will never be able to untangle a purely visual experience of color from the purely tactile experience of texture.

Berkeley actually comes close to this Merleau-Pontyian phenomenon when he tells us that the Visual is so much entangled (his word) with the Tactile in experiences such as seeing rough bark that it is next to impossible to disassociate the two and see them as separate.  But he is incapable of actually arriving at that point.  The two must be separate and distinct, he thinks.  Supposing otherwise would be like accepting A and NOT A as true.  So in his own introspection of his Ideas, he must have told the two (e.g., Visual Idea of a brownish color and Tactile Idea of the Imagination of roughness) apart.  But whatever Berkeley told himself, he surely never did succeed in telling the two apart.

ViridianGreenPigment

Lumber Scrap #4:  Interesting that Searle’s graphic illustrations in SEEING THINGS AS THEY ARE:  A THEORY OF PERCEPTION always show the relation in breadth, from the view point of a third-person observer.  None is presented in depth, from the view-point of the first-person observer/entangler-entanglee-in-the-world.

Lumber Scrap #5:  A book on n-dimensional geometry I read in High School defined the different spatial dimensions in terms of the ability to move around obstacles.  A point has 0 dimensions.  Considered by itself, it has no freedom of movement at all.  Now place the point inside a line.  Since a line is a one-dimensional object, we have just introduced a higher dimension, going from 0 to 1.  The point now has the freedom to move inside that line.  Now imagine our point as encountering an obstacle in the line — another point — that obstructs its movement.  Our point regains its freedom of movement when we introduce yet another higher dimension — a two-dimensional plane.  The plane gives our point the freedom to move around the obstacle in the line.  Now imagine our point as encountering yet another obstacle — a line in the plane.  Introduce the third dimension.  Voila!  The point has regained its freedom of movement through its ability to bypass the line by moving around it.

Let’s apply this High-School geometry lesson to a phenomenological description of depth.  I am about to argue that this description has to be done, not in terms of a static existing side-by-side of points, but in terms of motion.  Motion of a point?  Motion of my body?

I am sitting inside my car in the parking lot of the HEB on San Felipe and Fountainview in Houston, Texas.  It is dusk.  My head and eyes are positioned in a way such that I see the soft scrim of a tree’s foliage, and, beyond that, the glow (darker red against luminescent yellow) of some gas-station signage spelling out the word ‘SHELL’.  The sign is some distance from me, across San Felipe.  No objects are visible between the foliage and the SHELL signage.

I imagine a glass pane extending across my field of vision on the same plane as the foliage of the tree.  Naturally, I have a (somewhat indeterminate — why this is important and why it makes life somewhat more difficult for me is to be explained later) sense of depth extending beyond this plane and towards the glowing signage.  Taking my cue from my High School geometry — geometry is the science of space, right? — I try to construe the depth I sense as a line segment.  Because I think this will be the purest example of depth, I choose that line segment which is situated in the exact middle of my visual field, extending from the plane in which the haze of foliage is situated, and ending up at the glowing signage across San Felipe Street.  If one extends the line segment in the other direction, it would end up at my eye.  To make things simple, lets pretend that I am looking with only a single eye open.

Of course, this geometrical line segment, lacking thickness, is an abstraction.  It is not something I can sense.  What, then, might my sense of depth consist in?

Well, I can visually imagine line segments of whatever color (wine red, sea-glass green, burnt sienna, white…) to represent the mathematical objects.  Maybe my sense of depth consists in visual imaginings like these!  So let me try to visually imagine a line that I can use to represent the line of depth that exists between my eyes and the gas station signage.

This line has to be imaged as thin as possible in order to make the image as adequate a representation of the geometrical object as possible.  I am imagining a very, very thin line now.  Of course, I can’t use it to represent the line of depth in question because it is, well, a line, extending to my left and to me right…in other words, situated before me.  To make it represent the (geometrical) line of depth in question, I have first to place it in the middle of my visual field, and turn it away from me, a motion much like that articulated here in my thought experiment with the gold foil.  When I have finished turning the line, I end up … with a single point!  (More precisely, with an imagined spot of whatever color and made as tiny as possible to represent a geometrical point.)  Voila!  I have arrived at what I think is the kernel of truth lying in the second paragraph of Berkeley’s A NEW THEORY OF VISION:

II.  It is, I think, agreed by all, that Distance [of an object in depth], of it self and immediately, cannot be seen.  For Distance being a Line directed end-wise to the Eye, it projects only one Point in the Fund of the Eye, which Point remains invariably the same, whether the Distance be longer or shorter.

George Berkeley, AN ESSAY TOWARDS A NEW THEORY OF VISION, paragraph II, in The GEORGE BERKELEY COLLECTION: 5 CLASSIC WORKS, Amazon Print-On-Demand Edition, no pagination.  Henceforth A NEW THEORY OF VISION. 

As I’ve said before, I think George Pitcher has pretty thoroughly demolished the actual argument written down in black and white by the actual historical George Berkeley, but I do think that what I have presented above gets at the intuition animating this passage.  And I am reasonably confident (yes, I can be just reasonably confident about this) that it lays out the intuition, the Aha Erlebnis, I experienced when I first encountered this passage some decades ago.

Since I can imagine just a single point (tiny spot image) of the line segment extending from the plane of the foliage to the gas station signage, clearly my sense of that depth cannot consist in the visual imagination of a static array of points, one behind the other.  So I will take a cue from my High School geometry and postulate that what generates the (sensation) of the depth in question is the (imagined) motion of the point from the plane of the foliage towards the gas station signage.

The imagined point is ‘there before me’, in front of my body whose solidness and heaviness occupies a ‘position here’.  The point facing me (in my imagination) is in a position not occupied by my body.

Jumping through a hoop.

More to come in this lumber scrap.

Lumber Scrap #6:  John McDowell makes what many will regard as a striking claim that certain perceptual states are indefeasible.  “But of course perception is always defeasible!” will be the typical response.  “What I am seeing could be an illusion (for example, the weird ‘shape’ of the teapot handle seen through a wine glass), or even a hallucination (for example, the pink rhino I am seeing now grazing contentedly at my feet while I write this)!

Lumber Scrap #7:  My hand is placed on the cool metal bar of the seat in front of me as the Metro train reduces its speed.  As a physical mass with inertia, my my body continues to move forward at the train’s previous, faster speed, causing my hand to press into the metal bar with my body’s weight behind it.  I daresay that I have the kinaesthetic sense of my body moving forward towards the bar; but even more salient than this is the sense of the inertial mass of the bar, in an equal and opposite reaction to my body’s moving forward, pressing into my hand.

When I am intentionally touching something — some smooth silk, for example, or the rough bark of this particular tree — I apply one degree or another, as is appropriate in each case, of pressure to the object or material felt.

In both these cases — the bar impinging upon my hand, my intentionally impinging myself upon the silk or bark — pressure occurs.  The existence of this occurrent pressure highlights one facet of the sense of touch, namely, there is zero distance between the object felt and the sensing surface.

As an aside, I would like to note that in addition to the occurrent tactile pressure noted above, there seems to be also a virtual tactile pressure which, plausibly, constitutes the experience described by some blind people of remote objects.  Through whatever sensory means (echos, differences in air drafts, or whatever else, means not necessarily known to them) these people become aware of an object — a wall, for example — as exerting a kind of virtual pressure on them:

What the blind person experiences in the presence of an object is pressure.  When he stands before a wall he has never touched and does not now touch, he feels a physical presence.  The wall bears down on him. … Perception, then, would mean entering into an equilibrium of pressure….

Jacques Lusseyran, THE BLIND, p. 31, as referenced by Miriam Helen Hill in BOUND TO THE ENVIRONMENT: TOWARDS A PHENOMENOLOGY OF SIGHTLESSNESS, an essay in DWELLING, PLACE AND ENVIRONMENT (ed. David Seamon and Robert Mugerauer, Columbia University Press, 1985)

Pressure is something sensed tactilely.  So the pressure sensed virtually by some blind people of objects at a distance corresponds to the texture objects sensed virtually and at a distance by people gifted with sight when they see the smoothness of marble and silk, or the roughness of bark or of a stucco wall.

This virtual touch will turn out to be highly important.

End of aside.

So far, then, we have a 2-place relation comprising a thing occurrently felt, and a body with a sensory surface at which the thing is felt.  The two terms of the relation are distinct in spite of the fact that zero distance exists between them.

, I feel my hand pressing against the seat.  At the same time, I feel the seat pressing into my hand as it accomplishes its opposite and equal reaction that is to accompany every action on it.

There is just one tactile experience here, one tactile presentation, but encompassing two different things:  the seat in its inertial mass engaging me in my physicality at and through a single “point”, my hand.   The seat, and me, with my hand as a focus.  This tactile presentation, in one stroke, reveals the hardness and mass of the seat and the mass and physicality of my hand.

Pretty much the same dynamic occurs every time I actively feel something with my hand.  As I pass my hand along the small-pebble-ish-rough wall, for example, I unavoidably press my fingers ever so lightly into the wall.  So part of the tactile experience consists in the wall ‘pressing’ into my hand in reaction.  But now, instead of a presentation of a single spot of the seat pressing against a hand occupying throughout this time a single location, my hand covers a spatial range forming a line, or perhaps a linear square, triangle, circle or some irregular zig-zag.  It is as if my felt hand/fingers-felt-press-of-the-wall were the head of a comet leaving a trail behind it to form a line, except that, while comet head and comet tail both exist in the present, the trail left by my fingers has already slipped into the very recent past.  But it does so in such a way that it continues to inform the present, giving the current position of my hand the sense ‘at the head of this advancing line’.

In perhaps much the same way a previously sounded but no-longer occurrent note lingers in the air so as to give the note sounding now a position in a melody.  What gets presented is ‘note sounding now in relation to the notes that have just slipped into the very recent past and sounding therefore in the context of a melody’.  Just so, what gets presented as I move my fingers along the slightly roughish wall (or the coolly smooth marble) is ‘fingers-pressing-upon-getting-pressed-upon-occurrently-in-the-context-of-a-trajectory-formed-by-their-just-past-motion-and their just-past pressing-in-upon-the-wall-and-the-wall’s-just-past-pressing-into-my-fingers’.  This, I assert, is how the presentation of ‘slightly-roughish wall’ (or ‘coolly smooth marble’) is structured.  This is a single presentation encompassing not just finger-spot and hard-surface-spot but also finger/hand trajectory and linear area of hard surface.  Felt fingers/hand felt surface in a single presentation.

So what, exactly, am I arguing against?  I am arguing against the idea that there would be two presentations occurring at the same time.

Lumber Scrap #8:  Cryptic remarks, to be expanded when I am not spending all of my time working.  Empty space plus ‘extending’ (vs. positing) oneself:  one term of the relation drops out. leaving a one-place relation.  A kind of tactile ‘buzz’ outlining a position here at which I am.  When occurrent there is always another object (the ground underneath my feet, the bed underneath my body) distinct from me  but no distance from me (two-place relation).

Spell out what Berkeley does not spell out, and see where we end up.

The emptiness of space makes itself a bit more salient to even my spectatorial awareness when I, for example, imaginatively move my hand underneath my table/desk at work and ‘feel’ its underside.

The “empty”, “massless” space before me (and around me) in which I can freely move is the counterpart of the the weight and mass of my body located at this unique position here, which weight and mass becomes manifest in my constant actual movements (no matter how small) and which ties me down, weighs me down at the aforementioned position here.  The possible versus the actual.  The emptiness of this space arises from its not being actual and present, its being potential and futural.  It is a potential/futural position here and therefore an anti-mass, an anti-weight.

And its indeterminacy makes it a bit problematic to talk about a potential position here — the level of determinacy needed to talk about a position here belongs to the spectatorial imagination.  A possible position here is this possible position here, one determined by the mind’s eye, not totally disassociated from the body’s kinaesthesia.

“A” possible position here automatically brings in the notion of the body’s possible movement.

Lumber Scrap #9:

The sense of ‘going out’ is especially keen — in fact, perhaps gets revealed — when there is a hole in, for example, the scrim formed by a tree or a bush, through which you see an object behind — a building, say, or the Shell Station sign.  (Yes, I need to lead up to this very carefully.)  The line of vision to the sign (to run with that example) is straight-to.  There are no intervening objects in view.  These conditions highlight one important feature of this vector, this ‘going-out’, this ‘ekstasis’ — it is indeterminate.  I become a bit surprised when, after this exercise, I walk past the tree and gain a concrete, determinate sense of the distance from my truck to the sign. Then other tangible objects enter my visual field — for example, the asphalt pavement with the painted traffic lines — , with the result that the distance becomes much more available to an estimation of a determinate length — say, 6 body lengths (36 feet or so).  The line of vision to the sign is no longer straight-on — other tangible objects appear at a slant.  And I become slightly surprised by how much the real distance, the distance in the tangible world, really is. Before, tangible presence had  not shown up in the ‘straight-on’ part of my visual field — there was only a futural possibility — the futural quasi-imaginative (I say quasi because this is not a positing imagination — not the spectatorial imagination) launching of my body through this hoop.

This brings me to Berkeley’s insistence in the NEW THEORY OF VISION that real measure is tangible measure.  You have to slap a physical ruler onto the thing that can have something slapped onto it. Without the tangible measure bringing you into the present, you have only the futural intra-(quasi)-imaginative projection which is surely subjective in some sense, though not in what I take to be Berkeley’s sense in which to be subjective is to be locked up “inside” a mind (considered as a kind of container) in such a way that no part of the object thus locked up is accessible to any other mind.  That there is nothing hidden in Berkeley’s Ideas entails there is nothing accessible in it to anyone else.

Without the intervening tangible things (‘entanglement’ of the tactile into the visual) in the visual field, there is only an in-a-way “subjective” visual field which, (more) divorced from the present and tangible [yes, I know, I need to explain this ‘more or less’ divorced — I do have the sense that the sign I see through the hole in the tree-scrim is further away than than the object I see through the hole in the bush-scrim… but I begin to get a ‘maximal grip’ on the distance only when tangible objects intervene] is indeterminate.  It is therefore indeterminate in the same way that the “longer” line in the Mueller-Lyer illusion is in fact of no determinate, measurable length longer than the “shorter” line.  The two vectors (the Mueller-Lyer illusion and the ‘going out’ in the visual field) are very much alike in this regard.  The ekstasis is a kind of Mueller-Lyer illusion ‘going out’.

The fully-exposed, fully-existing-in-the-present units in a length.  A plenum of brick-units. Depth introduces at the same time futurity, potentiality, and emptiness.   The straight-on line of vision gets stopped by the opaque, tangible object. Futurity is the solvent creating emptiness and distance-away.  [Yes, this is obscure right now, but I am hopefully not delusional in thinking I can unpack it.]

Lumber Scrap #10:

When the polyester-green bungee cord is stretched out lengthwise before me, I enjoy a presentation (much more rarely, should I be hallucinating, a mis-presentation) of (as of) an actual physical object existing in space in the present.  Adopting the spectatorial attitude, I can imaginatively try to resolve this presentation into a series of points, as small as I can imagine them, lying side by side with no space between them.  When the bungee cord is withdrawn, I can still posit these points lying side by side in ’empty’ space in a quasi-presentation.

The temporal dimension of presentation is, naturally enough, the present.  What the presentation is of pertains to the actual, not to the merely potential.  The presentation pertains to the full, to a plenum, not to an emptiness.

But as I think I have shown here, the more the bungee cord (or, to use the example used in the post referred to, the one-atom thick gold tape) is moved away from me, the less there is of a presentation of the cord (or tape).  The more what we are talking about is potentiality, not actuality, the futural, not the present:  the depth into which the gold tape has finally disappeared is something that I can (potentially) move my body (in particular, my arm and hand) through; restricting myself to the spectatorial attitude, and using the amazing powers of the mind’s eye, it is a field through which I can (potentially) move a posited, imagined point through.  The potential is the futural — the future is its temporal dimension.  The futural comprises all of the following:  non-presentation, non-fullness and non-plenum(emptiness), the non-actual (the merely potential).  The space in front of us (presentation mainly though not exclusively through vision) is spatial-temporal, that is to say, spatial-futural.

Lumber Scrap #11:

Space as the ‘through which’, the ‘across which’ — and, introducing a subjectivity of some kind — that which I (sometimes vertiginously) span:

Locality has such a pervasive importance because it is the essence of what space is. By “space” I don’t just mean “outer space,” the realm of astronauts and asteroids, but the space between us and all around us, the space that our bodies and everything else occupy, the space through which we swing a baseball bat or stretch a measuring tape.  Whether you point your telescope at the planets or at the next-door neighbors, you are peering across space.  For me, the beauty of a landscape comes from the giddy sense of spanning space, a sort of horizontal vertigo when you realize the little dots on the other side of a valley really are there and that you could touch them if only your arm were long enough.

George Musser, SPOOKY ACTION AT A DISTANCE, New York, Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015, p. 7.  Emphasis mine. 

My project now (my Berkeley and Merleau-Ponty project) is to describe as best and as precisely as I can what this ‘spanning space’ is.

The question of whether space and time are absolute or relative has re-emerged in a new form in modern philosophy and physics as the question of whether space-time is absolute or relative. It remains to be seen whether a holistic unified science which allows the presence of the conscious subject in the universe will ascribe subjective properties to space-time.

Stephen Priest, THE EMPIRICISTS, Second Edition, New York, Routledge, 2007, p. 138.

Want to pin down, when I have time, a pertinent passage from Renaud Barbaras’ THE BEING OF THE PHENOMENON.

Lumber Scrap #12:

There is zero distance between me (my body) and the wooden board (say, the smooth, unobtrusively varnished, beautiful board of my ‘computer station’ desk) that I am pressing into/is pressing against me.  Nonetheless, the board remains obdurantly outside me.  It has not come so close to me that it now occupies the space that I occupy. Describing just what is tactically presented, there are two sides:  the side of the board outside me — the ‘other side’ — and ‘this side’:  my side.  The ‘this side’, with all its weight and heft, is what is in my case the position here.  It is that position (to bring sight into the picture now) from which I engage with, view, and sometimes confront visible things/objects.

Lumber Scrap #13: Outline:  

The red and yellow apples example interpreted in the light of elementary probability theory.  Intuitions.  Then apply to the perhaps more solid examples of irrelevance.

Knowledge bzw ignorance needed for any probability less than one.

Lumber Scrap #14:  Bishop Berkeley’s Visibile Ideas in the NTV:  

In his NEW THEORY OF VISION, Berkeley starts off by presenting Visibile Ideas as rather robust creatures — the Visibile Moon, for example.  But as he proceeds, Visibile ideas become more and more paltry, especially as they get stripped of their “entanglement” with Ideas of Touch.  We end up not even being entitled to say of them that they have planar shapes!  In their poverty, it seems to me, they match the visual presentation of darkness one experiences when they close their eyes, a presentation that can have an off-and-on relationship with potential tactile experiences that affect the perceived size of the dark area (identical, I argue above, with the shadow-side of one’s eyelids).

Lumber Scrap #15:  Placeholder For What Is Required For A Concept

Somewhere in the PHENOMENOLOGY OF PERCEPTION Merleau-Ponty states that even conceptualization is made possible by the body.  A person with a certain kind of brain damage will be unable to perceive red objects as forming a group.  Seeing red objects as forming a group — say, this pop-up of a red maple tree on my desk, and the red coffee can also there in my visual field — forms the basis of applying the concept red to these objects.  (Not placing a sense datum under a category; instead, the concept emerges from what is seen.)  But just this I strongly suspect is not enough in order to have placed the objects under the concept ‘red’.  It is the basis for identifying an object as red.  But one also needs to re-identify the object.  Turn around, turn back again, see the red grouping — basis for re-identifying.  But still more is needed.  I propose this:  if I can locate a currently unseen red object — say, I am told ‘fetch for me the red plastic pencil sharpener behind the counter….

Lumber Scrap #16:  Placeholder For Emotions As Presentations Of The Body Here

The barely detectable — when I turn my attention to my stomach area — gnawing sensation present there during an episode of mild anxiety (or whatever the emotion was).  In other words, a presentation of my body that would ordinarily escape an awareness that.

Lumber Scrap #17:

I awake from a deep slumber and find myself staring at this object ‘there.’  A second later, as the blood rushes back into my hand, I realize that — see that — become aware that this object is my hand, mine, an integral part of me.  It is now part of a ‘this body getting presented here.’  In each case a presentation-here occurs, which signals an availability.  I can move my hand at any time; my hand is now ‘just here’ in much the same way that the taken-for-granted hammer lying on the table is ‘just there’ for the carpenter.  The carpenter ‘automatically’ reaches for the hammer when they need it; I ‘automatically reach out for something when I need to, and I grasp that thing in my hand.  The intuition is that the taken-for-granted character of my hands availability for an action, a project, is so deep that it cannot be characterized as an ‘awareness that.’  There is no category ‘me’ that the hand is placed into.

Lumber Scrap #18:

A number of colored objects are present before me there in my visual field.  I turn my attention to one and identify its color — yellow ocher #124.  (I even have a color sample in my hand to make the identification as accurate and precise as possible.)  In making this identification, I exclude all the other millions of possible colors that the object’s color could have been identified as, many of which I may be able to call to mind readily.  The object is this color, yellow ocher #124, not yellow ocher #123, not any of the burnt siennas, not any of the other oranges, not a red, not a purple, not a violet, not a green, not a blue….  Moreover, apart from the colors I can readily bring to mind, the color of the object is likely to be different from at least some, and possibly all, of the colors of the other objects getting presented within my visual field.  Getting identified as yellow ocher 124 excludes getting identified with any other color.

A color gets brought under a concept when it is identified (this color as opposed to all the others), capable of being re-identified (the same as the ‘this color’ a moment ago), and subsumed under a category (this instance of the color is the same as all these other instances of the color.)  Difference from, then the same, and again the same).  All three happen only at a certain level of generality.

The presencing here of what is in each case a center (a center with weight, heft, momentum, swing, and the constant felt potentiality for movement) occurs, obviously, without any identification of any other center here.  In each case, this is the only one.  When, after some labor and struggle, I develop the conceptual resources to identify ‘this position here’ (assuming I have succeeded in doing this), only this one is presencing.  There is no possibility of distinguishing this one that is presencing here from that one or this other one — there is just one body, one center presencing here.  I can of course imaginatively posit other centers, but none of these are showing up in the quasi-location named by the indexical ‘here’.

Scotus’ unity that is less than one.

The presencing here (in each case) of the hand is so deeply taken for granted that it is not distinguished from other such presencings here.  In fact, the language at this point becomes sort of difficult.  I do encounter other ‘me’s’, but never in any normal case do I need to distinguish ‘me as opposed to all the others’ who might be capable of moving their hand.  Never:  ‘It is I who am moving my hand, not Eric, Jeff, or John.’

Compare with Jerry Fodor’s glumly saying ‘I know’ when, after giving a talk that did not go well, someone saw him sitting alone at a table and said, after being hit by a lightning bolt of recognition, “You’re Jerry Fodor!” Jerry Fodor deeply took it for granted that he was Jerry Fodor — so deeply taken for granted that there was no need to distinguish himself from Smith, Jones, or Silverstein.

This one is not quite gelling.  I compare it to a stream gradually peetering into the desert — perhaps going underneath the sand.

Lumber Scrap #19:

Vision is always perspectival — even, I strongly suspect, in the case of the drastically diminished vision of my eyelids when my eyes are closed. There is a ‘from’ (one’s body, one’s head) and a ‘to’ (‘his gaze went out to the mountain’).   Vision gives us a presentation of an object located at a quasi-position ‘there‘, where this position is determined, not only by the object’s GPS coordinates and by its location in the four dimensions of physical space-time, but also by its being exposed to a viewer, with an exposed front and a hidden back, and a presence in a visual field. A visual presentation is a two-place relation.

But a tactile presentation of the proprioceptive variety, by contrast, is a one-place relation.  There is no ‘from/to’; there is only the appearing of the body — and I won’t say ‘appearing to’ unless I find this absolutely necessary!  This one-place relation is not an equality relation or a coinciding relation, both of which are two-place relations.  It may be useful, however, to use equality and coinciding as ladders to get to my one-place relation.  Just a presentation of an object located here.  An appearing here.  Feeling pain here, in the toe I have just stubbed, for example.

Lumber Scrap #20:

My (vastly diminished) seeing the shadow-side of my eyelids when I shut my eyes.  All that I visually experience is a field of darkness, sometimes fleshy darkness.  The sense of a concrete object there is not present.  Along with this diminishment is a severely diminished sense of depth between me, the seer, and this object — the normal depth has become — at least as I try to describe the experience — a transparency, an invisibility, an invisible field in front but at no determinate, definite distance away from the darker field.  But given how plastic this visual experience of the dark field is, I would not at all be surprised to find that other people experience it this way — perhaps I am the only one.

The shifts in the experienced size of the dark fleshy field noted here [Link] suggest that this impoverished field has no definite, determinate size.  (It is in this way a paradigmatic instance of a Berkeleyan Visibile.)

This diminishment lets us explore a bit the relation between the purely visual and the tactile.  The change in the s

Lumber Scrap #21:

The ekstasis:  a futurally-graduated and forward-thrusting displacement of the position here from its existing-in-the-present (now) center.  I/my body throw(s) myself/itself towards the doorknob as, heading out the door, I am prepared to grasp it, resulting in a displaced here; a displaced now.  This is an enacted and lived displacement, not a posited one.  A lived, not posited, “prediction” that results in the various nerve fibers and muscle fibers doing their part to move towards the doorknob prepared to grasp it.

Lumber Scrap #22:

RE the contradiction posed by “The top of the bowl is a circle; the top of the bowl is an ellipse:  it can’t be both!  Or can it?

Let’s distinguish some aspects.  1)  What is presented in the visual field conceptually isolated as visually presented.  The ellipse of the top of the bowl (or its occasional circularity.  2)  What can be visually imagined (the bowl, now seen from the side, turned so that I am now peering straight into its opening).  This is always live as an ever-present potentiality.  3)  The penetration of my (potentially) touching hand (really, all of me as touching body) into the interior of the bowl.  The potential feeling of the bowl-top’s circularity.  This is always live as an ever-present potentiality within the visual field.  1) and 3) especially are, I claim, would-be-different views on the bowl that have been combined, just as the would-be different views of/from each of my two eyes merge together in binocular vision.  Binocular vision, in fact, facilitates the merging of the would-be-“purely-visual” from the would-be-“purely-tactile”.  Binocular vision affords me (apparently more for some people than others) a greater penetration of my hands/(really all of my body) around the object; thus the greater sense of depth, of the object’s physicality.  The merging of would-be-different views.  These views are always already merged, are always already a single whole; later, we can conceptually distinguish, try with one degree of success or another to isolate them.  The visually presented ellipse of the bowl top which I struggle to detach from the live-potentiality of my fingers tracing the top of the bowl:  ellipse struggling against circle.  Projection of depth struggling against flatness of the (would-be) picture plane.  The more I succeed in getting the visually presented detached from the visually/tactically projected, the flatter the object becomes, so that I would end up with Berkeley’s Idea.  The circle as seen aslant just is the visually presented merged with the visually/tactically projected.  Ditto the presented “V-shape-in-depth of the absolutely straight road in New Mexico.    Continuously, the visually-presented becomes more conspicuously, more easily detached from the projected width of the road.  (Nearest to me it is right there for me to pace out.)  A funny ‘V’ — not a purely visual one, which means flattened ala Berkeley.  But the visual, the perspectival, is indeed present even though ‘made a bit weird’ through the projected, as can be seen from the Greeks’ increasing the size of their temple columns as they go up in order do prevent the tapered v effect.  The increase in size towards the top is necessary in order to counteract the weakened effect of the visually/tactically projected.

So yes, the top of the bowl is at once circular and elliptical — but not in the same respect.  Elliptical (usually) presentationally (but circular from one point of view); always circular visually/tactically; the two “views” always comprise a single whole, but ‘presented’ vs. ‘projected’ can be teased out conceptually with varying degrees of ease/difficulty as one aspect becomes more/less conspicuous.

Lumber Scrap #23:  

The disagreement between Sartre and Husserl over the existence of the transcendental ego presupposes a common basis which they partly acknowledge.  In Husserlian terminology, it is the transcendental field or field of transcendental subjectivity after the epoché.  In the existential phenomenological terminology of the Sartre of 1943 it is the nothingness of being-for-itself.  In The Transcendence of the Ego Sartre calls it ‘an inside without an outside’ or ‘absolute interiority’.  We could call it ‘subjective space’ or ‘inner space’.  It is the space of one’s own psychological interiority, the zone of awareness where my experiences happen.  In the non-psychologistic vocabulary of Heidegger’s 1927 fundamental ontology which eschews ‘subjective’ and ‘inner’ it is the Lichtung or clearing in the forest where being is disclosed to being.

Subjective space has phenomenological properties.  It is phenomenologically indistinguishable from physical space as perceptually presented to oneself at its centre; unbounded in the sense that travel seems in principle possible for ever away from its centre.

Subjective space is Parmenidean:  it is like the inside of a sphere with one’s own  being as its interior.  Thoughts and experiences, including experiences of physical objects, arise and subside within it.  It is the zone where being and phenomenological content coincide.

This space is primordial with regard to the dispute between Sartre and Husserl.  …

… It is not physical.  I am or am directly acquainted with its interiority. … I conjecture that subjective space is the soul.

Stephen Priest, THE SUBJECT IN QUESTION  Sartre’s Critique of Husserl in The Transcendence of the Ego, Routledge, Oxford, pp. 152-153.  Henceforth SUBJECT IN QUESTION. 

 

 

Lumber Scrap #24:  January 2, 2019

Breadth lends itself to getting conceptualized as an array of points.  Opacity is not a problem, so the occurrent is not a problem.  The points are simultaneously ‘there’.  Depth gets conceptualized most easily not as an array of points spread out before one and existing simultaneously, but as  a stretch from ‘here’ to ‘there’.  One can imaginatively posit points in depth one behind the other, but there is always a space between those two points.  The occurrent, the actual, is a problem.  So depth is the realm of possibility, of potentiality.  One can move bodily through.  One can imaginatively ‘push’ a point further out.  I almost said “mentally” — but here, I think, the contrast is not  between ‘mental’ and ‘physical’ but ‘occurrent/actual’ and ‘potential/possible’ — the arena of the imagination.

Experienced space is pregnant with potential movement — ‘pregnant’ meaning full of possibility without any given possibility (moving this way or that) getting specified.  The pregnant-with-possibility space is always already there (corresponds to the ‘past’); one finds themselves always already situated in it.  Presumably it is dependent upon whatever neural connections that get formed at a certain stage of development (which formation becomes difficult or even practically impossible after that stage) in the brain.  Then in a flash one possibility becomes occurrent, becomes actual, not merely potential, settles out like the drop of ink ala David Bohm — the soccer player’s vector. 

Lumber Scrap #25:  November 29, 2019

In the TRANSCENDENCE OF THE EGO, Sartre compares consciousness of the ego, the I, with an object appearing underneath a pool of clear water.  When the positional object of consciousness is the I, the I is what shows through the water.  In this state, one is like the waiter existing in bad faith, so intent on being a waiter that the other objects he needs to be positionally conscious of are excluded from consciousness.  

But the metaphor of a clear pool seems flawed to me, because one keeps thinking of an I which sees the object through the water.  This is precisely the ego-pole that Sartre wants to deny.  I think a better approach to the phenomenon Sartre is trying to describe is to literalize the metaphor:  what is metaphorically described as a transparent pool of water is the “background” that exists “in front” of the objects that appear against the background, a notion that I think Lawrence Hass introduces in his book Merleau-Ponty’s Philosophy.  As a first approximation, consciousness is this fore-background.  It is (as a first approximation) a spatial-temporal field “mixing” or “entangling” vision and touch (and surely other things) which approximates nothingness (non-presence — what is the zero-point of the present is the position here).  So the misinterpretation of Sartre as thinking of consciousness as ‘the nothing’ is not totally wrong.   

The problem now, which I think is resolvable in terms of the notion of relational properties, is to keep this fore-background from eating everything, so speak — turning everything into Mind. 

fffggghhh

*****

Today, for my Homage To Plato’s SYMPOSIUM3 I offer an image of someone who clearly participates in Plato’s Form Of Ginger Gorgeousness:

RedGingerHot-thomas-knights-red-hot_2

Clearly the Form Of Ginger itself participates in the Form of Absolute Beauty.  How can anyone get anything done with Beauty like this walking the earth?

0 Hahahahaha. Seeing double. Get it? Get it? … Okay, okay, I’ll shut up….

1 This merging of two views is not a totally unheard-of phenomenon, given the stereoptical nature of normal vision

2 The phrase ‘dedication and commitment’ is, of course, a reference to a famous snippet of conversation overheard by a certain undergraduate at U.C. Berkeley. A certain phenomenologist told Searle: “Derrida is not a total fraud. He is good on Husserl.” Searle’s reply was: “No, Derrida is not a total fraud. It takes dedication and commitment to be a total fraud.”

3 Though perhaps professor Searle, who, unfortunately, at times performed homophobic speech acts in some of his classes in the late 1970s, would not approve.

November 26, 2015 and November 27, 2015:  Drastically rewrote lumber scrap #2.  It would be safest to assume the worst:   namely, that I did so in a probably failed attempt to hide my lack of control over the subject matter and the confused nature of my thinking.


The Truth Of Bishop Berkeley (Part 0)

Essay:  Noun:`
  1. a short literary composition on a particular theme or subject, usually in prose and generally analytic, speculative, or interpretative.
  2. an effort to perform or accomplish something; attempt.
  3. a tentative effort; trial; assay.
Essay:  Verb (used with object)

  1. to try; attempt.
  2. to put to the test; make trial of.

 

This Essay:  Transforming George Berkeley Into Maurice Merleau-Ponty

There is a not-completely inchoate notion lingering in my head that if we tweak this or that position held by that Irish Anglican Bishop George Berkeley ( 1685 – 1753 — about the same time Johann Sebastian Bach lived) — especially his positions regarding visual depth and the relation between vision, touch, and the motions of the body — we will end up with something like Merleau-Ponty ( (1908 – 1961).  The effect may be a bit like those step-by-step transformations of a picture of one celebrity into a picture of another celebrity.

I propose then a series of posts, starting with this one, which will be an essay — a trial, an attempt — to try to do just this.  (Change George Berkeley’s nose just a little bit, then lengthen the chin a notch, then….)  I will be putting my currently somewhat inchoate notion to the test, making a trial of it, to see if I can come up with genuine insight into Merleau-Ponty, or better, into the phenomena he was concerned with.

Clearly, Merleau-Ponty advances positions that directly contradict Berkeley’s.  But along with this opposition that makes Berkeley an excellent foil to Merleau-Ponty, there is, I think, a surprising degree to which Berkeley is on the same wavelength as Merleau-Ponty, with the consequence that Berkeley can illuminate Merleau-Ponty in a way other than just being a foil to him.1 Just as Merleau-Ponty recognizes a ‘truth of solipsism’, I think a Merleau-Pontyian might recognize a ‘truth of Berkeley’ — or at least a truth regarding Berkeley’s claims regarding depth which will illuminate our perceptual opening onto a world that is at once our “flesh” and not us.  In this opening, I claim, the perceived object is both immanent and transcendent . . . and this is my essay towards making sense of this.  Will I succeed?

Apart from illuminating some of the phenomena described and explicated by Merleau-Ponty, one of my sub-aims is to work through (in subsequent posts — not this one) the arguments of an article I published in a previous life (Cliff Engle Wirt, THE CONCEPT OF THE ECSTASIS,2 Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, 14, 79–90, January 1983) in such a way as to make those more arguments more intuitive, or at least less absolutely repellent, to a certain person of my acquaintance . . . a person who is, I think, a bit too uncritically enamoured of a certain British Empiricist.  (No, not George Berkeley, but John Locke.  But never mind.)  This person would sometimes say things to the effect of “If what you were saying applied only to what’s inside the mind, I would consider it.”  So I want to see how far I can go in sticking to the framework of ‘just what is immanent to the mind.’  Then later, I will see what, if anything, I can make ‘transcendent’ of the mind — or, more precisely, of the body in its subjectivity.

The essay comprising all these posts may not be exactly short, but perhaps we can re-interpret ‘a short literary composition’ in the definition of ‘essay’ shown above to mean something like ‘less lengthy than Tolstoy’s WAR AND PEACE’.  In what follows, I will retain Berkeley’s not-quite-modern capitalization and spelling practices in my own text when the concept is Berkeley’s, or at least taken by me to be Berkeleyian.  (I won’t be attempting, however, to be absolutely precise or consistent in this endeavor.)

 

George Berkeley On The Visibility (Invisibility) Of Depth

Let me make a start in this (possibly dubious) endeavor by jumping into Berkeley’s assertions regarding the visibility (invisibility) of depth in his AN ESSAY TOWARDS A NEW THEORY OF VISION.  Berkeley’s claims regarding depth nicely motivate my claims about the ekstasis and the claims I make about the ekstasis would be less likely to freak out a dualist when made inside a Berkeleyian context.   Berkeley’s claims about the invisibility of depth are true in the real, non-Berkeleyian world only in special cases; nonetheless, this will still be enough to motivate my claims about the ekstasis.

Berkeley plunges into an argument that depth is invisible in the second paragraph of his AN ESSAY TOWARDS A NEW THEORY OF VISION. 

II.  It is, I think, agreed by all, that Distance [of an object in depth], of it self and immediately, cannot be seen.  For Distance being a Line directed end-wise to the Eye, it projects only one Point in the Fund of the Eye, which Point remains invariably the same, whether the Distance be longer or shorter.

George Berkeley, AN ESSAY TOWARDS A NEW THEORY OF VISION, paragraph II, in The GEORGE BERKELEY COLLECTION: 5 CLASSIC WORKS, Amazon Print-On-Demand Edition, no pagination.  Henceforth A NEW THEORY OF VISION. 

 

This passage produced in me a sudden Aha Erlebnis ages ago, when I first encountered it in a little cottony-red cloth-bound book my parents had bought in their college days in the 1940s.  I experienced a flash of intuition to the effect that no, depth cannot be seen.  The passage still produces this Aha Erlebnis in me even now, even though that Erlebnis very much resists getting cashed out analytically.  Something seems right about it.

Naturally, the passage is ambiguous and what, exactly, the argument is, is not completely clear.  Is Berkeley talking about Lines and Points in Euclidean geometry?  Is he talking (as he probably is) about Lines as rays of light bouncing off an Object and striking a spot or Point on the retina?  Is he talking about Visible Lines that can be Blue, Red, Green, Orange, Purple, Violet, or Burnt Sienna?  I will be going into a little bit more detail below about these three different interpretations of what ‘Line’ means in Berkeley’s paragraph II.

But for now I will just note that I follow George Pitcher, who surmises in his BERKELEY:  THE ARGUMENTS OF THE PHILOSOPHERS that Berkeley is talking about rays of light and the retina.  If so, Berkeley’s argument fails for essentially the reasons that Pitcher points out in Chapter II of his book (though naturally I don’t agree with everything Pitcher says).  Nor does any one of the other explicitly-stated arguments made by Berkeley that I have encountered so far work.

Nonetheless, I think it is possible to argue for Berkeley’s assertion that depth cannot be seen by relying on the Berkeleyian concept of a ‘Minimum Visibile’ and some other notions Berkeley holds about Ideas of Vision.  If these concepts are valid, Berkeley’s claim about depth does hold, regardless of the validity of his argument quoted above.  In future posts I will then use the Berkeleyian-world arguments and the real-world arguments to motivate the claims I make about the ekstasis.

As it happens, I don’t think Berkeley’s concepts are valid.  (Please — I am not completely nuts.)  Nonetheless, I will ignore this disagreement long enough to accomplish the task noted above, namely, making certain arguments that may seem to the dualist utterly wild outside the realm of Berkeleyian Minds filled with their Ideas.

 

Berkeley’s Visual Ideas:  A Minimalist Presentation

The subheading of course is a pun:  I am launching into a minimal presentation of Berkeley’s theory of Visual Ideas, and the basic unit of Berkeley’s Visual Ideas is itself a minimal presentation.

Infinitely Thin Slices Of Yellow Cheese:  Berkeley’s Visual Ideas are what we see.  They are the objects of sight.  For example, I see the moon.  The moon is the object of my vision. It is a Visual Idea.  Let’s call it the Visible Moon.

Visual Ideas have properties. For example, the visible Moon is “…a small, round, luminous Flat…” (Paragraph XLIV).  I do not doubt in the slightest that Berkeley would add ‘of a whitish or a beautiful pale yellow color not totally unlike certain cheeses” to the list of properties possessed by the visible Moon.

Although I may find myself contradicted as I read further in A NEW THEORY OF VISION and other works by Berkeley, I will go out on a limb and assert that for Berkeley, a Visibile Idea (or an Idea of any kind) can have only those properties that appear to one (get presented to one) in their Mind.  If an Idea has a property, that property gets presented to the Mind. In other words, I am wagering that for Berkeley there is nothing hidden in an Idea.  For how can something be before the Mind at the same time it is hidden from the Mind?  We are talking about Ideas, after all, which should be purely Intelligible.  There should be nothing hidden or obscure about them.

As a corollary to this, I will also wager that for Berkeley, if the Mind cannot tell two Ideas apart based on their properties, the Mind in fact has one, not two Ideas before it.  Nothing being hidden from the Mind in an Idea, the (putatively) distinct Ideas cannot differ by virtue of some property hidden from the Mind (such as the location of one Idea “behind” the other.  See below) .

The Ideas of Sight are individuated by their properties since the Mind tells them apart by their properties.  So what I call the ‘visible Moon’ is, actually, a set of different Visible Ideas going under the same verbal heading, ‘visible Moon’.  For were I to get right up close to the moon, what I see would be different, since it has different properties.  It would be, for example, much larger, taking up most or all of my visual field.  Doubtlessly its color would be different.  So what I see would be different.  It would be a different Object of Vision, a different Idea of Sight.  For if two things have different properties, they cannot be the identical Object, right?

The visible Moon (I mean the one I see now, as I am standing on the earth) does not exist outside my Mind.  It is immanent in my Mind.  For the visible Moon has a color, and colors exist only in the mind.  We cannot separate out even in thought Extension (for example, the width and height of the visible Moon) and Color:

Is not the Extension we see coloured, and is it possible for us, so much as in Thought, to separate and abstract Colour from Extension?

A NEW THEORY OF VISION, paragraph XLIII.

 

So if the visible Moon’s pale yellowish color is in my Mind, so are its width and height.  The visible Moon therefore exists only inside my mind, and not outside of it.  (Don’t worry, I am not hogging the sole visible Moon to myself.  You have another visible Moon in your mind.  This is just another case of a set of different Objects going under the same verbal heading, ‘visible Moon’.)

The ’round, luminous Plain’ that is the visible Moon, Berkeley says, is “of about thirty visible Points in Diameter” (A NEW THEORY OF VISION, paragraph XLIV).  A visible Point is the Minimum Visibile, i.e., that Object of Sight that is of a size just large enough to be seen.  Berkeley takes it to be self-evident that the Minimum Visibile cannot have parts:

…the Minimum Visibile having . . . been shewn not to have any Existence without the Mind of him who sees it, it follows there cannot be any Part of it that is not actually perceived, and therefore visible.  Now for any Object to contain several distinct visible Parts, and at the same time to be a Minimum Visibile, is a a manifest Contradiction.

A NEW THEORY OF VISION, paragraph LXXXI.

 

Being simple, without parts, the Minimum Visibile cannot have structure.  It is merely a (barely) visible Point, with a kind of size (but with this notion of size some issues start to intrude which I will simply ignore for the moment — for at least as long as I am not absolutely forced to consider them), to be sure, but very little of that.

 

Arguments Using Berkeleyian Concepts

Enough of Berkeley’s Ideas of Vision for the moment, except for two last notes.  First note: above, I have been using ‘visual Idea, Visible Idea, Idea of Sight, Object of Vision, and Object of Sight interchangeably.  I will be continuing to do so.

Second note:  although Berkeley thinks of Ideas of Sight as themselves having colors, I myself share Daniel C. Dennett’s opinion that “…there are no sense-qualia, that is, no ‘inner figment[s] that could be colored in some special, subjective … sense.'”  (Dennett as quoted in Lawrence Hass, MERLEAU-PONTY’S PHILOSOPHY, Indiana University Press, 2008.)  And one wonderful milepost in my philosophical journey was James W. Cornman’s MATERIALISM AND SENSATIONS (Yale University Press, 1971), in which he uses the adverbial theory of perception to get rid of, for example, the blue of a blue afterimage, this blue standing in the way of his desire to identify the afterimage with a brain event.  But for now, I will be pretending that there are such critters as Berkeley’s Ideas of Sight that themselves have colors and (two-dimensional) shapes.

[Also discuss the fact that the notion of ‘size’ is a bit problematic if we don’t have a unit of measure for it — centimeters, inches, whatever.]

Depth Considered As A Line Ala Berkeley:  My arguments using Berkeleyian notions will start with how Berkeley explicitly conceives of depth in paragraph II of his A New THEORY OF VISION, i.e., as Distance considered as a Line extending from the Object seen to the retina one one’s eye.  (Until further notice, I will consider just one eye, as if we were Cyclopean creatures.)  Then I will turn to a conception of depth as a kind of funnel extending from the eye to the Object.

As I suggested above, there are several possible candidates — four, in fact, that I have uncovered so far — for what Line might be regarded as identical with depth considered as Distance.  It is not totally impossible, I suspect, that Berkeley is mushing all four candidates together.

Let me note at the start that the idea that a Line becomes invisible when it is completely end-wise to the eye suggests that it is visible when it is not completely end-wise to the eye — for example, when it extends horizontally in front of you.  Otherwise, what would be the point of showing that one special type of Line — the type comprising those Lines directed end-wise to the Fund of the Eye (i.e., the retina) — is invisible?  Why single out depth as if it were a special case?  Why not launch into a discussion of the claim that both breadth and depth are invisible?

First, the line could be a line in Euclidean geometry.  But these lines are invisible because they have no width or thickness, and Berkeley seems to be implicitly contrasting lines extended in breadth, which can be seen, and the non-visible line that is identical with breadth.  Breadth, i.e., a line in breadth, can be seen, he seems to imply, but depth, i.e., a line in depth, cannot.  If all Lines were invisible, there would seem to be little point in claiming that a Line visible to me because it lies horizontally before me would become invisible to you because it is directed end-wise to your eye.

Second, the line could be a light ray.  This is the interpretation that George Pitcher favors in his BERKELEY:  THE ARGUMENTS OF THE PHILOSOPHERS.  Berkeley’s topic is optics, after all, and apart from that, a light ray is what one would normally think of when talking about lines extending from the object and projecting a point onto the retina.  But I do have to wonder a bit if this is 100% of Berkeley’s meaning — for are not individual light rays traveling horizontally in front of you also invisible?  And isn’t Berkeley implying that lines in breadth are visible?  At any rate, Pitcher shows rather definitively that Berkeley’s argument will not work if the Line is considered to be a light ray.

Third, the line could be a Visible Line (and the Point he mentions in the passage above a Visible Point), such as the Blue Line and a Red Line that Berkeley says he can conceive as having been added together to form a larger line (A NEW THEORY OF VISION, paragraph CXXXI).  In addition to Berkeley’s Blue and Red Lines, I am about to introduce into the picture a Green Line.  But Line considered as a Visible Line does not fit with perfect cleanness into Berkeley’s passage above either, since it is hard to give a sense to the notion that such a Line could project a Point onto the retina, that is, extend from the Object into the eye and onto the Fund of the Eye.  Would not such a Line become invisible at some point beyond the cornea?

No, I do not intend to conduct a Buñuelesque experiment with a thin visible plus tangible wire — certainly not on my eye! — to determine at exactly which point the wire ceases to be visible and remains merely tangible as it penetrates the eye.  But bringing the wire into the picture introduces yet another candidate for Berkeley’s Line — this is the fourth possibility — i.e., a Tangible, as opposed to Visible Line.  The person already acquainted with Berkeley (perhaps more than I am at the time of this writing) will note that Berkeley makes a sharp distinction between the two — a Visible Line may be closely associated with, but is never identical with, a Tangible Line.  Visible Lines and Tangible Lines are always two different critters.  But this Tangible Line would always be invisible, even in breadth, so running afoul of what I take to be Berkeley’s implicit contrast between Lines in depth which are invisible vs Lines in breadth which are visible.

In Berkeley’s terms at least part of the Visible Line would suffer from a ‘failure to exist’ at some point past the cornea.  Yet Berkeley seems to imply that there is such a Line projecting a Point from the Object to the Fund of the Eye.  Therefore this Line cannot be a Visible Line.  So a Visible Line cannot be a candidate for what ‘Line’ means in Berkeley’s Paragraph II.

This of course already establishes part of Berkeley’s argument that depth considered as a Line is invisible, since the Visible Line cannot even be a candidate for the Line projecting a Point onto the retina that Berkeley says is depth.  But since it is still possible that such a Visible Line would be visible at, e.g. some point in front of the retina, it would not suffice to establish all that I suspect Berkeley thinks he has established regarding the invisibility of depth, that is, that depth is invisible tout court.  I will try to establish below some further considerations that, I claim, do establish this, given certain Berkeleyian notions.

To sum up:  while Line as light ray is doubtlessly the interpretation that fits Berkeley’s passage the best, the fact that not one of the four interpretations fits that passage with total cleanness heightens my aforementioned suspicion that all four may be at play — doubtlessly unconsciously — in Berkeley’s mind as he writes the passage.3  At any rate, I assert that an argument for Berkeley’s claim that depth is invisible can  be constructed based on Visible Lines, Minimum Visibles, and at least one conception of Berkeleyian Ideas (the one offered above).  This argument, I assert, does work — provided one grants Berkeleyian Minimal Visibles and the other items in the apparatus of (what I take to be) his Theory of Ideas.

Let me proceed then by introducing into the picture a Green Line  — in fact, not just a Green Line, but a bright chemical polyester Green Line.

Suppose I see a length of bright chemical polyester green bungee cord that my friend is now holding in front of me. In Berkeleyian terms, to see a length of the bungee cord is to see a succession of visible Points, an array of bright green Minimum Visibiles, one next to the other.  Nothing problematic about that.  (But notice that I suddenly shifted from ‘bright chemical polyester green’ to just ‘bright green’!  I hope to argue in a later post that ‘bright chemical polyester green’ as opposed to just ‘bright green’ requires a structure that the Minimum Visibile does not have.)  The Visual Idea of Length would then be a composite Idea comprising an array of Minimum Visibles.  This composite Visual Idea would have the property Length, and this property would appear to one, be visually presented to one, in their Mind.

By analogy, then, to see depth — to have an Idea of Sight of the Line extending endwise to the Eye, would be to see an array of Minimum Visibiles one behind the other.  This would have to be a composite Visual Idea which has the property depth, which property appears to one, gets presented to one in their Mind.  But of course the Minimum Visibles comprised by this Idea cannot have the property bright green!  Nor can these Minimum Visibiles have any other color … or at least any opaque color.   To see why, consider (per impossible) any given such Minimum Visibile.  That Minimum Visibile would be hiding the Minimum Visibile behind it.

Well, let’s consider a Minimum Visibile that is not opaque, but translucent or even transparent.  Consider the transparent Minimum Visibile first.  It cannot be completely transparent, for then it would be an invisible Object of Sight, a seen Object that is not seen.  This would obviously be a contradiction.  The Minimum Visibile would than have to have some property that would let us say that we see enough of it for it to indicate a plane in space — the plane ‘directly’ (more on this shortly) in front of the Minimum Visibile behind it.  Say, there is some sort of highlight of the sort that one might see on a (mainly) transparent sheet of cellophane or acrylic that indicates there is something occupying a particular spatial plane.  For the Visibile Minimum to have anything like this, it would have to have parts — a structure.  One part would have to be the highlight, and another part could have to be translucent somehow….not invisible.  (I will get to this translucency business in a moment.)  But we have seen that Berkeley’s Minimum Visibile cannot have parts.

Well then, let’s consider, not an (impossible) Minimum Visibile with a cellophane-like highlight, but a simply translucent one with no variation in color or light.  Let’s say it is a nice translucent light blue.  Behind it (per impossible I am sure) there is a minimal Visible of a darker blue luminously showing forth through the first Minimum Visibile.  But how would the color of the first, foremost light blue Minimum Visibile show itself to the Mind?  It must, given my postulation above that every property of a Berkeleyian Idea must present itself to the Mind, that in a Berkeleyian Idea nothing is hidden.  But as a Minimum Visibile, our light-blue Idea has no parts, such that one part could show the darker blue of the Object behind it, while another part would show its own light-blue color.  What gets presented is just the dark-blue color.  Because an Idea must present a property to the Mind if it is to have that property, the light blue idea I have postulated cannot exist.

Okay then, lets postulate a translucent “first and foremost” Idea that is the same hue of dark blue as the Idea it covers.  But since there is just one color-and-light property of luminous blue at this minimally visible point, the ‘first and foremost’ Idea cannot be distinguished by the Mind from the Idea behind it.  Moreover, the two Ideas have the same size (both being minimally visible) and the same shape (presumably round, since they are Points.)  This, I do believe, pretty much exhausts the arsenal of properties of Berkeleyian Visual Ideas that would serve to distinguish one from the other in the Mind.  The (putatively) two ideas differ in their locations, of course, but there does not seem to be any purely visual property that would enable the Mind to distinguish the two locations (one Idea with this color, luminosity, and shape on this plane; the other Idea with this other color, luminosity, or shape on the plane behind it) and get a handle on the different positions of the Ideas.  If the Berkeleyian Mind cannot distinguish (putatively) two different Ideas, those (putatively) distinct ideas are in fact one.  So in this case there is just one Idea of blue getting presented to my Mind.

So because there would have to be two Ideas were one Idea to show through behind another Idea, one Idea cannot show through another.  All Berkeleyian Ideas are opaque.  Any impression to the contrary, any apparent translucency, would have to be explained by something other than an Idea of Sight entering the picture (so to speak).  (Any takers for Ideas of Feeling and Kinaesthesia?)

Therefore, if one allows Berkeley’s notion of the Minimum Visibile, depth considered as a Line extending endwise to the Eye cannot be seen.  There is no such Object of Sight, no such visible Idea.  There cannot be a succession of Minimum Visibiles, one arrayed behind the other.  There can be only a single Point presented to one in their Mind.

This aligns nicely with the passage quoted above from A NEW THEORY OF VISION, in which Berkeley says:  “For Distance being a Line directed end-wise to the Eye, it projects only one Point in the Fund of the Eye, which Point remains invariably the same, whether the Distance be longer or shorter.”  Take the bright polyester chemical green bungee cord so that it extends end-wise towards the eye, mentally reduce that end to a single Minimum Visibile, and — voila!  One sees just that one Point, which will remain the same (abstracting away all perturbations of that Point) regardless of whether the Line behind it becomes shorter or longer accordingly as the bungee cord is stretched or allowed to relax.

 

BungeeCordPolyesterGreen

 

Depth Considered As A Funnel:  Can we rescue the notion that there exist visual Ideas of depth if we no longer insist that depth be conceived of as a Line?  What if we thought of depth as a kind of funnel extending from the eye to the Object?  Any given Visual Idea that is in front of another one could then have the structure necessary for it to appear in front of the Visual Idea behind it, since, no longer being a Minimum Visibile, it can now have parts.  (Perhaps the behind-most Visible Idea could be a Minimum Visibile without parts.)

But this attempt to prevent the notion of a Visual Idea of depth from biting the dust fails once one asks themselves whether Visible Ideas can have a Minimum Thickness as well as a Minimum Diameter.  Since such a thickness could never appear (can one turn a Visible Idea around so as to see its side?), and since an Idea cannot have (I am assuming so far) any property that does not appear to one in their Mind, it would seem that the Minimum Visibile could not have a thickness.  (The Visible Moon in that regard would be like an infinitely thin slice of yellow cheese.)   In that case, it would, like a plane in geometry, have only two dimensions — height and width.  In spite of Berkeley’s hesitation (at least I am getting hints at such a hesitation as I go through A NEW THEORY OF VISION) to treat Ideas as objects in a Euclidean Geometry, I think he would be forced to do so at least in regard to the distance between a Visual Idea and any Visual Idea behind it.  Between any two such Visual Ideas there would have to be an infinite number of planes, since between any two points on a Euclidean line there are an infinite number of other points.  There would, then, have to be an infinity of Minimum Visibiles (differentiated somehow, say, by color?) stretching from the Object (say, the bright polyester chemical green bungee cord your friend is holding) you see to your Eye.  This would be so no matter how shallow the depth is.

But such a Line would be a Visible Line, i.e, a sensible Extension by hypothesis.  And Berkeley is sure that sensible Extension is not infinitely divisible:

For, whatever may be said of Extension in Abstract, it is certain sensible Extension is not infinitely Divisible.  There is a Minimum Tangibile, and a Minimum Visibile, beyond which Sense cannot perceive.  This every ones Experience will inform him.

A NEW THEORY OF VISION, paragraph LIV.

 

Therefore, it would seem, Berkeley would have to reject that notion that there can be a succession or array of (non-minimal, i.e., composite) Visible Ideas lying one behind the other in a kind of funnel.

But maybe it could be objected that Berkeley’s argument that a sensible Extension cannot be infinitely divisible because it is a composition of Minimal Visibiles applies only to visible Lines in breadth, and only to finite minds.  The fact that (in Berkeley’s world) a Minimal Visibile would disappear should its breadth decrease prevents a sensible Line in breadth from becoming divided infinitely.  But no such consideration would hinder an infinite number of composite Ideas lying one behind the other for any intelligence that could perceive an infinite number of Ideas at the same time.   (For now I will leave the ‘at the same time’ part as an exercise for my ((probably)) non-existent reader; I really should get back to this at some point, though.)

It would seem that by the time he writes A TREATISE CONCERNING THE PRINCIPLES OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE, he flat-out rejects that idea: “There is no such thing as an infinite number of parts contained in a finite quantity.” At the time of this writing (November 08, 2015), I do not know if Berkeley’s argument for this claim would fail to hold in the case of composite Visibile Ideas lying one behind the other.  So for now I will leave open the possibility that perhaps an infinite intelligence, i.e., God, could perceive depth visually.  But how odd that would be, since depth is always perceived from a particular finite perspective!  (More on this later, I promise.)

Anyhow, since us mere mortals, I assume, cannot perceive an infinite number of Ideas — certainly not at the same time! –, I think Berkeley has to reject the idea that depth could be visible to merely finite intelligences such as human beings as a kind of funnel composed of composite Ideas of Vision.

 

No Visible Idea Of Depth Considered Either As A Line Or As A Funnel:  To sum up, then:   there is no Visible Idea of depth considered as a Line because the Minimum Visibiles composing this line cannot have structure because they cannot have parts.  And there is no Visible Idea of depth considered as a funnel because a sensible Line cannot contain an infinite number of parts.

A Berkeleyian Idea can never have anything behind it.  Possessing no element of hiddenness, it is all frontal.  “[V]isual appearances are altogether flat”, as George Pitcher puts it.

That there is no Visible Idea of depth means that we cannot see an Object at a distance — at least not strictly speaking, or, as Berkeley would put it, ‘immediately and of itself’.  For on Berkeleyian terms seeing an Object at a distance would surely have to be a combination of the visible Idea that is identical with that Object (say, the visible Moon) plus the visible Idea of depth.  But there is no visible Idea of depth available to combine with the visible Moon.

Speaking for myself, at least, I never currently experience, and do not remember ever experiencing visually, objects that are not at least some quasi-distance from me considered as the critter seeing.  Who knows how I experienced things before I was three, the age at which memories start to become permanent.  But now, at at least, the closest I can come to a visual experience of objects not at a distance (from…?)  occurs when I shut my eyes, and experience after-images floating against a dark ground which I take to be the shadow-side of my eye-lids.  (I take it that I am seeing my eyelids when I visually experience this background because, after all, I do get experience an ocher-ish translucency when light from the sun hits my closed eyelids directly.)  There is no definite distance of the afterimages from the ground behind them.  Nonetheless, behind is a distance concept — it is just that here we are talking about a degenerate case of distance, an infinitely poor cousin of the phenomenon in its full-blown reality.  Likewise, the afterimages are there before me without being any definite distance from … I want to say (fully realizing that I risk sounding like a complete weirdo without the slightest trace of academic respectability) ‘that ground of invisibility that I am qua see-er and that is directly in front of the after-images’.  Pretend for the moment that this ‘ground of invisibility that I am qua see-er’ stuff makes any sense at all or represents anything that can be communicated to a rational person.4  This would make me qua see-er a field, a background to what I experience visually, would make me, myself, a background for my after-images (what a thought!), an instance of what Lawrence Hass is alluding to when he says:

Indeed, the conditioning “background” for a perceptual figure isn’t necessarily behind it, but is often before and around it.

Lawrence Hass, MERLEAU-PONTY’S PHILOSOPHY, Indiana University Press, p. 30

 

But there before and directly in front of are of course distance concepts, even though these concepts as applied here are degenerate, poor-cousin instances of the real thing.5

So I am myself unable to imagine seeing an object that is not at some sort of at least quasi-distance (from me as field of invisibility in front of the after-images?).  Nonetheless, I have encountered someplace without currently being able to dig it up again, an account of a young (Asian) Indian person who regained sight after having  been blind from birth.  This person described, if I remember correctly, their vision as being like touch (a sense they would be more familiar with obviously than sight) in that (to paraphrase from memory) ‘there is no distance between me and what I see’.  Clearly, the fact that I cannot imagine this does not preclude this from being a fully accurate description of what this person experiences.  Quite possibly, then, there may be unusual, degenerate cases of visual experience that match what Berkeley takes to be proper to vision taken by itself:  i.e., visual experience of flat after-image-like patches with no depth at all (and no sense of solidity or resistance at all, if I may throw this in here now…see Berkeley’s paragraphs L and LI below) and at no sensed distance at all — not even a quasi-distance — from the experiencer.

In the normal, usual, non-degenerate case, of course, we normally do have quite a strong, powerful sensation of depth when we open our eyes.  And Berkeley would even say that there is a (weak) sense in which we do see depth then.  For in normal vision the visible Ideas suggest and are associated with Tangible Ideas, including Ideas of the body’s possible motion.  These, Berkeley argues, are so entwined with and entangled with Ideas of Sight that it is difficult to distinguish the two.  But distinguish them one can, Berkeley think, provided one gives the endeavor sufficient effort, attention, and “narrowness”.  One will then see, Berkeley is persuaded, that “. . .neither Distance, nor things placed at a Distance are themselves, or their Ideas, truly perceived by Sight” (A NEW THEORY OF VISION, paragraph XLV).  If one can be said to see Distance, or Objects placed at a Distance, it is only in the sense that through the Idea of Sight we can get to the Tangible Idea of depth.  One “mediately” sees depth in this sense — and we still call it ‘seeing’ depth because the effort to separate out the visual Idea from the Tangible Idea is so great that out of laziness and lack of ambition we label the Visual/Tactile combination with the name ‘Idea of Sight.’  Immediately, truly, and of itself, however, we do not see depth.

But as they say so often on the InterWebs, read the whole thing yourself:

L.  In order therefore to treat accurately and unconfusedly of Vision, we must bear in mind, that there are two Sorts of Objects apprehended by the Eye, the one primarily and immediately, the other secondarily and by Intervention of the former [mediately].  Those of the first sort neither are, nor appear to be without the Mind, or at any Distance off:  they may indeed grow greater, or smaller, more confused, or more clear, or more faint, but they do not, cannot approach or recede from us.  Whenever we say an Object is at a Distance, whenever we say it draws near, or goes farther off, we must always mean it of the latter sort, which properly belong to Touch, and are not so truly perceived, as suggested by the Eye in like manner as Thoughts by the Ear.

LI.  No sooner do we hear the Words of a familiar Language pronounced in our Ears, but the Ideas corresponding thereto present themselves to our Minds:  in the very same Instant the Sound and the Meaning enter the Understanding.  So closely are they united, that it is not in our Power to keep out the one, except we exclude the other also.  We even act in all respects so if we heard the very Thoughts themselves.  So likewise the secondary Objects, or those which are only suggested by Sight, do often more strongly affect us, and are more regarded than the proper Objects of that Sense; along with which they enter into the Mind, and with which they have a far more strict Connexion, than Ideas have with Words.  Hence it is, we find it so difficult to discriminate between the immediate and mediate Objects of Sight, and are so prone to attribute to the former, what belongs only to the latter.  They are, as it were, most closely twisted, blended, and incorporated together.  And the Prejudice is confirmed and riveted in our Thoughts by a long Tract of Time, by the use of Language, and want of Reflection.  However, I believe any one that shall attentively consider what we have already said, and shall say upon this Subject before we have done, (especially if he pursue it in his own Thoughts) may be able to deliver himself from that Prejudice.  Sure I am it is worth some Attention, to whoever would understand the true Nature of Vision.

A NEW THEORY OF VISION, paragraphs (of course) L and LI.  Emphasis mine.

 

As I continue in this project, I will have a great deal to say in a Merleau-Pontyian framework about the “Ideas” of Sight and Touch getting closely twisted, blended, and incorporated together in such a way as to generate, not just our perception of depth, but our opening out onto the brave new extra-mental world outside our skulls . . . this world so full of extraordinary things such as bark whose roughness and hardness we can see, silk whose smoothness we can see, glass whose brittleness we can see, the doorknob whose hard metallic coolness we can see, the Maple syrup whose viscosity we can see, the linen whose dryness we can see from a certain fold in it, the little mound of yellow ocher oil paint whose essential gookiness we can see, and the carpet with that peculiar woolly red.  Not to mention the bungee cord regaling our senses with that bright chemical polyester green.

 

********

Today’s homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM is Taylor Lautner.

taylor-lautner-net-worth3

Now if only a werewolf that hot were longing for me in feverish desperation, I wouldn’t mind that much the problems this would cause.  (For example, what would I do with my James Dean-like vampire boyfriend Edward?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me define ‘foil’ here as ‘a person or thing that contrasts with and so emphasizes and enhances the understandability of another’.

 

Henceforth, following Stephen Priest, I will refer to the phenomenon discussed in the paper as the ‘ekstasis‘.

 

3 If I may be permitted a certain amount of snark, I will entertain the possibility that these four different possible meanings of the word ‘Line’ followed one another in a kind of tag game in Berkeley’s mind so quickly that he failed to distinguish between them.

 

4 Fine, I’ve laid out what I actually think. So sue me. I fully expect to forever lose any chance at all of gaining any academic respectability — even more so than if I were an artist. (I am 9/10 joking, of course, as may be evident.)

 

5 Interesting that visual ground/background concepts should be so closely tied to distance/depth concepts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From 09/19/2015 to 10/25/2015:  Made numerous changes.

11/01/2015:  Added paragraphs attempting to articulate the possibility that there are unusual cases of visual experience, among some formerly blind people who have regained sight, which may involve no sensation of distance at all — not even of degenerate, poor-cousin sensations of distance.

11/07/2015:  Added a discussion of the various possible meanings of the word ‘Line’ in Berkeley’s Paragraph II.

11/08/2015:  Revised the discussion of the notion that a sensible Extension cannot be infinitely Divisible.


Re-Igniting An Old Flame

A few weeks ago my interest in the French Philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961) suddenly got re-ignited upon finding out that a paper I published in a previous life (THE CONCEPT OF THE ECSTASIS, Journal Of The British Society For Phenomenology, 14(1):  79-90, 1983) actually got listed in the bibliography of Stephen Priest’s MERLEAU-PONTY:  THE ARGUMENTS OF THE PHILOSOPHERS.

The sudden explosion of this renewed interest is a bit like the result of throwing a lighted match on a bunch of rags soaked in gasoline.  In its heat, I’ve decided to start a new category of blog posts comprising an attempt to gain a deeper, fuller understanding of the topic of that paper.  What positions stated in the paper do I still hold?  What positions must I mark to market?  (<yes I am being ironic>Doubtlessly none — surely my paper is sacred text.</yes I am being ironic>) What can be stated more clearly, argued for more carefully?  Doing this kind of thing is what blogs are ideal for:

…you can work around the edges of an idea over days and weeks and months [and years] and really   come to understand it. It’s this process that blogging does better than pretty much any other medium.

Anil Dash On Blogging

 

The topic of my paper is, essentially:

The question concerning corporeity connects also with Merleau-Ponty’s reflections on space (l’espace) and the primacy of the dimension of depth (la profondeur) as implied in the notion of being in the world (être au monde; to echo Heidegger’s In-der-Welt-sein) and of one’s own body (le corps propre).

Wikipedia Article On Maurice Merleau-Ponty

 

So in the months and years to come I will be re-reading, working through, and blogging on Merleau-Ponty (THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF PERCEPTION, THE VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE, and other works) in order to really come to understand, truly get my head around, get a maximal grasp of this notion of ‘the primacy of the dimension of depth as implied in the notion of being in the world and of one’s own body.’  As part of this effort, I will be re-reading and blogging on George Berkeley’s works as well, which, partly as foil, partly in a kind of concurrence, shed light in an interesting way on Merleau-Ponty.

These efforts will fall under the category ‘Primacy Of The Dimension Of Depth.’

Of course, I am far from having finished the other two main categories I have been working on in this blog, to wit: ‘The Argument That Tagalog Lacks A Subject’ (a thread inspired largely by Paz Buenaventura Naylor’s article), and ‘Material Implication And Information Theory’ (inspired largely by Fred Dretske’s KNOWLEDGE AND THE FLOW OF INFORMATION and by Edwin D. Mares’ RELEVANT LOGIC).  I intend to continue working on these threads at the same time that I am re-igniting an old flame, my crush on Merleau-Ponty.

 

MerleauPontyArgumentsOfPhilosophers

 

If I bore anyone, tough.  You don’t have to read these incoherent/semi-incoherent ramblings.  I am writing largely in order to learn, to get as much clarity as I can in my own head regarding these topics.

Of course, it would be nice if someone else were interested in them, and, even better yet, had something useful and interesting to say about them, whether in disagreement or agreement with me.

It would also be nice if Ashton Kutcher gave me a call.

 

ashton_kutcher-4036

 

(No post even touching on philosophy would be completed without an homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM.)  I wonder if Alkibiades was as gorgeous.

 


Some Boring MetaBlogging

Number 14 of this pretty much describes what I am trying to do here.  In particular:

…you can work around the edges of an idea over days and weeks and months [and years] and really come to understand it. It’s this process that blogging does better than pretty much any other medium.

This is what I am trying to do with the Relevant Logic/Material Implication/Information Theory viewed through the eyes of Fred Dretske stuff (repeated endlessly).  Who knows, I might even do some endless blogging someday to gain a ‘maximal grasp’ (Merleau-Ponty) on the Roderick Chisholm stuff.