Samuel Johnson did refute Berkeley.

The main thrust of Berkley's argument is to show that sensory perception is indirect, and therefore the existance of a material cause for those perceptions is an unjustified inference in contravention of Occam's razor. The argument that the look, texture, smell, taste and sound of an object are apprehended indirectly is successful in my opinion, and I dont feel any need to defend it unless someone really thinks a defence is required. Aterall, on any view there is a translation of 'signals' of many different forms (light waves, sound waves) , into various 'signals' of the same form (neurons firing) which become synaesthetically unified into a whole, such that we associate the smell, taste, colour and texture of say an orange, as being qualities of the same object. That kicking a rock hurts, for example, does not establish that the 'material world' is apprehended directly, or that the concept of a material world is anything more than an inference.

I dont think this is really what Johnson meant, but the only challenge his 'refutation' genuinely offers is with regards to extension. How is the size of an object, or its ability to exist and move (by being kicked) in a 3 dimensional realm, derived from perception alone? Our grasp of a 3 dimensional world is dependent on our stereoscopic perception. Its only when there are two seperate perceptions of the world of the same type (eg. left and right eye) that we apprehend a properly 3 dimensionally world, each of these perceptions is however intrinsically 2 dimensional. It is the mental combination of these slightly different images from which we derive an extended world. This is probably more controversial, but Berkley's move here is to insist that it we have enough information now to create the appearance of a 3 dimensional world out of elements that are not intrinsically extended. By Occam then, we should not infer something for which there is no requirement - however firmly that inference has been imbedded in us. We should stick to using what we can know directly. Perception.

In otherwords, dualists and materialists contravene Occam, not idealists. i dont see how Johnson refuted that.


From: "Lee Corbin" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
To: <>
Subject: What We Can Know About the World
Date: Tue, 26 Jul 2005 02:19:49 -0700

Stathis writes

> > When 99% of the human race use the word "reality", they mean
> > the world outside their skins.
> >
> > If you sacrifice our common understanding of "reality", then
> > you'll find yourself in a hole out of which you'll never climb.
> Yes, but what *is* this 3D world we can all stub our toe on?

Korzybski would warn: beware the "is" of identity  :-)

> If we go back to the start of last century, Rutherford's
> quaintly pre-QM atom, amazingly, turned out to be mostly
> empty space. Did this mean that, suddenly, it doesn't hurt
> when you walk into a brick wall, because it isn't nearly as
> solid as you initially thought it was? Of course not; our
> experience of the world is one thing, and the "reality"
> behind the experience is a completely different thing.

That's *exactly* right.  We *could* have been designed by
evolution not to hurt when we walked into a wall. For certain
reasons, we were not designed that way.

> If it is discovered tomorrow beyond any doubt that the
> entire universe is just a game running in the down time
> on God's pocket calculator, how is this fundamentally
> different to discovering that, contrary to appearances,
> atoms are mostly empty space, or subatomic particles have
> no definite position, or any other weird theory of modern
> physics?

Good analogy!  The world surprises us all the time, especially
the more we learn about it.  It would be bizarre if it did not,
(we'd probably have to abandon most of our theories).

> And how could, say, the fact that brick walls feel solid enough
> possibly count as evidence against such an anti-realist theory?

Occam's razor.  We go with the simplest theory.  Imagine
that you and I believe we are standing next to a wall.
Our conjecture is that it has certain properties.  We
may need it to protect us. If we're wrong, nature will
make short work of us.  That we have survived this long
is a strong indication that the wall really is there.
In fact, on some level of practicality, it is foolish
to debate the existence of the wall. Samuel Johnson
did refute Berkeley.


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