Hi Lee;

Im dont know. Im in two minds now. I think my own objection to Sam Johnsons 'refutation' is based on a very strict definition of knowledge which entails some notion of certainty. To be only 99% certain is not enough on this definition to know something. Its a little sceptical isnt it? We lock people away on a weaker definition that that. We dont require certainty to inhibit someones freedom, why then in philosophy or science? Certainly the consequences of relaxing such a definition of knowledge are only a fraction as serious in those disciplines. Well, infact in science too we dont apply that much rigour, theories are corroborated or not to a certain degree. They stand or fall on pragmatic grounds. People use Newton's math in many circumstances, whilst knowing Einstein's math reflects reality more accurately. It doesnt matter when Newton's math are suffiecient practically speaking.

Logically in kicking the stone SJ doesnt raise a counterargument many rationalists are going to worry about, but he does make a powerful appeal to our intuition that ought to have worried an empiricist like Berkley - any empiricist really. The very fact he invokes a God (unempirically) leads one to argue why such an inference is permissable, but the inference of a genuinely extended world is not. They both serve the same purpose, to maintain the existance of things when unpercieved.

Beyond the impressive and dazzling display of mathematics here and beyond Berkley's almost pathological suspicion of perceptual inference, any theory that denies extension is deeply unintuitive. Clearly the onus is on Idealists - of whatever ilk - to present an explanation of non - extended extension that makes some sense, rather than just make the mind boggle. It does feel sometimes as though Idealists are sophists tinkering with logic more than reality - how things could have been, rather than are.

Why, I feel like asking, would the cause of my perceptions be so different from the picture of the world effected? Doesnt it make more sense to say that the world appears extended, material and not 'ideal' because that is in fact how it is, there must be a symmetry between what is percieved and what causes those perceptions even if we can not probe that symmetry to any satisfaction. Im not sure that a reaist would be happy by transcendental argument like that, but it makes a little sense to me.

Perhaps there is something in Sam Johnson's quip afterall.

Many Regards


From: "Lee Corbin" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
To: "EverythingList" <everything-list@eskimo.com>
Subject: RE: What We Can Know About the World
Date: Fri, 29 Jul 2005 20:29:14 -0700

Jesse writes

> Lee Corbin wrote:
> >
> >Chris writes
> >
> > > >>Samuel Johnson did refute Berkeley.
> > >
> > > The main thrust of Berkley's argument is to show
> > > that sensory perception is
> > > indirect, and therefore the existence 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 don't feel any need
> > > to defend it unless someone really thinks
> > > a defence is required.
> >
> > Do *you* contend that the existence of material
> > causes for your perceptions is unjustified? Good grief.
> How do you define "material causes"?

I stay clean away from definitions, sorry. I gave
reasons earlier why definitions don't work.

I expect that you want to know what was meant when
Chris and I were writing.

I'll get to that.

> It seems to me you are conflating idealism with
> solipsism, or the idea that the outside universe
> doesn't have any existence outside of my perception
> of it, and that there are no objective truths about
> external reality outside of my subjective ideas about
> it.

Well, no, I understand the difference, and agree with
the characterization of it you gave. It sounds as though
you believe in the existence of things "out there"
independent of your perceptions of it.  That is, if
you were given a drug that cut off your senses, then
you'd figure that the outside world was still there
even though you could no longer sense it. We agree
on that.

Customarily (whether people like you and me are sensing
that outside world or not), we believe that for the most
part here on Earth, at least, there are a lot of material
objects around. Tables, chairs, rocks, and cars for

We can then go further and say that in this model, even
peoples bodies are material objects, and obey the usual
high school laws of physics. (They have mass, often
reflect light, and so forth.)

So by

> > Do *you* contend that the existence of material
> > causes for your perceptions is unjustified?

I meant that your perceptions have physiological causes
because your brain is a part of an obviously successful
survival machine designed by evolution.


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