Realism and Appearances: An Essay in Ontology

By John W. Yolton | Go to book overview

1
Mind, matter and sense qualia

Whether or not mental states turn out to be physical states of the brain is a matter of whether or not cognitive neuroscience eventually succeeds in discovering systematic neural analogs for all of the intrinsic and causal properties of mental states.

Paul Churchland, The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul (1995), p. 206

Whatever explanation of cognition will in the end prove satisfactory, we can at least suppose that only one kind of existence–the real kind–will be involved. Ockham did not share the faith of many today that the mind is wholly physical. But if the mind must be explained in terms of the nonphysical, at least it need not be explained in terms of the nonreal.

Robert Pasnau, Theories of Cognition in the Later Middle Ages (1997), p. 85

Traditionally, especially within the period of Modern Philosophy (e.g., from Descartes to Kant), when philosophers turned their attention to perception and our knowledge of the external world, a standard set of issues, problems, principles and concepts were invoked, assumed and occasionally modified. A recent statement of the representative theory of perception characterized that theory as holding to two claims: mental operations of the mind arise “from causal impingement by the world” and the mind has “mental states and events which represent the world. ”1

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Grant Gillet, Representation, Meaning and Thought (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992). He calls this the empiricist representational theory. Another recent more detailed account of this theory (also referred to as “the causal theory” or “indirect realist theory”) is given by Robert Oakes, who says that “awareness of (the surface of) external objects–of those objects that are before our senseorgans–can take place only by virtue of awareness of entities which constitute their effects upon our sensory apparatus. Entities of this latter sort are not, of course, before our sense-organs, but, to the contrary, are interior to consciousness. Moreover, it is clear that these phenomenal 'qualia' or private objects of awareness are such that their esse just consists in our awareness of them” (“Representational Sensing: What's the Problem?”, in New Representationalisms: Essays in the Philosophy of Perception, ed. Edmond Wright (Aldershot: Arebury, 1993), p. 70). The term “qualia, ” as used by Oakes and others, replaces the older “idea. ” In treating qualia as private objects internal to consciousness, Oakes is able to state the representative theory in its usual, traditional form. I have argued that the term “idea” in the writings of Locke does not always fit this internalist interpretation. With Berkeley, “idea” comes out of the closet of the mind, as it does also for Hume. My use of the term “qualia” in this study tries to make it refer to external qualities, qualities that are sensory appearances to perceivers.

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Realism and Appearances: An Essay in Ontology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents ix
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Mind, Matter and Sense Qualia 9
  • 2 - Causing and Signifying 26
  • 3 - Actions and Persons 42
  • 4 - Locke on the Knowledge of Things Themselves 57
  • 5 - The Notions of Berkeley's Philosophy 77
  • 6 - Hume's “appearances” and His Vocabulary of Awareness 99
  • 7 - Hume's Ontology 112
  • Conclusion - The Realism of Appearances 133
  • Bibliography 146
  • Index 151
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