Realism and Appearances: An Essay in Ontology

By John W. Yolton | Go to book overview

3
Actions and persons

…a mans holding a gun in his hand & pulling downe the triger may be either Rebellion, Parricide, Murther, Homicide, Duty, Justice, Valor or recreation & be thus variously diversified when all the circumstances put together are compard to a rule, though the simple action of holding the gun & pulling the triger may be exactly the same.

John Locke, Draft A of the Essay,§23

Kant says “Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind. Similarly, intentions without overt activity are idle, and movements of limbs without concepts are mere happenings, not expressions of agency.

John McDowell, Mind and World, p. 89

So far, I have discussed the first two contrasts on my list: appearance and reality and phenomena and causes. The first chapter used Paul Churchland's preferences for reality (neural networks) over the visible phenomena which give us access to dials, images and lines which in turn are taken as evidence of nonvisible neural events. Theory, predictions and explanations afforded by them, in Churchland's analysis, tend to divert attention from the relevant phenomena. For the purposes of the view he defends, phenomena are of lesser value than the neural structures and events. The person, both of the investigator and of the subject of experiments (as with the example of Mary the neuroscientist), seems also to be ignored. The person seems to me to be missing from other contemporary writings on cognition and perception.1 If we are interested in what Hume characterized as the “science of man, or if we want to include all of the relevant ingredients in our account of the world we know and experience, we need to find a way of saving the appearances

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1
See my discussion of J. J. Valberg's The Puzzle of Experience (1993), in my Perception and Reality, pp. 36–41.

-42-

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