The Ways of Knowing: Or, the Methods of Philosophy

By Wm. Pepperell Montague | Go to book overview

state. Our comforter will conclude with the admission that the hallucinatory food exists, to be sure, only in the visual and not in the gustatory or tactual system of physical phenomena. The reply of the starving man to such attempted consolation would, I should imagine, run somewhat as follows: "It is not the mere content as such of my hallucination that plagues me, it is the claim that the visual content makes to be more than merely visually objective that is the cause of my torment. Food that is 'real' only in the sense of figuring in a hallucinatory context is not real at all; I do not deny that the visual appearance can be explained in physical terms, but that does not in any way alleviate my disappointment in finding that the meaning which it carries with it of being real in the sense of eatable, is invalid or false. In short, the object which I apprehended was not simply visual food, but visual eatable food; and that object was unreal."1


CONCLUSION.

Our exposition and preliminary criticism of the first of the three positive methods of epistemology has included a consideration of each of its three varieties.

We have seen that the extreme or primitive form of the doctrine has the merit of being in accord with our instinctive immediate conviction of the independent reality of every experienced object. It ascribes a status of external existence equally and consistently to the objects of erroneous and of veridical experience. Its weakness lies in its failure to estimate the degree to which and the manner in which the real differs from the unreal, and in its failure to take account of the relativity to the apprehending subject of the contents of dreams and hallucinations and of all illusions and delusions.

The moderate or common-sense form of objectivism was

____________________
1
The popular method of disposing of unreal objects and of evading their crucial significance for the epistemological problem is to characterize them as "only real objects misplaced," or as "composed of real elements 'only' wrongly related." This device is, however, misleading and quite without merit. The unreality of a hallucinatory serpent or of a centaur has nothing to do with the sensory elements themselves, but only with their relations, external and internal. The difference between a Shakespearian sonnet and any other combination of the letters of the alphabet, or between a lion and a mouse, is "only" a difference of relation between the same elements. But it is just this relational ensemble as such that is in question as real or unreal.

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