KNOWLEDGE OF THE EXTERNAL WORLD

detailed notes of the unit on realism

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KNOWLEDGE OF THE EXTERNAL WORLD
REALISM
Realists claim that physical objects exist as things that are independent of our minds and of our
perceptions of them [Idealists argue that physical objects, in the sense that realists of them as
independent of our minds, don't exist at all]
Direct realism: The view that `external objects' exist and that, in perception, we have an immediate
awareness of them. The theory of evolution suggests that matter existed before
minds existed to perceive them; it existed nevertheless
Counter argument to direct realism suggests that what we perceive isn't quite the same as what is
out there. For example, if you hold your thumb up against the moon, it looks larger than the moon but
it isn't. (It's the same with moving away from a table, it gets smaller. Or if you half submerge a stick in
water it appears to be bent).
So, do we perceive objects directly or indirectly? Direct
realism claims that the immediate object of perception is the physical object itself. Representative
realists say that we perceive them indirectly; what we perceive directly is a representation, a mental
image in our minds of the object itself. We perceive this object via the representation of it through
sense datum.
Direct realism has sometimes been called `naïve realism', because it seems to take the world at face
value.
Distance and size
E.G. First the thumb and the moon, does your thumb really look bigger than the moon or is
it the moon that looks further away?
The way our vision works makes it difficult to separate properties of size form properties of
distance. Direct realism says we directly perceive the physical object; but this doesn't mean every
aspect of your perceptual experience is determined by the properties of the physical object itself.
E.G. In this case there is also a relative property of its distance from you. We experience the
size of the object as well as the distance.
So, we don't have to say that you immediately perceive sense data which are different from physical
objects. You directly perceive the object along with its distance and size.
Illusion
E.G. When we look at a stick that is half submerged in water, we see a bent stick. But it is
the stick that is bent. It's something else.
We see something bent but not the stick. So, it must be sense-datum that is bent. We have this
mental image of a bent stick but that means we don't see the stick directly we see it indirectly via
sense-data.
Arguments FOR direct realism Arguments AGAINST direct realism
Suggests we don't experience the world Illusions; e.g. the stick half submerged in
by perceiving sense data; we have water. We know indirectly the stick isn't
experiences so we don't perceive physically bent.
experiences as they aren't objects to be Normal conditions?!
perceived. Secondary qualities subjective; taste.
We also can't describe something via
sense data because our epistemic access
to physical objects is direct.
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KNOWLEDGE OF THE EXTERNAL WORLD
Representative realism: Perception of external objects involves causal chains that originate in the
objects being perceived and end with brain states giving rise to sensations,
which are the immediate objects of our awareness
According to representative realism sense data are mental things that exist as part of the mind and
physical objects are physically existent and exist independently without being experienced.…read more

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KNOWLEDGE OF THE EXTERNAL WORLD
IDEALISM: "esse est percipi" Bishop Berkeley. Translates into `to be is to be perceived'.
Without a perception there is no external world e.g. the world didn't `til it was perceived by a mind.
Physical objects are a mind-dependant bundle of ideas that we assemble and associate to each
other.…read more

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KNOWLEDGE OF THE EXTERNAL WORLD
Aishah NaharPage 4…read more

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