He points out that we have only doubted the external world because it failed to be identical with our sense-data. But some care is needed in using Descartes' argument. He writes, "all knowledge, we find, must be built up upon our instinctive beliefs, and if these are rejected, nothing is left. "I think, therefore I am," he said (Cogito, ergo sum); and on the basis of this certainty he set to work to build up again the world of knowledge which his doubt had laid in ruins. What hangs on it? One great reason why it is felt that we must secure a physical object in addition to the sense-data, is that we want the same object for different people. All knowledge, we find, must be built up upon our instinctive beliefs, and if these are rejected, nothing is left. (P2) Now, suppose we cover the table with a tablecloth. Descartes considered the deceitful demon possible because he could not prove that it wasn't the case. No logical absurdity results from the hypothesis that the world consists of myself and my thoughts and feelings and sensations, and that everything else is mere fancy. Thus the behaviour of the sense-data which represent the cat to me, though it seems quite natural when regarded as an expression of hunger, becomes utterly inexplicable when regarded as mere movements and changes of patches of colour, which are as incapable of hunger as a triangle is of playing football. He said that human bodies are collections of ideas. However, "all knowledge, we find, must be built up upon our instinctive beliefs, and if these are rejected, nothing is left.". In this chapter we have to ask ourselves whether, in any sense at all, there is such a thing as matter. Consider how we might account for the cat's hunger. Of course it is not by argument that we originally come by our belief in an independent external world. You say the tablecloth argument is ridiculous, but you cannot show why it is logically inconsistent. Thus, if there are to be public neutral objects, which can be in some sense known to many different people, there must be something over and above the private and particular sense-data which appear to various people. In this chapter we have to see why this is the case. Check out "the simulation argument" for elaboration on this topic. It is always a logical possibility that we are deceived about the true nature of reality and that it is hidden from us. He infers the other people's existence based on his sense data! The first reason that Russell examines involves the idea of public experience versus private experience. And this applies to dreams and hallucinations as well as to normal perceptions: when we dream or see a ghost, we certainly do have the sensations we think we have, but for various reasons it is held that no physical object corresponds to these sensations. Is there a table which has a certain intrinsic nature, and continues to exist when I am not looking, or is the table merely a product of my imagination, a dream-table in a very prolonged dream? sure of the independent existence of objects, we shall be left alone Russell will contend that it cannot be proved that we are not dreaming "alone in a desert," but also argues that there is no reason for supposing that this is the case. 2. A skeptic might respond to Russell by accusing him of assuming in his argument the very thing he is trying to prove: that external material objects exist. He imagined a deceitful demon, who presented unreal things to his senses in a perpetual phantasmagoria; it might be very improbable that such a demon existed, but still it was possible, and therefore doubt concerning things perceived by the senses was possible. This question is of the greatest importance. So far as immediate certainty goes, it might be that the something which sees the brown colour is quite momentary, and not the same as the something which has some different experience the next moment. Now in so far as the above considerations depend upon supposing that there are other people besides ourselves, they beg the very question at issue. Chapter 5 - Knowledge by Acquaintance and Knowledge by Description, Chapter 7 - On our Knowledge of General Principles, Chapter 8 - How A Priori Knowledge is Possible, Chapter 10 - On Our Knowledge of Universals, Chapter 13 - Knowledge, Error, and Probable Opinion, Chapter 14 - The Limits of Philosophical Knowledge. But that's no proof of their independent material existence, it is only proof of the existence sense data that have the … dream-table in a very prolonged dream? Now apply this same argument to the complex actions and behaviours of humans...Positing mind-independent entities give a much simpler account of our world. Yet, on the view of private experience that solely endorses sense-data, the cat could not have been in any other places besides where one sees him. dream, and that we alone exist. And why should we care anyway? Russell presents the following situation to demonstrate why we should reject Berkeley's position: (P1) If you're looking at a table by both accounts (i.e., materialist and idealist) the table exists. But dreams are more or less suggested by what we call waking life, and are capable of being more or less accounted for on scientific principles if we assume that there really is a physical world. We might be tempted to dismiss his argument because it depends on (what many philosophers think is) a dubious assumption or, at least, that it is not an assumption we should grant without proof or argument. Other people are represented to me by certain sense-data, such as the sight of them or the sound of their voices, and if I had no reason to believe that there were physical objects independent of my sense-data, I should have no reason to believe that other people exist except as part of my dream. What can be bought and sold and pushed about and have a cloth laid on it, and so on, cannot be a mere collection of sense-data. The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell Chapter 2: The Existence of Matter. Is there a table which has a certain intrinsic nature, and continues to exist when I am not looking, or is the table merely a product of my imagination, a dream-table in a very prolonged dream? That is, each person has a slightly different idea of a table (because of slightly different points of view). He imagined a deceitful demon, who presented unreal things to his senses in a perpetual phantasmagoria; it might be very improbable that such a demon existed, but still it was possible, and therefore doubt concerning things perceived by the senses was possible. It is the "natural view" urged by "every principle of simplicity," that we are experiencing real, physical objects that exist outside ourselves and do not depend on our perception for their existence. Now, another possibility is that the cat does exist when one sees him and when one does not see him. Thus every principle of simplicity urges us to adopt the natural view, that there really are objects other than ourselves and our sense-data which have an existence not dependent upon our perceiving them.
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