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Saturday, February 02, 2013

Idealism Rejects the Problem of Epistemology

This is my dissertation adviser:

"The point idealist wanted to make was that the world is unintelligible without mind and that there is mutual inclusivity. This mutual inclusivity can only be understood, however, by rejecting the question of epistemology that arises when we assume a duality between the mind and its objects. If we begin by assuming that experience is an undifferentiated whole, then the question becomes one of ontology, that is, how out of this unity do we explain the multiplicity of modes of understanding..." -- David Boucher, A Companion to Michael Oakeshott, p. 54

An analytical philosopher is likely to leap upon "the world is unintelligible without mind" and say, "See: he is just mistaking ontology for epistemology!" Well, no, it ignores Hegel's dictum that "the real is the rational," and assumes away the whole idealist starting point and assumes the Cartesian subject-object split back into its place. This says a lot more about analytical philosophers than it does about the targets of their critique: idealist philosophers generally have no problem comprehending where analytical philosophers are coming from, whereas analytical philosophers generally (there are notable exceptions!) assume idealists are brain-damaged analytical philosophers.

4 comments:

  1. Nah, you dont need to be a naive realist to reject Idealism (esp. the views of Hegel, which are implausible in my view, but I'll leave you to your British idealism). In my view, it's not that the world is unintelligible without the mind; rather, the mind and our perceptual apparatus is all we have to get at the world. As finite creates, all we can grasp is whatever is within our capacity to grasp, so this places metaphysical restraints on what we can grasp, as well as epistemic restraints on what we can justifiably claim to be the case. But the fact that we are creatures that make contact with the world in a certain way is compatible with the thought that my way is not the only way. And this seems to find support even within the human standpoint (color-blind, people who see numbers in color, failure to experience the world's rotation, etc.). So I can agree that "objects" owe their "reality" to the mind's synthesis of the manifold, insisting only that "objects" be understood in a very limited sense of the term. And I will continue to deny the further claims of what I take to be incorrect metaphysical claims of the post-Kantian idealist tradition.



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    1. "Nah, you dont need to be a naive realist to reject Idealism..."

      Huh?

      "rather, the mind and our perceptual apparatus is all we have to get at the world."

      Yep. Once you buy into the idea that their is "mind" on the one hand, and "the world" on the other, and the first is trying to "get at" the second, epistemology becomes a fairly insoluble problem, doesn't it?

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  2. Thank you for the response. I think that once you dont buy into a fundamental metaphysical distinction between subject and world you are stuck with an implausible worldview that undermines the initial plausibility of an idealist-type account of the objects of cognition. To me, it only makes sense to say "the world is unintelligible without mind" because *I* make sense of something *different*. The fundamental distinction between the I and The World is a necessary metaphysical presupposition for even the possibility of experience itself. This is why I was interested in hearing your response to my question in the other thread ("unified, concrete whole of experience" = reality. What work is being done by "experience"?). Im also interested in the subjectivity of "reality" on this approach. It seems to me that a philosophical position that places foundational importance on (1) the intelligibility of the world, (2) the mind's constitutive role, and (3) the role of "experience" in constituting a conception of reality, is implicitly committed to an extreme form of subjectivism, whether the theorist wants to admit it or not.

    Naive realism. Philosophy of perception.

    "epistemology becomes a fairly insoluble problem, doesn't it?"

    I dont think so, although it is one of the core areas of thought that any individual needs to come to grips with. Epistemology is much much more than the issue of justified assertion. For example, the issue of internalism vs. externalism re: semantic content/mental content/propositional attitudes is much more important than the analysis of "knowledge" or justification (not to mention epistemic closure, perception, evidence, the metaphysics of mind, contextualism, epistemology's relation to metaphysics of mind, perception's connection to a theory of ontology etc. etc.).

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  3. "Im also interested in the subjectivity of "reality" on this approach. It seems to me that a philosophical position that places foundational importance on (1) the intelligibility of the world, (2) the mind's constitutive role, and (3) the role of "experience" in constituting a conception of reality, is implicitly committed to an extreme form of subjectivism, whether the theorist wants to admit it or not."

    Hume to Gene: Once you assume my move of sharply separating the subjective and the objective, and then peel off pieces of your metaphysics and rip them out of context, then what you've got there sure looks like subjectivism!

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