27 June 2010

Josiah Royce again

Another Josiah Royce quote worth blogging, from the same book that I cited last week. Here, he is talking about different forms of Realism -- by which he means, roughly, epistemological dualism -- the view that the known (especially when it is a material something in the "external world") is utterly independent of, but causes ideas in, the knower.

His broad point is that although Realism sounds like common sense, when pressed and when a persistent mind tries to expound it systematically, it ends up someplace offensive to the very common sense that gave it birth -- it ends up giving us Leibniz' monads, or the Parmenidean One, or something else outrageous.

One of his examples of Realism/duaism comes from the Indian/Hindu philosophic tradition, the Sankhya, who appear to have been philosophic foes of the early Buddhists. But their insistence that the material objects that we sense are utterly independent of our minds led to the view that minds are utterly independent of matter, even unaffected thereby.

This, then, leads to a problem. In Western philosophy, it is a famous post-Cartesian quandry. How do we perceive anything external unless, in the act of perceiving, we are affected by what we perceive? If we are affected, dualism can't be as sharp as Royce says the Sankhya would like to make it. And if we are not affected, what does it mean to perceive or to know at all?

Royce said that the Sankhyas contend that "the soul is not only separated by a chasm from matter; it is even really unaffected by matter," and they expressed this in a favorite simile of "the red Hibiscus flower [that] is reflected in a crystal that all the while remains inwardly unaltered by the presence of the flower. The result is a theory of a sort of psycho-physical parallelism, founded, to be sure, according to the Sankhya, upon an illusion." (p. 103).

All this comes as new to me.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.