The next problem that arises is one of understanding how the real table, if there is one, relates to our sense-data. Philosophy, if it cannot answer so many questions as we could wish, has at least the power of asking questions which increase the interest of the world, and show the strangeness and wonder lying just below the surface even in the commonest things of daily life. Is there any knowledge in the world which is so certain that no reasonable man could doubt it? The shape of the table, a rectangle, also changes immediate shape as one walks around it. Sensation of pressure depends on the force we exert on the table, as does the production of sound when we rap on the wood. If opposite sides are parallel, they will look as if they converged to a point away from the spectator; if they are of equal length, they will look as if the nearer side were longer. In this beginning chapter, Russell describes a scene: "I am now sitting in a chair, at a table of a certain shape, on which I see sheets of paper with writing or print." The one thing we know about it is that it is not what it seems. Thus, whenever we see a colour, we have a sensation of the colour, but the colour itself is a sense-datum, not a sensation. But these philosophers, though they deny matter as opposed to mind, nevertheless, in another sense, admit matter. As with color, the existence of just one texture of the table is ambiguous, because "to the naked eye, the table appears to be smooth and hard. Variations in our sensations indicate that sensation does not directly reveal the reality of an object like the table. It is chiefly in this sense that Berkeley denies matter; that is to say, he does not deny that the sense-data which we commonly take as signs of the existence of the table are really signs of the existence of something independent of us, but he does deny that this something is non-mental, that it is neither mind nor ideas entertained by some mind. We are naturally tempted to say that what we see through the microscope is more real, but that in turn would be changed by a still more powerful microscope. Although I believe that the table is "really" of the same colour all over, the parts that reflect the light look much brighter than the other parts, and some parts look white because of reflected light. It follows that if several people are looking at the table at the same moment, no two of them will see exactly the same distribution of colours, because no two can see it from exactly the same point of view, and any change in the point of view makes some change in the way the light is reflected. Among the philosophers who have responded to it in their own works, Hilary Putnam notably identifies Russell's table in his most recent work The Threefold Cord. Russell continues his investigation of color by reasoning that in ordinary language usage, when we refer to the color of an object, we actually refer to something perceived from the usual perspective of observer. Any one else who sees and feels and hears the table will agree with this description, so that it might seem as if no difficulty would arise; but as soon as we try to be more precise our troubles begin. If, then, we cannot trust what we see with the naked eye, why should we trust what we see through a microscope? We shall give the name "sensation" to the experience of being immediately aware of these things. But any statement as to what it is that our immediate experiences make us know is very likely to be wrong. With the naked eye one can see the grain, but otherwise the table looks smooth and even. At the end of chapter 1, Russell writes, "Philosophy, if it cannot answer so many questions as we could wish, has at least the power of asking questions which increase the interest of the world, and show the strangeness and wonder lying just below the surface even in the commonest things of daily life." It is true that the table always gives us a sensation of hardness, and we feel that it resists pressure. To the eye it is oblong, brown and shiny, to the touch it is smooth and cool and hard; when I tap it, it gives out a wooden sound. When, in ordinary life, we speak of the colour of the table, we only mean the sort of colour which it will seem to have to a normal spectator from an ordinary point of view under usual conditions of light. These observations lead to Russell's first distinction between appearance and reality, "between what things seem to be and what they are." When we have realised the obstacles in the way of a straightforward and confident answer, we shall be well launched on the study of philosophy—for philosophy is merely the attempt to answer such ultimate questions, not carelessly and dogmatically, as we do in ordinary life and even in the sciences, but critically, after exploring all that makes such questions puzzling, and after realising all the vagueness and confusion that underlie our ordinary ideas. Russell proposes that we are not struck with these discontinuities in our daily life because in practical experience, one learns "to construct the 'real' shape from the apparent shape." Is there any knowledge in the world which is so certain that no reasonable man could doubt it? It is evident from what we have found, that there is no colour which pre-eminently appears to be the colour of the table, or even of any one particular part of the table—it appears to be of different colours from different points of view, and there is no reason for regarding some of these as more really its colour than others. If we look at it through a microscope, we should see roughnesses and hills and valleys, and all sorts of differences that are imperceptible to the naked eye. And if so, have we any means of finding out what it is like? Here we have already the beginning of one of the distinctions that cause most trouble in philosophy—the distinction between "appearance" and "reality," between what things seem to be and what they are. This question, which at first sight might not seem difficult, is really one of the most difficult that can be asked. Use up and down arrows to review and enter to select. Thus what we directly see and feel is merely "appearance," which we believe to be a sign of some "reality" behind. But the other colours which appear under other conditions have just as good a right to be considered real; and therefore, to avoid favouritism, we are compelled to deny that, in itself, the table has any one particular colour. He writes, "the real table, if there is one, is not immediately known to us at all, but must be an inference from what is immediately known." Russell argues that one cannot consider one texture more real than another. The collection of all physical objects is called "matter." Bertrand Russell uses an analytic method to make distinctions concerning our judgments about reality. The arguments employed are of very different value: some are important and sound, others are confused or quibbling. Thus, again, the confidence in our senses with which we began deserts us. Spanish Chapter 4 83 Terms. However, he continues, there is no reason to assume that the usual perspective should be considered real and other perspectives, under other conditions, be considered less real. Such an argument, in my opinion, is fallacious; and of course those who advance it do not put it so shortly or so crudely. Let us give the name of "sense-data" to the things that are immediately known in sensation: such things as colours, sounds, smells, hardnesses, roughnesses, and so on. He is thus led to regard the "real" table as an idea in the mind of God. Thus colour is not something which is inherent in the table, but something depending upon the table and the spectator and the way the light falls on the table. Other philosophers since Berkeley have also held that, although the table does not depend for its existence upon being seen by me, it does depend upon being seen (or otherwise apprehended in sensation) by some mind—not necessarily the mind of God, but more often the whole collective mind of the universe. Thus a problem arises as to the relation of the sense-data to the real table, supposing there is such a thing. And what we see is constantly changing in shape as we move about the room; so that here again the senses seem not to give us the truth about the table itself, but only about the appearance of the table. Thus we have to consider the relation of sense-data to physical objects. Russell's sense-data terminology endures as a helpful reference throughout the work and also as a touchstone of modern philosophy. Russell also appeals to an urge to practice knowledge responsibly, that in order to make statements or hold beliefs about knowledge, we must be able to substantiate that our knowledge is faithful to reality. But, in fact, as we all have to learn if we try to draw, a given thing looks different in shape from every different point of view.
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