Expressing certainty and doubt essays

Expressing certainty and doubt essays

Emer de Vattel, The Law of Nations, Or, Principles of the Law of Nature, Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of Nations and Sovereigns, with Three Early Essays on the Origin and Nature of Natural Law and on Luxury (LF ed.) []. That Man is the product of causes that had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the. Thomas Reid: Philosophy of Mind. This article focuses on the philosophy of mind of Thomas Reid (), as presented in An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense () and Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man ().Reid’s action theory and his views on what makes humans morally worthy agents, although connected to philosophy of mind, are not explored here. A question is an utterance which typically functions as a request for information, which is expected to be provided in the form of an pomononslici.cfons can thus be understood as a kind of illocutionary act in the field of pragmatics or as special kinds of propositions in frameworks of formal semantics such as alternative semantics or inquisitive semantics. These orders are of very ancient date, owing their establishment to the ancient Hindu rule, followed by the Buddhists, that each "twice-born" man should lead in the woods the life of an second class of Fakirs are simply disreputable beggars who wander round extorting, under the guise of religion, alms from the charitable and practising on the superstitions of the villagers.

Reid is best known as the father of common sense philosophy.

George Orwell

Reid believes this goes against the common-sense view that humans do acquire certain knowledge through empirical observation of the external world, and are therefore not confined to know only the contents of their minds. In philosophy of mind, Reid is most celebrated today for the arguments he gave in support of the position known as direct realism , which, at its most basic, states that the primary objects of sense perception are physical objects, not ideas in human minds.

He is a worthy successor of Locke, in that he believes that the mind is to be characterized in terms of a faculty psychology.

He is a worthy successor of Newton, in that he believes that the scientific method is the right way of investigating the nature of mind. Reid characterized the scientific method mainly by trial and error, and by setting up experiments and drawing general conclusions from them. However, he uses it to classify the faculties of the mind into intellectual, on the one hand, and active, on the other. The distinction is used in the titles of his two mature published works: Essays on the Intellectual Power of Man and Essays on the Active Powers of Man , which he envisioned as two sides of the same coin.

Reid thought that any theory of the mind should comprise an investigation into both types of mental operations. Reid argues that sensation is an original and simple operation of the mind, which for him means not only that certain beings namely sentient ones are born with an ability to sense, but also that this operation of the mind cannot be logically defined.

All natural operations of the mind are simple and, in some sense, primitive, so that no reductive definition can be offered. This does not mean, however, that one cannot pay attention to the specific role played by this operation. In doing so, one will discover its most important features. Although careful introspective observation will reveal that sensations do not usually occur on their own, but are almost always accompanied by perceptions, Reid is pointing out that a clear-cut distinction between sensation and perception exists and should be accounted for.

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  • This distinction has to do primarily with the specific roles sensations and perceptions play in the knowledge of the external world. Sensations are of limited use, in this sense; they only give information of what goes on in the sentient being.

    Perceptions, on the other hand, contribute to basic repository knowledge. In sensing a smell or tasting a taste, for instance, a sentient being will take notice of how its mind is affected, but, as Reid points out, such sensations bear no resemblance to any of the qualities of the external objects that cause these sensations to occur in the sentient being. Here Reid differs from his predecessors: according to John Locke, for instance, at least some sensations those derived from the primary qualities of objects do resemble the external objects which occasion the formation of such simple ideas in sentient beings such as humans Locke, Essay II.

    To make the distinction with perception more vivid, Reid discusses an example: in seeing a flower or touching a sugar cube—which involves perceiving and having contentful thoughts about these objects, as is elaborated in the next section—humans gain knowledge about what these external objects really are. There still is no resemblance thesis advanced, to be sure; the mind is simply projected outside itself and, in doing so, it objectifies the things in its environment.

    In this, Reid is very forward-thinking: he is the first philosopher to draw a distinction between sensation and perception, which is extensively employed in contemporary philosophy of mind and psychology as J. Gibson rightfully noticed. It is less clear what Reid means when he says that the object is not real, but grammatical only, in the case of the construction expressing a sensation that one may feel.

    There are two ways of interpreting this claim, and this ambiguity tracks two distinct positions in the secondary literature on Reid. On the one hand, sensations, for Reid, can be understood to not have objects at all: as such, this mental operation is distinct from all others.

    If we understand sensation to have no object, to be about nothing , it cannot ever be wrong. This would mark sensation as a very special faculty among the faculties of the human mind; perception or memory are not like this: someone can misperceive a tree just as well as he can misremember having seen a tree. On the other hand, that passage has been read as saying that sensations take themselves as objects; Reid, in this interpretation, would subscribe to a reflexive view of sensations.

    Just like perceptions and memories, sensations are constituted by two other ingredients: a conception of the object, and a belief that the object exists, except, in the case of sensation, this object is the sensation itself, not an external object like trees, frogs, or human beings.

    In this account, a sentient being is not said to have a sensation of a red object , but to sense in a certain way whenever stimulated in the right manner. Sensations inform the sentient being of various ways of feeling: there is a particular way of feeling redly , as opposed to a particular way of feeling yellowly , and there is yet another way of feeling headachely see also Sense-Data.

    Understanding that sensations provide us with a qualitative feel and making sense of what exactly this means has become very important in early 21 st century discussions on the nature of mind and consciousness. The last attribute of sensations worth mentioning is their role as signs of external objects. Usually, sensations pass unnoticed unless the sentient being carefully attends to them to other things that they signify.

    This feature of sensations allows Reid to argue that they are never to be associated to Lockean ideas Locke, Essay II.

    To properly understand the role of sensations as signs of external objects, according to Reid, an analysis of perception should be given, a task undertaken in the next section.

    Perception is the main faculty that has the role to give beings endowed with this faculty brute knowledge about the external world: the knowledge is brute because no reasoning enters perception; and the result is knowledge, even though sometimes when the perceiver believes that something is being perceived, something is actually being either perceptually illusioned or hallucinated.

    However, even when a perceptual state results in a false outcome, the state itself should be characterized as perception for more on how and why perception can be non-veridical, see EIP II.

    So, this is how sensations, as signs of external things, work to connect minds with external things. Reid argues that:. Without this the sign is not understood or interpreted; and therefore is no sign to us.

    IHM 6. These two aspects are discussed in turn. When Reid gives his official characterization of perception he states that this faculty involves several others: the occurrence of a sensation suggests a conception and a belief of the existence of the thing perceived.

    Perception, therefore, must be able to occur independently from any act of reasoning. According to Reid IHM 6. The sense of sight is somewhat problematic in this respect, though, since vision does not provide creatures endowed with it with original visual perceptions of some things, for instance depth, but only with acquired ones. The perception of visible figure is also supposed to be original, according to Reid and, according to the standard interpretation of Reid, it is not accompanied by any type of visual sensation whatsoever.

    Why does Reid think that only two of the senses—touch and vision—can give beings that have them original perceptions? Why cannot smell, taste, and hearing provide such beings with original perceptions? Can this have anything to do with the distinction between primary and secondary qualities of objects?

    As previously mentioned, Reid thinks that Locke was wrong to believe that there is some resemblance between primary qualities of objects and the ideas or sensations sentient beings have of them.

    Theories of Explanation

    However, Reid himself draws a distinction between these two types of properties of objects:. There appears to be a real foundation for the distinction, and it is this: That our senses give us a direct and distinct notion of the primary qualities, and inform us what they are in themselves: But of the secondary qualities, our senses give us only a relative and obscure notion.

    They inform us only, that they are qualities that affect us in a certain manner, that is, produce in us a certain sensation; but as to what they are in themselves, our senses leave us in the dark.

    Reid argues that knowledge of primary qualities—like squareness, or hardness, or motion—is direct: it captures everything there is to know about such a quality. Squareness, hardness, motion, and all the other mathematical qualities of bodies are known intrinsically. The conception human beings have of secondary qualities, like color, for instance, is not like this; hence it does not constitute knowledge. All there is to know about a secondary quality is that sentient beings are constituted in such a way that whenever a normal being is in contact with the color red, under normal conditions, that being gets a sensation, which is different in what it feels like to that being from the sensation that same being gets whenever it is stimulated with the color yellow, under normal conditions.

    Other examples of primary qualities of bodies include shape, size, and solidity. Besides color, other examples of secondary qualities are heat, cold, smell, and taste.. It might seem that the distinction between original and acquired perception is essentially linked with the more traditional one between primary and secondary qualities of bodies. This is indeed what several scholars have argued, citing as main evidence for this interpretation the fact that human beings have direct conceptions only of primary qualities.

    Based on this type of conception, human beings gain knowledge only of primary qualities and, if perception is supposed to give perceivers knowledge, as Reid thinks, it seems clear that perceivers can perceive only primary qualities of bodies, since perceivers do not gain any knowledge, by their senses, of secondary qualities.

    Expressing certainty and doubt essays

    This argument seems correct, but it has a severe uphill battle because Reid specifically and consistently places color, a secondary quality , on the list of things that can be originally perceived IHM 6. So, if we are to listen to Reid, the distinction between primary and secondary qualities, on the one hand, and the distinction between original and acquired perception, on the other, do not carve the world in the same way.

    Bertrand Russell

    The distinction between original and acquired perception, therefore, must be clarified in a different way. Acquired perception is distinguished from original perception primarily by the role of learning and experience.

    Expressing certainty and doubt essays

    There is no need for any type of experience, according to Reid, for human beings to be able to perceive the primary qualities of bodies and the bodies themselves by touching them, for instance. However, one must learn to associate a certain sign that conjures up an original perception or a sensation only, with a certain external object.

    According to other authors such as Copenhaver , however, acquired perception never involves any type of reasoning. Rather, Reid intended acquired perception to be understood as a distinctively perceptual ability: with the passage of time, normal perceivers acquire more perceptual sensitivity to properties not represented in original perception.

    Here is Reid explaining how this happens in the case of perception of depth and three-dimensional figure by sight:. It is experience that teaches me that the variation of colour is an effect of spherical convexity […].

    But so rapid is the progress of the thought, from the effect to the cause, that we attend only to the last, and can hardly be persuaded that we do not immediately see the three dimensions of the sphere.

    EIP II. Beings endowed with the ability to develop acquired perception do not develop this ability consciously or only because they decide to acquire certain perceptions. Here is what Reid says concerning this:. In acquired perception, the signs are either sensations, or things which we perceive by means of sensations. The connection between the sign and the thing signified, is established by nature: and we discover this connection by experience; but not without the aid of our original perceptions, or of those which we have already acquired.

    After this connection is discovered, the sign, in like manner as in original perception, always suggests the thing signified, and creates the belief of it. Acquired perception thus builds upon the original abilities of sensing and originally perceiving things in nature that human beings have.

    In acquired perception, in contrast to original perception, the conventional associations between signs and things signified are introduced by a combination between nature and experience. In original perception, these conventions are the result of nature alone: this is the way humans are constituted. Memory, for Reid, is the perfect counterpart to perception: it is an original faculty of minds, which is meant to give beings endowed with it immediate access to the past.

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    There are three things involved in perception, and, similarly, there are three things involved in memory: a mind, a faculty, and an external object, which the mind gains knowledge of via the faculty in question. This formulation mirrors the one that he gave to further explain how perception operates, although both in the case of memory and of perception, these explanations are not definitions, since both these faculties are simple, and hence cannot be reductively defined by analyzing their components.

    The external object, in the case of perception, is allegedly presently existing; the external object, in the case of memory, was allegedly existing in the past of the mind having the memory in question. Beings endowed with perception can be said to mis-perceive things—which are either different than they appear to be or do not exist altogether; and beings endowed with memory can be said to mis-remember things—which were either different than they appeared to such beings or did not exist altogether.

    Contrary to what he takes Locke and Hume to be saying, memory is not a repository for ideas, which can be revived, whenever the person who had those ideas needs them again for example, Locke, Essay II. The main problem here, according to Reid, is that if an idea could indeed be revived in this way, that idea would be perceived again, and not actually remembered.

    Expressing certainty and doubt essays

    This is because, as Reid understands them, Locke and Hume argue that ideas are the immediate objects of perception. So, whenever an idea is present to the mind—whether for the first time or when it is revived —the mind should be said to perceive it. What does memory contribute here, Reid asks? Even though Reid is not the most charitable interpreter of Locke or of Hume, some of the criticisms he raises are cogent.

    Thomas Reid: Philosophy of Mind

    There is a threat of circularity in the account of memory offered by both Locke and Hume, as Reid understands them. The problem is that no idea contains any information, qualitative or representational, that could be used to identify that idea as being about the past.

    Here is what he says at the beginning of the Essay on memory:.