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Spring 2009 PHP 5785 Platonic Atomism and Moore s Refutation of Idealism K Ludwig 1 Historical background 11 Kant 12 Absolute Idealism 2 Platonic Atomism 3 Moore s Refutation of Idealism 1 Historical background The analytic tradition in England begins with the rejection of the British and German idealist tradition by G E Moore 1873 1958 and Bertrand Russell 1872 1970 at Cambridge at the beginning of the 20Lh century In the same period at Oxford Cook Wilson argued in uentially against the idealists In their early philosophical development both Moore and Russell went through idealist periods heavily in uenced by the dominant gure of F H Bradley 18461924 and to a lesser extent by John McTaggart 18661925 Bradley was probably the best known and most in uential British philosopher in the decade of the 1890s His metaphysical magnum opus Appearance and Reality which espoused a monistic absolute idealism was published in 1893 The British idealist tradition superseded British empiricism from the 1860s with the publication of J H Stirling s Secret of H egel 1865 to the end of the century it looked back for inspiration to Hegel and through Hegel to Kant Moore was the rst to rebel and was the catalyst for Russell s own rejection of idealism1 To understand what Moore and Russell were reacting to it is necessary to rehearse brie y and in very broad outline the development of the idealist position up to the end of the 19th century Painting this background in broad strokes is necessary for two reasons rst any attempt at detail would take far too much time and second I am not really competent to ll in the details So here I only sketch the main outlines of the positionjust enough to indicate what the position was and by what main stages it was arrived at 11 Kant Let us begin with a brief review of Kant s rejection of empiricism one of the two schools he divides the philosophers of the modern period into the other being of course rationalism The major rationalists of the modern period are Descartes Spinoza and Leibniz and the major empiricists Locke Berkeley and Hume This taxonomy of the period is one that we owe to Kant himself who thought of himself as in a certain way bringing the two traditions into harmony showing the right place of both experience and reason in our knowledge of the world The rationalists were said to emphasize the importance of pure reason as a source of knowledge and the empiricists to emphasize the importance of experience as a source of knowledge There is a 1 Moore led the way but I followed closely in his footsteps My Philosophical Development London George Allen amp Unwin 1959 p 54 Spring 2009 secondary emphasis in empiricist thought that plays an important role in understanding the development of the idealist tradition and one that plays a major role in Kant s thinking which is that experience is not only a source of knowledge but is the source of what ideas and concepts we have ie the origin of the conceptual framework which we bring to bear on the world around us when we think about it This was a confusion in empiricist thought perhaps most evident in Locke which was helped along by the use of a single word idea to cover a multiplicity of different sorts of mental states and in particular both what we would call images or experiences and what we would call concepts At least one strain in Kant is a rejection of this picture and the insistence that no experience whatsoever would be possible without our already being able to deploy various sorts of concepts antecedently to any experience Now Kant employed this legitimate insight to try to respond to the skeptical problems which philosophy seems left with by the rigorous working out of empiricist principles both skepticism about the existence of a spatial world and skepticism about our knowledge of any facts which we are not presently in a position to observe ie skepticism about induction In particular rather than see concepts as dependent on experience he turned this empiricist picture on its head and insisted that not only were some concepts prior to experience but their correct application in experience was required for us to have any experience at all To appreciate the special force of Kant s response it is helpful to review the strategy of his response to Hume and his treatment of space and time before considering the treatment of judgment Kant argued that Hume s skepticism about induction and the external world were entirely correct given Hume s assumption that whatever is a priori is analytic a notion Kant applied to judgments and explained as being true because the concept of the subject contained that of the predicate eg all bodies are extended and that whatever is synthetic is a posteriori Against induction Hume argued that all inference from the observed to the unobserved rested on generalizations that covered more than actually observed events These generalizations therefore don t follow from what we actually observe Further their falsity is conceivable they are therefore neither analytic nor a priori We are therefore justi ed in inferring them only if we have reason to think generally speaking that nature is uniform But this is a generalization of the same sort as those we ordinarily traf c in what s unobserved is like what s observed the future resembles the past Its negation is conceivable so it is neither a priori nor analytic And to infer it from what we have observed requires that we are already justi ed in believing it since no inference from the observed to the unobserved is justified unless the principle of the uniformity of nature is Kant agrees that the principle of the uniformity of nature is conceivably false and so is not analytic and also that it could never be established a posteriori However Kant argues that Hume overlooked the possibility of knowledge that is both synthetic and a priori Kant s strategy in responding to Hume was to argue that although we cannot establish that the principle of the uniformity of nature is analytic since its negation is conceivable we can establish it as an a priori in a certain sense synthetic truth and so establish that it applies universally and necessarily within experience This same sort of strategy Kant employed also in responding to skepticism about the external world Spring 2009 Kant was convinced that there were a priori synthetic truths because he was convinced that mathematics and geometry were both a priori and synthetic Though in this he was mistaken That set the problem of explaining how such synthetic a priori knowledge is possible It is only possible Kant argues if we have a guarantee prior to any experience that all experience will conform to certain general principles a guarantee that is not to be located in the concepts involved but in facts about what could be a possible experience for us because of the nature of our psychology or on a stronger reading for any possibility psychology How then in particular is a priori knowledge of mathematics and geometry possible It is possible because i time is the form not content Kant says of all inner sense experience of ourselves in time and experience of things in time forms the foundation for counting and ii space is the form not content of all outer sense of things other than ourselves in time and this forms the basis for the a priori status of geometry These forms of experience are imposed on the given in experience that which is prior to the activity of our minds in forming from it an experience or appearance of which we can be aware One can think of this as roughly analogous to putting on rose tinted glasses The world then appears rose tinted but this is not a re ection of how the world is but how it is received a form imposed on experience by the apparatus by which we receive it While talk of the form of inner and outer sense being imposed on the given in experience is put as if it were a description of a temporal process it is clear that it must be interpreted rather as a remark about levels of analysis in some sense of actual full blown representational experience not a description of a series of temporally separated episodes in a temporally extended process Thus space and time are not features of things in themselves things independent of our cognizing but rather a way of ordering the given in experience in order for it be experienced by us There is no gap and cannot be a gap then between our experiences and things in space and time and we can be sure that our experiences of things in space are genuine because what we find there is what we put there and it would make no sense to attribute it to something beyond the phenomenal world Likewise for time Since every outer experience is also an inner experience ie involves an experience of the self everything perceived in space is also perceived in time The same basic move is repeated when we get to judgments which involve bringing experience under concepts Although Kant discusses first the requirements the faculty of sensibility imposes on experience and then those imposed by the faculty of understanding he thinks both are required for genuinely selfconscious experiences So even experience of things in space and time requires the application of understanding to experience Like the faculty of sensibility the faculty of understanding has a structure independently of what experience it is applied to This is given by the basic concepts that it deploys in any experience These Kant called the categories Our employing the categories in experience ie bringing experience under the categories in judgment imposes an order on the experience so that it may be something about which we can form a judgment In this lies the source of Kant s response to Hume s skepticism about induction For in particular in order for experience to be the possible object of a judgment it must be brought Kant argues under the concept of causation This requires it to have a certain coherence that guarantees that all experienced events fall under universal causal laws This then provides the account goes an a priori synthetic guarantee that causal laws govern all events we can form judgments about This is a priori in the sense of being grounded in something independent of the actual content of experience namely the structure of the understanding and Spring 2009 sensibility an important question about Kant s system in turn is what the status is of the claim that our understanding and sensibility has this structure is it analytic and a prion or synthetic and if synthetic then synthetic a posteriori or synthetic a priori Importantly that all events we can form judgments about fall under causal laws does not guarantee that it is obvious what the causal laws are only that there is an order in experience which admits explanation in terms of general laws This is in effect to provide an a prion though synthetic ground for Hume s principle of the uniformity of nature Prescinding from the details I omit any criticism of this story we get a picture that might be described in the following way the world of things in space and time is the world of appearances This is the phenomenal world We have an a priori guarantee one that is grounded in facts that are independent of the contents of experience that there is a world of things in space and that objects in that world if capable of being judged at all fall under certain basic concepts The guarantee is provided by the fact that we impose these facts on our experience as a condition for our having experiences at all or experiences of which we can be aware which perhaps comes to the same thing and experiences that can be brought under concepts Reality the only reality we care aboutinot things in themselves the noumenal worldiis so to speak created by us and our knowledge of it is direct and unmediated Thus no gap opens up between the world we wish to have knowledge of and us because that world is the product of our own intellectual activity 12 Absolute Idealism We get to something like the view that Moore and Russell were reacting against by taking this starting point and working it through two major changes The first is to get rid of the world of things in themselves The ground for this is that if our concepts are genuinely constrained to apply only to appearances then we have no right to talk about a world of things in themselves for we have no concepts with which to think about them Thus the very idea is incoherent and we are left with the only reality being the world of appearances The second move is meant to preserve something of common sense in the face of the obvious objection that this makes a public world which we all in some sense share in and which is independent of us incomprehensible One virtue of Kant s noumenal world is that it does provide a public world to coordinate the private worlds of different minds with respect to The solution a solution Berkeley recognized in his different idealist system as necessary is to postulate some spirit or mind that sustains the common sense world which persists when no finite being perceives it Let us call this whatever it is the world spirit or the absolute ihence the label absolute idealism and suppose it an intelligent agent for still what is must be the product of the activity of a mind The world spirit must be immanent within the world or identical to it not external to it since the world is the product of its intellectual activity Our own minds must in some sense be understood only in relation to the intellectual activity of the world spirit The parallels with Spinoza are striking of course and get more so There we have a sensible caricature of the position adopted under the in uence of Hegel by the 19th century British idealist Let us note about it that it holds that Spring 2009 A All reality is created by the operations of the mind and the objects of thought and experience have no existence independently of the minds that apprehend them and should be conceived of as constituted by the activities of such minds In addition to this doctrine which we can see developing by way of a rejection of Kant s noumenal world the British Idealists also held a doctrine that we can call holism This was a rejection of the idea that the world was analyzable into separable components In the context of idealism the form this took was that the world was not to be conceived of as a world of thought on the one hand populated by Platonic entities nor a world of sense on the other but rather that thought and sense were of one and the same world This led in the work of T H Green 1836 1882 to a rejection of the universalparticular distinction and nally in Bradley to the rejection ultimately of the idea of relations Reality was to be conceived of as an organic whole no part of which could be separated out from the whole and be accurately conceived on its own To analyze or separate out one aspect of reality from the rest was inevitably to distort it Ultimately in Bradley this leads to the idea that reality is ineffable since it is not possible for the human mind to grasp it as a whole nor for human thought to so much as be capable of framing to itself an adequate conception of it It is this view that is the source of the infamous doctrine of internal relations The term itself does not actually receive that much attention in Bradley but was treated as central by his later critics in the analytic tradition An internal relation between two things is a relation which both have to stand in in order for either to be the thing it is in other words it is an essential relation for the things that stand in it This is one expression of the idea that reality is graspable only as a whole since if there are only internal relations no object can be truly grasped independently of its relations to other objects If we add that all objects are related to all others then we get the result that reality is graspable adequately only as a single whole Here again we nd a Spinozistic and Leibnizian aspect to British Idealism Thus we add to our doctrine above the following B All objects ofthought or sense are to be conceived of as on a par ie as being ofthe same kind C Reality is a single unif1ed organic whole no part of which can be grasped independently of the whole within which it is embedded D The only relations are internal relations ie the only relations objects stand in are relations that are essential for them to be the objects they are Ultimately all relations are unreal and reducible to monadic properties this is a corollary of Bradley s monism E Consequently it is impossible to analyze reality if the aim of philosophy is to limn the ultimate nature of reality then analysis cannot be the aim of philosophy Keep in mind that this is a collage of views rather than the presentation of the view of single idealist philosopher2 But for our purposes a collage is appropriate since Moore and Russell s attacks on idealism were meant to sweep away not this or that particular idealist s views but the 2 For example McTaggart who was also an idealist rejected Bradley s monism in favor of a pluralism of spirits constituting the world called Personal Idealism Spring 2009 whole movement and they seldom distinguish in their attacks very nicely between the different philosophers whose views they are collectively attacking 2 Platonic Atomism Before discussing Moore s famous paper The Refutation of Idealism in detail it will be useful to provide an overview of the position which Moore developed in reaction to idealism and which so strongly in uenced Russell from about 1898 through the early years of the next century It is important to note that Platonic Atomism the position Moore developed although opposed to Absolute Idealism was conceived of as being in the same business Both were answers to the question which was taken by both Moore and Russell and the idealists to be the fundamental question of philosophy What is the ultimate nature of reality They differ not in their aim but only in their answers This is of interest in our project in part because we will see in the later development of analytic philosophy a reaction against this conception of the nature of philosophy Both of the terms in the label Platonic Atomism which I use following Peter Hylton contrast with elements of Absolute Idealism The position that Moore developed is characterized by two main tenets The first is that the objects of thought and experiences are not minddependent The second is that the objects of thought and experience have a structure are composed of items which can appear in different combinations in the objects of different thoughts or experiences and which enter into only external relations among themselves Both of these features deserve further comment M ind independence We will see in our discussion of the argument of the Refutation of Idealism in part how Moore arrives at this position This aspect of Platonic Atomism the Platonic part obviously contrasts with the Idealism of Absolute Idealism The objects of thought are not constituted by the activity of the mind on this view but are wholly and absolutely independent of the activity of the mind The mind is conceived on this view as having a passive relation to the objects of thought to be in reception of them only Importantly on this view our epistemic relation to the objects of thought was not thought to be problematic Rather we were directly acquainted with the objects of thought and experience there were no intermediaries between them and us This forces the view that all objects of thought or experience no matter what experience are equally real Indeed in Moore s early view he shared with the later British idealists the view that the objects of thought and experience were not to be distinguished from one another he says so explicitly in Refutation of Idealism Philosophical Studies p7 as noted below and that they were all of a kind namely the objects of all thought and experience were simply concepts Moore argues though obscurely for this rst in his The Nature of Judgmen 1898 in which he attacks the monism of Absolute Idealism This in turn requires a distinction between being or reality on the one hand and existence on the other in order to make sense of thoughts such as the thought that Pegasus does not exist Thus the early Moore and Russell held for a time a view like Meinong s according to which some things have being but don t exist Russell broke with this view early and adopted for a time a NeoFregean view before arriving at his mature position in On Denoting with his famous the theory of Spring 2009 descriptions Keeping this early view in mind sheds light also on the motivations for the view that Russell develops as we will see in Knowledge by Description and Knowledge by Acquaintance where Russell relies on the principle that we are directly acquainted with every constituent of a thought If all objects are on a par how do we deal with truth and falsehood Moore characteristically held that truth is a simple and unanalyzable property of propositions Note that this constitutes a rejection of the correspondence theory which has usually been associated with the early analytic tradition in fact the correspondence theory was not part of the earliest phase of analytic philosopher It was Russell who first rejected the view that truth is a simple property of propositions and this gave rise to his multiple relation theory of judgment which we ll return to see his 1910 On the Nature of Truth and Falsehood Atomism The atomism of Platonic Atomism is derived as we will see from the same source as its mindindependenceithe analysis of consciousness as a relation and the rejection of the coherence of the idea of an internal relation Its salient features are that the simples that are the objects of thought are the ultimate elements of all reality that they are independent of one another none involve internal relations to the others and that reality consists of the simples together with their external relations to one another Thus the correct grasp of reality requires knowing the simples together with their arrangements with one another It follows from this that analysis is the essential method of philosophy In this way we see that the rise of analytic philosophy conceived of as a way of doing philosophy was originally tied directly to the con ict between two radically different metaphysical systems While analytic philosophy has long since abandoned certainly as a tradition this early metaphysical position of Moore s it is interesting to see that the method which is characteristic of it was originally motivated in part by a background metaphysical picture of the nature of reality which was itself a reaction to a picture which if correct would have precluded the possibility of analysis as a method for discovering truth Analysis as a method was later to receive a different justification with the linguistic turn in philosophy itself motivated in part by Logical Atomism which was Russell and Wittgenstein s later development of Platonic Atomism The large features of Platonic Atomism largely dictated the direction of research in the subsequent decades in the early analytic tradition The two principal problems Platonic Atomism raised were those of the natures of the objects of sensory experience on the one hand which led to the development of sense data theory and the natures of the objects of propositional thoughts such as beliefs ie the natures of propositions Moore took up principally the former task Russell the latter 3 Moore s Refutation of Idealism Moore s aim in The Refutation of Idealism was not to show that idealism is false the view as he puts it initially that the world is spiritual in the sense that it is conscious and capable of the higher intellectual functions of which human beings are capable but rather to show that no good argument has ever been offered for this thesis It turns out that Moore s argumentative aims are even more circumscribed than he at rst lets on however for he does not argue for some key assumptions in his refutation He asserts without he says attempting to prove that all idealist Spring 2009 arguments have relied on the assumption that to be is to be perceived esse is percipi And then he says that he does not intend to show directly that this is false but rather simply that the reasons that idealists have thought to support it do not And he does not offer it turns out to show that the reasons that idealists have given for believing that esse is percipi are the reasons that he alleges So in supposing that Moore actually succeeds in demolishing his opponents we must as far as anything Moore says in the essay goes take a lot of what he says about their position on faith It is nonetheless true that sociologically the effect of Moore s essay in England was to destroy the idealist position This did not take place overnight but the beginning of the end can be dated to the publication ofthis essay in Mind in 1903 Moore begins his attack on the thesis that esse is percipi by explaining what he takes the position that he is attacking to be The phrase esse est percipi of course is due to Berkeley Moore s real target is not Berkeley but rather the absolute idealists in the British tradition at the end of the 19th century Moore apparently regarded this principle as one to which all of them were committed whatever further differences there might be between their positions and Moore also apparently thought that they all arrived at this assumption by the same flawed route Perhaps you will think his procedure excessively mechanical and tedious but if you try to spell out a thesis your understanding of which you take for granted the procedure often yields unexpected fruits you nd you didn t understand it so well after all An important thing to note about Moore s discussion of percipi is that he says that he intends it to cover not just sensations but also thought or any sort of conscious state Why is that important It is important because while the argument he gives toward the end of the paper is given in terms of an example involving sensations he intends the results to be general Thus his conclusion is not just that in sensation there are objects we are directly aware of which exist independently of us but that in all thought there are objects of the thought we are directly aware of even where these thoughts are about purely abstract matters We see clearly the in uence of this doctrine on Russell in K 39 Ag by A J 39 and K 39 J by Description And it is also by this route as I noted above that Moore arrives at the view in his early work that the objects of thought and experience are not to be distinguished that we have direct access to the object of every thought and of every experience and thereby access to a reality of the same kind There is an odd thing about Moore s identifying the assumption he will attack as esse is percipi That is that this is sometimes taken simply to be identical to idealism not an assumption of it And in the case of Berkeley it just is his position Moore treats it as an assumption of idealism because he has in mind the stronger claim that reality is spiritual He claims that the argument for the position that reality is spiritual3 goes through the claim that to be is to perceive esse is percipere and that an assumption in every absolute idealist s argument for that claim is in turn that to be is to be perceived esse is percipi When Moore turns to discussing the use of is in esse is percipi he distinguishes three different interpretations The rst holds that esse and percipi are the same in meaning and this he holds would be trivial and so uninteresting a mere fact about words the thesis that being is being The second holds that esse is percipi is analytic though esse and percipi are not 3 For some illustrative quotations Bradley says in Appearance andRealizy There is but one Reality and its being consists in experience p 455 and again Everything is experience and also experience is one p 457 Spring 2009 synonymous and where Moore means by this that esse is to be analyzed as X and percipi for some substitution for X that does not itself entail being perceived This Moore says is also trivial and uninteresting not a substantive thesis What we want to know is whether if something is X it is perceived Finally Moore claims that the only option left for the idealists is to claim that esse is percz39pz39 is a synthetic necessary truth there is an organic unity linking esse and percz39pi he says We can remark about this that Moore appears to have overlooked an option that is that esse is percipi is analytic although not because esse is to be analyzed as X and percipi but because of some deep connection between being and being perceived Just as to be a number is to have a successor or to be extended is to be spatially located is analytic but not because on analysis it is ofthe form to be anXand to have a successor is to have a successor or to be anX and to be spatially located is to be spatially located so it may be that to be is to be perceived is analytic though not of the form to be X and to be perceived is to be perceived 4 Having remarked this though we can note that it would not seem to make much difference to Moore s later argument if we made the change This way of putting it shows the lingering affect of his training in the Kantian tradition which did not regard analytic knowledge as ampliative and also of the underlying metaphysics of Platonic Atomism being developed Moore s argument from this point becomes intricate the idealists he says usually take esse is percipz39 to require support Moore says that if it is asserted as selfevident all he can say is that it does not seem so to him and introduce in support of it the following thesis or perhaps identify it with the following thesis 1 if x is experienced then x is necessarily experienced ie nothing experienced could occur unexperienced or in Moore s paraphrase 2 the object of experience is inconceivable apart from the subject These are distinct claims from the literal claim that to be is to be perceived because this last is a material claim and l and 2 have modal force 1 and 2 and 2 in particular Moore says are contradictory What are his grounds The idealists he suggests endorse 2 because they fail to see the distinctness of experience and object at this point in the article this is actually a forward looking remark since Moore does not explain or back it up until his discussion of the sensations of blue and green The contradiction apparently lies in their also holding that the two are distinct But this evidently is not the same thing as proving a contradiction from 2 4 For example consider the claim that 5 is a number and suppose we define is a number as is zero or is a successor of a number Let us write is the successor of x as xl We define numerals as follows l 0l 2 ll 3 2l 4 3l 5 4l etc Then 5 is anumber becomes 4l is zero or is a successor ofa number A proof of this is available from the definitions of is a number and 5 so that 5 is a number is analytic but it is clear that the form of the proposition is not the x such that x is X and x is a number is a number Another interesting example involves the relation of a determinable to its determ inates It seems plausible to say that Red is a color is analytic but being colored is not a component of being red but rather a general category in which it falls and of which it is a determinate mode Spring 2009 There ensues a short discussion of the idealist thesis that all relations are internal relations The doctrine of internal relations holds that all relations and all properties a thing has it has essentially The absolute idealists adopted this view roughly as a requirement on the world being rationally intelligible a Spinozistic view Moore entertains the idea that the idealists might respond to the claim that they are involved in contradiction by holding that an experience and its object were distinct and yet still one because their relations to one another are internal relations and so they form a system whose parts cannot be thought separate Moore claims plausibly that this is an instance of wanting to have your cake and eat it too if we admit two things even as inseparable parts of one whole we still admit two things and a third if we count the whole If the whole were treated as substitutable everywhere for the part and vice versa then by the identity of indiscernibles they would be one and not two Whether we can in fact even conceive of a genuine relation being essential to a particular excepting perhaps is identical with is a difficult question and one on which Ithink one can still nd a divided opinion My own view and Ithink the view of Russell is that we cannot once we understand the logical structure of our language again barring identity Thus it will not do to say that after all there is only one thing if we want to say there are two inseparably bound together as parts of a distinct whole There follows one of my favorite passages in Moore s work The principle of organic unities like that of combined analysis and synthesis is mainly used to defend the practice of holding both of two contradictory propositions wherever this may seem convenient In this as in other matters Hegel s main service to philosophy has consisted in giving a name to and erecting into a principle a type of fallacy to which experience had shown philosophers along with the rest of mankind to be addicted No wonder that he has followers and admirers Philosophical Studies p 16 Still while there may be something wrong with saying there are two distinct things and there are not it is not clear what argument Moore has advanced against internal relations as such which would be all that would be needed to assert 2 See Moore s later External and Internal Relations in his Philosophical Studies Ithink that what is really driving Moore s objection to the idealist position only emerges after this point when he turns to identify a belief without which he asserts the idealists would not suppose that an experience and its object were inseparable This is Moore s real diagnosis of the idealists position and once we see what is going on here we can see why Moore thinks that l and 2 are necessarily false Moore suggests that idealists believe that esse is percipi only because they believe that to take an example the sensation of blue and blue are the same thing cf the remark above about the idealists not distinguishing the object of experience from the experience This he believes is simply a confusion He attributes the mistake the idealists make to a kind of phenomenological failure when they consider what is going on when they are conscious they fail to see or attend to the consciousness in addition to its object and so though dimly recognizing there is both the blue and the consciousness not seeing or noticing the consciousness in experience they assert they are distinct but one Moore sets out to show that there is absolutely no reason to believe this by asking us to contrast the sensation of blue with the sensation of green In each sensation we can distinguish a common element which we can call consciousness And in each we can Spring 2009 distinguish something different which we can call the object of the sensationiblue in the case of the sensation of blue and green in the case of the sensation of green Now Moore asserts to say that blue is identical with the sensation of blue must be contradictory because there are only two analyses of what the sensation of blue is a It is the consciousness alone b It is the consciousness plus blue If the former then it is not blue and if the latter since a part cannot be identical with the whole it is not blue And here we see the rejection of internal relations above as possible refuge for an idealist from the consequences of this objection doing some work This is of course a puzzling argument There are two things going on here First Moore is taking the of in sensation of blue to express a relation If it expresses a relation then there have to be two things the sensation and the thing it is related to its object which is apparently blue The second thing going on here is a consequence of the first he treats blue as denoting an object Moore s treatment of of here as a signifying a two term relation is the key to understanding what is going on in this article and also to understanding the genesis of sense data theory and the realism about the objects of judgments which was characteristic of the early Moore and Russell Moore goes on to try to diagnose the idealist reasoning This is also characteristic of Moore as is his starting point in our common sense conception of the world Moore takes a strange philosophical view and notes that it con icts with our common sense understanding Then he asks by what chain of reasoning someone could have or did come to believe that If he can show that the chain of reasoning is flawed then common sense wins by default The idealists Moore says are led to suppose that there is no object in addition to the sensation through one of two confusions I am of course cleaning up Moore s discussion here both of which involve the role of of in sensation of blue The idealists treat of in sensation of blue as if it were either the is of identity or the is of predication l and 2 above can be seen as expressions of this On the one hand if we treat it as the is of identity then we run into the difficulty Moore claims of being unable to say what is in common between the sensation of blue and of green The sensation at least has the feature of consciousness ie is conscious but this not the same as blue so the sensation cannot be identical with blue On the other hand if we treat it as the is of predication then we suppose that the sensation of blue is itself blue in the same sense in which a flower is blue This is what the discussion of the content of the ower and the sensation is about in Moore s article Now Moore s response to this is basically that it may be that the sensation of blue is itself blue but that there is a sense we can give to the content of the sensation of blue which implies that there is at least something else which exists besides the sensation That is the object of the consciousness For when we are conscious of our own consciousness it is evident that we stand in a relation to something For if we allow the conscious of its object in this case the sensation of blue say to collapse into its object we no longer have a distinction between being 39 of our 39 and the 39 itself And if there is a relation in this case consciousness of consciousness there must be two things that are related two relata Since the sensation of blue is itself a consciousness and so an awareness it too must be a relation between two items So even if the sensation of blue is itself blue and so has content in that sense it also can be said to have content in another sense namely that it relates us to a thing which is not identical either to us or to the sensation itself Of course this is just to treat the of of sensation of blue as expressing a relation of awareness Spring 2009 between the sensor and an object that is Moore treats x has a sensation of blue as meaning x is aware of y Moore thinks that once we see that it is a mistake to take of in sensation of blue to be either a relation of identity or as it were part of the predicate ofblue we will cease to think that there is any reason at all to suppose that esse is percz39pz39 Moore notes that strictly speaking it could still be the case that esse is percz39pi and that the objects to which our awarenesses relate us do not exist except when we are aware of them but he thinks that once we realize that these objects are separate from the awarenesses we will see that there is no reason why they could not exist separately and so no reason to think that they are in any way dependent on our awareness of them Moore s argument in Refutation of Idealism is a strange mixture of clarity and confusion insight and obtuseness It is also extremely philosophical both in the sorts of errors that it criticizes and the character of the criticism and unwittingly in the sorts of errors it falls into itself The error Moore falls into is in a way the same error that he accuses the idealist of falling into that is mistaking the grammatical role of of in sensation of blue It does not express a relation The term sensation is a generic term for a type of mental state or event The work of of blue is to tell us what particular type of sensation it is To put this another way let me introduce the terminology of determinables and determinates A determinable is a property that comes in a variety of particular sorts The paradigm of a determinable is being colored Anything that is colored is one particular color but can be any of an inde nitely large number of colors The particular de nite colors a thing can be are the determinate properties relative to the property of being colored In the same way being a sensation is a determinable relative to being a sensation of x Every sensation is a particular kind of sensation what we plug in for x tells what kind the particular sensation is After reading Moore one can understand why the later Wittgenstein came to believe that all philosophical problems were the result of misunderstandings of the logical grammar of language This mistake of Moore s is the fountainhead both of the realist view of the objects of judgments a view still represented in contemporary philosophy and of that strange tradition of theorizing about sense data which lasted into the mid to late 1950s Although Moore does not use the term sense data in this article he makes the essential move to introduce them namely to treat consciousness as a relation between us and other things From this it follows that whenever we are conscious we are aware of something other than ourselves and of something different from the awareness itself What we are aware of is what is denoted by what follows the of in expressions like sensation of heat experience as of a brown cow etc though these turn out not to be always what those words in other contexts denote It is important to note that sense data in the sense we get from Moore39s discussion here are mind independent entitiesiat least modally that is it is possible for whatever we are directly aware of in sense to exist independently of minds This informs Russell s view of sense data as well as we will see in quotOn the Relation of Sensedata to Physicsquot Moore claims in the last few pages of his article that the recognition that this type of awareness is the same as the kind of awareness we have of our awarenesses themselves shows why skepticism Spring 2009 about things other than ourselves can succeed only at the cost of skepticism about our own minds This is an inspired move This is why Moore did not feel the same need the idealists and Kant did to treat what we think and experience as constituted by the activity of our own minds in order to secure the possibility of knowledge of it But it turns out that whatever we are related to in this way cannot after all be the objects of the commonsense world since it is impossible to suffer an illusion when having a sensation of blue or an experience as of a brown cow Thus if we treat these objects as separate from ourselves we cannot treat them as physical objects like cows since we can suffer a kind of error about physical objects we cannot about whatever are the immediate objects of our awamesses and so these objects must be another kind of object since they are what we are immediately aware of in sensory experience we can call them sense data Moore recognized quickly that the position at the end of quotThe Refutation of Idealismquot was unsatisfactory as we see in his 1905 quotOn the Nature and Reality of Objects of Perceptionquot The introduction of sense data ushered in a host of questions what are they where do they exist what is their relation to physical objects what is their role in our knowledge and perception of the physical world how do we know them Thus was born a research program that exercised some of the best philosophical minds of AngloAmerican philosophy for 50 years


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