Idealism, objectivity, God.

A: We run past some of the first arguments in Hylas and Philonous when we shouldn’t.

B: Like which?

A: Even the initial argument from heat generalizes across all the senses.

B: Hylas is there arguing that whatever we sense is in things. If we sense heat, the fire is hot; if we sense a green tree then the tree is green.

A: True, but the problem is we have to choose which premise is false:

1.) Whatever we sense is in the objects sensed.

2.) We sense pain.

3.) Therefore, there is pain in the objects sensed.

The conclusion is crazy, so we have to reject either (1) or (2), and we know (2) by direct and immediate evidence.

B: So why not just quarantine pain as subjective and allow the other sense qualities as objective?

A: Because the experience itself won’t let us do this. When we touch a fire we can’t separate the sense of heat from the sense of pain. We can’t put a burning charcoal in our mouth and focus on just the heat and not the pain.

B: Sure, but how does this generalize?

A: The example of tastes or smells are immediately analogous. We can’t divide painful smells or tastes – those that make us wretch or gag – from their “objective taste”.

B: This seems easier to do with sights and sounds though.

A: True, but even there we all admit that the object of aesthetic judgment and the “objective” object are the same thing. The face we take joy in is the same face we might dispassionately measure. A painter looking at trees is looking at the same object of the biologist.

B:  So the general argument is

1.) Whatever we sense is in things.

2.) We sense pleasure or pain (or aesthetic value or negative value)

3.) So pleasure and pain are in things.

A crazy conclusion leads us to claim that what we sense is not in things.

A: Exactly. The transcendental analogy seems hard to avoid: what pleasure is to sense so goodness is to intelligence.

B: But what’s objectivity then?

A: I think it’s just the superabundance of sense information to our sense powers.

B: Superabundance?

A: Yes – we can perfectly account for what we call “objective” by saying it describes the fact that there is always more information among sensible or intelligible things than what we are cognizant of. Just as a democracy needs voting but to my vote, existence needs perception but not my perception. When Hume calls ideas less vivid impressions the “less vivid” can just mean that there is less information in the idea – the copy – than in the impression. The complex impression always has more information than the idea that it is recorded as, but this is not because these things subsist in some sort of non-cognitive world.

B: So the Berkeleyan God is The perceiver who allows for the objectivity of perception where “objectivity” means only “superabundance over and beyond the information that our mind can attend to”.

A: Yes, exactly. This is why communities are always more divine and objective than individuals.




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