Braine on sensation

David Braine points to the long history of defining sense knowledge through its fallibility (Plato in Theatetus, almost the whole modern Rationalist tradition, turn of the century British thought, etc.) this tradition in turns leads to accounts of sensation that make it purely interior. STA seems to confirm this when he argues that Aristotle’s claim that sensation is inerrant describes sensations as subjective reports: we are in a position to infallibly report that we see the water as blue or that the food tastes sweet, but not to report on the objective status of  either.

Braine’s critique of this is that it isolates the person as observer from the person as a someone wandering through the world, exploring it, trying to accomplish tasks in it, etc. Pure observation cut off from its larger context in the life of the organism gives rise to the appearance-reality problem in sensation, though arguably this tells us only that we can’t determine the objectivity of sense from considering it qua observer.

Braine also critiques the idea that the fallibility of sense is established though pointing to bent-paddles, the way things taste to the sick, phantom limb phenomena, etc. All seem to be cases of seeing privations of X as types of X, though this is arguably a confusion between how we speak and how we know things are. Calling Homer a blind man doesn’t make blindness a formal or specific difference. In knowing what things are we’re trying to get a hold of their complete reality, and privations can’t play a role in this effort. This last premise is one I’m very sympathetic to – much of Catholic sexual teaching is explained by realizing that privations can’t function as elements in the account of the reality of something.




  1. April 10, 2017 at 11:35 pm

    Yes, but what does Pinky think?

    • David said,

      April 11, 2017 at 8:44 am

      You’re pondering what I’m pondering.

%d bloggers like this: