Sunday, July 06, 2008

Are not all colors extended?

The standard construal of the a priori consists of two categories: the analytic and the synthetic. Analytic a priori judgments are said to be true by definition; we know without the confirmation of experience that all bachelors are unmarried males because the term “bachelor” is by definition an unmarried male. Another salient feature of analytic a priori judgments is that if we deny them we would be contradicting ourselves. If I were to say that some bachelors are married, I would be contradicting myself, since being a bachelor just means being a male and not married. But since analytic a priori statements are true by definition they are tautologies and therefore they don’t tell us anything about the world besides the way we define things, which, when it comes to doing substantive philosophy, is uninteresting.

Synthetic a priori judgments are said to be judgments we make about the world without the need of confirming experiences. Putative instances of valid synthetic a priori judgments include the following: that ‘nothing is wholly green and wholly red at the same time’, and ‘there are no effects without causes’. These propositions are considered synthetic as opposed to analytic because they don’t seem to be true simply by definition, e.g. whatever the project of defining the word “red” might amount to it seems irrelevant to include the relation “never coextensive with C” where C = each and every color that is not identical to red. Furthermore, and what I think is interesting, is that denying valid synthetic a priori judgments do not lead to contradictions. If I were to say that some things are both wholly red and wholly green, I would be expressing a proposition that seems to be necessarily false, but not a propositions that asserts both A and not-A.

Synthetic a priori judgments, in contrast to analytic a priori judgments, seem to be “getting at” things in the world, rather than describing features of language. When I say that ‘nothing is wholly red and wholly green at the same time’, it seems that I’m picking out a certain relationship between redness and greenness, and that their relation of never-being-coextensive is a fact about their natures. In contrast, when I say ‘all bachelors are unmarried males’ I am simply explaining the meaning of the word “bachelor”.

Now that I have briefly exposited the analytic/synthetic distinction I wish to submit a proposition as a valid synthetic a priori judgment.

(CE) Necessarily, all colors are such that they are extended.

My evidence for (CE) is simply that I can never think of colors that aren’t extended. When I put pressure on my eye and see flashes of red and yellow, or when I think of the color blue, the colors that I experience are always extended.

(CE) is synthetic and known a priori because: (1) the word “color” is not synonymous with “extension” (the synthetic criterion) and (2) because I don’t need to examine every colored thing in universe to know that everything that is colored will also be extended (the a priori criterion).

Being convinced that (CE) is true has caused me to make some significant adjustments to my ontology. Modern physics has led me to believe that color-experiences are things in the mind that are caused by a chain of events involving molecules, photons, retinas, neurons, and my mind. I must reject this theory of colors because I believe that minds are not extended, and now that I believe colors are extended, there’s no sense to notion that colors are “in my mind”.

Since I now believe that colors are extended, this also makes me a direct realist about their place in the universe. Tree trunks look brown because they are brown, not because tree bark has a certain molecular structure that (ultimately) makes me “see brown” when I look at them.

Since I believe colors are extended and are features of extended objects in the extended universe I deny the thesis that all extended objects are reducible to the atoms to which they are comprised. For, according to modern physics, atoms are not colored. But if I believe atoms are not colored, and atoms comprise the extended things in the universe, then it must be the case there are more to extended objects then their atoms- namely, their colors!

Notice, however, that just because I don’t believe extended objects are reducible to atoms to which they are (partly) comprised, this does not necessarily entail dualism. It merely means that atoms are not the only fundamental physical things in the universe.

This post is made possibly in part by the color blue.

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

On the objective/subjective divide.

I think the conventional construal of objectivity and subjectivity is incoherent. Supposedly, something is objective if it is mind-independent, or exists independent of the mind. Conversely, something is thought to be subjective if it is mind-dependent, or exists only in the mind. The incoherence of this view can be demonstrated by asking the following question: is it objectively true that minds exist, or is it subjectively true that minds exist? If objective is taken to mean “mind-independent” then it cannot be objectively true that minds exist, because the fact that minds exist is a mind-dependent fact; if there were no minds then the proposition “there are minds” would be (objectively) false. Nor can it be the case that “there are minds” is subjectively true because it’s nonsense to think that the fact that you have mind is somehow dependent on my mind. So lets just jettison the distinction all together.

Instead I propose we chop reality at its joints.

Physical: that which is extended.
Non-Physical: that which is not extended.

Putative physical things: computers, oceans, the matter and form of whales, neurons, apples, colors...

Putative non-physical things: love (the relation and the feeling (yes! I think love is a type of feeling!!!)), wonderment, joy, anger, obligations, smells, warmth, coldness, tastes, discombobulatedness, minds...

P.S. all physical and non-physical things univocally share in being; i.e. they all exist!

P.S.S. I’m not too sure which category of being time and causation fall into. Surely physical things are bound by time and instance causal relationships, but just because objects are bound by time and causal relationships it doesn’t mean time and causation are physical things just like my computer and the tree outside my window are both physical things. And since physical objects seem to be bound by time and causal relationships I can in no way say that time and causation are non-physical entities either...

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