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Re: [ontolog-forum] {Disarmed} Reality and Truth

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "John F. Sowa" <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 17 May 2007 16:32:42 -0400
Message-id: <464CBBEA.9020900@xxxxxxxxxxx>
I just wanted to register my agreement with the points
that Pat Hayes was making:    (01)

PH> I think that what Debbie means by the above is
> only this: that reality is large and messy, but 
> that 'truth' is always the truth of some 
> idea/thought/ontology/assertion, so is always at 
> the tidy conceptualized, thinking end of the 
> spectrum. And Bill and Don are puzzled, because 
> they are living at the tidy end and think of 
> truth as a relationship to reality, so the word 
> used alone seems to them to be more concerned 
> with the reality than the concept or thought.    (02)

I'd also like to cite some comments by William James
on this issue (excerpt below).  The phrase "blooming,
buzzing confusion", which James used to describe the
sensory input to a baby, is often quoted out of context.
Following are three paragraphs of context plus the URL
of the whole book.    (03)

_______________________________________________________    (04)

Source:    (05)

Classics in the History of Psychology -- James (1890) Chapter 13    (06)

The 'simple impression' of Hume, the 'simple idea' of Locke are both 
abstractions, never realized in experience. Experience, from the very 
first, presents us with concreted objects, vaguely continuous with the 
rest of the world which envelops them in space and time, and potentially 
divisible into inward elements and parts. These objects we break asunder 
and reunite. We must treat them in both ways for our knowledge of them 
to grow; and it is hard to say, on the whole, which way preponderates. 
But since the elements with which the traditional associationism 
performs its constructions -- 'simple sensations,' namely -- are all 
products of discrimination carried to a high pitch, it seems as if we 
ought to discuss the subject of analytic attention and discrimination first.    (07)

The noticing of any part whatever of our object is an act of 
discrimination. Already on p. 404 I have described the manner in which 
we often spontaneously lapse into the undiscriminating state, even with 
regard to objects which we have already learned to distinguish. Such 
anaesthetics as chloroform, nitrous oxide, etc., sometimes bring about 
transient lapses even more total, in which numerical discrimination 
especially seems gone; for one sees light and hears sound, but whether 
one or many lights and sounds is quite impossible to tell. Where the 
parts of an object have already been discerned, and each made the object 
of a special discriminative act, we can with difficulty feel the [p. 
488] object again in its pristine unity; and so prominent may our 
consciousness of its composition be, that we may hardly believe that it 
ever could have appeared undivided. But this is an erroneous view, the 
undeniable fact being that any number of impressions, from any number of 
sensory sources, falling simultaneously on a mind WHICH HAS NOT YET 
EXPERIENCED THEM SEPARATELY, will fuse into a single undivided object 
for that mind. The law is that all things fuse that can fuse, and 
nothing separates except what must. What makes impressions separate we 
have to study in this chapter. Although they separate easier if they 
come in through distinct nerves, yet distinct nerves are not an 
unconditional ground of their discrimination, as we shall presently see. 
The baby, assailed by eyes, ears, nose, skin, and entrails at once, 
feels it all as one great blooming, buzzing confusion; and to the very 
end of life, our location of all things in one space is due to the fact 
that the original extents or bignesses of all the sensations which came 
to our notice at once, coalesced together into one and the same space. 
There is no other reason than this why "the hand I touch and see 
coincides spatially with the hand I immediately feel."[5]    (08)

It is true that we may sometimes be tempted to exclaim, when once a lot 
of hitherto unnoticed details of the object lie before us, "How could we 
ever have been ignorant of these things and yet have felt the object, or 
drawn the conclusion, as if it were a continuum, a plenum? There would 
have been gaps -- but we felt no gaps; wherefore we must have seen and 
heard these details, leaned upon these steps; they must have been 
operative upon our minds, just as they are now, only unconsciously, or 
at least inattentively. Our first unanalyzed sensation was really 
composed of these elementary sensations, our first rapid conclusion was 
really based on these intermediate inferences, all the while, only we 
failed to note the fact." But this is nothing but the fatal 
'psychologists fallacy' (p. 196) of treating an inferior state of mind 
as if it must somehow know implicitly all that is explicitly known [p. 
489] about the same topic by superior states of mind. The thing thought 
of is unquestionably the same, but it is thought twice over in two 
absolutely different psychoses, -- once as an unbroken unit, and again 
as a sum of discriminated parts. It is not one thought in two editions, 
but two entirely distinct thoughts of one thing. And each thought is 
within itself a continuum, a plenum, needing no contributions from the 
other to fill up its gaps. As I sit here, I think objects, and I make 
inferences, which the future is sure to analyze and articulate and 
riddle with discriminations, showing me many things wherever I now 
notice one. Nevertheless, my thought feels quite sufficient unto itself 
for the time being; and ranges from pole to pole, as free, and as 
unconscious of having overlooked anything, as if it possessed the 
greatest discriminative enlightenment. We all cease analyzing the world 
at some point, and notice no more differences. The last units with which 
we stop are our objective elements of being. Those of a dog are 
different from those of a Humboldt; those of a practical man from those 
of a metaphysician. But the dog's and the practical man's thoughts feel 
continuous, though to the Humboldt or the metaphysician they would 
appear full of gaps and defects. And they are continuous, as thoughts. 
It is only as mirrors of things that the superior minds find them full 
of omissions. And when the omitted things are discovered and the 
unnoticed differences laid bare, it is not that the old thoughts split 
up, but that new thoughts supersede them, which make new judgments about 
the same objective world.    (09)

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