So today I sat through the exact same Epistemology lecture I sat through last year on Sense Datum Theories. Part of me felt like just leaving when I realised I'd heard it all before, but let's be honest here, doing it again isn't going to hurt. So in accepting being given this second chance to understand I will take to discussing it with you lot.
Personally I feel like epistemology shouldn't have it's own class but should just be discussed in relation to everything else. But maybe that's just because I am not a fan -
So I'll give you the two claims we are (apparently) committed to before I discuss. If you are a non philosopher and absolutely horrified by my sharing this with you I do apologise and hope it doesn't lead to you never returning. But at the same time I did warn you all of this probably happening and as I have been sat in the library for a couple of hours and found myself not really doing much of anything I may as well do this. Let's call it Education Through Procrastination.
In fact, I quite like that. I will be keeping it, somehow.
1) Typically, the direct objects of perceptual experience are external, mind independent objects
2) Typically, perceptual experiences are relations to their direct objects.
'Right, so what does that all mean' I hear you ask! Well, I don't hear much other than the clicking and the tapping I'm causing myself nor could I adequately answer such a question (I'm assuming) but by-golly I plan to try (...something).
Now, according to number 2 those perceptual experiences are relational just like my laptop is sat in front of me is relational. If I were sat somewhere else that whole 'in front of me' placement would not hold. So according to that, a perceptual experience needs to have a relation going on, if there is no one around to relate to then the experience can't be happening.
Ok, so that makes sense enough.
'But wait!' I hear you cry. Does it make sense if we think about illusory experiences or hallucinations?
Well, if you are a Sense-Datum Theorist the answer would be to abandon claim 1 and keep hold of number 2. So there is still the 'relation to the object' thing going on, but it doesn't necessarily have to be some external object. Only thing, if it's not an external object, what the hell is it? If I can see the laptop, doesn't the laptop have to be there?
Well, the Sense Datum guys would say that those perceptual experiences are mind dependent 'sense-data' that are actually these internal things inside our minds.
This is the point I start going - wait, what!?
So (from what I've gathered at least,) our perceptual experiences, i.e. things I can see, touch etc. are relations to the 'sense-data'.
This sounds like they are saying that those perceptual experiences I'm having are all in my head, which I can almost go for... almost. Yeah ok, so I'll agree that what we're perceiving isn't necessarily what's out there. It's not like we could ever know, my experiences are all subjective. So on a low low scale, maybe when I see blue you can see green - that's not to say we're going to sit and argue about the blue object we're both looking it, but rather we see different things that are called the same thing through that relational language stuff. I learn to call this thing I see blue and so do you, even though we don't see the same thing.
Sure, fine. This is ok. But now we're getting more into the 'what?'
So how is it that you and I can both see a table if this is all some internal mental sense data relation? There has to be something making me perceive a table, right?
Well I think so. But then you have those idealists that just make my head hurt who I think say no. Now, maybe I'm just misinterpreting the whole thing, but I think the idealists would say that everything I perceive and experience is just some representation or illusion or something and not what's really there. But then you have to wonder what really is there...
It almost feels like they either don't have an answer or they're just going to make stuff up and hope it flies.
I'm not really sure about all this idealism - It makes my head hurt.
But please, enter into discussion (especially any philosophers!) and let's work all this out together!