So things are pretty active in the last thread, but I am getting a bit lost in all the comments there, so I’m going to separate one thread and post on it separate. I used an example of looking at an object and trying to distinguish between p-qualities and s-qualities. I think Levi’s response was especially enlightening in terms of trying to flesh out our disagreement on the matter, but before we get to it, Nick noted, commenting on my remark that I am not sure how much our perception really changed with scientific revolution, something I am not really certain about, just a thought:
I think this is a debatable point as well, but off-hand I can think of two pieces of evidence that science has actually changed our perception – one, the bizarre mathematics involved in cutting-edge physics, which model . And two, psychological experiments showing that unperceived visuals (e.g. a word flashed too quickly for one’s consciousness to pick it up) are real and have effects. Both of these examples are, in principle, impossible for us to ever experience, and are only possible with the aid of scientific instruments.
I think this is an interesting observation as such and I do not necessary disagree. Levi adds,
As Nick points out above, both relativity and quantum mechanics required new forms of mathematics that are quite remote from the mid-range “objects” of our phenomenological lived experience. Likewise, I have often referred to the Haldron super-collidor and others like it, which require very complex computer programs to even track the data. When I use the term “observation” I am not, generally, referring to the phenomenological act of looking (because I think the evidence is pretty strong that the phenomenological level of experience is a cognitive construction), but to all these techniques involving measuring, technology, and experiment.
Ok, so I will say just a few things here to take an opportunity to discuss this without getting lost in our thread on p- and s-qualities. Right away I would like to say that I know very little about the most recent scientific gadgets, discoveries or colliders, i.e. I am not an expert and I apologize ahead of time for my amateurish language yet stil I think I can handle this philosophically.
When we say that scientific instruments are giving us a new type of experience, and not just a new type of data, I think we are going too far and this is why: the difference between a sophisticated particle collider and Galileo’s telescope is of degree of data we are receiving, we are thinking about, not a new type of experience per se. In a sense, I would claim, it is as impossible to experience a simple sum (7+5=12) as it is to experience “unvisualizable, multi-dimensional space-times” – if I am yokel living in a remote part of the country, your elegant prove that the sum of all the angles in a triangle is two right angles will impress me immensely (right before I blow your hear off with my gun because you damn did tresspassed on my property), but there’s no magic here, just advanced human knowledge. You demonstration will be clearly outside of anything I’ve ever experienced in my “phenomenological lived experience,” but hardly a new type of experience? It will be a new experience, not a new type of experience.
I’m open to any comments here, I’m sort of thinking aloud here.
Let me give you one example that I immediately thought of when I read your comments – Sextus Empiricus cites Democritus who allegedly said something like this:
[Click on the picture to see the large image, the book I take it from is found here]
Now, without going into much detail about the historical situation and so on, the question I have is this: clearly Democritus had no access to any of the sophisticated machinery of contemporary sciences, and clearly there were all sorts of views of reality, but somehow he managed to get it right – there are only atoms and the void, everything else looks the way it looks to us – which leads me to Levi’s objection:
Now maybe you have just chosen this example to illustrate your point, but I’ve noticed that you often speak in the phenomenological register when discussing these issues. For example, in the passage quoted above you speak of “looking”. Now, in my view, the phenomenological register is purely correlational. In the phenomenological register, we find not things-in-themselves but objects as they are for-us. As a result, I don’t think we find primary qualities in the phenomenological register.
Ok, let’s say I am talking about a phenomenological register. So to return to my example, all of the 10 qualities of an object that we were able to record are s-qualities, because in order to – I’m struggling to choose a verb here – see? experience? find? know? think? none fits because these are all verbs describing my phenomenological register.
The reason that I don’t think we find primary qualities in the primary register is because it seems fairly evident to me that we either require technological instruments to encounter these properties or mathematical formalizations.
The problem remains – it is I who am using the technological instrument to encounter a property, even if this property is only visible with a microscope, and it is I who am going to encounter these p-properties, even if with a help of complex mathematical formalizations. The issue for me is still very much clothed in a Kantian approach – it doesn’t matter how sophisticated your scientific instruments or theories are, in the end, it’s going to be a human who will be theorizing the p-primary qualities. That is why Kant has a neat distinction between “knowing” (s-qualities) and “thinking” (p-qualities, if you want to call them that way).