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Author Topic: "Sensationism" concept consultation for an alternate definition of the term  (Read 145 times)

Posts: 12

« on: 07/09/09 @ 18:00 »

I've produced a webpage on a concept that I have named Divinism within which I have included a page entitled Interaction with existence:
I really need some feedback and, after a recommendation recieved in a consultation page on my basic concept of Divinism, I thought it best to place a post here.

I would appreciate feedback concerning all aspects of the site and would be particular grateful for thoughts relating to my proposed definition of "Sensationism".  Here's the relevant quote from the Interactions page of my site.

There is a reason why we know of the existence of existence.  Its all in the experience.  Existence is something that is, quite simply, sensed to be real.
(It's really quite poetic).
Every sensation that is experienced is, in a real sense, a sense of existence.
The existence of existence is validated by its experience.
Proof of existence is quite sensational.
But how?
Sensation, it may be argued, can be classified within a number of broad categories.  To start with it can be considered that you have a awareness of physical sensation through such senses as hearing, smell, sight, taste and the wide range of bodily (somatic) senses that are generally labled touch.  You have an awareness of the perceived presence of a significant reservoir of information and you may regard this pool of knowledge to be stored in your memory.  You have an awareness of information that appears to be being actively used within your mind and, amongst your beliefs, this percieved activity may be regarded to be the working of your thoughts.  You may have an awareness of other drives and you may feel that you have an understanding of your emotions and, mixing things up, you may also have an awareness of your priorities and values that you may feel that you possess that may be influenced by factors within your memory and your drives.  In summary, the sensations that you feel can be placed into categories such as those of: physical sensation; memory; thought; chemical and emotional drives and values.
Your senses have the potential to provide you with an understanding of who you are but more than that.  Your sensation of the physical may be interpreted to give you a perception of space and your sensation of memory may be interpreted to give you a perception of time.  It's phenomenal.  There seems to be a whole world out there and there would seem to be a whole load of time in which you might enjoy it.
But enough about you.  What about me?
An intro to EGO!
There are reports that a seventeenth century French philosopher named Rene Descartes adopted a somewhat foundational view that stated, "I think therefore I am".  Further revelations are also presented within the influential content of Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy in which he, in effect, actually finished that last sentence.  He later defined himself to be a "thinking thing".  I like the statement "I think therefore I am".  It rolls off the tongue and is really quite catchy.  The only failing that it has is that it does not take baseline philosophy quite to an initial point.  In his first philosophy Descartes also asked "What is there, then, that can be esteemed true?  Perhaps this only, that there is absolutely nothing certain."  That's an idea that is worth thinking about.  The trouble is that, according to a certain and yet uncertain interpretation of things, I may seem that I cannot even be able to be sure whether it is me that is doing the thinking.  But there is another view that might alternatively be considered.  Descartes stated a personal view that, "I do not yet know with sufficient clearness what I am."
OK then – enough about me.  What about you?  It turns out that you cannot even be sure whether you are a you - singular or a you - plural.
Solipsism is the philosophical idea that ones own mind is all that exists and yet the truth is quite amazing.  Brain in a vat? - you may not even be that.  All you know for sure is sensation.  It is only from this point that interpretations can be made.
So where, it might be asked, does this leave Descartes' "First Philosophy".  There are two interpretations that may be taken.  It can either be interpreted that Descartes' "First Philosophy" is moved into second place or it may, alternatively, be interpreted that I am merely trying to make something out of nothing.  But it really should not matter to me which of these interpretations that you may be taken.  Given the subject in question it really does not matter.  Solipsism, from your point of view, suggests that I don't even exist.  Sensationism (according to my interpretation of the word), in a similar way, may leave options open for a similar conclusion.
From your point of view, you cannot be sure that I have any form of individual existence - but this really does not matter.  The important thing, from my point of view, is your experience of me.  It's been sensational.
In summary:
It can be considered that the only thing that can be directly known - there is sensation.
The wide range of sensations that you experience give you a sense of who you are within a full and vibrant context.
However, if sensation was to be questioned then these apparent realities may also be brought into question.
There is no certainty with regard to the space, time or even to your personal identity.
There is only one thing that can be directly known and yet the conclusion is, at least, of universal significance.
There is sensation therefore there is existence.
Everything else is theory.  For instance: it may be theorised that if a tree falls in a forest and even if there is no one to hear it it still makes a sound.  Furthermore it may also be theorised that the tree, the forest and the non-hearers of the falling tree all exist as well.<br/>
That's my final and definitive conclusion – at least I think it is.

So those are my ideas and, following their presentation on the interactions page, I then round things off with a request that readers make their way to this forum to post their comments. 
The page is addressed:

Back to this site I have also posted a general request for comments on the " consultation" page on the Other Philosophical Topics board,8.0.html
and a "Judeo-Christian-Islamic Divinism" concept consultation page on the Philosophy of Religion board,5.0.html
Gareth Southwell
Full Member

Posts: 166

« Reply #1 on: 08/09/09 @ 06:53 »

Hi Greg,

What you describe is a form of scepticism based on the assertion that we can only ever experience our own perceptions. This has been termed 'ideaism' (not to be confused with 'idealism'). If we accept ideaism, then we have a number of options: we can argue that (a) we can have indirect knowledge of the world (representative realism); (b) all our knowledge is of actual or possible perceptions (idealism); or (c) the real world does not exist, only our (my) perceptions (solipsism). Most people reject (c) because, well, what is the point in having this discussion otherwise?! We can argue that there is no rational proof of the external world, but this is more a point about knowledge and the role that trust or faith plays (we choose to believe that the real world exists even though there is no conclusive proof). Most people therefore plump for (a) - from our ideas, we can piece together a picture of what the world really is like. However, there is an ongoing debate between (a) and (b), and philosophers take up positions along this line.

There is a form of idealism which argues that matter can't exist without the mind (Berkelely's idealism), but since this requires the existence of God to save it from turning into solipsism, most idealists adopt a less extreme position: matter does exist, but we can only make sense of things in terms of our own perceptions. So, our ideas of what the world is must be clearly linked to sense perceptions. This means that there can be no unperceived (or unperceivable) properties of the universe - which, as you can imagine, is a problem (what about sub-atomic particles, physical laws, etc?). Idealists therefore seem to need to rely on things in order to explain the world which they cannot experience. As you know, we cannot experience an object, only our perceptions, but it is problematic to give an account of what an object is in terms which do not assume that objects exist! (This position is known as phenomenalism, and I know I've been a bit brief here, but you can look it up to find out more about what the difficulties with it are.)

Given this background, and from what you say, it seems to me that are an ideaist (you believe that we can only ever experience our own ideas), and that you use this to advance certain sceptical arguments about knowledge (of the self, of others). You also seem to argue that sense perception gives us proof of existence - but you don't say existence of 'what'! As you point out, there are problems with Descartes's Cogito argument, for 'I think therefore I am' assumes what it seeks to prove (that there is such a thing as an 'I'). We could equally argue that the 'I' is a construct or just wishful thinking, and that we are merely a collection of thoughts (as Hume argued). Also, even if the fact that we have sensations proves that something exists, what is that something? Is it physical, mental, or a bit of both?

Anyway, these are just my thoughts. Perhaps you could expand a little on where exactly you want to get to.

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Posts: 12

« Reply #2 on: 09/09/09 @ 12:56 »

Your thoughts have been greatly appreciated.
The concept of idea-ism has been of great interest to me on the basis that it shares a number of points of similarity with the concept that I have had in mind.  I have to admit that I didn't know anything about the concept and this is an admission that has been edited.  I was originally going to jumpstraight in and say that I had no idea of the existence of the concept and to also comment that since its mention the concept of the idea has definitely been on my mind.  There has been plenty of food for thought.
I found that there were a number of issues that I needed to consider and yet I eventually moved towards the view that, in relation to the developing concept that I have in mind, there are significant disadvantages related to the use of the terminology of idea-ism.
I appreciate the clearly apparent fact that the word idea is derived from the Greek word ἰδέα (a sight (comparative figuratively 'idea'); aspect) and yet the problem is that it may be interpreted that the etymological roots of the word idea are not widely known.  The synonyms that the Merriam-Webster online dictionary presents for the word idea are: concept, conception, thought, notion, impression.
The concept of perception, visual or otherwise, barely comes into it.
The main problem with the use of the term idea-ism relates to the great influence of the commonly understood concept of the idea.  The idea is phenomenally prevalent and this means that an immediate difficulty is placed in the way of a ready understanding of non idea related definitions of idea-ism.

The problem would seem to have been further exacerbated by the apparent fact that the terminology of idea-ism has been firmly associated with the idea idea.
I did a Google search on: ideaism OR idea-ism
I'll now go through the top ten results but I will present my interpretation of them as being either (PHILISOPHICAL) or (NON-PHILOSOPHICAL) and this categorisation will be offered for the benefit of readers that may wish so scan through.

The first result (NON-PHILOSOPHICAL) lead to:
which turned out to be Gavin's site of "Adventures in Tech, Life Design & Business" so as to present the options: What's on My Mind, About Gavin…, The Collected Thoughts and Contact.
Gavin describes himself as a "Technophile, evangelist, consultant and a multitude of other things."

The second result (PHILOSOPHICAL) lead to:
to indicate that Jim Wishloff has written a downloadable file entitled:
The Land of Realism and the Shipwreck of Idea-ism: …
{I have not gone as far as to pay for the download and yet it still does not sound good to me that the concept of idea-ism can be contrasted like this with the concept of realism.}

The third result (NON-PHILOSOPHICAL) lead to:
to speak of: The reawaking of the age of 'idea-ism'
and to begin:
As we transition from the dark days of Duh and cross the bridge to brightness, it’s not hard to sense the resurgence of ideas, ideals and identity.
The forth result (PHILOSOPHICAL) lead to:

the Philosophy of the Cosmos page
P O T C  Idea — Ism
So as to say:
Idea-ists hold that the objects of our immediate perception are appearances. Hence we do not directly experience objects but rather the appearance of an object - I don't see a clock, rather a visual appearance of a clock occurs in my mind. A consequence is that the only legitimate empirical claims that can be made are ones which take this into account - "I am perceiving the appearance of a red clock" rather than "The clock is red" or "I see a red clock". The distinction is that (according to idea-ism) the first statement makes claims about something the subject has actually experienced whereas the latter two make empirical claims about something that has not been experienced (comparable to "I see the invisible clock" or "I hear the nonexistent sound"). The point is that we never directly experience the external world, and instead perceive it within our mind.

{This is close to the concept that I am trying to describe but not quite.  The concept that I am attempting to propose may happily admit that we may in actuality have direct experience of the external world, to use the language of the POTC page, but that we may be mistaken in making this assumption.}

The fifth result (NON-PHILOSOPHICAL?) lead to:
a Bergen Academy of the Arts page on:
Blowup – or ideaism

The sixth result (NON=PHILOSOPHICAL) lead to: the art of Ideas. Ideaism : thinking for the future

The seventh result (NON-PHILOSOPHICAL) lead to:
the "belief building agency"
so as to claim that "Brands want to believe that they are brands. But they're nothing more than beliefs"

The eighth result (PHILOSOPHICAL) lead to:

another reference to Jim Wishloff's paper

The ninth result (NON-PHILOSOPHICAL) lead to:

a page that was gained its title by quoting the text:
I think Bush's gambit is a big, bold, and busty
not to mention risky policy whose near term
changes seem to have created a lot of FUD, but
in the long term seem to be the right thing
to do.   I haven't seen that sort of grand
risk taking or large idea-ism in government in
at least a decade or two.

then came the seemingly relevant tenth result (PHILOSOPHICAL) to lead to:
with a quote from a book called Common sense, science, and scepticism: A historical introduction to the theory of knowledge by Alan Musgrave to say:
…the 'theory of sense-data'.  I shall call it 'idea-ism'.  The term is unfamiliar and is not to be confused with the term 'idealism' which is well known in philosophy.  Idea-ism and idealism are not the same doctrine, though they are related to one another.  To state the difference baldly, idea-ism is an epistemological doctrine and idealism an ontological or metaphysical doctrine.  I shall be saying more about this difference.
When a philosophical view is as widely accepted as idea-ism is, and when it persists for as long as idea-ism has persisted, we must expect it to be very plausible to have some powerful arguments in its favour.  This is the case with idea-ism.  Yet, once idea-ism is accepted, it leads to some very strange problems and to some even stranger solutions to those problems.  Idea-ism is proposed by philosophers who want to rely upon the senses, yet it leads to such strange conclusions that one is inclined to say that philosophers who accept it have taken leave of their senses… … …
page 85-

So there were the top ten results of my Google search.

The sixth result mentioned
would have guided us to a homepage that states:
Ideaism is the Art of Ideas : Thinking for the future

It can also be commented that
offers 発明家を情報で応援する”アイデアイズム” (Information to support inventors in "idea-ism")
{It appeared to me that the Japanese homepage of this site was related to ideas and invention.}

I also used the in relation to
And a brief assessment of the results seemed to present another Japanese but this time games related site.

The first problem I have with the term idea-ism is that it's concept can be easily hijacked by the concept of the idea.
This is a particular problem with regard to my proposals as my claim is that the ultimate proof of existence is not found directly in thought but in its sensation.
The second problem that I have with the term idea-ism is that the term 'ideaism' is easily confused with 'idealism'.  Indeed, you rapidly raised the troublesome issue at the beginning of your reply to my post.
The problem of the similarity of the words is exacerbated when we consider the way the concept of idealism is frequently associated with obstinacy and fixed opinion while I would like to think that the concept that I propose to advocate may offer an unobtrusive base for open-mindedness. 
A further trouble with idealism is that it would actually seem to have conflicted meanings within itself.

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines idealism as:
1 a (1) : a theory that ultimate reality lies in a realm transcending phenomena …
2 a : the practice of forming ideals or living under their influence …
3 : literary or artistic theory or practice that affirms the preeminent value of imagination …
These views are clearly at odds with the one another.  The philosophical concept of idea-ism has enough trouble of its own.  I would not like the concept that I am developing to be associated with the concepts of idealism as well.

The third problem that I have with the term idea-ism relates to the nature of the form of philosophical definition that would seem to have been attached to it.  You have describe ideaism as a form of scepticism based on the assertion that we can only ever experience our own perceptions.  It’s a view that I find this to be limiting and, perhaps, limited. 

Open sensationism
The developing concept that I have in mind is quite open to the idea that an individual may potentially have direct sensation of an actual real world form of existence.  Its just that question are raised regarding the true nature of that existence.  This form of sensationism can be taken to involve an admission.  This admission holds that the information received through our senses may be interpreted in a number (and perhaps in any number) of ways.  It is an admission that clears away the cobwebs of preconception and may potentially make way for an intellectual base for a baseline understanding of existence.  This base is formed by the simple truth that there is sensation and that this simple truth can be accepted to offer proof of existence.  I have described it to be a base but that, in itself, would be limiting.  Open sensationism is not a position.  It does not propose the use of a fixed point of view.  Rather it is an admission to a baseline point of view that can be occasionally assumed depending on the circumstance.  The concept of a base camp  as a certain base for exploration may be a good one.

Sensationism is remarkably flexible.  It goes beyond considerations of the perceived sensations of the physical senses and also considers perceived sensations of all forms of mental process as well and this, of course, include the sensation of ideas. 
Gareth Southwell
Full Member

Posts: 166

« Reply #3 on: 09/09/09 @ 13:30 »

My purpose in using the term 'ideaism' was simply to establish a point of reference. 'Idealism' is only one philosophical viewpoint which assumes 'ideaism', so I just wanted to point out that I wasn't sure which view you were arguing for (or were closest to). However, I don't much care what you call it, I just wanted to save time. If you think that your own viewpoint is totally distinct from every other philosophical position - so much so that it merits its own name - then fine, but it still needs to be related to established philosophical positions in order to show that it is in fact different - that's all I was trying to do!

Secondly, the term 'idea' has many uses and associations - as your Google search results show - but then so does 'sensation'. We always face difficulties in philosophy in defining exact terms, and so sometimes it is necessary to create new ones - however, for the sake of clarity I think we owe it to previous (and current) generations to use accepted terms as much as possible. If, once we have had that discussion, it turns out that a new term is needed, then I've no objections.

You talk about dictionary and etymological definitions, but these are not the same: etymology is to do with original meaning, whereas dictionaries mostly define current usage. For instance, the etymology of 'idea' is linked to the act of seeing (hence, 'image'), but - as you point out - the connotations (dictionary meanings) of the word are mostly to do with intellectual conceptions. However, in philosophical terms, there is a long tradition of using the term to mean 'sensory image, or product of sense experience held in the mind' - which is quite close to what you seem to be describing via 'sensationism' (see Hume, Descartes, Berkeley, etc., as well as - in modern usage, Alan Musgrave - whom you quote - and James Ladyman). However, once again, I don't mind; my main purpose is simply to try to understand the position you are arguing for and relate it to established positions. Since there is historical and current philosophical usage of 'idea' in this specific sense, then I thought to use that - but please do as you wish.

'Open Sensationism': it seems you are arguing that the fact that we have sensations (sense perceptions) is proof of existence. But, once again, existence of what? The physical world independent of our experience? The fact that we experience things would seem only to confirm the fact that we are having an experience. How can we know with absolute certainty what that thing is, or what its nature is? These are well-established problems, and I don't yet see how your answer is distinctive. Perhaps, aside from all the squabbling over terms, you can simply and briefly state your reasons?

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Posts: 12

« Reply #4 on: Yesterday at 15:39 »

You have proposed that idea-ism presents the view that "we can only ever experience our own perceptions".  A similar theme seems to have been broached in the Philosophy of the Cosmos web page to present an idea-ist conception that we do not directly experience objects. 
In this context I also took note that your presention of idea-ism did not necessarily indicate that we have a direct experience of objects and, with your use of the word 'only', I took the two interpretations to be compatable. 

The differences that I see between idea-ism (in the way that I have understood it) and sensationism (in the way that I have conceived it) are that:
1. idea-ism seems to indicate that sensory information will by necessity go through some form of situation that has the potential to manipulate the information while, in contrast, the concept that I have ladled sensationism may be free to admit that manipulative processes may exist and yet not have any dependence on the existence or non existence of these processes.
2 the main factor that seems to cause idea-ism to be distinct is the view that some form manipulation to data occurs from the point that data is transmitted from objects to the time when data is consciously understood by the individual.
Sensationism admits to the existence of sensation and, beyond this point, no other factor is necessarily assumed.  Sensation is the factor that is acknowledged while a situation that has the capacity to alter perception may not necessarily be accepted. 

I have considered a couple of example situations that may indicate the possibility that transmitted data may be directly experienced:
In the situation in which a person feels a hot burning sensation then it may be possible to interpret that the person may experience this hot burning sensation in a remarkably direct way.   It may also be argued that there may even be a significant advantage if the sensation can be experienced directly.  Rapid responses can be called for and it may be interpreted that these responses may rely on either on instinct or on the briefest of transitory thoughts.  In the case of instinct a person may perceive the hot burning sensation at the same time as then experience the moving of the part of their body from the region within which it has gained the hot burning sensation.  It may even be interpreted that there is not a lot to think about but that, even if you did think about it, you wouldn't want to think about it for longer than necessary.  There is an argument to say that a person may directly experience a hot burning sensation and then, based on this immediately provided sensory knowledge, be able to come to the rapid conclusion that there is something in the region of that part of the body that is hot and burning - move!
It is possible to take a non idea-ist interpretation of sensation to suggest that sensation can be directly experienced.
At the other extreme, all manner of brain in a vat type conceptions can also be considered.  It may be considered that any controlling entities within these conceptions may supply sensory information in a direct way and that the "brain" may be formatted in such a way that it is able to receive the information input in a direct way.

If, as it has appeared to me, a distinction between idea-ist and sensationist concepts exists then I feel justified in having given a significant amount of attention to the differentiation of the names.

I would like to know more in regard to the idea-ist doctrine and would be grateful for any information or pointers that can be offered.
Gareth Southwell
Full Member

Posts: 166

« Reply #5 on: Yesterday at 17:45 »

Firstly, idea-ism is a broad term, and simply refers to a common feature of a number of different philosophical positions as regards the nature of perception (e.g. idealism, phenomenalism, representative realism). So, it's a bit like looking back on da Vinci, Michelangelo, etc., and calling them 'anatomical realists' or something (you get the idea).

As for how idea-ism comes about, this is related to the problem of what is termed 'naive realism'. If we argue that we perceive the world exactly as it is, then we would seem to have a problem accounting for certain things: optical illusions, the way objects appear to change qualities depending on viewpoint or differences in the observer, etc. For instance, if we both stood in a room looking at a table from different perspectives, it would probably be a different size, shape and colour to each of us; however, the table cannot be both light and dark brown, or small and large, at the same time (which would seem to have to be the case if the naive realist is right); therefore, we do not perceive the table directly, but indirectly, via our 'ideas' (or sense perceptions). (By the way, I'm not necessarily arguing for idea-ism here, but simply pointing out where it comes from.) So, idea-ism is not so much about manipulation of sense information, but rather about accounting for the fact that sense experiences differ, and do not always reveal the true nature of an object (e.g. optical illusions).

Now, if you want to argue for the view that we perceive objects directly, then this would be a form of naive or direct realism (don't be put off by 'naive' - it's just basically means 'common sense' here). However, I think there is another problem. You talk of interpreting data coming from an object, but there are a number of psychological experiments which suggest that it is not that simple. Sometimes - as with 'blindsight' - the brain fills in information that it thinks should be there, and sometimes we see what we expect to see (or not see) - e.g. the duck-rabbit illustration. So, the idea that we have neutral 'data' as to how the world is may be problematic. On the other hand, you also sometimes talk as if there are conscious sensations which we then interpret, but this seems like a peculiar way of talking: we don't interpret a burning sensation as pain, but rather certain stimuli cause a painful burning sensation.

I think perhaps that 'sensation' is not quite what you mean, for it already implies 'sensing', having 'sense experience' and generally being conscious of something. To ask whether we are directly conscious of sensation is a bit odd, as it is like saying 'are we directly aware of the experiences we are having'. Well, you can ask this question, but it is more to do with conscious and unconscious mental states - which, I think, is not really what you want to talk about.

Traditionally, philosophers have argued whether or not we are directly conscious of objects in the external world. Is this what you mean?


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