Over the next few weeks I am going to make some comments on definitions in Philosophy that I have gotten from a certain, M. d’Espangnat in his book ‘On Physics and Philosophy


If objects exist of which we may acquire direct – hence sure – knowledge they must occur in the mind. Because all phenomena are created in the mind through the action of the senses. We can have no actual knowledge of the outside world, as everything is filtered through the senses and finally occurs in the mind. Furthermore this leads us to stipulate that the objectives of science should be to help organise, investigate and rationalise these phenomena only, as there is really nothing we can say about objects outside ones mind.

My comments:
This definition of idealism however relies on a conception and distinction about what the mind is and where its barriers lie. So that one can talk about what is ‘in’ the the mind and what is ‘without’. Firstly can such a distinction be made? Although it is often convenient to make such distinctions for the purpose of analysis, when taken to it bitter end, this assumption is not valid. The brain & the outside world lie within one continuum of matter and clearly the brain is made from the same stuff as the outside world.  Even senses received through the nervous system are just a continuation through one interconnected system that connects the brain to the outside world. So when I touch a book with my hands I am simultaneously touching with my mind, as my hand is both in my mind and outside of it. Thus as a whole, the process of touching the book can be considered as ‘one’ system. It is only our interpretations of the phenomena that are subject to fallacy, there is nothing unreal or untrue about the process of our direct experience of it. It is the process of abstraction that may be fallacious and the abstraction must necessarily be in the mind only. And furthermore this fallacy only extends to the limit with which we claim our abstractions to be the real thing. If we are happy to know that an abstraction is just that, have we any right to call it false? It just what it is.

Intuitively we equate existence to that which can exist without us and with that which can communicate to us, i.e. to that of which an experience is possible (even if indirect). Which leads us to conclude that which exists must be able to create a difference in experience. If I leave my living room, it will still be there when I come back, we link reality to that which exists independently, objectively of us. In that sense mental objects do exist. If I think of a square now, I can a moment later abandon the idea, and then come back to the very same square a month later. The mental objects exists independently as such, although at any point when conceive we it, it exists as a part of us and not separately.

Idealism then, confuses experience of something and the consequential abstraction of that experience with the thing itself or at least tries to draw a distinction between them, when perhaps none is possible. When we connect with an object and hence experience it, at that point the object cannot be considered as a separate entity, as the experiencer, the experience and what is being experienced, become part of a single and homogeneous system. Hence it becomes clear that statements like, “objects must exist in the mind” become a mere tautology. And statements like “objects must exist in the mind only” are false, for mind becomes part of a larger homogeneous reality, where concepts of distinction are invalid.

We can then even further conclude that since ‘during experience’, and ‘after experience ‘conditions are widely different, it is this difference (distinction) that causes the confusion. During experience, there can only be one indistinguishable system, after experience, only a theory or concept of the object can exist, not the object itself. And this theory is derived by trying to extract the difference between the during experience and after experience and attributing this to an object. Or as Hume liked to put it, it is the difference between an impression, non impression, and the fable idea.  At this point again it becomes, impossible to really talk about a separate objects, because during experience there was only one unified object, and after experience there is only a shadow of the unified experience. If we try to label it as separate, then it is clearly wrong, but still the illusion persists because the after experience experience is clearly different from the during experience experience, this distinction of experience is wrongly concluded to being two different objects when clearly there has only ever been one. In fact it can be further argued that there in only on continuous experience and distinction between different experiences is equally fallacious.

However saying this all, we must also necessarily conclude that if we are going to make any meaningful ‘theories’ then a clear distinction has to be made, even if fallacious, because a theory about one homogeneous entity, says nothing it all. A theory must necessarily have more than one, so that with one, you can deduce another. Deduction thus a mechanical process needs distinct and coherent objects to which inferences and transformations can be applied. Thus the original assertion holds true. Namely,

‘if objects exist, then the must exist in the mind’

The operative word here being, if.

Or it may be even more accurate to say.

“Mental objects exit in the mind, physical objects just exist but there is no in or out of mind for them, we can join with them or not and that is all”


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