KARL JASPERS FORUM
Response 18 (to C41 by Patlavskiy)
by Herbert FJ Müller
21 August 2009, posted 12 September 2009
I want to thank Serge Patlavskiy for his commentary. Since our views differ somewhat from each other, I will confine myself to one point, which you mention in <3> : ‘if reality is in fact mind-independent, how can anyone think and write about it ? Either you know about it, and then it is not mind-independent; or you don't know about it, and then you cannot think about it’.
(If you are interested in discussing further questions, please let me know; I will be quite happy to do that, but I think it is desirable to discuss circumscribed questions.)
As you then say <4>, science is produced by subjects. I agree, one has to start from phenomenology <5-6>, and going to the other 3 levels which you mention one has to be careful not to lose track of that. In particular, knowledge of ‘objects’ is not available on the basis of phenomenology.
This becomes critical in quantum physics, among other fields (by the way, do you consider that ‘true science’ ? <15>). The problem is that the ‘modern physical materialistic picture of the world’ <10>, which asserts that reality is mind-independent, is outdated (it was modern until about 1920), and does not work here, since for instance the ‘collapse of the wave function’ depends on subjects. Materialism is one of the forms of metaphysics-ontology, because it affirms the fiction that reality is mind-independent.
Consciousness as an ‘ability to deal with information’ <8> is correct but incomplete, because firstly mental structures are also developed within mind (or consciousness); and secondly all kinds of non-conscious systems, biological and other, deal with information.
What you call ‘noumenal reality’ <11> refers to Kant’s opinion that the noumena (things-in-themselves, or Plato’s forms) are real but cannot be known. A number of neo-metaphysicians (PF Strawson, S Kripke, and quite a few others) have recently declared war on Kant and claim, like you, to be able to know noumena directly. That machines can do the observations <16> was debated and denied by several theoreticians like E Wigner and J vonNeumann, who emphasized that an important component of observation is ‘a consciousness’.
You and the neo-metaphysicians are right that the noumena are in the mind, but not as knowledge of a fictitious external mind-independent world. This claim overlooks that one cannot even perceive objects directly, because they require completion by the subject, as the phenomenologist Merleau-Ponty has shown. This difficulty is avoided by Jaspers’ view that the mind encompasses all concepts, and furthermore that reality is structured by subjects, as constructivism shows. The ‘noumena’ are reality-designs within the mind and they should be called that.
In sum, it seems to me that in your discussion you have not dealt with my initial question : how can you think something if it is not in your mind ? I would still be interested to know your answer concerning this point.
Herbert FJ Mller
e-mail <herbert.muller (at) mcgill.ca>