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John Searle | Qualia and Realism
01-07-2017, 10:42 PM
Post: #1
John Rogers Searle (/sɜrl/; born July 31, 1932) is an American philosopher and currently the Slusser Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. Widely noted for his contributions to the philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and social philosophy, he began teaching at Berkeley in 1959.

His main study is "consciousness". He has created some very simple categories that I feel and think will make a difference to explanations regarding a term such as "truth". Often we use terms like "objective", "subjective", "epistemology" and "ontology" however they can often become quite general and it's useful to redefine them.

First, some basics: epistemic relates to epistemology, the study or a theory of knowledge (information); ontological relates to ontology, pertaining to being (existence).

Applied to the problem of qualia, these two modes are differently oriented–one towards what we can know about qualia, the other towards the essential being or nature of qualia. (Qualia is a term used in philosophy to refer to individual instances of subjective, conscious experience. Meaning "what sort" or "what kind". Examples of qualia are the pain of a headache, the taste of wine, or the perceived redness of an evening sky, the Sun setting on the Western horizon of the Earth)

Objectivity and subjectivity make an easier pair, at least at first glance. A fact is said to be objective if its validity (or invalidity) can be established independently of any given subject’s (i.e., person, sentient animal) reactions and feelings, etc. A “fact” is subjective if its validity (or otherwise) is dependent on reactions, feelings, etc: it is a matter of taste, opinion, prejudice, etc.

So the fact that Donald Trump is president elect as of now and will be the President of the United States on the 20th January, is an objective fact, because the validity of this claim is independent of my opinions about it; the fact that Katherine Mansfield is a better writer than Ernest Hemingway is a subjective fact , and it is meaningless outside the context of the perceiving, feeling, biased subject: it’s a “fact” for me.

Now let’s mix the two pairs of concepts: objectivity/subjectivity and epistemology/ontology.

The “facts” I’ve just discussed are objective and subjective in an epistemic sense: they are epistemically objective and subjective, respectively.

They have to do with what kinds of knowledge we have about the presidency and about the relative merits of two modernist writers. But this kind of objectivity and subjectivity should not be confused with ontological objectivity and subjectivity.

Unless we believe that reality is only a projection of our minds, and that there’s nothing “out there” independent of our projections, there are things whose existence (remember, we’re talking about ontology) is objectively true: say, the fact that there is such a thing as hydrogen. But there are other things whose existence is only subjectively true: the way lavender smells to me, the precise feeling of my headache at this moment.

So here are the categories, play around with them, see if they are of any benefit to you [Image: smiley.gif]
  • Ontological Objectivity
- Exists Independently from a subjects feelings or thoughts
  • Ontological Subjectivity
- Exists as part of a dependency of a subjects reactions, feelings and thoughts etc
  • Epistemological Objectivity
- Knowledge that exists independently of a subjects feelings or thoughts, reactions etc
  • Epistemological Subjectivity
- Knowledge that is dependent on the subjects feelings and thoughts, reactions etc

Here’s a concrete example that might clarify things: consider the issue of motive in a murder case.

For the prosecution, proving there is a motive for the murder assumes that we can have objective knowledge of the suspect’s state of mind and desires (i.e., the court uses scientific procedures based on an epistemically objective mode) EVEN THOUGH the suspect’s actual thoughts and desires, the states of mind themselves, are ontologically subjective.

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