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drewfactor

Question Re: Binswanger On Matter And Empty Space

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On the ARI website in the interview section with the Tom Hartman interviews, the most recent one with Harry Binswanger discussing religion left me with a question.

In the interview, Hartman says: "you know that computer right in front of you is mostly empty space." Binswanger responds: "no I don't."

Anyway, can anyone clarify this point for me? I thought it was a pretty well established fact that when we consider matter, it is mostly empty space ie. between nucleus and electrons. How about the totality of the universe when you consider distance between stars and what is virtually a vacuum between stars and planets? Is this not mostly empty space?

Thanks

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Because from a philosophical point of view the computer is just a computer. A is A. Anything we learn via science, such as the distance between an electron and a nucleus don't change the fact that what a human can directly perceive is actually a computer, not some particles with a bunch of empty space.

Sensory Qualities as Real

Now let us consider a further issue relating to sensory form and to the validity of the senses: the metaphysical status of sensory qualities themselves.

Since the objects we perceive have a nature independent of us, it must be possible to distinguish between form and object; between the aspects of the perceived world that derive from our form of perception (such as colors, sounds, smells) and the aspects that belong to metaphysical reality itself, apart from us. What then is the status of the formal aspects? If they are not "in the object," it is often asked, does it follow that they are merely "in the mind" and therefore are subjective and unreal? If so, many philosophers have concluded, the senses must be condemned as deceivers—because the world of colored, sounding, odoriferous objects they reveal is utterly unlike actual reality. This is the problem, a commonplace in introductory philosophy classes, of the so-called "two tables": the table of daily life, which is brown, rectangular, solid, and motionless; and the table of science, which, it is said, is largely empty space, inhabited by some colorless, racing particles and/or charges, rays, waves, or whatnot.

Ayn Rand's answer is: we can distinguish form from object, but this does not imply the subjectivity of form or the invalidity of the senses.

The task of identifying the nature of physical objects as they are apart from man's form of perception does not belong to philosophy, but to physics. There is no philosophic method of discovering the fundamental attributes of matter; there is only the scientist's method of specialized observation, experimentation, and inductive inference. Whatever such attributes turn out to be, however, they have no philosophic significance, neither in regard to metaphysics nor to epistemology. Let us see why, by supposing for a moment that physics one day reaches its culmination and attains omniscience about matter. <opar_45> At that point, scientists know the ultimate ingredients of the universe, the irreducible building blocks that combine to make up physical objects apart from any relationship to man's form of awareness. What these ingredients are I do not pretend to know. For the sake of the argument, let us make the extravagant assumption that they are radically different from anything men know now; let us call them "puffs of meta-energy," a deliberately undefined term. At this stage of cognition, scientists have discovered that the material world as men perceive it, the world of three-dimensional objects possessing color, texture, size, and shape is not a primary, but merely an effect, an effect of various combinations of puffs acting on men's means of perception.

What would this sort of discovery prove philosophically? Ayn Rand holds that it would prove nothing.

If everything is made of meta-energy puffs, then so are human beings and their parts, including their sense organs, nervous system, and brain. The process of sense perception, by this account, would involve a certain relationship among the puffs: it would consist of an interaction between those that comprise external entities and those that comprise the perceptual apparatus and brain of human beings. The result of this interaction would be the material world as we perceive it, with all of its objects and their qualities, from men to mosquitoes to stars to feathers.

Even under the present hypothesis, such objects and qualities would not be products of consciousness. Their existence would be a metaphysically given fact; it would be a consequence of certain puff-interactions that is outside of man's power to create or destroy. The things we perceive, in this theory, would not be primaries, but they would nevertheless be unimpeachably real.

A thing may not be condemned as unreal on the grounds that it is "only an effect," which can be given a deeper explanation. One does not subvert the reality of something by explaining it. One does not make objects or qualities subjective by identifying the causes that underlie them. One does not detach the material world as we perceive it from reality when one shows that certain elements in reality produced it. On the contrary: if an existent is an effect of the puffs in certain combinations, by that very fact it must be real, a real product of <opar_46> the ingredients that make up reality. Man's consciousness did not create the ingredients, in the present hypothesis, or the necessity of their interaction, or the result: the solid, three-dimensional objects we perceive. If the elements of reality themselves combine inevitably to produce such objects, then these objects have an impregnable metaphysical foundation: by the nature of their genesis, they are inherent in and expressive of the essence of existence.

Such objects, moreover, would have to be discovered by anyone who wished to know the full nature of the universe. If somehow, like the fictitious atoms of our example, a man were able to grasp the puffs directly, he would still have to discover the fact that among their attributes is the potentiality, when appropriately combined, of generating a world of solid objects, with the qualities of color, texture, size, shape, and the rest. He who knew the puffs but not this potentiality would not know an aspect of reality that we already do know.

The dominant tradition among philosophers has defined only two possibilities in regard to sensory qualities: they are "in the object" or "in the mind." The former is taken to subsume qualities independent of man's means of perception; the latter is taken to mean "subjective and/or unreal." Ayn Rand regards this alternative as defective. A quality that derives from an interaction between external objects and man's perceptual apparatus belongs to neither category. Such a quality—e.g., color—is not a dream or hallucination; it is not "in the mind" apart from the object; it is man's form of grasping the object. Nor is the quality "in the object" apart from man; it is man's form of grasping the object. By definition, a form of perception cannot be forced into either category. Since it is the product of an interaction (in Plato's terms, of a "marriage") between two entities, object and apparatus, it cannot be identified exclusively with either. Such products introduce a third alternative: they are not object alone or perceiver alone, but object-as-perceived.

In a deeper sense, however, such products are "in the object." They are so, not as primaries independent of man's sense organs, but as the inexorable effects of primaries. Consciousness, to repeat, is a faculty of awareness; as such, it does not create its content or even the sensory forms in which it is aware of that content. Those forms in any instance are determined <opar_47> by the perceiver's physical endowment interacting with external entities in accordance with causal law. The source of sensory form is thus not consciousness, but existential fact independent of consciousness; i.e., the source is the metaphysical nature of reality itself. In this sense, everything we perceive, including those qualities that depend on man's physical organs, is "out there."(3)

Those who condemn the senses as deceptive on the grounds that sense qualities are merely effects on men are guilty of rewriting reality. Their viewpoint amounts to an ultimatum delivered to the universe: "I demand that the senses give me not effects, but irreducible primaries. That is how I would have created reality." As in all cases of this fallacy, such a demand ignores the fact that what is metaphysically given is an absolute. Perception is necessarily a process of interaction: there is no way to perceive an object that does not somehow impinge on one's body. Sense qualities, therefore, must be effects. To reject the senses for this reason is to reject them for existing—while yearning for a fantasy form of perception that in logic is not even thinkable.

Those who condemn the senses on the grounds that sense qualities "are different from" the primaries that cause them (the "two tables" notion) are guilty of the same fallacy. They, too, demand that the primaries be given to man "pure," i.e., in no sensory form. The view of perception that underlies this kind of demand is the "mirror theory." The mirror theory holds that consciousness acts, or should act, as a luminous mirror (or diaphanous substance), reproducing external entities faithfully in its own inner world, untainted by any contribution from its organs of perception. This represents an attempt to rewrite the nature of consciousness. Consciousness is not a mirror or a transparent stuff or any kind of ethereal medium. It cannot be explicated by analogy to such physical objects; as we have seen, the concept is axiomatic and the faculty sui generis. Consciousness is not a faculty of reproduction, but of perception. Its function is not to create and then study an inner world that duplicates the outer world. Its function is directly to look outward, to perceive that which exists—and to do so by a certain means.

As to the claim that the racing particles, puffs, or whatever that make up tables do not "look like" the peaceful <opar_48> brown things on which we eat in daily life, this is the literal reverse of the truth. "Looks" means "appears to our visual sense." The brown things are exactly what the puffs "look like." There are not "two tables." The brown things are a particular combination of the primary ingredients of reality; they are those ingredients as perceived by man.

We can know the content of reality "pure," apart from man's perceptual form; but we can do so only by abstracting away man's perceptual form—only by starting from sensory data, then performing a complex scientific process. To demand that the senses give us such "pure" content is to rewrite the function of the senses and the mind. It is to demand a blatant contradiction: a sensory image bearing no marks of its sensory character—or a percept of that which, by its nature, is the object only of a concept.

Although Ayn Rand's theory of perception has sometimes been called "naive realism," the term does not apply. Naive realism is an ancient form of the mirror theory; it claims that the senses do give us the content of reality "pure." The senses, naive realists hold, are valid because sensory qualities exist in objects independent of man's means of perception, which—in defiance of all evidence—are held to contribute nothing to our experiences.

The intention of naive realism, which is to uphold the unqualified validity of the senses, is correct. But the content of the theory, unable to deal with the issue of sensory form, fails to implement its intention and merely plays into the hands of the anti-senses cohorts.

Once again, the only accurate name for the Objectivist viewpoint is "Objectivism."

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Because from a philosophical point of view the computer is just a computer. A is A. Anything we learn via science, such as the distance between an electron and a nucleus don't change the fact that what a human can directly perceive is actually a computer, not some particles with a bunch of empty space.

Actually, that's not what he's saying. If you listen to the clip (if you can manage to stomach all of Hartmann's false "philosophical" points) Binswanger does indeed state that on a subatomic level there is no empty space. He's basically just saying that there is no such thing as "non-existence", that in the space between atoms there has to be *something* as opposed to *nothing*. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I can make some more points on the subject, but that, in essence, is Binswanger's position as he briefly presented it.

Here is the link:

http://real.aynrand.org:8080/ramgen/ari/in...ion_20051117.rm

Edited by entripon

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Well, that makes sense since that "empty" space is actually filled with elementary waves of one sort of another.

Another point to remember is that "space" is only a relationship that exists *between* existents. So "space" without existents is a contradiction in terms.

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I just listened to that recording since my last post and I can say with "confidence" that the host of that show is an idiot.

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Thanks for the response. That section of OPAR does clarify things.

Tom Hartman is an idiot isn't he? I have to give him credit for having Objectivist intellectuals on his show, but his arguments are terrible. He argues by non-essentials, creates outrageous analogies...he's your typical liberal I suppose.

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