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Arthur Eddington's Two Tables Paradox

Arthur Eddington's Two Tables Paradox

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Published by: timdocs on Mar 18, 2008
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05/08/2014

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Eddington’s Two Tables
(A) One Way to Structure the Puzzle
 
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 1.Tables are complex systems whose ultimate constituents are “charges” and“fields of force” (Scientific realism)2.Everyday properties [color, solidity] are not logically implied by properties of “charges” and “fields of force” (Anti-reductionism)3.Tables have the everyday properties of color, solidity, etc. (Anti-eliminativism)4.The only properties a complex system has are the logical consequence of  properties of its ultimate constituents (Anti-emergence)Thus, by premises 1 and 4:5.The only properties a table has are the logical consequence of properties oits ultimate constituents—i.e., properties of “charges” and “fields of force”Thus, by premises 3 and 5:6.The tables everyday properties [color, solidity] are logical consequences of the table’s constituents’ properties—i.e., properties of “charges” and “fieldsof force,”But this contradicts premise 2. So we need to reject one of the boxed four premises.Which one?(B) Four Strategies for Resolving the Puzzle:The first two strategies involve dismissing one of our “two tables”:
 Reject Premise 3:
On this view, our everyday talk, while psychologicallynecessary to us, only describes how the world
appears to us
. Physics, on theother hand, describes the world, not as it appears, but
as it is
. (Compare: a childcries because he sees a ghost in his darkened room. The parents turn on the light,revealing the ‘ghost’ to be a pillow. “See?” the parent might console, “the ghostwas
nothing but 
a pillow…”)Eddington can be seen as flirting with this idea: “modern physics has,” he writes,“…assured me that my scientific table is the only one which is really there.”
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My framing of this issue owes a debt to James Van Cleve (“Mind-Dust or Magic? Panpsychism versusEmergence”
 Philosophical Perspectives
4 (1990): 215-226, at 215-216).

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