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Ayer the Caracterization of Sense-data

Ayer the Caracterization of Sense-data

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Published by: mihneatruverul on Nov 30, 2011
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THE CHARACTERIZATIONOF SENSE-DATA6. Acrs eNoOnyncrsrNSrNsATroNInevBnot sofarattemptedtogiveanyexplicitdefinitionof theword"sense-datum".Ihavechosenratherto indicate itsusagebygivingexamplesinwhichsentences eferringtosense-data arentro-ducedas translationsof sentenceshe meaningofwhich isalready known.The generalrule whichone mayderivefrom theseexamplesis thatthepropositionswe ordinarilyexpressby sayingthata personIisperceivinga materialthing M,whichappearso him tohave thequalitytc,maybe expressedin thOsense-datumterminologyby sayingthatI issensing asense-datum s,which reallyhas the qualityx, and whichbelongs o M.In this caset is assumedthat theword"perceive",orwhateverword maybeemployedto designate hekind of perceivingthatis in question,is being usedin sucha waythat tosaythat a materialthfrrg M is perceivedentailssayingthatitexists. If wedo not make thisassumption,thenwe mustsaynotthat sbelongs to Mbut onlythatA takes itto belongto M, and so allowforthepossibilitythat M doesnotexist;butin other
5EIITHE CHARACTERIZATIONOFSENSE-DATAse
respectshe translationisthesame.Andfrom thisitfollows thatto assert thatpeople actuallydoexperience sense-dataneed be toassert nomore thanthat suchpropositionsas thatI am nowperceivingaclockor apen or a table,in a senseof"perceiving"thatdoes notnecessarily entailthatthese objectsexist,are sometimestrue. AndI do notsee howitcanbedenied, notmerely thatmanypropositionsofthiskindare in facttrue,butalsothat we oftenhavegood reason o supposehat theyare.fcanthereforeclaimtobeusingthe word"sense-datum"in suchaway thatthere can beno seriousdoubtthat sense-dataactuallyare experienced.In followingthisprocedure, I shall,I think, begiving to the word"sense-datum"themeaning thatthephilosopherswho haveadoptedthe"theoryofsense-datahave,ingeneral,intendeditto have,thoughIshallshow thatsome of themhave also beeninclinedto make statementsabout sense-datahat areinconsistentwiththis usage. Andthe definitionofsense-datahatthesephilosophers commonlygiveisthat theyaretheobjectsof which,in sense-percep-tion, oneis directlyaware. Bythis they must beunderstoodto mean,not that only those objectsofwhichsomeoneis in fact directlyaware aretobecalled sense-data,butratherthat the word"sense-datum"is tostand forany object of which itisconceivablethat someoneshould bedirectly aware.They donot always saythis; but inasmuchas theyconsider themselvesentitled to refertopossibleas wellas toactual sense-data,it mayfairlybe
 
6o FOUNDATIONSOF EMPIRICALKNOWLEDGEn
assumedhat this is what theymean.The first criticismthat I havetomake of thisdefinitionisthat it is notilluminating.For thereis no accepted meaningof theexpression"directawarenessby reference towhichit canbe madeclear without further explanationwhat is tobe meantby the word"sense-datum".Ithink thatwe shouldordinarilysaythatwe weredirectlyaware of anyobject, our belief in the existenceof whichwas basedupon sense-experience anddidnotinvolve anyconscious rocessof inference.But if the expression"direct awarenessis used nthis sense,henit willbe truetosay that we aredirectly awareofmaterialthings, such as chairs andtablesand pens.Foralthough our beliefs in theexistenceofsuch thingsare inductive, in the sensehatthey implymorethanwould be implied by a meredescriptionof theexperiences on which they arebased,they oftendonot involve any consciousprocessofinference.Theprdpositionthat I am holdinga peninmy handisnot equivalentto any propositionorsetofpro-positions hat describemy presentsense-experiences,though theyprovide mewiththe only groundsIhavefor asserting t. But this doesnotmeanthat I haveconsciouslygone throughany processof inferringitfromthem.In tirtueof mysense-experiencessimply take itfor grantedthatthisis apen.Andthis is the way in which we actuallyarrive ata greatmany of our beliefs n the existenceof materialthings.But, asarule, thosewho definesense-dataastheobjectsof which one can be directlyawaremaintain
tr THE CHARACTERIZATIONOFSENSE-DATA6r
thatone cannot be directlyawareof suchobjects astables orpens. Andthe reason whythey maintainthis isthat our perceptionof suchthings mayalwaysbe delusive.In other words,they define"directawareness in sucha waythat if someones directlyawareof an object *,it followsthat x existsand thatit reallyhaswhateverpropertiesit is appearingtohave. But havinggiven this meaningto thepro-positionalfunction"Ais directlyaware of cc,where,it may be asked,arethey to find valuesthatwill satisfyit I Theansweris that theyprovidethese values byintroducingthe word"sense-datum",or somesynonymouserm,and using it inthe waythat I haveindicated.Thatis tosay,theexpressionsdirectawarenessand"sense-datumare to beregardedas correlative;and since eachofthem is beingusedin a special,technical sense, tisnot satisfactorymerelyto defineone in terms of theother.It isnecessaryfirst to employsome othermethod,such asthe methodofgiving examples, inordertoshow how oneor other ofthem is tobeunderstood.This definitionof sense-dataasthe objects ofdirectawarenessis oftenassociated witha par-ticularview about theanalysisof sensationswhichit doesnot logicallyentail.Thisviewis thatit ispossibleto discriminateinany sensation at leasttwodistinctfactors, oneof them beingthe act of sensingandthe otherthe objectsensed.Isaythat theacceptanceof thedefinition doesnot entail theacceptanceof this analysisof sensation, becausetis
c2
 
6zFOUNDATIONSOFEMPIRICALKNOWLEDGErI
clearlypossibletoassertthat weare directlyawareofsense-datawithoutimplyingthattheexpression"directawarenessis a namefor anysortof intro-spectibleact. Andindeedit seemstomeverydoubtfulwhetherthere aresuchacts.Itis true,asProfessorG. E.Moorepointsout in his"RefutationofIdealism"rtthatthe expressions "blue"and"consciousnessofblue"arenot synonymous,andthatmy consciousnessfblueand myconsciousnessofgreenhave somethingmoreincommonthanwhatis commontoblueandgreen.But itdoes notfollowthatthiscommonelementofconsciousnessis adistinct,individualfactoritt *y sensation.Itmay wellbethatthe characteristicn virtueof whichit maybe saidthat theblueandgreen sense-datarebothexperiencedby meis arelationalcharacteristic,whichdoesnot involveeithermyself,conceivedas asubstance,orany suchthingas thatfor whichtheexpression "actofsensingis supposedto beaname,butonlycertainothersensible,orintro-spectfole,objects.Andwhethersuchananalysisscorrectornot,thereis nothinginMoore'sargumenttorefuteit.Thereare,however,somephilosopherswhobasetheirbeliefinthe existenceof theseacts of sensing,notonanyaprioriargument,butonthe evidenceoftheirownintrospectidn;and I donot wishtoassertdogmaticallythattheyare wrong.I cannotmyselfdiscovertheseactsbyintrospection;butthisdoesnotprove thatnoone else can.Atthe sametime,I
IPhiloso,hicalStudies,pp.Z-3o.
rrTHE CHARACTERIZATION OF SENSE-DATA 63
thinkthat thosewhodoclaim to beable to discoverthem inthiswaymay,perhaps,bemaking an un-warranted inference from a different empirical fact.It is characteristicofsome sense-datathat theyappear to be sensibly outside ourselves bywhich Imeanonly that they occur in sense-fieldshathavetheproperty of sensible depth.Thisis true ofvisualand tactual data, and also of auditory and olfactorydata whenthey are ascribed to an objective source.Now, becauseof our knowledge oftheirimmediatecausal conditions, wetend to think of oursensationsas occurring somehow inside ourselves and there-fore it is assumed hatsense-datahatareat adistancefrom the somatic centresoftheir sense-fields, andthus maybe saidtobe sensiblyoutsideourselves,cannot makeup tJrewhole content of the corre-sponding sensations; and so acts of sensing arebroughtin to fill thegap.If this explanationwerecorrect, we should expect to find that thosewho madethis distinction between act andobject in theiranalysis of sensation weremore confidentofitsvalidity inrespectof sight and touchthaninrespectof organic andkinastheticsensations;and this is,in fact, the case.r But it is clear thatif those whobelievein the existence of actsof sensing aretacitlyrelying onthisargument, theirconclusion isnotestablished. The most thatthey can proveis thatsome sensations are not identicalwiththerelevantsense-data, orinother words thatthe expression" sensationof. x"isnot synonymouswith"cc".
ICf.C.D. Broad,Scimtific Thought,pp.zS4-7.

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