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‫ ארמוזה בן דוד‬:‫שם סטודנטית‬

3141501 :‫קוד קורס‬

IDEALISM AND
VIRTUALITY
To my baby, Yaakov Meir

MORPHEUS:
What is the Matrix? Control.
MORPHEUS:
The Matrix is a computer-generated dreamworld built to keep us under control in
order to change a human being into this. (holds up a coppertop battery)
NEO:
No! I don't believe it! It's not possible! (Matrix)

Once Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering


around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was
Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable
Zhuangzi. But he didn't know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a
butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi. Between Zhuangzi and a
butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of
Things. (2, tr. Burton Watson 1968:49)

I will suppose, then, not that Deity, who is sovereignly good and the fountain of
truth, but that some malignant demon, who is at once exceedingly potent and
deceitful, has employed all his artifice to
deceive me; I will suppose that the sky, the air, the earth, colours, figures, sounds,
and all external things, are nothing better than the illusions of dreams, by means
of which this being
has laid snares for my credulity; I will consider myself as without hands, eyes,
flesh, blood, or any of the senses, and as falsely believing that I am possessed of
these; I will continue resolutely
fixed in this belief, and if indeed by this means it be not in my power to arrive at
the knowledge of truth, I shall at least do what is in my power, viz. [suspend my
judgment], and guard with settled purpose against giving my assent to what is
false, and being imposed upon by this deceiver, whatever be his power and
artifice. (Descartes, Med. 1, AT 7:20)

The problem of sense-perception is closely connected with the


problem of reality of the external world. Where are our sense-
perceptions coming from? How to explain the causal connection
between the material objects and our mental images? Materialism
itself has no clue for that. Even the modern neurosciences which
reduce mind to something material, i.e. to bio-chemical processes in
brain, fail to give a satisfactory explanation of that. Idealism
postulates that we do not need external objects in order to explain
the fact of perception. But, such a solution entails the possible
virtuality of our empirical world and only by postulating of God's
wisdom and kindness we can reject such option. Putnam, in his text
about brains in a vat, considers this problem. I argue here that both
his argument and the skeptical hypothesis are not strong enough.
The other problem with idealism, at least in its extreme, Berkeleyan
form, is that it excludes our basic understanding of what a physical
world is. Foster's proposal of interactive idealism tries to deal with
this problem.

1. BERKELEY – "OBJECTS OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE"

1.1. IDEAS - BERKELEY'S APPLE

1.2. OUTSIDE REALITY

1.3. ORIGINALS AND COPIES

1.4. PRIMARY AND SECONDARY QUALITIES

1.5. SUBSTANCE

1.6. UNDERSTANDING AND WILL

1.7. THE IDEAS OF SENSE AND THE AUTHOR OF


NATURE

1.8. REAL THINGS

2. JOHN FOSTER – "THE IDEALIST SOLUTION"

2.1. THE PROBLEM

2.2. THE MIND-INDEPENDENCE CLAIM

2.3. THE FUNDAMENTALIST CLAIM

2.4. THE PROPOSAL OF THE SOLUTION: SENSORY


ORGANIZATION
2.5. EXTERNAL REALITY

2.6. IDEALISTIC ACCOUNT OF PERCEPTION – THE


ONTOLOGICAL LINK

3. PUTNAM – BRAINS IN A VAT

3.1. THE PROBLEM

3.2. THE MAGICAL CONNECTION

3.3. THE SKEPTICAL HYPOTHESIS

3.4. WE ARE NOT BRAINS IN A VAT

3.5. PUTNAM'S THEORY OF REFERENCE

4. CONCLUSION

4.1. BERKELEY'S PROBLEM

4.2. PUTNAM AND THE VIRTUAL WORLD

4.3. THE AUTHOR OF NATURE AND THE REALITY OF


OBJECTS

4.4. FOSTER'S INTERACTIVE IDEALISM

1. BERKELEY – "OBJECTS OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE"

1.1. IDEAS - BERKELEY'S APPLE

Berkeley attacks materialism as the doctrine that material things


exist at all, not that only material things exist. What are material
things? Their essence is that they are mind-independent and that
they would exist whether or not any spirits exist.

Berkeley says that ideas are the object of human knowledge. They
are two types of ideas: ideas imprinted on the senses and idea
formed by help of memory and imagination.
Ideas are originally imprinted on senses, that is to say, they are
acquired by different types of sense-perception. By sight, the mind
is getting the ideas of light and colors, by touch, the ideas of hard
and soft, heat and cold, motion and resistance, by smelling – odors,
by palate – tastes, by hearing sounds.

According to Berkeley, things or objects are nothing but the


collections of ideas: "and as several of these are observed to
accompany each other, they come to be marked by one name, and
so to be reputed as one thing. Thus, for example, a certain color,
taste, smell, figure and consistence having been observed to go
together, are accounted one distinct thing, signified by the name
apple; other collections of ideas constitute a stone, a tree, a book
and the like sensible things…"1

There are objects of knowledge, but there is something which knows


or perceives them. "This perceiving, active being is what I call mind,
spirit, soul, or myself."2

Berkeley then argues that ideas cannot exist outside of mind,


"otherwise than in a mind perceiving them". The things exist in my
mind, because I do perceive them. If they were not being
perceivable, by me or by someone else, they would not exist. In
other words, their esse is percipi, ("to be is to be perceived"), or
their being consists in being perceived.

1.2. OUTSIDE REALITY

Berkeley infers from that that things that are as such perceived by
sense, cannot exist outside of mind, that is, outside of perception. If
we try to abstract light and colors, heat and cold, extension and
figures – the things we see and feel – from perception, it would fail.
We simply cannot conceive them as unconceivable. It is logically
impossible. So, the red, juicy apple I just have bit does not exist
outside the mind. "… in a word all those bodies which compose the
mighty frame of the world have not any subsistence without a mind;
…their being is to be perceived or known…”3

1.3. ORIGINALS AND COPIES

Are ideas in our mind copies, pictures of the things that exist
outside of our mind? According to Berkeley, the answer is negative.
His pursues again the following logic: if those original, external
1
George Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, 1
2
George Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, 2
3
George Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, 6
things are perceivable they are themselves ideas that cannot exist
outside the mind. According his opinion, it would be absurd that
they are not perceivable, because we cannot imagine a thing-in-
itself, which is not perceivable at all: "I appeal to any one whether it
be sense to assert a color is like something which is invisible; hard
or soft, like something which is intangible; and so of the rest.4

1.4. PRIMARY AND SECONDARY QUALITIES

Berkeley not only claims that qualities like colors, heat and cold do
not exist outside of mind. Contrary to Locke, he claims also that
"primary qualities", as ideas, (such as, par example, shape and size)
are not something that can exist at all outside of mind. Also, if they
cannot be separated from secondary qualities, if it is not possible to
abstract a body extended and moving, from some color or other
sensible qualities which is acknowledged to exist only in the mind,
they cannot exist but in mind only.

1.5. SUBSTANCE

Berkeley argues that if we have ideas that are perceivable, they


cannot exist in an unperceiving thing. So Spirit is the only Substance
(substratum of ideas), that is to say, Matter, as an inert, senseless
Substance, does not exist.

1.6. UNDERSTANDING AND WILL

Berkeley claims that it is obvious that ideas are passive and inert –
one idea cannot produce any change in another. But we perceive
that ideas may be changed or disappear. Only Spirit can be the
cause of that change – Berkeley conversely uses another term for
Spirit – that which acts. When perceives ideas it is called the
understanding, and when it produces ideas, it is called will. Spirit
cannot be of itself perceived, but only by the effects its produces.

1.7. THE IDEAS OF SENSE AND THE AUTHOR OF


NATURE

Berkeley is not a solipsist. He does not claim that only my mind


exists. It is not in my power to choose what I will perceive – the
ideas imprinted on my senses are not creatures of my Will. There is
therefore some other Will or Spirit that produces them. That Will or
Spirit is the Author of nature.

4
George Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, 8
The ideas of sense are more strong that ideas of imagination,
created by our will. They are under the control of the laws of nature.
Our experience teaches us about the regularity and uniformity in
which things happen.

1.8. REAL THINGS

The ideas imprinted on the Senses by the Author of nature are


called real things. From the one side, there are real things that are
constant and vivid, and from the other side there are our ideas
about them, which are images of things, which are their copies and
which represent them.

2. JOHN FOSTER – "THE IDEALIST SOLUTION"

2.1. THE PROBLEM

Foster wants to explore the possibility that the realistic view is itself
misleading. The realistic view is that the only position which does
justice to our basic understanding of what a physical world is. It is
simply taken for granted in almost all current philosophical writing.
The realist framework has not been satisfying. An account of
perception should be sought along quite different lines.

The realist thesis contains two claims and Foster rejects both of
them.

2.2. THE MIND-INDEPENDENCE CLAIM

The claim of mind independence should not be thought as


extending to every aspect of the physical world. Even a realist will
recognize that certain physical facts are logically dependent on the
human mind – for example, facts about the secondary qualities of
objects, or facts which imply that the objects in question are either
of human design or serve certain human purposes. The realist
insists only that the primary core of physical reality is mind-
independent. That core will include the existence of physical space
and the presence within it of the various forms of space-filling
material object, characterized in primary-quality and non-
anthropocentric terms.

He rejects the mind-independence claim:


The main problem here is the problem of perceptual access; if the
immediate objects of awareness are sense-qualia, how the subject
can reach beyond the boundaries of his own mind – how the subject
can reach anything external. If those theories are correct we do not
have perceptual access to the physical world at all- this further
means that we don't have epistemic access either, i.e., that we
don't know anything about the external world.

If we assume that the physical world is independent from human


mind, we would not be able to resolve the problem of perceptual
access. So, in order to resolve the problem of perceptual access, we
need to assume that the physical world is mind-dependent. That
means that the human mind and physical world are, basically, the
same, or that physical objects are identified with collections of
human sensory ideas or, as Berkeley would say, esse est percipi.

2.3. THE FUNDAMENTALIST CLAIM

There is no reality more fundamental than the physical world


(fundamental means not constituted by other facts), that there is
nothing non-physical which constitutively underlies it.

Foster is interested in the possibility of rejecting realism, trying to


establish a satisfactory theory of perception. He states that there is
no such theory in the framework of realism. He hopes that, by
abandoning realism, will be able to offer a radically new account of
what physical-item perception involves, and thereby be able to
show how perceptual access to physical world is possible.

Also, Foster wants to reject the fundamental claim. Also, if the


existence of physical world depends on human mind, the physical
world cannot be fundamental.

Foster adopts a non-realistic position, which seems to him to offer


both a satisfactory account of the physical world and a satisfactory
solution to the problem of perception.

2.4. THE PROPOSAL OF THE SOLUTION: SENSORY


ORGANIZATION

Human sensory experience is suggestive of the existence of an


external 3-dimensional spatial world and we have a role of mobile
percipients within it. There is a unitary system of constrains which
control our experience, obliging it to be world-suggestive. This
system is "sensory organization".
According to realism, physical world is responsible for that
organization – sensory experience is organized in the world-
suggestive way, because of the mind-independence of the physical
world and its causal control of our experience, imposing a reflection
of its character on it.

Idealists think that the presence of organization logically creates the


physical world. The sensory organization creates the physical world,
by disposing things to appear systematically world-wise at the
human empirical view-point. They are autonomous natural
necessities within the sensory realm.

2.5. EXTERNAL REALITY

But, in order to take such a proposal seriously, to give it authority


and in order to suppose that our empirical world is something more
than a virtual reality, we need to assume the existence of some
higher reality, external to human mind (human mentality) which
causally controls the course of human sensory experience.
According to the realist position, the physical reality is such external
reality which plays this causal role.

In this respect, the idealist will find himself in agreement with the
realist who accepts that there is an external reality which plays the
causal role. But, whereas the realist equates this reality with the
physical world, the idealist takes it to be something which underlies
the physical world.

On the one hand, the idealist could take that external reality to be
something which functions, both internally and in its causal control
of human experience, in a purely mechanistic way – something
which is governed, and linked with the human mind, by natural
laws. Here the character and organization of the world suggested by
sensory experience would in some way reflect the character and
organization of the external reality.

This view of the external reality could lead to a situation in which


there was no difference at all between the realist and idealist over
the nature of the fundamental facts. The only difference would be
that, according to the realist, this external reality is what forms the
physical world, while, according to the idealist, it is what underlies
it.

On the other hand, the idealist could thing that what directly
controls (the course of) our sensory experiences and ensures their
world-suggestive character is a powerful rational agent, who has a
plan of the kind of the world that he wants the course of experience
to suggest and who executes this plan causing us to have
experiences of the appropriate sorts. This was the approach of
Bishop Berkeley, who took the external rational agent to be the
Christian God. He is likely to insist that any other form of
supernatural agent, exercising the same control, with at best create
the systematic illusion of a physical world, a virtual world, not a real
one.

2.6. IDEALISTIC ACCOUNT OF PERCEPTION – THE


ONTOLOGICAL LINK

According to Foster's classification, there are three general theories


about the nature of perception – "the sensory perception of items in
the physical world by human subjects": direct realism,
representative realism and idealism.

Both direct and representative claim that there is the physical


world, external to human mind, the external physical cause of our
perceptions and ontologically independent of the human mind.
According to the direct realism, the access to the physical world is
direct. According to the representative idealism, it is not direct, but
mediated. We do not directly perceive the physical objects. What we
directly perceive are the effects these objects have on us – an
internal image, idea that exists in our mind only, or impression. This
subjective, directly apprehended object has been called by various
names: a sensation, percept, sense-datum, sensum, Vorstellung,
representation, or in Foster's language, sense qualia. Those images
that occur in our mind when we perceive a physical object, of which
(not of a physical object) we are aware in normal perception,
represents (or sometimes misrepresents) their external physical
causes. The phenomenon of hallucination gives basis to such an
approach.

Idealism denies that there are such physical objects external to


human mind. Our perception is direct. It does not reach beyond the
boundaries of the mind. Idealism shows how "subject's awareness
does not need to reach beyond what occurs in his own mind to
make contact with things in the physical world."5 Idealism agrees
with the representative theory that we are aware of the images in
our mind, not of something external. That is to say, the objects of
perception are not mind-independent at all. "Thus it takes the
physical world to come within the reach of direct perceptual

5
The Nature of Perception, p. 256.
awareness by taking it to be something which is logically created by
facts about human sensory experience."6 Also, it "is created as
something with which human mentality is intimately linked".7

Both realistic theories are not able, according to Foster, to explain


how it is possible for human mind to reach the physical world. That
is the problem of perception (which entails the problem of
knowledge), according Foster's own words,8 that arises in the
framework of realism and that idealism avoids, constituting an
ontological link between the occurrences of sense-qualia and the
relevant physical item. The occurrence of the quale is an instance of
the operation of the sensory constraint by which the existence of
the physical world is constituted, or, in the other words, by which
the relevant physical object (the perceived item) is created. In
Foster's opinion, idealism eliminates the problem of perception and
the problem of knowledge which stems from it, and because of that,
we can to take idealism as a serious option.

3. PUTNAM – BRAINS IN A VAT

3.1. THE PROBLEM

In this text, Putnam asks how it is possible that our perceptions


represent the world, how they can refer to something other than
themselves – or how our thought can reach and grasp what is
external, how is reference possible?

3.2. THE MAGICAL CONNECTION

He states that just postulating mysterious powers of mind solves


nothing. The primitive mind (magical thinking) is liable to imagine
the magical connection between mental images (mental
representation) and that what they represent. But someone might
argue that there is a causal chain from actual things to the mental
images. But it is possible to imagine a situation in which someone
can have mental images qualitatively identical with my image of a
thing, but they would not be images which represented that thing

6
The Nature of Perception, p. 1
7
The Nature of Perception, p. 260
8
The Nature of Perception, p. 256
any more than anything else. Putnam gives the following example:
Suppose that there are no trees on a planet inhabited by humans,
and that such a human forms a mental image exactly resembling
one of my tree-images as a result of perceiving a blob of paint that
accidentally resembles a tree. That human has not a representation
of a tree. This is due to the lack of any causal connection between
the image and trees

He argues here that even a large and complex system of


representations, both verbal and visual, still does not have an
intrinsic, magical connection with what it represents – a connection
independent of how it was caused and what the dispositions of the
speaker or thinker are.

3.3. THE SCEPTICAL HYPOTHESIS

The brain in a vat – it is a thought experiment intended to draw out


certain features of our ideas of knowledge, reality, truth, mind, and
meaning. It is drawn from the idea, common to many science fiction
stories, that a mad scientist might remove a person's brain from the
body, suspend it in a vat of life-sustaining liquid, and connect its
neurons by wires to a supercomputer which would provide it with
electrical impulses identical to those the brain normally receives.
According to such stories, the computer would then be simulating a
virtual reality (including appropriate responses to the brain's own
output) and the person with the "disembodied" brain would continue
to have perfectly normal conscious experiences without these being
related to objects or events in the real world. The evil scientist can
cause the victim to "experience" any situation or environment the
evil scientist wishes, even the situation in which it seems to the
victim that he is sitting and reading these very words about the
amusing but quite absurd supposition about an evil scientist.

This sort of possibility raises the classical problem of skepticism with


respect to the external world, but also issues about the mind-world
relationship.

Putnam states that we could imagine that all human beings are
brains in a vat, that only the evil scientist has to be outside or
perhaps that there is no evil scientist; perhaps the universe just
happens to consist of automatic machinery tending a vat full of
brains. This automatic machinery is programmed to give us all a
collective hallucination, rather than a number of separate unrelated
hallucinations.
3.4. WE ARE NOT BRAINS IN A VAT

Putnam argues that if we were brains in a vat, we could not be able


to say or think that we were brains in a vat. He also argues we are
not brains in a vat and there is an argument that we can give to
show that. From the other side, the people in the possible world who
really are brains in a vat cannot give an argument that they are not
brains in a vat. They also cannot think or say that they are brains in
a vat. Why?

The answer is this: although the people in that possible world can
thing and 'say' any words we can thing and say, they cannot refer to
what we can refer to. The Brian-in-a-Vat Worlders cannot refer to
anything external to all (and hence cannot say that they are Brain-
in-a-Vat Worlders.

3.5. PUTNAM'S THEORY OF REFERENCE

As a crucial step to show that, Putnam shows in different examples


that worlds (and whole texts and discourses) do not have a
necessary connection to their referents – there is a convention of
representation. It is possible to imagine a computer that can
perfectly converse with a human – a device for producing sentences
in response to sentences. But none of these sentences is at all
connected to the real world. The machine can discourse beautifully
about the scenery in New England, but it could not recognize an
apple tree or an apple, a mountain or a cow, if it were in front of
one. If one would couple two machines and let them converse with
each other, they would go on conversing with each other forever,
even if the rest of the world disappeared! The machines could have
existed even if the objects of their conversation had not existed. In
one word, they may perfectly discourse, but they refer to nothing.

Now the same question should be posed with regard to the brains in
a vat. They are brains, that is, they are conscious, but the fact that
they are conscious and intelligent does not meant that their words
refer to what our words refer. So, the question is: can they refer to
external object at all?

Moreover, their images and words are qualitatively identical with


our images and words, which do represent objects in our world, but
that qualitative similarity to something does not make a thing a
representation itself. Let's imagine an ant that, as it crawls on sand,
traces curves in such a way that it ends up looking like a
recognizable caricature of Churchill. It is obvious that this picture,
"drawn" by an ant, does not represent anything. Similarly, the
brains in a vat are not thinking about any real object when they
think, par example "there is a tree in front of me" – because there is
nothing which their thought or sense datum "tree" represents.

The upshot is that once we see the qualitative similarity between


the thoughts of the brains in a vat and the thoughts of someone in
the actual world does not imply sameness of reference, it is not hard
to see that there is no basis at all for regarding the brain in a vat as
referring to external things.

Why the brains in a vat cannot thing or say that they are brains in a
vat? This is a conclusion that follows from the following premises: 1)
that there is no necessary connection between the mental
representations and their objects. 2) One cannot refer to a certain
kind of things, if one has no causal interaction at all with it.

4. CONCLUSION
4.1. BERKELEY'S PROBLEM

Berkeley says that ideas are objects of our perception. He does not
allude on ideas as concepts, but on sensations or mental images or
mental representations, or in modern terminology, sense-datum or
qualias. Berkeley's use of the term idea reflects a
representationalist theory of perception according to which we
indirectly perceive material things, by directly perceiving ideas,
which are mind-dependent. Philosophers like Descartes and Locke
tried to resolve problems of perceptual illusion by distinguishing
between material objects and the ideas by means of which we
perceive them. 9

But, his point here is not to refute the realist's conception of


perception. The difference between them is over the metaphysical
issue of whether there are any mind-independent material objects
at all.10 And it is very indicative that the idealist, as Foster does,
starts from the problem of perception and ends with the problem of
the reality of external world. It is indicative of the deepest
connection between those two questions – the clue of the one gives
the clue of the other.
9
Locke's and Descartes' representationalism is a matter of controversy. Look at:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/berkeley/
10
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/perception-problem/#3.1
Even though physics and other natural sciences try to find out
something about the nature of reality, even though psychology and
neurosciences study about the mechanisms by which our senses
receive information about the environment11, only a philosopher can
decide about the nature of reality and the nature of perception. As
Tim Crane puts it, there is not a philosophy of digestion as there is a
philosophy of perception.12

And also, in a very strange way, Berkeley encounters with realism.


Namely, he does not reject the existence of so-called real things,
connected and ordered according to the laws of nature, due to the
goodness and wisdom of the Author of nature. In his idealistic world,
everything remains the same as in the world of a full-blooded
realist. Or, to paraphrase Foster, within the psychophysical reality
which is idealistically created, our basic understanding of the
physical world is not in danger at all.13 Berkeley's idealism, as
Foster's does not deny the existence of a physical world, but simply
asserts its fundamental mind-dependence.14

His main premise is that we perceive ideas (actually, mental


images) and from that he concludes that the things we perceive
cannot exist outside of mind. To paraphrase Putnam, he
understands sense-perception as "a movie screen inside our own
heads or mind"15, but I would say that there is nothing behind it. So,
he starts from a basic fact of our experience that hardly can be
denied – that we perceive mental images.

Claiming the mind-dependence of the material things, he also


emphasizes the problem of perception. He shows that materialism
fails to explain the mechanism in how the existence of matter can
cause the occurrence of our idea. Locke himself diagnosed the
difficulty and Descartes was also aware of this problem.16

Claiming that the things we perceive cannot exist outside of mind,


he is trying to "deconstruct" the very distinction between Spirit and
Matter, the distinction typical for the philosophers of the Moderna,
so it does not seem too much weird to rank him among the post-
11
http://web.mac.com/cranetim/Tims_website/Book_reviews_files/Brewer%20and
%20Foster%20Review.pdf
12
Ibid.
13
About the proximity between idealism and realism, look at: Foster (2000), p.
260.
14
http://web.mac.com/cranetim/Tims_website/Book_reviews_files/Brewer%20and
%20Foster%20Review.pdf
15
Putnam, Hilary, TheThreefold Cord: Mind, Body, and World. New York: Columbia
University Press, 1999. Second afterword, Are appearances “qualia”?, p. 171
16
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/berkeley/
modern philosophers. It shows that the very concept of matter is
one of the "philosopher's inventions", just one of the empty abstract
notions that mean nothing. Such a" deconstruction" is a first step in
introducing a possibility of virtual reality, which would be one of the
consequences of his idealism. It seems undecided whether the
assumption of the goodness of the Governing Spirit is enough to
guarantee.

What if that Governing Spirit, the Author of a virtual nature, is not so


good? What if he is an evil demon who systematically deceives us,
who is "as clever and deceitful as he is powerful, who has directed
his entire effort to misleading me."? The most recent discussion
about brains in a vat considers that possibility. It is not logically (nor
physically, they claim) impossible that the Cartesian fundament of
certainty -Cogito – is at the same conscious about its own existence
and fooled about the existence about the external world. Maybe an
Evil Genius separated our brains from our bodies and put them in a
vat full of life-sustaining liquid and hooked them to a supercomputer
that can perfectly simulate experiences of the outside world and
cause the collective systematic illusion of the outside world – which
is qualitatively indistinguishable from experiences of a normal
perceiver.

Berkeley himself believed that we do not need external things to


explain our sensations. 17It is very ironical that the materialist
opponent of Berkeley will claim, similarly, that the brain is sufficient
for experience.18 And also, it is very ironical that Berkeley himself
argues that dreams are a proof that there is no causal connection
between our sensations and external reality19. But is it enough to
postulate the vividness, regularity and constancy20 of our
experience to distinguish between dream and reality and to exclude
the possibility that our experience is nothing but a continued dream
(illusion, collective hallucination)?

4.2. PUTNAM AND THE VIRTUAL WORLD

Hilary Putnam claims that we can prove that we do not live in a


virtual reality – that we are brains in bodies, not brains in vats. His
argument is based on few considerations concerning reference and
truth, based upon semantic externalism. According to the entry in
the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Brains in a Vat, "This is

17
The Nature of Perception, p. 1
18
Noë, A., Experience without the Head, p. 412.
19
George Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, 18.
20
George Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, 33.
the view that the meanings and truth conditions of one's sentences,
and the contents of one's intentional mental states, depend upon
the character of one's external, causal environment."21

According this view, our words and mental images refer to


something in the external world only if there is a causal connection
between them. So, words and mental images of the envatted brains
refer to the electro-impulses that stimulated them – by no means,
they refer to anything in the real world. Therefore, they by no
means can really know that they are brains in a vat. There are in a
same situation as the humanoids in Putnam's example, who can
accidently get the image of tree, which actually refers to nothing in
their world. Their images of a brain and of a vat by no means refer
to a real brain and a real vat, as an image of Churchill, drawn by an
insect, by no means refers to Winston Churchill. For them, the
reality to which their brains and vats belong is a metaphysical
reality, beyond their grasp.

In my opinion, Putnam's argument is valid only on condition that the


conclusion we want to infer is one of the premises of the inference:
that this world, where brains and vats belong, is real, that is not an
illusion caused by collective hallucination. And also, the skeptical
hypothesis about brains in vats has sense only if this world is real.

The most important question, in my opinion, is the motivation of a


skeptic. If a skeptic really believes in this option, he is insane, if not,
he is a nihilistic cynic, whose only purpose is to question the
fundamental values. Also, even though their hypothesis is based on
a logical and maybe a physical possibility, it is only a science fiction,
and it is not enough to start from a possibility of "some not-yet-
invented technology". 22And finally, we should, at all, generalize the
arguments from illusion and hallucination. As Austin shows, those
generalizations are, at least, too hasty, if not without any
fundaments.23

4.3. THE AUTHOR OF NATURE AND THE REALITY OF


OBJECTS

Why we have any reason to presuppose that the Author of Nature is


a sadistic God, who made the mankind in order to constantly
deceive it? Why not to start, with Descartes and Berkeley, from an
unfashionable position and presuppose that the Creator created this
21
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/brain-vat/
22
Noë, A., Experience without the Head, p. 411.
23
Austin, J. Sense and Sensibilia, I-VI
world in His unlimited wisdom and kindness? And His ways, his
sophisticated technique, may forever remain ungraspable and
opaque for us..

Why not to presuppose, opposite to Berkeley, and together with


Descartes, that there is a purpose why we are created with the
distinct sense of the existence of the external world.

Berkeley powerfully points out to intelligibility of world and to


irreducibility of mind and also to a deep connection between world
and mind, which makes absurd the materialist claim of the
reducibility of mind to matter. Berkeley allows the existence of the
spirits, plurality of spirits governed by the supreme spirit or God,
and ideas. But, there are no external objects, only ideas. The real
things are nothing but ideas. Such ideas cannot have any causal
influence to our mind.

His argument is not persuasive at all. He can prove intelligibility of


the world, but not that there are no objects outside of our mind. He
hastily rejects the possibility of the external, unperceivable objects,
as it were, things-in-itself, arguing that God would not create such
useless things.24 Intelligibility of things means that they cannot exist
without mind, but not that they cannot exist outside of it. He shows
that even a materialist should accept this intelligibility, in order to
be able to give any account about the sense of reality.

4.4. FOSTER'S INTERACTIVE IDEALISM

Berkeley rejects the basic intuition of human experience that the


objects exist outside of mind. This problem Foster recognizes as a
fundamental objection to idealism. It excludes our basic
understanding of what a physical world is – as a world of three-
dimensional space and material objects.

Foster claims the idealist has a satisfactory answer to this objection.


Even though the existence of physical world, as created by sensory
organization, depends on human mind, it is created as something
with which human mentality is intimately linked. It is created as a
world which forms our perceptual environment and which is
perceptually accessible to us and in which we are located and in
which we are attached to our bodies and in which our mentality
causally interacts with the states of these bodies and with events in
the wider environment. The realist would agree with this thesis
24
George Berkeley, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge,
18.
which idealist, according Foster's opinion, adopts, that the two
realms of phenomena are interactive parts of a larger
psychophysical whole. The realist would agree with the thesis that in
this contest the physical world is itself responsible for imposing an
organization on sensory experience. "For a subject's sensory
experiences fall under the causal control of the relevant centers in
his brain (the brain of the body to which he is functionally attached),
and these centers, in turn, are causally sensitive to the relevant
form of environmental input."25

In one word, Foster claims that within the ordinary psychophysical


reality – which is (once is) idealistically created, the existence of the
physical world is not logically dependent on the human mind. His
conclusion is that, within this realty, the physical world exists as an
interactive partner with human mentality.

25
The Nature of Perception, p. 260