Combining Philosophers

All the ideas for Alexander, Howard Robinson and Roger Fry

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38 ideas

7. Existence / D. Theories of Reality / 5. Physicalism
For physicalists, the only relations are spatial, temporal and causal [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: Spatial, temporal and causal relations are the only respectable candidates for relations for a physicalist.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], V.4)
     A reaction: This seems to be true, and is an absolutely crucial principle upon which any respectable physicalist account of the world must be built. It means that physicalists must attempt to explain all mental events in causal terms.
8. Modes of Existence / B. Properties / 6. Categorical Properties
If reality just has relational properties, what are its substantial ontological features? [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: Some thinkers claim the physical world consists just of relational properties - generally of active powers or fields; ..but an ontology of mutual influences is not an ontology at all unless the possessors of the influence have more substantial features.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], IX.3)
     A reaction: I think this idea is one of the keys to wisdom. It is the same problem with functional explanations - you are left asking WHY this thing can have this particular function. Without the buck stopping at essences you are chasing your explanatory tail.
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 1. Perceptual Realism / a. Naïve realism
When a red object is viewed, the air in between does not become red [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: When the form of red passes from an object to the eye, the air in between does not become red.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], 1.2)
     A reaction: This strikes me as a crucial and basic fact which must be faced by any philosopher offering a theory of perception. I would have thought it instantly eliminated any sort of direct or naïve realism. The quale of red is created by my brain.
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 1. Perceptual Realism / c. Representative realism
Representative realists believe that laws of phenomena will apply to the physical world [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: One thing which is meant by saying that the phenomenal world represents or resembles the transcendental physical world is that the scientific laws devised to apply to the former, if correct, also apply (at least approximately) to the latter.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], IX.3)
     A reaction: This is not, of course, an argument, or a claim which can be easily substantiated, but it does seem to be a nice statement of a central article of faith for representative realists. The laws of the phenomenal world are the only ones we are going to get.
Representative realists believe some properties of sense-data are shared by the objects themselves [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: A representative realist believes that at least some of the properties that are ostensively demonstrable in virtue of being exemplified in sense-data are of the same kind as some of those exemplified in physical objects.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], VII.5)
     A reaction: It is hard to pin down exactly what is being claimed here. Locke's primary qualities will obviously qualify, but could properties be 'exemplified' in sense-data without them actually being the same as those of the objects?
11. Knowledge Aims / C. Knowing Reality / 2. Phenomenalism
Phenomenalism can be theistic (Berkeley), or sceptical (Hume), or analytic (20th century) [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: It is useful to identify three kinds of phenomenalism: theistic, sceptical and analytic; the first is represented by Berkeley, the second by Hume, and the third by most twentieth-century phenomenalists.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], IX.4)
     A reaction: In Britain the third group is usually represented by A.J.Ayer. My simple objection to all phenomenalists is that they are intellectual cowards because they won't venture to give an explanation of the phenomena which confront them.
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 1. Perception
Can we reduce perception to acquisition of information, which is reduced to causation or disposition? [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: Many modern physicalists first analyse perception as no more than the acquisition of beliefs or information through the senses, and then analyse belief and the possession of information in causal or dispositional terms.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], V.1)
     A reaction: (He mentions Armstrong, Dretske and Pitcher). A reduction to dispositions implies behaviourism. This all sounds more like an eliminativist strategy than a reductive one. I would start by saying that perception is only information after interpretation.
Would someone who recovered their sight recognise felt shapes just by looking? [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: Molyneux's Problem is whether someone who was born blind and acquired sight would be able to recognise, on sight, which shapes were which; that is, would they see which shape was the one that felt so-and-so?
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], VIII.7)
     A reaction: (Molyneux wrote a letter to John Locke about this). It is a good question, and much discussed in modern times. My estimation is that the person would recognise the shapes. We are partly synaesthetic, and see sharpness as well as feeling it.
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 2. Qualities in Perception / b. Primary/secondary
Secondary qualities have one sensory mode, but primary qualities can have more [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: Primary qualities and secondary qualities are often distinguished on the grounds that secondaries are restricted to one sensory modality, but primaries can appear in more.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], VIII.7)
     A reaction: This distinction seems to me to be accurate and important. It is not just that the two types are phenomenally different - it is that the best explanation is that the secondaries depend on their one sense, but the primaries are independent.
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 2. Qualities in Perception / c. Primary qualities
We say objects possess no intrinsic secondary qualities because physicists don't need them [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: The idea that objects do not possess secondary qualities intrinsically rests on the thought that they do not figure in the physicist's account of the world; ..as they are causally idle, no purpose is served by attributing them to objects.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], III.1)
     A reaction: On the whole I agree with this, but colours (for example) are not causally idle, as they seem to affect the behaviour of insects. They are properties which can only have a causal effect if there is a brain in their vicinity. Physicists ignore brains.
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 2. Qualities in Perception / d. Secondary qualities
If objects are not coloured, and neither are sense-contents, we are left saying that nothing is coloured [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: If there are good reasons for thinking that physical objects are not literally coloured, and one also refuses to attribute them to sense-contents, then one will have the bizarre theory (which has been recently adopted) that nothing is actually coloured.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], 1.7)
     A reaction: It seems to me that objects are not literally coloured, that the air in between does not become coloured, and that my brain doesn't turn a funny colour, so that only leaves colour as an 'interior' feature of certain brain states. That's how it is.
Shape can be experienced in different ways, but colour and sound only one way [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: Shape can be directly experienced by either touch or sight, which are subjectively different; but colour and sound can be directly experienced only through experiences which are subjectively like sight and hearing.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], III.1)
     A reaction: This seems to be a key argument in support of the distinction between primary and secondary qualities. It seems to me that the distinction may be challenged and questioned, but to deny it completely (as Berkeley and Hume do) is absurd.
If secondary qualities match senses, would new senses create new qualities? [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: As secondary qualities are tailored to match senses, a proliferation of senses would lead to a proliferation of secondary qualities.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], III.1)
     A reaction: One might reply that if we experienced, say, magnetism, we would just be discerning a new fine grained primary quality, not adding something new to the ontological stock of properties in the world. It is a matter of HOW we experience the magnetism.
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 3. Representation
Most moderate empiricists adopt Locke's representative theory of perception [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: The representative theory of perception is found in Locke, and is adopted by most moderate empiricists.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], 1.2)
     A reaction: This is, I think, my own position. Anything less than fairly robust realism strikes me as being a bit mad (despite Berkeley's endless assertions that he is preaching common sense), and direct realism seems obviously false.
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 4. Sense Data / a. Sense-data theory
Sense-data leads to either representative realism or phenomenalism or idealism [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: The sense-datum theorist is either a representative realist or a phenomenalist (with which we can classify idealism for present purposes).
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], VII.5)
     A reaction: The only alternative to these two positions seems to be some sort of direct realism. I class myself as a representative realist, as this just seems (after a very little thought about colour blindness) to be common sense. I'm open to persuasion.
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 4. Sense Data / b. Nature of sense-data
Sense-data do not have any intrinsic intentionality [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: I understand sense-data as having no intrinsic intentionality; that is, though it may suggest, by habit, things beyond it, in itself it possesses only sensible qualities which do not refer beyond themselves.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], 1.1)
     A reaction: This seems right, as the whole point of proposing sense-data was as something neutral between realism and anti-realism
For idealists and phenomenalists sense-data are in objects; representative realists say they resemble objects [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: For idealists and phenomenalists sense-data are part of physical objects, for objects consist only of actual or actual and possible sense-data; representative realists say they just have an abstract and structural resemblance to objects.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], 1.1)
     A reaction: He puts Berkeley, Hume and Mill in the first group, and Locke in the second. Russell belongs in the second. The very fact that there can be two such different theories about the location of sense-data rather discredits the whole idea.
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 4. Sense Data / d. Sense-data problems
Sense-data are rejected because they are a veil between us and reality, leading to scepticism [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: Resistance to the sense-datum theory is inspired mainly by the fear that such data constitute a veil of perception which stands between the observer and the external world, threatening scepticism, or even solipsism.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], VII.1)
     A reaction: It is very intellectually dishonest to reject any theory because it leads to scepticism or relativism. This is a common failing among quite good professional philosophers. See Idea 241.
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 8. Adverbial Theory
'Sense redly' sounds peculiar, but 'senses redly-squarely tablely' sounds far worse [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: 'Sense redly' sounds peculiar, but 'senses redly-squarely' or 'red-squarely' or 'senses redly-squarely-tablely' and other variants sound far worse.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], VII.5)
     A reaction: This is a comment on the adverbial theory, which is meant to replace representative theories based on sense-data. The problem is not that it sounds weird; it is that while plain red can be a mode of perception, being a table obviously can't.
Adverbialism sees the contents of sense-experience as modes, not objects [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: The defining claim of adverbialism is that the contents of sense-experience are modes, not objects, of sensory activity.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], VII.5)
     A reaction: This seems quite a good account of simple 'modes' like colour, but not so good when you instantly perceive a house. It never seems wholly satisfactory to sidestep the question of 'what are you perceiving when you perceive red or square?'
If there are only 'modes' of sensing, then an object can no more be red or square than it can be proud or lazy. [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: If only modes of sensing are ostensively available, ..then it is a category mistake to see any resemblance between what is available and properties of bodies; one could as sensibly say that a physical body is proud or lazy as that it is red or square.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], VII.5)
     A reaction: This is an objection to the 'adverbial' theory of perception. It looks to me like a devastating objection, if the theory is meant to cover primary qualities as well as secondary. Red could be a mode of perception, but not square, surely?
14. Science / D. Explanation / 1. Explanation / b. Aims of explanation
An explanation presupposes something that is improbable unless it is explained [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: Any search for an explanation presupposes that there is something in need of an explanation - that is, something which is improbable unless explained.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], IX.3)
     A reaction: Elementary enough, but it underlines the human perspective of all explanations. I may need an explanation of baseball, where you don't.
If all possibilities are equal, order seems (a priori) to need an explanation - or does it? [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: The fact that order requires an explanation seems to be an a priori principle; ..we assume all possibilities are equally likely, and so no striking regularities should emerge; the sceptic replies that a highly ordered sequence is as likely as any other.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], IX.3)
     A reaction: An independent notion of 'order' is required. If I write down '14356', and then throw 1 4 3 5 6 on a die, the match is the order; instrinsically 14356 is nothing special. If you threw the die a million times, a run of six sixes seems quite likely.
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 4. Intentionality / a. Nature of intentionality
If intentional states are intrinsically about other things, what are their own properties? [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: Intentional states are mysterious things; if they are intrinsically about other things, what properties, if any, do they possess intrinsically?
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], 1.1)
     A reaction: A very nice question, which I suspect to be right at the heart of the tendency towards externalist accounts of the mind. Since you can only talk about the contents of the thoughts, you can't put forward a decent internalist account of what is going on.
16. Persons / C. Self-Awareness / 3. Limits of Introspection
Most of us are too close to our own motives to understand them [Fry]
     Full Idea: The motives we actually experience are too close to us to enable us to feel them clearly. They are in a sense unintelligible.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.30)
     A reaction: Fry is defending the role of art in clarifying and highlighting such things, but I am not convinced by his claim. We can grasp most of our motives with a little introspection, and those we can't grasp are probably too subtle for art as well.
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 1. Physical Mind
Physicalism cannot allow internal intentional objects, as brain states can't be 'about' anything [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: It is generally conceded by reductive physicalists that a state of the brain cannot be intrinsically about anything, for intentionality is not an intrinsic property of anything, so there can be no internal objects for a physicalist.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], V.4)
     A reaction: Perhaps it is best to say that 'aboutness' is not a property of physics. We may say that a brain state 'represents' something, because the something caused the brain state, but representations have to be recognised
21. Aesthetics / A. Aesthetic Experience / 2. Aesthetic Attitude
Imaginative life requires no action, so new kinds of perception and values emerge in art [Fry]
     Full Idea: In the imaginative life no action is necessary, so the whole consciousness may be focused upon the perceptive and the emotional aspects of the experience. Hence we get a different set of values, and a different kind of perception
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.24)
     A reaction: Good. A huge range of human activities are like scientific experiments, where you draw on our evolved faculties, but put them in controlled conditions, where the less convenient and stressful parts are absent. War and sport. Real and theatrical tragedy.
Everyone reveals an aesthetic attitude, looking at something which only exists to be seen [Fry]
     Full Idea: It is only when an object exists for no other purpose than to be seen that we really look at it, …and then even the most normal person adopts to some extent the artistic attitude of pure vision abstracted from necessity.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.29)
     A reaction: A painter of still life looks at things which exist for other purposes, with just the attitude which Fry attributes to the viewers of the paintings. We can encourage a child to look at a flower with just this attitude.
21. Aesthetics / A. Aesthetic Experience / 4. Beauty
'Beauty' can either mean sensuous charm, or the aesthetic approval of art (which may be ugly) [Fry]
     Full Idea: There is an apparent contradiction between two distinct uses of the word 'beauty', one for that which has sensuous charm, and one for the aesthetic approval of works of imaginative art where the objects presented to us are often of extreme ugliness.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.33)
     A reaction: The gouging of eyes in 'King Lear' was always the big problem case for aesthetics, just as nowadays it is Marcel Duchamp's wretched 'Fountain'.
21. Aesthetics / A. Aesthetic Experience / 6. The Sublime
In life we neglect 'cosmic emotion', but it matters, and art brings it to the fore [Fry]
     Full Idea: Those feelings unhappily named cosmic emotion find almost no place in life, but, since they seem to belong to certain very deep springs of our nature, do become of great importance in the arts.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.31)
     A reaction: Focus on the sublime was big in the romantic era, but Fry still sees its importance, and I don't think it ever goes away. Art styles which scorn the sublime are failing to perform their social duty, say I.
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 2. Art as Form
Art needs a mixture of order and variety in its sensations [Fry]
     Full Idea: The first quality that we demand in our [artistic] sensations will be order, without which our sensations will be troubled and perplexed, and the other will be variety, without which they will not be fully stimulated.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.32)
     A reaction: He makes good claims, but gives unconvincing reasons for them. Some of us rather like 'troubled and perplexed' sensations. And a very narrow range of sensations could still be highly stimulated. Is Fry a good aesthetician but a modest philosopher?
21. Aesthetics / B. Nature of Art / 3. Art as Imitation
If graphic arts only aim at imitation, their works are only trivial ingenious toys [Fry]
     Full Idea: If imitation is the sole purpose of the graphic arts, it is surprising that the works of such arts are ever looked upon as more than curiosities, or ingenious toys, and are ever taken seriously by grown-up people.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.23)
     A reaction: But then you might say that same about fine wines. A mere nice taste is hardly worthy of grown ups, and yet lots of grown ups feeling quite passionately about it. What about Fabergé eggs?
Popular opinion favours realism, yet most people never look closely at anything! [Fry]
     Full Idea: Ordinary people have almost no idea of what things really look like, so that the one standard that popular criticism applies to painting (whether it is like nature or not) is the one which most people are prevented frm applying properly.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.29)
     A reaction: A nice remark, though there is a streak of Bloomsbury artistic snobbery running through Fry. Ordinary people recognise photographic realism, so they can study things closely either in the reality or the picture, should they so choose.
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 1. Artistic Intentions
When viewing art, rather than flowers, we are aware of purpose, and sympathy with its creator [Fry]
     Full Idea: In our reaction to a work of art (rather than a flower) there is the consciousness of purpose, of a peculiar relation of sympathy with the man who made this thing in order to arouse precisely the sensations we experience.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.33)
     A reaction: I think this is entirely right. I like the mention of 'sympathy' as well as 'purpose'.
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 4. Emotion in Art
In the cinema the emotions are weaker, but much clearer than in ordinary life [Fry]
     Full Idea: One notices in the visions of the cinematograph that whatever emotions are aroused by them, though they are likely to be weaker than those of ordinary life, are presented more clearly to the conscious.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.25)
     A reaction: Fry had probably only seen very simple melodramas, but the general idea that artistic emotions are weaker than real life, but much clearer, is quite plausible.
21. Aesthetics / C. Artistic Issues / 7. Art and Morality
For pure moralists art must promote right action, and not just be harmless [Fry]
     Full Idea: To the pure moralist, accepting nothing but ethical values, to be justified, the life of the imagination must be shown not only not to hinder but actually to forward right action, otherwise it is not only useless but, by absorbing energies, harmful.
     From: Roger Fry (An Essay in Aesthetics [1909], p.26)
     A reaction: I think this is the sort of attitude you find in Samuel Johnson. Puritans even reject light music, which seems pleasantly harmless to the rest of us. 'Absorbing energies' doesn't sound much of an objection, and may not be the actual objection.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 6. Early Matter Theories / g. Atomism
How can things without weight compose weight? [Alexander]
     Full Idea: How could weight come about out of things composed of what is without weight?
     From: Alexander (On Aristotle's Metaphysics Book 2 [c.200], p.36.21-27)
     A reaction: This is obviously why Epicurus added weight to the features of atoms. Alexander seems unaware of this move.
26. Natural Theory / A. Speculations on Nature / 7. Later Matter Theories / c. Matter as extension
Locke's solidity is not matter, because that is impenetrability and hardness combined [Robinson,H]
     Full Idea: Notoriously, Locke's filler for Descartes's geometrical matter, solidity, will not do, for that quality collapses on examination into a composite of the dispositional-cum-relational propery of impenetrability, and the secondary quality of hardness.
     From: Howard Robinson (Perception [1994], IX.3)
     A reaction: I would have thought the problem was that 'matter is solidity' turns out on analysis to be a tautology. We have a handful of nearly synonymous words for matter and our experiences of it, but they boil down to some 'given' thing for which we lack words.