Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Reality Is Not Transparent

One way to misintepret pragmatist philosophy is to presume that it has a Lockean view of experience.  This is one of the most common misinterpretations.  For Dewey, the prototypical conception of experience is Hegelian, not Lockean!  To experience a thing is not to apprehend and mirror it.  To experience a thing is to mediate it, to transact with it.  “Experience” is transaction, an activity, and it not foremost something a mind does.

Nature experiences.  Nature’s experiencing becomes human experience when it includes a human organism.  Under certain conditions, the experience becomes conscious and then mental.  When experience achieves a “higher” level, i.e., goes from bodily to conscious, the prior phase is integrated into the later but is not subsumed.  The bodily phase continues, though some of its eventuates may now register at a higher level of complexity.

Nature is never fully transparent.  Even at the level of non-human experience, or transaction, there is chance.  Chance is real; the laws of nature are habits for which exceptions occur without warning that are beyond any description.  At the level of human experience, any lower phase of experience is not transparent to a higher phase; the body does not become transparent to consciousness.

Scholastic realism, as I have been championing, does not imply transparency.  It merely implies, along with the notion that nature is continuous, that the content of human experience, e.g., qualia, phenomena, etc., have a real relation to what is experienced.  Hence, it rejects both Humean and Kantian accounts of the reality of the universal while not sliding back into Lockeanism.  By implication, there is much that is hidden, unknown, and unknowable in this view.

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