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Scientific method Essay

Outline and illustrate three characteristics of sense-data. (15 marks) Anticipate the following characteristics: • We are immediately/directly acquainted with sense-data, (from which we infer a mindindependent reality). • Sense-data are (usually) mental or mind-dependent. • Sense-data exist only as they are perceived. • Reports regarding sense-data are incorrigible. • Sense-data are nothing other than how they appear – they have no hidden depths. • The sense-data I experience will vary according to the conditions in which I perceive an object.

• Sense-data, unlike physical objects, can have indeterminate process. • Sense-data and physical objects/distinguishing sense-data. Illustrate examples are likely to differ depending on the points being made and can be drawn from various sources: Illusions and delusions (e. g. bent sticks, mirage, hallucinations), perceptual relativity (the real shape of the coin, the real properties of the table), phenomenology (apparent and real speckled hens) or time-lag arguments (seeing the ‘sun’) that distinguish between the way the world appears and the way it is.

Consider the claim that the weaknesses of representative realism outweigh its strengths. (30 marks) Knowledge and Understanding Anticipate the following outline of representative realism: There is a material reality independent of our perception of it – an external world – from which experience originates. But our perception of material objects is mediated via ‘ a veil of perception’. Our immediate awareness is of an ‘internal’ non-material something – ‘ideas’ or sense-data – that we take as representative of mind independent external reality.

The claim that there is an external world is a hypothesis. Interpretation, Analysis and Application Possible strengths • Unlike common sense, representative realism can account for illusions/hallucinations by proposing we experience ideas/sense-data. • Representative Realism gets the epistemological project right: I have to start from my own ‘experience’ and work outward to an external world. • Representative Realism acknowledges the scientific claim that mind-independent reality is not as it appears to us (and the primary/secondary qualities distinction might be used here to articulate this point.)

• Representative realism acknowledges a distinction between appearance and reality but it is able to counter scepticism: it is reasonable to suppose that there is a mindindependent reality that impinges upon me in systematic ways, not subject to will, which my experience ‘represents’ in ways similar to your experience.

Possible weaknesses • Representative Realism is incompatible with Empiricism because it makes claims about mind-independent reality that transcend any possible experience: it makes empty assertions devoid of empirical consequences (e.g. ‘a something we know not what’); it illegitimately draws inferences from familiar experience (e. g. observations of casual relations) to support judgements regarding a reality that ‘must be strange’ (Russell).

• The apparatus employed by representative realism cannot avoid scepticism: a veil of perception intermediate between object and perceiver opens up an unbridgeable gap. • Representative Realism (at least in its ‘pure’ empiricist form) does not have the resources to escape solipsism.

• The scientific appearance/reality distinction need not have any exceptional ‘philosophical significance regarding what there is; it just regulates what counts as relevant/irrelevant when scientists do science (c. f. demarcation issues like ‘Are we doing psychology or sociology? ’ ‘Is that a philosophical point of history? ’). • A candidate might compare representative realism with other positions (e. g. idealism) just as long as the comparison highlights possible strengths and weaknesses of representative realism.

• Appeals to Occam’s Razor. Both direct realism and idealism are ontologically parsimonious contra representative realism. Assessment and Evaluation A candidate could argue for the following conclusions: • The weaknesses outweigh the strengths • The strengths outweigh the weaknesses • The strengths and weaknesses balance out, more or less. • Drawing out the implications of ‘something we know not what’ as Berkeley was to do. • Support of direct realism e. g. exceptions can be allowed if they can be explained, correction by other senses.

• Presuppositions of recognising deceptions, • Reid’s criticism of phenomenal variability – we can explain and predict. • External world seen as hypothetical, but is this like a scientific hypothesis? Verification issues. • How could we have the concept of a representation if we are only aware of representations. Analysis of how the concept works. • If we cannot know physical objects, then neither can we know their causal powers. • The external world could never be more than a probability. But how do we do the calculations needed for such a claim?


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