[lit-ideas] Re: Is it solipsistic in here, or is it just me?

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 15 Oct 2013 10:25:11 -0400 (EDT)

In his excellent commentary on Geary's repartee, as per subject line -- "Is 
 it solipsistic in here, or is it just me?" -- McEvoy wonders, in a message 
dated  10/15/2013 3:56:36 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,

>perhaps someone on the  list can give a source for this more general point.

the point being  re-read by me as follows:


"There is a more general point  here worth considering".
"When we consider the whole field of ‘experience’, or a subset like the  ‘
visual field’, there is nothing in that field that tells us how it is  
constituted as philosophers wish to understand this –"
Indeed. Visual field is a good example. I wouldn't know about philosophers, 
 but poets. Homer (and then again Borges) were blind. Yet Homer uses colour 
 words. This is meant to corroborate that he was 'echoing' an older bard 
than he  was (who was not blind) or that he was using words like 'red' -- as 
when he  speaks of the 'red sea' -- in a way that would have his Greek 
audience  understand the term -- even if he his self never _did see_ the sea as 
red. (He  also speaks of Odysseus drinking 'liters of red wine' -- vide, 
Chapman, "Colour  words in Homer: a comparative approach" -- Chapman fails to 
make it clear who  the comparison is with -- cfr. Keats, "On first looking into 
Chapman's Homer"  for a refutation of Chapman).
McEvoy goes on:
"the field is compatible, as experienced, with different philosophical  
accounts of its constitution".
And also poetical. There are 5,739 occurrences of colour words in Homer,  
for example.
"This explains why debate about its philosophical ‘constitution’ cannot be 
 scientifically decided by appeal to the ‘field’ itself i.e. cannot be 
decided by  ‘observation’."
While 'blind' describes Homer, following Grice in "The objects of the five  
senses", it is of course conceivable to conceive an individual who lacks 
one or  more of the five senses -- not just the one that provides 'a visual 
field'.  Grice famously referred to Molyneux in "Some remarks about the 
senses", and he  ventures in "The senses of the Martians" that we should be 
careful to be able to  distinguish between two 'senses' of 'see'. His example: 
Martians have, as  indeed they have been portrayed as having, TWO pairs of 
eyes, we should be  willing to subdivide our sense of 'see' into two 
subsenses" -- that Grice calls  x-ing and y-ing -- "He x-ed the apple as red" 
"he y-ed the apple as red",  according to whether it is the lower or the 
upper pair of eyes that is being  used.
McEvoy concludes this general point about solipsism:
"For, example, there is nothing in the ‘visual field’ that tells us 
whether  it is constituted a la the rationalism of Descartes, or the sensory 
inputs of  Locke, or Kant’s attempt to synthesise rationalism and empiricism. 
This also  helps explain why there is nothing within the visual field, or the 
whole field  of ‘experience’, that can be decisive against the determined 
solipsist – who  may, without “self-refuting”, insist this whole field 
resides within his  all-encompassing ‘I’ (for what observation could refute his 
Point taken.
Unfortunately, I never met a solipsist, so my 'experience' is what  
book-sellers call 'second-hand'.
But then again, to quote from Will Rogers:
good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad  
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