Objection #13: A dualism is introduced between appearance and reality

This interesting objection was made in an email by Milton Scarborough, whom I quote below:

You say we have no direct access to reality. I would say the reverse: we do have access to reality. We swim in it. It is that in which we live and move and have our being, to use some theological language.  My guess is that you may retain some kind of Kantian dualism between the phenomenal or the noumenal. A nondualistic program would get rid of that. If you merely mean that we sometimes become aware of differences between appearance and reality, that can only mean (in a nondualistic program) that we notice a difference between what we fallibly take to be reality in one moment and what we still fallibly take to be reality in a later moment.   

Response:

I think this is just a question of how "reality" is defined. If it is accepted that we are relatively ignorant and fallible, "reality" as I would define it would be that in respect to which we are ignorant and fallible. I would rather describe the experience we "swim in" more directly just as experience, rather than as "reality", so as to avoid slipping into the common arrogant assumption that we have things sorted. I think our selection of the senses of terms is just a pragmatic business, and my choice of reference to reality as something unknown here is actuated by the recognition that thinking we understand conditions when we do not is generally more of a problem for us than the reverse.

I agree that the distinction between appearance and reality is very much about the differences that we recognise at different times, and would add that noticing such a difference is central to objectivity. If arguments about objectivity are to be justified solely within experience, we have to calibrate them through these kinds of distinctions between experiences, rather than through appeals to reality. So, I'm not a Kantian dualist, because I don't assume (unlike Kant) that there is any noumenon to oppose to the phenomenon. I just suggest that we remain completely agnostic about noumena, and follow through the implications of that agnosticism fully.

 

Related discussion:

Kant  

Philosophical problems

 

Return to objections page

Return to moralobjectivity.net home page