Logical Criticism of Buddhist Doctrines

A Thematic Compilation by Avi Sion

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13. Epistemological status


1.    The status of sense perceptions

I would like here to explore some more aspects of the controversy between Materialism and Mentalism[1]. Note that both views are here taken to acknowledge mental phenomena: the mentalist (or mind-only) view accepts mental phenomena to the exclusion of material ones, whereas the materialist view (as here understood[2]) accepts material phenomena without excluding mental ones from the world (though it circumscribes their occurrence in “minds” like ours).

Is sense perception objective (and therefore valid) or subjective (and therefore invalid)? That is, is the world we perceive apparently through our sense organs material, or is it as mental as the phenomena we project in our imaginations? Most people, including most scientists and philosophers, accept things as they seem at the outset, and opt for the materialist thesis. But some philosophers, like George Berkeley in the West or the Yogacara School in the East, would argue that this ‘common-sense’ conclusion is rushed, and prefer the mentalist alternative.

The latter suggest that the whole notion of sense-organs is flawed, because if we suppose that there is a cognizing entity enclosed in a physical body with organs of sensation, through which information of other physical bodies beyond is obtained, the information actually cognized by the subject-entity is not the physical objects supposedly in contact with the sensory receptors, but mental products of such supposed objects at the other extremity of the process of sensation, i.e. directly opposite the one cognizing.

If, then, what we actually perceive are not physical objects but assumed mental products of them – it follows that all our actual objects of perception are all mental and none are material. That is, even our apparent body (including the sense organs it seems to contain) is effectively a mere mental phenomenon; and there is also no reason to suppose that the material world apparently beyond them is anything but mental.

That is, concluding this line of argument, the very distinction between mental and material must be abandoned as a silly idea, and only mental objects admitted as real. Phenomena ordinarily classed as material are just as mental as imaginings (though perhaps less readily controlled). Their appearance is real enough, but their materiality is illusory. Thus, materialism is a naïve philosophy, and mentalism is the correct doctrine.

I have in the past always argued that this skeptical argument is logically self-contradictory, because it starts with an assumption that the body and its sense organs exist in a material sense, and ends with the conclusion that there are no such material body and sense organs. A conclusion cannot contradict the premise(s) it is drawn from – so this argument must itself be logically flawed.

But now it occurs to me that this counter-argument of mine might be unfair, and I wish to review it. It occurs to me that it is formally acceptable for a conclusion to contradict its premise(s) – this is just what (single) paradoxical propositions mean. A proposition of the form “If P, then not P” is logically quite legitimate (if not accompanied by a second proposition of the form “If not P, then P”, for in such case we have an insoluble double paradox, i.e. a contradiction). The logical conclusion of “If P, then not P” (alone[3]) is the categorical proposition “Not P”.

In the case under scrutiny, the premise P is “there is a material body with sense organs” and the conclusion NotP is “there is no such thing” – and such inference is quite thinkable, quite legitimate according to the laws of thought. That is, rather than view the argument presented by the skeptics as self-defeating, we might suggest that they have shown materialism to be inherently paradoxical and thus self-contradictory, and rightly concluded mentalism to be the only internally consistent thesis of the two!

However, I have seen through this line of argument from the start, when I contended, in my Future Logic (chapter 62), that the solution to this conundrum was to deny the idea that what we perceive, when we seem to perceive material objects through the senses, are mental images of such material objects. I believe this is the error of conception regarding the nature of sense perception, which is logically bound to result in skepticism. John Locke made this error, and David Hume was quick to spot it (though he could not correct it).[4]

Locke was well intentioned, intent on justifying common sense; but his scenario was imperfectly conceived, and sure to lead to Berkeley’s radical conclusion. However, there is a logical way out of the difficulty – and that is to conceive the sense organs as somehow allowing us to perceive the material objects themselves, or (more precisely) at least certain aspects of them, rather than only some mental products of them. If you reflect, you will realize that this is what we ordinarily assume we are doing when we perceive the world seemingly around us.

This is of course a hard scenario to explain, but it provides a possible justification for materialism (a self-consistent, non-naïve version), and thus an effective defense against the skeptical conclusion of mentalism. In this manner, the paradox inherent in naïve materialism is not ignored or denied, and yet the mentalist conclusion is not drawn from it, because a third thesis is proposed.

This third thesis is that sensation, rather than implying indirect perception, makes possible direct perception (perhaps by producing some sort of physical structure in the brain serving as a passageway for the Subject’s consciousness to get in direct contact with the object sensed). This thesis is not, by its mere formulation, definitively proved, note well; but at least it serves to put the mentalist doctrine in doubt.

We are in this manner provided with two competing hypotheses, both of which seemingly equally account for experience; and the question of materiality versus mentality of the objects of certain perceptions is thus reopened. The issue is turned from a deductive one (favoring mentalism) to an inductive one (in which both doctrines are at least equally conceivable).

I thereafter posit further argumentation to show the reasonableness of the common sense (materialist) view. Since the matter-mind distinction is itself based on that view, it cannot be used by mentalists to declare all objects mental rather than material. Given their view, no such distinction would arise in the first place, and we would have no understanding of the different intentions of these two words.

Moreover, I have suggested that the distinction might be phenomenologically explicable, by saying that mental phenomena are merely visual and/or auditory, but lack other phenomenal qualities. Mental phenomena correspond to those experienced through sight and hearing, whereas touch, smell and taste sensations seem to have no equivalent forms in the mind. Our memories can recognize them, but they seemingly cannot reproduce them.

In other words, we perhaps recognize materiality by virtue of touch[5], smell and taste sensations, granting that the mental domain lacks these specific phenomenal modalities. Visual and auditory phenomena are ambiguous, i.e. they might be material or mental; but (I tentatively suggest) the other modalities are distinctively material.

An explanation for this may be that the senses of touch, smell and taste are biologically more basic, while those of sight and hearing occur further up the evolutionary scale. The former are more qualitative and pleasure-pain related, applicable to any sentient being, whereas the latter are more spatial and temporal, implying a more complex form of life.

It is also important to note that mentalists consider consciousness of mental objects as needing less explanation than consciousness of material objects. To them, knowledge through the senses is hard to explain, in view of the distance of the knowing subject from such objects; whereas, mental objects are more knowable because closer to us. Or if it is not an issue of distance to them, perhaps they consider that the knower is of the same substance as mental objects.

But we must realize that consciousness of mental objects is just as marvelous, mysterious and miraculous as consciousness of physical objects.

To regard mental objects as of the same stuff as the knowing self (because we colloquially lump these things together as constituents of the ‘mind’ or psyche) is an error. Mental objects like memories, imaginations or ideas are not themselves conscious: they are always objects, never subjects of consciousness; therefore they cannot be essentially equated to the soul that knows them.

As for distance: on what basis are physical objects regarded as further afield than mental objects? Such spatial considerations are only possible if we locate the soul in a continuum including mental and material objects. But in truth, we do not strictly believe in a continuum common to both mental and material objects, although some mental projections (hallucinations) do sometimes seem to inhabit the same space as physical things. Furthermore, we do not know the exact ‘place’ of the soul: is it in the heart or in the brain or coterminous with the body or outside it – or is it in some other dimension of being altogether?

It should be added that consciousness of oneself, i.e. the intuition of self by self, is essentially no different from these two kinds of consciousness: only the objects differ in the three cases. That is, whether the objects are mental, material or spiritual in ‘substance’, consciousness is still one and the same sort of special relation. The same reflection also applies to eventual ‘transcendental’ consciousness, i.e. consciousness of God or of the Ultimate Ground of Being – this is still consciousness. Whatever the kind of object involved, consciousness remains marvelous, mysterious and miraculous.

Thus, asserting mentalism instead of materialism is not as significant for the theory of knowledge as might at first sight seem. The apparent gain in credibility in such change of paradigm dissolves once we pay attention to the question: but what is consciousness?


2.    The status of dreams and daydreams

Do we logically need to have some absolute frame of reference to compare all others to, in order to claim that some frame of reference is relative? If that were the case, Einstein’s theory on the relativity of space-time would be unthinkable. He could not claim all frameworks are relative. But he is not making such a claim by deduction from some privileged vantage point of his. What he is saying, rather, is that (because of the same measurement of the velocity of light in all directions) we cannot establish an absolute framework, and so we are condemned to viewing every framework we use as relative. This is an inductive argument, involving generalization from existing empirical knowledge.

It remains conceivable that, at some future time, scientists discover some other physical means to establish an absolute frame of reference. The same reasoning can be applied to Heisenberg’s principle concerning the impossibility of identifying precisely and simultaneously the position and momentum of an elementary particle. This too is a theoretical principle built on practical considerations. It is based on a generalization of negation from “is not found” to “cannot be found” – but it remains conceivable, however remotely, that such a rule be abrogated in the future, if we find some other way to make the measurements required.

These examples within physical science can help us to inform an issue within metaphysics. Can we logically assert as do some philosophers that “everything is illusory” (or “awake experience is only a dream” or other similar skeptical statements)? At first sight, a statement like “everything is illusory” is self-contradictory, and therefore definitively false, since “everything” formally must include the statement itself, which is thereby declared illusory. However, let us try and approach the issue in less deductive terms, and view the statement as a product of induction.

We can call an experience a dream because we have some other experience to refer to, which we consider non-dreamy. Usually, we realize after we wake up: “Oh, I was only dreaming”. Exceptionally, it happens that we become aware during a dream that we are dreaming, and we can even force ourselves to awaken from within the dream (I have certainly experienced this several times). In either case, we characterize our asleep experience as “dream” only because we have memory of an alternative, awake experience. The very concept of a dream would seem to rely on such comparison.

Or does it? In comparing awake and asleep experience, we postulate that the former is more real than the latter, and thereby classify the former as “real” and the latter as “illusory”. But what is the basis of such discrimination? Approaching the issue without prejudice, we might argue that (to begin with, at least) the two sets of experience are on equal footing (in terms of the reality vs. illusion distinction), i.e. that there is no reason to give precedence to the one over the other. Phenomenologically, they are of equal value, or status. We cannot tell which is more real or more illusory than the other, and therefore must conclude that both are equally unsure.

A good argument in favor of this view is the observation that most dreams seem credible enough to us while we are having them. This just goes to show our native credulity, how easily we tend to believe experiences. Seeing how foolishly credulous we are while asleep, we may well wonder whether our credulity while awake is just as silly, and get to think that our apparent life is perhaps a dream too.

This is perhaps the intended meaning of statements like “all is illusion” – they suggest our incapacity to find some absolute frame of reference we can label “reality”. But the reply to such objection would be the following. Contrary to what some philosophers claim, we do not in fact, in practice, label some parts of experience “reality” and relegate others to the status of “illusion” with certainty and finality. Such judgments are not absolute, but open to change using inductive reasoning.

The basic principle of induction is that every appearance is to be regarded as ‘reality’ until and unless, i.e. until if ever, conflicts between certain appearances, or between certain appearances and logical considerations, force us to relegate the appearance concerned to the status of ‘illusion’.

We have no way to tell the difference between reality and illusion at first sight. We do not dish out the labels of reality or illusion from some privileged, neutral standpoint, but start with the assumption that everything we (seem to) experience is real, and only refer to some such experiences as illusory in the way of a last resort. And even then, later evidence or reasoning may make us change our minds, and decide that what seemed illusory was real and what seemed real was illusory.

The distinction between these two characterizations of appearance is thus essentially a holistic, hypothetical conclusion, rather than a point-blank premise. The more data we take into consideration in forming such judgments, the more certain they become. The initial assumption is that an appearance is real. But the initial credibility is still conditional, in that it has to be confirmed and never infirmed thenceforth.

This is obvious, because all we have to build our knowledge on are our experiences (physical, mental or non-phenomenal) and our rational faculty (for sorting out the experiences). We have givens and a method, but we still have to work our way to certainty, through a long, largely inductive process.

At first (naïvely), appearance, existence and reality are all one and the same to us. Gradually (with increased subtlety), we distinguish appearances as existents that have been cognized, and realities as appearances that have stood the test of time with regard to consistency with other experiences and with logical issues. Illusions are appearances that have failed in some test or other.

Comparison and contrast are involved in distinguishing awake and dream experiences. Because the former seem more solid and regular than the latter, we label the former “real life” and the latter “dream”. Both sets of experience have to be considered before we can make this classification, and it is such perceived characteristics apparent within them that lead us to this rational judgment. Thus, the way remains open for further evaluation at some future time – for example, if we encounter some third corpus of experience that seems still more real than the previous two.

This is the claim of mysticism – that there exists yet a higher reality, relative to which (when we reach it through prophesy, meditation or other means) ordinary experience seems but like a mere dream (note the language of analogy). It is in that context that it becomes perfectly legitimate to say: “all is illusion”, meaning more precisely “all that is in ordinary experience is illusory”, i.e. in comparison to all that is in extraordinary experience. The proposition is logically self-consistent, because it is not as general in intent as it seems to be in its brief verbal formulation.

Of course, according to inductive logic, if someone had only the experience we call dreaming, he would have to regard that experience as reality. Likewise, someone who has never had a mystical experience is duty-bound to assume that his ordinary awake experience is reality.

It follows that only someone who has personally experienced some third, radically different, experiential content may legitimately claim that our ordinary experience is akin to a dream. Someone who thereafter repeats the same claim without having himself had the corresponding extraordinary experience is just expressing his (religious) faith. The epistemological status of such faith is not nil, but it is not equivalent to that involved in personal experience. It is a tentative belief, an act of hope (or fear), based indirectly on someone else’s reported experience – but not a belief based directly on one’s own experience.

Note that even without referring to any mystical experience, it is not inaccurate to say that most of our awake experience is tantamount to dreaming. For what is dreaming while asleep? A series of mental projections; the invention of fanciful scenarios. And in truth, this is just what most of us pass most of our time doing while awake: we project mental images or sounds, viewing data either directly drawn from our memory banks or indirectly derived by reshuffling such memories. So we can rightly be said to be dreaming, even if we call it daydreaming.

In the last analysis, the only times we are not dreaming are those rare moments when we are actually fully absorbed in the here and now of direct experience!

However, according to those who claim to have had mystical experience of some transcendental reality, even this ‘here and now’ (made up of material and/or mental phenomena) ought to be regarded as dreaming. The latter statement is as radically metaphysical or transcendental as it can be, postulating all phenomenal experience to be dreamlike. In this view, dreams asleep are phantasms within a larger dream, and awake experience is also part of that larger dream.

People naïvely point to their apparently physical body in support of their claim to material reality, but so doing they fail to consider that when they dream while asleep they are usually represented in their dream by a mental image of a body. If this imaginary body seems credible to them while dreaming asleep, why might the apparently physical body experienced while awake not likewise wrongly seem credible?

Materiality, and its distinction from mentality, must ultimately be understood as a conceptual hypothesis, which we may philosophically adopt because it orders our world of experience (whatever its nature or status) in an intelligent and consistent manner. It is not an axiom, an ontological primary, but an organizing principle open to doubt, which we commonly favor because of its ongoing intellectual and practical utility and success.


Addendum (2010), concerning dreams. How do the contents of our dreams arise? Most people regard that dreams are made up of re-churned memories of sensations, feelings, sounds, images and verbal thoughts, perhaps with a subconscious creative interference at the time of dreaming. In other words, the contents of dreams are partly dished out more or less fortuitously by the brain, and at the same time partly shaped by the dreamer through a half-asleep effort of his will. I do not find this traditional explanation entirely convincing. It is of course largely true, but I think that it does not suffice to explain the complexity of dreams.

Looking at my own dreams, at the variety and complexity of the actors and scenarios that appear in them, I am perplexed by the fact that they seem far more imaginative than anything I am able to produce when awake. My speculation is that there must be some additional external input – by telepathy. During sleep, I believe, we intertwine our thoughts with those of other people.


3.    The status of conceptions

The concept of some thing(s), call it X, is the sum total of all observations, beliefs, thoughts, inductively or deductively proven items of knowledge, opinions, imaginations, we (as individuals or collectively) have accumulated across time relative to the thing(s) concerned – call these cognitive events or intentions: A, B, C, D, etc. Note well that the tag “X” refers to the objects X, intended by the concept of X, not to the mental apparatus or idea through which we know or think we know those objects.

Although we colloquially say that X “contains” A, B, C, D…, a concept is not to be thought of as a vessel containing a number of relevant mental entities, like a basket containing apples and oranges. It is best thought of as a collection of arrows pointing to various perceived phenomena, objects of intuitions, and related abstractions, which all together influence our overall idea of X. Our concept of X (an individual or kind) is our collection of beliefs about it.

The concept of X should not be thought of as equal specifically to its definition (as Kantians do), and still less to the name “X” (as Nominalists do). The name is just a physical or at least mental tag or label, allowing us to more easily focus on the concept, or more precisely on its contents (i.e. the objects intended by it). As for the definition, it is not the whole of X, but consists of some exclusive and universal characteristic(s) of X (say, A) among others (viz. B, C, D, etc., which may also be distinctive and always present, or not). One aspect is selected as defining, because it is helpful for complex thinking processes to do so. Definition is thus something both empirical and rational.

The definition “X is A” is therefore not a tautology, but holds information. Two propositions are involved in it: the predication that “X is A” and the claim that “A is the definition of X”. The latter is an additional proposition; it implies the former, but not vice versa. We may know that X is A, while not yet thinking or while wrongly thinking that A is the best definition of X. Our idea of X would be equal to A if all we knew or thought about X was A; this is clearly very unlikely a scenario, though such paucity of information is theoretically conceivable. In practice, our idea of X includes much more, viz. B, C, D, etc.

We do not get the concept of man through the definition “rational animal”, but through cumulative experience of men. The definition is only a later proposition, by means of which we try to find the essence of manhood – or at least, men. The proposed definition is itself a product of experience and not some a priori or arbitrary concoction. We may for a long time have a vague concept of X, without having found an adequate definition for it. When we do find a definition, it is not necessarily final. It is a hypothesis. It could turn out to be inadequate (for instance, if some rational animals were found on other planets), in which case some further differentia or some entirely new definition of man would need to be proposed.

Note in passing that tautology occurs when the predicate is already wholly explicitly mentioned in the subject, or the consequent in the antecedent. Thus, “X is X”, “XY is Y”, “if X, then X”, “if X + Y, then Y” are all tautologies. It does not follow that such propositions are considered by logic as necessarily true. Their truth depends on the actual existence of the subject or truth of the antecedent. For it is clear that the latter may be merely imaginary or hypothetical, as for example in “unicorns have one horn”. Thus, tautology is not proof of truth.

Clearly, too, a definition like “man is a rational animal” is not tautologous in the strict sense. Some nevertheless consider definition as an implicit sort of tautology, by extending the concept. Those who do so do so because they think that the concept defined is identical to its definition. This I of course do not agree with, for reasons already stated. Even so, note that if tautology is not proof of truth in the case of explicit tautologies, as just explained, the same follows all the more in the case of implicit ones.

Through definition, we try to identify the ‘essences’ of things. The essence of some concrete thing(s) is rarely if ever itself something concrete, i.e. empirically evident. In most or all cases, essences are abstractions. We cannot produce a single mental image or Platonic Idea of man that would represent or reflect all individual men. We just point in the general direction of the notion of manhood by defining men as rational animals, but we cannot concretize it. The constituent terms ‘rational’ and ‘animal’ are themselves in turn just as or more abstract. This important insight can best be seen with reference to geometrical concepts.

In the concept of triangle, all possible physical or imagined triangles are included, those already seen and those yet to be seen, and all their apparent properties and interrelationships. If I ask you what the essence of a triangle is, you are likely to imagine and draw a particular triangle. But this is not the essence; it is an example – a mere instance. There is no one concrete triangle that contains all possible triangles. The essence of triangularity does not concretely exist; it is just an abstraction, a verbal or intentional contraption. That is to say, we mean by the ‘essence’ of a triangle, “whatever happens to be distinctively in common to all triangles” – but we know we cannot mentally or physically produce such an entity.

The essence in such cases is thus just something pointed to in the foggy distance. We cannot actually produce it, but only at best a particular triangle. We can of course define the triangle in words as “a geometrical figure composed of three lines that meet at their extremities”, or the like. But such verbal definition still hides the concept of ‘line’, which in turn cannot be concretized except by example; it just passes the buck on. It reduces the problem (of triangular essence) to another problem (that of linear essence), but it does not really solve it. This is perhaps why many logicians and philosophers opt for Nominalism. But we should not allow it to lead us to skepticism.

Rational knowledge is built on the assumption that particulars that seem to us to have “something distinctively in common” do indeed have something distinctively in common. We extrapolate from appearance to reality, at least hypothetically – i.e. on the understanding that if ever we find some specific observation or logical reason that demands it, we will reclassify the appearance as an illusion instead. This practice is nothing other than an application of the principle of induction to the issue of conceptualization. It is logically impossible to argue against this principle without explicitly or implicitly relying on it, since all such argument is itself ultimately inductive. Likewise, being itself conceptual, any putative theory against our belief in abstracts is easily discredited and dismissed.

The essence of an individual is what is conceived as abiding in it through all possible changes; the essence of a kind is that which is conceived has shared by all its possible instances of it. Moreover, in either case, the essence must be found in that thing or kind of thing, and in no other. But though we cannot usually if ever empirically point to anything that fits this definition of essence, we assume each thing or kind to have such a core, because otherwise we could not recognize it as one and the same thing or kind. We rely for this assumption on our faculty of insight into similarities and differences. Through such insight, we ‘point towards’ an essence – though we do not actually experience such essence.

Since the similar things (the individual at different times or the scattered instances of the kind) seem to point in the same direction, we infer by extrapolation that they are pointing at something in common (the apparent essence). This constitutes a reification of sorts – not into something concrete, but into something “abstract”. There is thus some truth in what Buddhist philosophers say, namely that essences are “empty”. However, we should not like some of them draw the negative conclusion that essences “do not really exist” from this emptiness. For we can, as already mentioned, rely on the principle of induction to justify our inference. Provided we do not confuse abstract existence with concrete existence, we commit no error thereby.

We may call such cognition of essences conception or conceptual insight. This implies that just as we have cognitive faculties of perception of phenomenal concretes and intuition of non-phenomenal concretes, so we have a cognitive faculty of conception through which we ‘see’ the similarities and differences between objects. Such insight is not, note well, claimed to be always true – it may well be false sometimes, but it cannot be declared always false without self-contradiction. Its veracity in principle is verified by the principle of induction, in exactly the same way as the veracity of experience is in principle verified. That is to say, we may assume in any given case such conceptual insight true, until and unless it there is experiential or rational cause to regard it as false.

It is very important to understand all this, for all rational knowledge depends on it.


Drawn from Logical and Spiritual Reflections (2008-9), book 3, chapters 17-19 and addendum 2.



[1]              See also earlier comments of mine on this issue, in Future Logic (chapters 60-62), Buddhist Illogic (chapters 4 and 5), Phenomenology (chapters I-IV), Ruminations (chapter 2, Sections 16 and 17), and Meditations (chapter 32).

[2]              I simply ignore the “matter-only” hypothesis, known as Behaviorism in modern philosophy and psychology, because that hypothesis is clearly unscientific, since it deliberately ignores all mental phenomena, treating them as non-existent (and not merely as rarified forms of matter). Mental phenomena are phenomenological givens, and cannot be just waved-off as irrelevant. That we cannot, to date, materially detect and measure them does not justify a materialist thesis, since this would constitute a circular argument.

[3]              I.e. only in conjunction with “If not P, not-then P”.

[4]              Incidentally, in the Western philosophy of the Enlightenment (not to confuse this label with the Buddhist sense of ultimate knowledge, of course), the word “sensation” was used too vaguely. No great distinction was made between touch, smell and taste sensations, on the one hand, and visual and auditory sensations, on the other.

[Note that we linguistically tend to relate the touch, smell and taste senses. Thus, in English, ‘feeling’ may refer to touch-sensations (including hot and cold tastes), sensations of bodily functions (digestive, sexual, etc.), visceral sentiments (in body, of mental origin), or vaguely mental emotions; and ‘sensing’ may refer to physical sensations, or vague mental suspicions. Also, in French, the word ‘sentir’ corresponds not only to the words ‘to feel’ and ‘to sense’, but also to ‘to smell’ (whence the English word ‘scent’).]

Yet, the three former sensations are far more easily misinterpreted than the latter two. E.g. it is far more difficult for us humans to identify someone based on touch, smell or taste sensations, than on visual or auditory sensations. By this I mean that touch sensations (etc.) usually tell us of a condition of our own body caused by some other body external to it, whereas sights and sounds are aspects of the external object itself that we (the Subject) somehow perceive. At least, this is the way things seem to us at first sight. We must still, of course, move from such Naïve Realism to a more Subtle Realism. In any case, each mode of sensation has its value, and they should not all be lumped together.

By the way, another vague term in this school has been “ideas”. This term tends to have been used indiscriminately, sometimes applied to perceptual memories, or again to visual or auditory projections, and sometimes applied to conceptual constructs, whether or not verbal. Yet, these different mental ‘entities’ have very different significances in the formation of knowledge. Clearly, relatively empirical data has more weight than more abstract productions. Making distinctions between different sorts of “sensations” and “ideas” is very important if we want to accurately evaluate the constituents of knowledge.

[5]              Especially touch. Note how one sense of the term ‘substantiality’ is the hardness of a material object in reaction to touch. Solids are most substantial, resisting all pressure. By contrast, in view of their yielding, liquids are somewhat less substantial, and gases least of all. But all states of matter are also known to some extent through other sensations, like heat and cold, etc.

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