Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Postulate of Impoverished Reality

I came across Iredell Jenkins's 'postulate of impoverished reality' (originally an article so titled appeared in the Journal of Philosophy in 1942) at second hand, here. But, alright. The postulate is that 'reality in its essence is somehow simpler, barer, more mechanical and in general terms less exciting than our experience of it -- e.g., that the "primary" qualities of matter, mass, figure, extension, are more "real" than the attributes matter presents to us.' Jenkins thinks this fallacious, and there is some appeal to that notion that 'reducing' King Lear to certain word-shaped marks printed upon paper, or 'reducing' Don Giovanni to certain notes positioned about certain pages of stave-printed sheets is to miss something important. But nobody would ever claim that these printers' marks wholly encompass the texts they encode. Of course not. A better (less fallacious) comparison might be a chess game. It is not to 'reduce' such a game to the board, its pieces and the rules that govern how they are moved about. But those elements, plus the intellects of the two players engaging with those elements, is the game, at a fundamental level.

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