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The Georgicks of Virgil, with an English Translation and Notes Virgil, John Martyn Ipsi in defossis specubus secura sub alta Otia agunt terra, congestaque robora, Pierius says it is confecto in the Roman manuscript. And Tacitus also says the Germans used to make caves to defend them from the severity of winter, .

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SOV languages don't have this trick available to them, which may explain why they often add case-markers as additional cues to subjecthood and objecthood. Gibson and colleagues provide ingenious evidence for this account. They presented people with simple scenes, such as where a girl kicks a ball, and asked them to describe the scene in gestures no speaking allowed. Most people described in gesture the girl first, then the ball, then the kicking action -- that is, they used an SOV order. Of course, when the kicking event involves a girl and a ball, there isn't much question about who did the kicking.

The researchers also asked people to describe in gestures an event in which a girl kicked a boy. Since both boys and girls are capable of kicking, it's very possible to be confused about who kicked who.

And now participants were much more likely to describe in gesture the girl, then the kicking event, and then the boy -- that is, they switched to an SVO order. This was true with a few complications which you can read about in the paper whether the participant was a native speaker of English an SVO language or a native speaker of Korean or Japanese SOV languages. Gibson and colleagues provided a nice explanation for why you might want to use SVO word order rather than SOV word order when case-marking isn't available to you, and they also show that people, left to their own devices, actually do this.

Much is still left to be done. You might wonder why SOV languages exist at all, particularly since they typically make you learn all those annoying word endings. Gibson and colleagues suggest that we may have a default bias for SOV order, as shown by the facts that a SOV languages like Japanese are actually more common than SVO languages like English , and b participants in their study slightly preferred SOV order overall.

The researchers also cite evidence that newly created languages may be more likely to be SOV. We also still need an explanation of why some SVO languages have case marking and some SOV languages do not the authors sketch a few possibilities. Overall, though, this paper provides one of the clearest examples yet of where an important tendency in human language -- a bias you would not expect to exist through mere random chance -- can be explained by reference to universal principles of computation and information theory.

This does not necessarily exclude Universal Grammar -- perhaps Universal Grammar smartly implements good computational principles -- but it does shed light on why human language -- and by extension, human nature -- is the way it is and not some other way. Are you a scientist who specializes in neuroscience, cognitive science, or psychology? And have you read a recent peer-reviewed paper that you would like to write about?

Gareth is also the series editor of Best American Infographics , and can be reached at garethideas AT gmail. You have free article s left. They say yes and I ask how do they know and why. Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center , please edit the question.

If you shake the box, it rattles. If you measure its weight before you put in the pencil and after, it will have increased by exactly the weight of the pencil.


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That's how you know the pencil still exists in there. And if you really want to explore the basic meaning of "existence": how and why do you know the pencil exists before you put it into the box?

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How and why is this different from the rattling and weight increase? Because you're trying to explain something which is wrong physically and wrong philosophically. Your friends are correct. The issue is that you have no proof of its presence or absence once you close the box. That does not mean it ceases to exist.

It just means that you cannot prove whether it still exists, or whether it ceases to exist at some point whilst the box is closed, or even whether it ceases to exist at the moment the box is closed and reappears at the moment the box is opened, or flickers in and out of existence, or becomes an alien spaceship when you're not looking. Absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence - that's a basic logical fallacy.

It simply means we don't know. The assumption that the pencil continues to exist - even when the box is closed - is the most simple hypothesis which explains all relevant observations. You are assuming that existence is a phenomenon that can undergo sudden state changes. Or in simpler words: That things can cease to exist and came back into existence instantly and without observable side effects.

Your claim has no supporting evidence. No such sudden stage changes have ever been observed or measured, not directly nor indirectly. No other evidence of such stage changes exists, to the best of my knowledge. All our experience, all our physical and other natural laws indicate that objects persist even when not observed. There is a philosophical argument that Nietzsche made can't remember which book, sorry in that an object is defined by its interactions with other objects.

If you were to somehow remove all interactions with other objects, the object is indistinguishable from not existing at all. However, you only remove simple visual observation. There are many, many other interactions, including gravity and electromagnetic forces both with the outside and the box itself. Eliminating all interactions with all other objects is impractical. It also suffers from the sudden state change problem: How are these interactions restored by the act of opening the lid of the box, at which time the pencil will certainly be observed to be in the exact same place again?

Also, if we complete the thought experiment, and even postulate your non-existence theorem, our experience shows that if we resume observation, i. Where is the information about its position, rotation, relative movement or lack thereof , and all other conditions of that object stored? Whatever that storage of information is, is it not indistinguishable from continued existence of the object?

This is a Metaphysical question to which we do not know the correct answer. But here are some philosophical views. The mind is what creates matter, if something is not created by any mind i. But different idealist philosophers have different stories to say, for example : George Berkeley would argue that even if the pencil is an illusion created by our minds, it still exists inside the box because it is always in the Mind of God : When we are not watching, God is watching.

According to Leibniz's Theory of Monads on the other hand, the pencil would vanish from existence and reappear when we bring it back to our consciousness. But Leibniz does not think that the pencil is a mere illusion created by our minds, but rather that real nature of matter that is : its substance is mind itself. Different flavors of dualism hold that both matter and mind do exist separately, While Materialism holds that only matter exists : But according to both Materialistic and Dualistic philosophies : The pencil is in the box.

In my opinion, I would argue that probably like And here is my argument :. I rely on abduction, Ockham's razor, Uniformitarianism and pragmatism , to come to the conclusion that the pencil probably exists in the box. Different modes of reasoning make it possible for me to conclude that there is no reason to believe that things disappear, when you think about it :. Additionally, if the pencil is just a mind illusion, then what it is that makes it permanent, and therefore sets it apart from all the pencils that I have seen in my dreams, that are not permanent?

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I know that pencil I put in the box in my dream is an illusion, which makes me sure that I probably would not find it there while awake or in another dream. Therefore, the 'real' pencil has to be something more than what we call illusion, an illusion that persists, an illusion that the Universe does not seem to forget about? Simplicity is a criterion for theory or explanation selection.

It can clash with other criteria such as explanatory reach. Also there is no agreement on the nature of simplicity.

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Intuitively, I suppose, it denotes ontological parsimony or theoretical elegance - notions which themselves stand in need of clarification. The question asks 'how they know '. There is no necessary connection between simplicity and knowledge. Simplicity is a sound methodological rule - but why? I am inclined to say that we do not know that the pencil exists in the duration. At best, that the pencil exists merely fits - is most consistent with - our 'web of belief' Quine.

Existence - Alan Watts

Given our overall view of the world, in general the continued existence of unobserved objects best fits our theoretical and explanatory assumptions. I don't deny this but I also don't see how, granting it, we know that the pencil exists in the situation described. The crucial point is, however, that these sceptical considerations against the assumption of the pencil's existence equally apply to your own assumption of its non-existence.

You're having trouble because your claim that the pencil ceases to exist relies directly on a philosophical proposition that your friend does not accept. That would be something along the lines of "only those things that I directly detect with my senses exist. Your friend takes a different view.

He claims that "because [he] put the pencil in there," it still exists. That seems to belie a philosophical position directly in opposition to yours: that objects' existence is independent of whether anyone observes them. A number of additional assumptions presumably accompany that, such as that it requires the operation of some force or agent to cause an existing object to cease to exist, and your friend is probably interpreting your claim to include that no additional action or forces in play.

By that reasoning, his rejection of your proposition is entirely logical. You are not. Rather, you are advancing philosophical position that is neither provable nor disprovable -- in effect, a definition for what it means to "exist". However, inasmuch as that definition is inconsistent, in my experience, with common usage of the term, it should not be a surprise that your friend resists the idea. There are two hypothesis, assuming there is no gimmick in the box i. If you measure the weight of the box before and after you put the pencil inside, the weight is different, and that difference is equal to the pencil's own weight.

As someone else mentioned, the box may rattle if you shake it inside, and its center of mass will shift when tilted. With hypothesis one you need to explain why the phenomena of the previous paragraph happen if the pencil does not exist while the box is closed. Hypothesis two renders those observations' explanation moot it happens because there is an unseen pencil inside the box.

Applying Occam's razor, we can discard 1. Therefore the pencil does not cease to exist once the opaque box is closed. Existence of something like the topic's pencil is unrelated to you observing it or not. Assuming we don't take into account hundreds of years intervals one way for the pencil to disintegrate due to the passage of time in the case the box is not perfectly sealed from the external environment or any other such variables and assuming nothing else is inside that may affect it, the pencil does exist.

This is related to matter and energy conversion. If the pencil wouldn't be there, it would mean it was converted to something else due to variables like above. Since you and your friends are doubting about existence, I'll tell you this: It depends on the box There are a lot of magicians that would love to contradict you by bringing their own box. They will let you put a pencil inside, say abracadabra and open the box again. For your surprise and your friends', the pencil will be gone. Vanished out of existence. Don't panic, after another magic conjure it will probably reappear!

First of all, you need to understand that exist means to be present. The world-in-itself is a necessary condition for my neural events, the correlates of my conscious events. Evidently this provides a response to the argument that if my world of perceptual consciousness is guaranteed by my neural events, it must be merely a mental world and not something that substantially resembles the perceived part of the physical world.

The world-in-itself is necessary to the guarantee. What of the fourth consideration, about privacy? Does what has been admitted as to the privacy of my perceptual world stand in the way of claiming that it substantially resembles the part of the physical world? Well, what has been admitted is that in a sense you do not have access to my perceptual world. Such a thing could happen in the future, but it is not a possibility now.

That does make a difference between the two worlds. What size is the difference? One thing that wouldn't help my claim of substantial resemblance would be something about my perceptual world now and yours: their having numerically different things in them. Do they? As you may anticipate from my earlier scepticism about the Representative Theory of Perception or Phenomenalism, the answer seems to be no. To revert to our ordinary talk about perception, it does not follow from the fact that you and I have different accesses to a chair that we are aware of two things.

More particularly, it does not follow from our perceiving a chair differently that we are not perceiving just one thing. What is a chair? What is one of these things? It is something that looks different from different points of view or angles. If something didn't look different from different points of view, it wouldn't be a chair. It would be something like a number or a concept or a proposition, or maybe the Eternal Idea of Chair, but not a chair. So, as it seems to me, we two are aware of the very same thing.

There is something else in this neighbourhood that would do more damage to my claim of substantial resemblance between my perceptual world and the perceived part of the physical world. That would be these two world's having numerically different things in them. There seems no good reason for saying so. Why should the chair in my perceptual world not be the very same thing as the chair in the physical world? What is relevant about my perceptual chair, so to speak, is unique access to it. What is relevant about the physical chair is that it is perceived. But cannot these two descriptions be true of just one thing?

The fifth consideration was that because of the three dependencies my perceptual world is something that does not exist unperceived, but that unperceived existence is an explicit feature of the objective world, and fundamental if implicit in what is said of the world indicated by science.

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And, most relevantly, as I remarked,16 it is an explicit feature of the physical world -- that part that is spatio-temporal but only in lawlike connection with what is spatio-temporal and perceived. My remark, since we were then reflecting on differences rather than resemblances, left something out, maybe a little heuristically or even deceptively -- the part of the physical world we are now interested in above everthing else, the perceived part. It is there that we need to look for likeness or the lack of it to my perceptual world.

Does this stuff, the perceived part of the physical world, exist unperceived? What does it mean to ask if anything exists unperceived? It is the question, presumably, of whether any properties can be assigned to a thing when it is unperceived. What property is assigned to the perceived part of the physical world if it is said that it also exists unperceived? That is not very clear to me, but perhaps the answer is that it is capable of being perceived. Can any properties be assigned to the items in my perceptual world when they are not in it? That is, taking my perceptual world to be a large temporally discontinuous particular, can any properties be assigned to an item in it in the times when this world is not in existence?

Well, there seems to be a good deal to say. This item too has a capability -- of being in my world when my world reappears. Also, it may now be in your perceptual world. Both of these facts are tied up with another, the item's relation to the thing-in-itself. Further, since we have lately identified the chair in my perceptual world with the one in the perceived part of the physical world, my chair when unperceived by me still has whatever properties give it membership of the perceived part of the physical world.

Finally, if this is a different fact, my chair when unperceived by me remains spatio-temporal. One final remark here. My perceptual world was casually described a moment ago as a discontinuous particular. Like a club, it pops in and out of existence over time. That idea, it might seem, itself stands in the way of asserting any important resemblance between my world and the perceived part of the physical world. Still, something can be said. In that case, it too is a discontinuous particular. It is not dependent on any particular subject, but it is not there when we are all asleep, and parts of it are not there when they are in nobody's experience.

This fifth consideration about unperceived existence gets us into deep or anyway troubled waters. Let us emerge from them with only the proposition that the consideration does not easily defeat my claim about resemblance, and turn back to what was passed by, the first consideration, about my perceptual world and a subject, self, or person. Here too, as elsewhere, there certainly is a difference between my perceptual world and the perceived part of the physical world. It is perhaps the main difference. The perceived part of the physical world has no dependency on a particular subject.

But the extent of the difference between the two worlds will depend on how we try to understand the subject, the fact of real subjectivity with respect to my world. I have no full and satisfactory understanding of the fact, needless to say. But, since the matter of a subject is bound up with the matter of perceptual consciousness, there is the consolation of being able to say something, and of the idea that it is possible to come to a tentative conclusion about perceptual consciousness without being able to say more. One thing that can be said is that the view of perceptual consciousness being contemplated allows for a literal understanding of some common philosophical talk about a subject: that it is or involves a point of view, a view from somewhere rather than nowhere, a perspective.

There is one of those, literally, in the world of my perceptual consciousness. It is the point of view from where my head is. This is a little blessing -- an escape from metaphor, the besetting problem of the philosophy of mind when it does not abandon its mission. Furthermore, it is possible on the view we are contemplating to start to explain what was remarked on earlier, that a subject is not only a necessary condition of perceptual consciousness in the sense of somehow being a part of it, but is such that the state of affairs would not exist at all in its absence.

The explanation is that a point of view, literally speaking, is constitutive of the state of affairs. There could be no understanding of it which left out a real point of view. It is all a matter of the way things are from here, where my head is. It would be rash to suppose that all that there is to the fact of subjectivity is a real point of view.

I have left out what is true, that my world is a matter of my particular conceptualizations. This fact enters into subjectivity, as does the fact of privacy, and no doubt a person's feelings and desires. I shall not take these reflections further, but merely remark that the view we are contemplating of perceptual consciousness gives some promise of a satisfactorily naturalistic conception of a subject. In so far as it does that, we get some consonancy between my perceptual world and the perceptual part of the physical world.

I also pass by the role not of a particular subject but of subjects in the perceived part of the physical world. Some subject is necessary to it. And the role of conceptualization. These help too. These propositions, in my submission, amount to an important resemblance between the two worlds. That is to say that my world cannot be regarded as just what was called a mental world -- a totality of thoughts and feelings of mine.

More particularly, my world is not being conceived in a useless, pre-analytic way. On the contrary, what we have, by way of the resemblance with part of the physical world, is an articulated and relatively rich conception. My perceptual consciousness, my world of perceptual consciousness, is an articulated state of affairs. I own up to doubts about the details of all this, and a residual worry that some inconsistency has gone unnoticed. But not enough doubts and worry to stand in the way of my main proposal in this paper. It is in part that in thinking about the mind and what exists, we have been stuck with two categories.

These are, in the most general terms, the mind-independent worlds and mental worlds. It is not only philosophers of the mentally realist kind17 who have been stuck with not only mind-independent but also mental worlds. Philosophers sceptical about mental worlds, indeed with some reason disdainful of them, have nevertheless not escaped them, but write more and more books trying to accomodate them. To come to the very nub, what we need, in order to deal first with perceptual consciousness and thereafter with all of consciousness, is a new category: worlds of perceptual consciousness.

They take a good deal from both mind-independent and mental worlds. We do not need new kinds of properties or events. We need this different way of looking at what we have got. Or, to remember my doubts and worry, and to be properly hesitant, we need some new way like this, something along these lines. We need some view of perceptual consciousness as existence, or, if you like, existence as perceptual consciousness. We need an idea to the effect that for something to be conscious is for a world to exist, although certainly not a world wholly dependent on it.

This, in my submission, is what we have missed out in being anchored in the two categories of mind-independent and mental worlds. Is there not much to be said for this different category? Four more things come to mind. The category is not factitious. Our worlds of perceptual consciousness, in fact, are the only worlds that are not worlds of theory. They are not got by inference or speculation, however well-founded or even coercive the inference or theory. They are epistemically and perhaps conceptually prior to all other worlds, notably the objective and scientific ones. It is not clear, since the idea of ontological priority is more difficult than sometimes supposed, that they are not ontologically prior to the rest.

Does the category of worlds of perceptual consciousness offend against a commitment to physicalism, taking the latter to be a commitment to the physical world and the world indicated by science, and perhaps the objective world, and at least a scepticism about mental worlds? The answer is that what has been proposed is a kind of physicalism.

One reason is that our worlds of consciousness are approximate to the perceived part of the physical world.


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  5. Nothing has been said until now of what seems to be a fact about consciousness and in particular perceptual consciousness. It is that it itself has a role in the explanation of behaviour. Conscious events are are ineliminable parts of full explanations of our actions. Accounts of the mind must fail or be incomplete, it seems, if they entail or allow for Epiphenomenalism. My world of perceptual consciousness has no such shortcoming. Far from it. It has in it the very things that can most naturally be said to motivate us, chairs for a start.

    Finally, one more word about the crux of all of the philosophy of mind that deserves the name. That is the fact of our real subjectivity. Something was said earlier20 of how the proposed view of perceptual consciousness contributes to understanding here. It seems to me that Consciousness as Existence gives us more than other views of what we want, and more than has been mentioned. For one thing, subjectivity has to do with reality and immediacy.

    My world of perceptual consciousness is very real and very immediate. Leaving consciousness out, or trying to. Strict or philosophical Cognitive Science and Functionalism of course leave something out in their view of consciousness. Not an elusive, diaphanous or peripheral thing, but its reality. They also depend on exactly what they leave out. Can we do better without abandoning physicalism? We do not need more things or stuff, certainly not ghostly things or stuff, but to look at the whole matter differently.

    The existence of a world. In fact there is no appearance-reality distinction for consciousness itself.

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    Is the sentence, like the what-it-is-like talk, uninstructive? In three understandings of it, it would be. A Mental World? Each of my conscious events i involves dependency on a subject. So my world of perceptual consciousness is not identical with the physical world, taken as having in it things that are spatio-temporal and perceived, and things that are spatio-temporal and in nomic connection with the perceived things. Nor is my world identical with the objective world or the world indicated by science.

    The three are mind-independent worlds. My world ii also has a kind of neural necessary condition, and iii has a neural guarantee. Is my world then merely a mental world? Thinking so is further supported by the ideas that my world iv is in a way private, and v does not exist unperceived. My world of perceptual consciousness and the physical world. But my world has chairs in it, is spatio-temporal and otherwise propertied.

    Does it not then resemble the perceived part of the physical world? As for ii , the neural necessary condition is dependent on a world-in-itself, as is the perceived part of the physical world. This dependency of my world is also relevant to iii the guarantee.

    As for iv , it does not follow from the fact of privacy that the very same chair is not in both my world and the perceived part of the physical world.