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Two women in Dong Van market.


It seems to me now that I am sitting in a chair, at a table of a certain shape, on which I see sheets of paper with writing or print.

Bertrand Russell (1912)


The surface on which her hand rests is so tangible, a quality that tables exemplify so well - they are paradigms of ordinary objects: familiar, handy, unassuming. At the very least our daily worlds are constituted from such objects. However, some philosophers use the word much more widely, indeed allowing it to include all that there is. They do this because what we collectively encounter is what we have collectively created: A bust of Peter Scott at the WWT reserve in southern Scotland. Phenomenon are what we create and know; the rest we cannot know - noumena. the objects of daily life. We might casually assume that these objects are unambiguous entities quite independent A boulder on an Icelandic beach. Idealism espouses the opposite view, that they do no exist at all. of humans. But that is far from the case, for consciousness composes A rosebud with water droplets. Gray asks why the smell and sight of a rose are given such different ontological status. objects, as a composer creates music, taking from our sensations its notes, and from memory its themes. Our culture endows the table with meaning, our sensations give it density and colour. There is no ‘table’ there. A wild-cat sitting. Russell again. Here continuing his thoughts on the reality of objects, which leads him to ask if there is a real table at all? Our objects are the very stuff of human experience, they are ours, and cannot be found in a world subsisting independently of consciousness.

The quotation is from Russell's Problems of Philosophy p. 10, where he is about to argue that human objects bear little relation to that which is independent of humans.

The photo was taken in the market at Đồng Văn in northern Vietnam. The people are from the H’Mong ethnic group whose lives do not involve tables and for whom the same word would be used for cupboard and table.

Above hovering on blue introduces a link: click to go, move away to stay.


Saturday 12th January 2019

Murphy on duty to this site