Thursday, December 16, 2021

John Heil's "Appearance in Reality"

John Heil is professor of philosophy at Washington University in St Louis and at Durham University, and an Honorary Research Associate at Monash University. He works primarily on topics in metaphysics and the philosophy of mind and is author of a number of books, including The Universe as We Find It (2012), From an Ontological Point of View (2003), Philosophy of Mind: A Contemporary Introduction (2012), The Nature of True Minds (Cambridge, 1992), and Perception and Cognition (1983).

Heil applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Appearance in Reality, and reported the following:
In addition to a typo (a missing period in line 30), page 99 of Appearance in Reality contains a portion of a discussion of primary and secondary qualities, focusing on colour. Taken by itself, the discussion is inconclusive, but it plays a part in a chapter devoted to a defence of the identification of mental states with physical states of conscious agents. The discussion is representative of a style of argument that runs throughout the book, a style that places a premium on clarity and ontological candour.

This approach to metaphysics reflects the influence of J. J. C. (Jack) Smart, David Armstrong, E. J. (Jonathan) Lowe, and most of all, C. B. (Charlie) Martin, all of whom, as Charlie would have put it, lived their philosophical convictions, and Keith Campbell who continues to live his. The idea is that you do not understand a metaphysical thesis unless you can feel its visceral pull. If it exerts no pull, it is unworthy of attention.

The book is meant to draw readers into the examination of metaphysical themes that, if we are honest, force themselves on us and refuse to go away. The guiding question concerns the relation the appearances – the ways tables, rabbits, scanning electron microscopes, and distant galaxies appear to us – bear to reality. All of us, you and I and scientists deploying sophisticated instruments in their laboratories, rely on the appearances to provide access to what there is. Too often, however, what the sciences, and especially physics, tell us about reality belies the appearances.

The passage on page 99 figures in a discussion of the coloured appearances of objects. Are the colours we experience in the objects or in us? If, as many suppose, they are in us, would that locate us, or our minds, apart from the physical universe? If that strikes you as objectionable, what are the options? Appearance in Reality offers an answer.
Learn more about Appearance in Reality at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue