Ryle on microphysics and the everyday world

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Ryle on microphysics and the everyday world


Quote:Science, we’re often told, gives us a description of the world radically at odds with common sense.  Physicist Arthur Eddington’s famous “two tables” example illustrates the theme.  There is, on the one hand, the table familiar from everyday experience – the extended, colored, solid, stable thing you might be sitting at as you read this.  Then there’s the scientific table – a vast aggregate of colorless particles in fields of force, mostly empty space rather a single continuous object, and revealed by theory rather than sensory perception.  What is the relationship between them?  Should we say, as is often done, that the first table is an illusion and only the second real?

As philosopher Gilbert Ryle showed in chapter 5 of his classic book Dilemmas, the real illusion is not the table of common sense, but rather the notion that science gives us any reason to doubt it.  In fact, science is not even addressing the sorts of question common sense might ask about the table, much less giving an answer that conflicts with the one common sense would give.  And it is only conceptual confusion that makes some suppose otherwise.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell

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