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Saturday, 14 February 2015

Reality and perception: the realist and the immaterialist options

Whitehead insists that actual entities are res verae, the ultimate real thing. That makes him a priority pluralist – and not, as arguably Latour, a priority nihilist. Of course, with Latour, there is not much sense in asking what, or how many, are the actual entities. But still, they are prior. Also, genetics precedes morphology – the prehension of an actual entity precedes its composition and its occupation of a place in space. What counts as an actual entity? A good answer is maybe: whatever is perceived as one by anything. An actual entity doesn’t need to be perceived by everything, but needs to be perceived by something – there is no vacuous actuality. The question then arises: what does the perceiving?

Berkeley here would appeal to God. Bodies are perceived by minds, human and divine. Whitehead appeals to the world – there is a solidarity in existence. A mutual co-creation where to exist is to co-exist; bodies exist in multitudes. Never mind what does the perceiving, but something has to do it. The perceiver, to be sure, has to be perceived by somebody else – this is why God and the world depend on each other. Devrim, the baby, doesn’t perceive the peach as a peach – further, she doesn’t see an individuated actual entity there. I do. Other perceivers would spot very different individuals, so crowds of perceived actual entities populate the world. Spatial considerations? Those relate to qualities, and not perception. This comes in morphology, when extension takes place. At the genetic level, one has an embedded monadology of infinite actual entities present in a single peach – not one inside the other, but many associated to a perceiver. That’s why there is no sense in asking how many actual entities there are – well, there is an answer to that, but counting would involve all actual entities that are engaged in perceiving (which includes being affected causally by other actual entities). It is a hard count, but that doesn’t make actual entities less prior.

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