The Enigma Of The Universe ► 4 ►A Critique ► I. What is Universe ► (B) Idealism Of Scientist And Jain View ► 1. Eddington’s View and Jain View ► Reality of Matter

Posted: 30.11.2014

Now let us consider Eddington's view regarding the reality of matter. Here we meet with rather an ambiguous view. As we have seen, he considers "Consciousness" as the only objective reality. It implies that matter, in his view, is not objective reality. In his own words: "We reach then the position of idealist, as opposed to materialist philosophy. The purely objective world is the spiritual world and the material world is subjective in the sense of Selective Subjectivism.[1]

At another place also, he has expressed his idealist view thus: ""The recognition that physical knowledge is structural knowledge abolishes all dualism of consciousness and matter. Dualism depends on the belief that we find in the external world something of a nature incommensurable with what we find in consciousness, but all that physical science reveals to us in the external world is group-structure, and group-structure is also to be found in consciousness.""[2] From this statement it follows that Eddington considers all "matter" only to be a form of "consciousness" and thus deny all objectivity to "matter". But contrary to this assertion he makes the following statements: ""I, therefore, take it as axiomatic that the external world must have objective content.""[3] To resolve this ambiguity we have to consider his view in detail.

Dealing with the 'synthesis of knowledge', he writes: "We may begin with the simple case in which the same structure is found in nearly all consciousnesses with which we can communicate, for example, the structure of the visual sensation which arises when we look at a constellation in the starry heavens. We reject the idea that the occurrence of this highly specialized structure in so many consciousnesses is a coincidence, and thereby commit ourselves to the hypothesis that the many similar structures are reproductions of one original structure. This is the germ of idea of causation. In the language of causation we attribute the similar structures in the different consciousnesses to a common cause containing the same structure...... The common cause cannot be located in any one of the consciousnesses without solipsism, nor can it be located in an ancestral consciousness. Therefore, it must be located outside any of the recognised forms of consciousness. This realm outside individual consciousness, where the common causes of the sensory structures in different consciousnesses are located, is called ""the external world"".

""......... by the discovery of similar structures common to all normal consciousness, we introduce an external world containing the original structure of which they are the reproductions. Since the external world is introduced as a receptacle of structure, our knowledge of it is limited to structural knowledge; and physical science is the study of this structural knowledge......."

""We do not, to begin with, put forward any theory as to how the original structure in the external world comes to be reproduced as a structure of sensations in consciousness, we merely recognise that, ruling out coincidence, the occurrence of the same structure in many consciousnesses is a sign that an original structure exists in a realm outside those consciousness.""[4] Further, he admits, "It would be illogical to attribute the similarity of the structures in different consciousnesses to a common cause without allowing to the common cause a status fully as objective as the structures them-selves. I therefore take it as axiomatic that the external world must have objective content."[5] This long quotation makes it amply clear that Eddington does accept the objective existence of the external world.

Then how we have to reconcile this view with Eddington's former assertion that consciousness is the only objective reality. It seems that this assertion is made only with respect to "our experience". This is stated by Edington thus: ""Our philosophy has led to the view that in so far as we can separate the subjective and objective elements in our experience[6] the subjective is to be identified with the physical and the objective with the conscious and spiritual aspects of experience."" In the passage already quoted above,[7] also the phrase ""in our observational knowledge"" is used. It only means that in our experience or observational knowledge, the objective external (material) world does not appear, but it does not mean that objective external world does not exist. Thus it becomes clear that in the realm of metaphysics Eddington recognises the objectivity of the external world (matter), but in the realm of epistemology he denies such status to it. In other words we can say that according to Eddington, matter is an objective reality, but it is not within reach of our experience or observational knowledge.[8]

Footnotes:
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