Epicurean Perceptual Content by A. Gavran Milos

  • I found the attached paper to be quite thought provoking, particularly regarding the eidola. The paper focuses on the senses, which the author refers to as perceptions. It's a discussion on the Epicurean assertion that all sensations are true, and the author addresses this partly through examining the eidola.

    Reading about the eidola in this way gave me an opportunity to ruminate on them as a proto-scientific attempt to understand perception via atomic theory. Epicurus covered a lot of ground with them (from objects, to dreams, to visions) and it's interesting to think about how these functions in early atomic theory apply to the science of perception today.

    There's more to the paper than that; definitely worth perusing.

  • Looks like a good find and important read. I had time to skim the first page or two but I was immediately struck that DeWitt's way of explaining the truth issue (honestly reported, like a witness in court who is honestly reporting but might be mistaken) doesn't seem to be Milos' approach. If you have read the full article, Godfrey, is my impression correct?

    I see this is the conclusion. "Factive"?????? That doesn't sound very helpful to me.

    Then there is the sentence that I underlined. If I read this correctly then he is basically taken the Bailey approach: we see things, we form concepts (pictures) of what we have seen, and those concepts/pictures become standards of truth for future analysis. That's not the view I tend to agree with, but I want to read and think about this in more detail. My problem has always been, and remains, that I think Epicurus held a standard of truth to be something that is perceptual and not challengeable in and of itself, in that we need to take every perception (taste, touch, sight, etc) as a given for what is being honestly reported by the faculty at that moment. A "belief" or a "concept," on the other hand, is by definition full of opinion, and can't be considered unchallengeable, can it? Or can it? I think another way of stating my concern relates to his last sentence. To me, the process of seeing things and forming pictures is obviously very important, but I don't consider it to be an "epistemological" tool as much as an "analytic" tool (or thinking tool or some other word that preserves the distinction that this tool contains opinion, while the other tools -the five senses - do not).

  • Yes "factive" isn't very clear.

    As I understand the paper he makes a clear distinction between perceptions and beliefs. Perceptions are true and not describable by propositions, while beliefs are testable propositions and therefore not a criterion of truth.

    An example he uses, with reservations, is that of a photograph. Perceptions can be compared to a photograph in that they pick up the information, but they don't store it as a photograph does. He also discusses that eidola include not just information about an object but also available information about the context of the object. This is one reason that they are true, but information regarding a specific object of perception needs to be verified through numerous instances of perception.

  • Perceptions are true and not describable by propositions, while beliefs are testable propositions and therefore not a criterion of truth.

    Now I do think that is a very clear and useful statement.

    An example he uses, with reservations, is that of a photograph

    And that's an interesting example and gives something concrete to talk about. The photograph becomes something to which we can compare future observations ,but in and of itself the photograph is a limited representation and doesn't really contain any opinion about what is on the film. Sounds like a good article.

  • Thanks for pointing that out! And a relatively young one too, which is good to see that younger people are still interested in Epicurus.

    Looks like she wrote at least one more article on the topic that we ought to look at:

    so it appears she is in Croatia - a very interesting area

  • I just sent her a request for the full text of the preconceptions paper through Researchgate. If I get a positive response I'll post the paper in a new thread. Meanwhile I'll probably get lots of emails from Researchgate suggesting other papers, at least if they're similar to Academia. Might be a good source of information though: I noticed that they have a paper on Epicurus' concept of the void by Brad Inwood.

    Don thanks for pointing out that the author is a woman. Erroneous assumption on my part. =O