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I recently read the Synthetic-Analytic Dichotomy (Peikoff) and it was a very compelling piece. It did leave me with a question:

Does indirectly hearing or reading about something count as a form of experience?

The basis: One experiences something and then uses logic to integrate that perceptual data into his existing concepts.

It's easy to say this if I look at an apple, and integrate that visual data into my hierarchy of concepts: apples, fruit, etc. I understand where the above idea holds here.

If I've never seen or sensed an actual apple in my life before yet somebody describes one to me (truthfully), I do have the concept of the apple but have gained it without directly experiencing the apple.

Does this count as experiencing the apple? Albeit, you'll probably have a more detailed concept of an apple if you're able to touch and see it but does the aforementioned count as experience nonetheless?

My theory is that this does count as experience. How else would one experience complex mathematical concepts? To deny this is to say that concepts can be formed and integrated without any experience at the root of it.

asked Jun 27 '12 at 04:17

Randolph%20Jones's gravatar image

Randolph Jones
502


The term "experience" is being misused, here. Generally it applies not to perceived objects, such as apples, but to life episodes, such as a car accident. One experiences something which one can "go through", e.g. pregnancy, or labor, or a hard breakup. One who "has experience" is someone who has been through or done things before.

The proper term to use when talking about the physical referents of concepts is not "experience", but "perceive". It's wrong to say "I experience an apple." An apple is not an episode. One might say: "I experience the perception of an apple" but that's needlessly complex. "I perceive an apple" is correct.

When you hear a story of a man being mugged, you do not experience the mugging. To say so would obliterate the difference between being a victim, and being an audience member in the telling of a story. The audience member imagines the mugging. He does not experience it.

Likewise, being told about a particular kind of apple doesn't count as the perception of that kind of apple. One man perceives it, and describes it to another man, who does NOT perceive it. He might imagine it, but that's not the same as perception. The imagining man experiences his imagination of the apple -- or to say it without awkwardness: the man imagines the apple.

As for complex math concepts, they are, properly, rooted in perception. They are just very abstract, so there are many layers of concepts between them and first level concepts.

answered Jun 28 '12 at 07:28

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦
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edited Jun 28 '12 at 07:36

Thanks for the explanation, John. You're correct. My misunderstanding came from the failure to properly distinguish between experience and perception. Your explanation answers my inquiry nicely. Experience can come from perception or imagination. Thanks again.

(Jun 29 '12 at 03:41) Randolph Jones Randolph%20Jones's gravatar image

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Asked: Jun 27 '12 at 04:17

Seen: 1,272 times

Last updated: Jun 29 '12 at 03:41