Causal theory of perception vs naive realism

Tasiri asked:

Suppose you are a causal representative theorist. Provide five reasons why you think your theory is superior to naive realism.

Answer by Jürgen Lawrenz

This is either very easy or very difficult, depending on which side you’re on.

Naive realism is the thesis that the world is pretty much as we sense it. There is a direct connection between sensible phenomena and the apparatus we possess to discern them. (1) However, our senses do not pick up everything (dogs, fish, birds, insects etc. have sensitivities that elude us), so that our confidence and trust in their efficacy is more or less forced on us, inducing us to look for technological aids to improve our range.

And so we turn to the intellectual aspect, finding ourselves in possession of faculties that can delve deeper than naive realism, whether for intellectual satisfaction or extracting benefits from the world that rely on insights which causal representation confers on us. (2) Chief among them is the ability to frame concepts from a causality-based understanding. This can go much further than naive realism inasmuch as it encourages a grasp of features that are not part of the sensory spectrum. (3) It is a tremendous advantage to our efforts to categorise things on the basis of causal, rather than merely perceivable criteria and (4) encourages experimentation with a view to discovering further causal connections that do not make themselves manifest without deliberate and targeted prodding. (5) Accumulating such intellectual and technological devices enhances our mastery of nature. Therefore it should not be omitted from discussion, that all science is predicated on this kind of understanding.

So here are 5 reasons to fit the bill.

Yet causal representation also has its downside: It is not fool proof! Just one example in illustration: we are capable of devising causal connections in our minds that have no demonstrable correlate in reality — e.g. superstitions fall into this class. Moreover, causal representation it is utterly helpless with explaining intentionality, especially human spontaneity. The theory of evolution is one intellectual construct that loses all its inner coherence when intentionality is ignored. But this is too far-reaching an issue to be broached here.

In sum: It is easy to list 5 good reasons for preferring causal representation over naive realism. But it skirts the realisation that naive realism is practised by every living thing (including humans) to survive; therefore it is prior even in the human context, as without it, no causal theories could have been framed in the first place.

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