In an attempt to prove that reality consists of "ideas" which are bundles of percepts rather than mind-independent matter, Johnson uses what is called "the knowledge argument." It goes like this:
Mary the scientist knows all the physical facts about color, including every physical fact about the experience of color in other people. She knows this from the behavior a particular color is likely to elicit to the specific sequence of neurological firings that register that a color has been seen. She likewise knows about how various wavelengths of light interact with the human eye resulting in various types of dilation and contraction in the eye, etc.
However, she has been confined from birth to a room that is black and white, and is only allowed to observe the outside world through a black and white monitor. When she is allowed to leave the room, it must be admitted that she learns something about the color red the first time she sees it — specifically, she learns what it is like to see that color(Johnson)
He next uses the "pain argument" to prove the same point: "I can only what the experience of pain is by experiencing the feeling of pain, I cannot know the feeling of pain from observing someone else's reaction to an injury or by examining neuro-transmitters between synapses in their brain. To know what pain is like, I must feel pain"(Johnson)
But in each case, the fact that both of these experiences are purely and irreducibly subjective and therefore "ideal" does not mean that this holds true for the rest of the argument. For example, in remark 178 of "On Certainty", Wittgenstein writes:
"The wrong use made by Moore of the proposition "I know..." lies in his regarding it as an utterance as little subject to doubt as "I am in pain.""
He points out here that pain is, by definition, an experience. That there are some experiences that are irreducibly subjective does not mean that all experiences are reducible in such a manner. Indeed, that things like pain and color are purely subjective is admitted even by those who otherwise reject Berkeleyan idealism. Malebranche, for example, in addressing both pain and color:
we must first uncover an important distinction that Malebranche draws between ideas on the one hand and sensations on the other. As we have already discovered, ideas are in God and are cosubstantial with his substance. Sensations of colors, sounds, odors, heat, pleasure, etc., on the other hand, are modifications of finite minds. Another important difference is that ideas are intrinsically representational, whereas sensations are not. The idea of a pyramid, for example, represents an actual pyramid in the sense that it resembles it, but the sensation of pain that one experience's when, say, accidentally lacerating one's arm, in no way resembles the wounded tissue. Ideas and sensations, then, are very different kinds of entities, but Malebranche maintains that sense perception combines elements of each(Nolan, 2013).
The experience of redness or pain exists in consciousness/awareness. All experience is a form of awareness. Really, experience and awareness are synonyms. The experience of redness does not exist in lightwaves in the sense that there would be no experience of redness if there were no awareness (obviously).
"P1: Sensations exist in Consciousness (The mind).
P2: Percepts are a collection of sensations.
C: Percepts exist in the mind."
So far as it goes, this is unproblematic. But Johnson appropriates Berkeley's epistemology and his metaphysics and means to argue that all sensations are reducible to such. That is, he believes that sensations are bundles of percepts and exist in the mind, and that ordinary objects are essentially percepts in minds.
Summing up his position, he writes:
My position is that the world is comprehensively understood in terms of percepts and that which can necessarily be inferred from them. I am arguing that all of this exists in minds. I am a subjective idealist.
Even though you agreed with the above syllogism, you still affirm that such percepts are caused by a non-percept/ mind-independent object. You affirm that when the percept (P) is in my mind at time (T), that there must also be an object (O) causing that percept.
If P at T, then O at T(Johnson).
Johnson goes on to argue that induction can only be legitimately used with respect to personal experiences. He argues:
If you are of the opinion that I am opposed to inductive inferences, you are incorrect. I believe they are quite necessary for human intelligibility; however, they are fallacious if used as a deductive argument and can only be used in relation to things experienced or potentially experienced in a tentative manner.
Induction is the method by which men make predictions in regards to future observations based on observations made in the past.
For instance, if I stub my toe every night on my way to the bathroom with the correlative event of me feeling pain, then I can infer inductively that in future instances of stubbing my toe that there will again occur the correlative event of me feeling pain.
Thus, induction is valid when it is used in such a manner, to use it in a deductive way is almost always fallacious (composition fallacy) and using it to reach outside the empirical scope is completely unwarranted(Johnson).
He sums up the problem of induction syllogistically thus:
"P1: Induction infers only potential (future) observed correlations from present-past observed correlations.
P2: causations are never observed, they are not the same thing as observed correlations.
C: Induction cannot be used to infer causation"(Johnson)
But it is difficult to see how induction avoids succumbing to such a fallacy with respect to personal experience. There is no guarantee that stubbing one's toe, even after numerous instances of it producing pain, guarantees that this will happen in the future. I had stubbed my toe numerous times before the age of 15 and experienced a great deal of pain upon having done so. Yet after having broken both of my legs in a car accident, major nerve damage to my legs resulted in chronic numbness in parts of my legs, including my toes.
Stubbing it no longer produced pain! Imagine my surprise when a few years later, the feeling spontaneously returned, and I was able to incur the displeasure of feeling pain upon stubbing my toe once again! In any case, it is difficult to imagine why the problem of induction is unproblematic with respect to such personal experience. The most likely reason for this is that it is unclear how such a distinction is even meaningful, since all induction arises from personal experience. Indeed, induction, by definition, refers to inference based upon repeated experience.
In any case, I do believe that there is a form of induction by means of inference from sensation that problematizes Berkeley's motivation for his idealism. I call this argument the Dual Aspect Mind Argument against Idealism. The argument is ironically one which Berkeley uses to explain God's use of regularity in nature for the benefit of predictability by mankind(what is more ironic yet is that he takes this argument from Malebranche, with whose rationalism and Cartesian dualism I am a great deal more sympathetic than either the epistemology or metaphysics propounded by Berkeley):
although God could make a watch run (that is, produce in us ideas of a watch running) without the watch having any internal mechanism (that is, without it being the case that, were we to open the watch, we would have ideas of an internal mechanism), he cannot do so if he is to act in accordance with the laws of nature, which he has established for our benefit, to make the world regular and predictable. Thus, whenever we have ideas of a working watch, we will find that if we open it, we will see (have ideas of) an appropriate internal mechanism. Likewise, when we have ideas of a living tulip, we will find that if we pull it apart, we will observe the usual internal structure of such plants, with the same transport tissues, reproductive parts, etc(Downing, 2013).
The predictability which the regularity of nature affords to man does not, of course, make induction infallible. I would go even further and argue that there is no such thing as a law of nature because such would make miracles impossible and God would have to break His own laws which He has set down for man's benefit.
I believe that the existence of the human brain and its relation to the mind problematizes Berkeley's motivation for the spirit/idea dualism with which he sets out to replace Cartesian mind/body dualism. Berkeley's reason for this new dualism is to paint a picture of reality that is not susceptible to the problem associated with Cartesianism, according to which it is unclear how two fundamentally different substances, namely, mind and matter, interact. Yet it is clear that when he impinge upon the brain, for example, by means of electrodes, drugs, physical manipulation in general, it directly impacts the brain. Now it is clear that from a Berkeleyan perspective, the physical brain must be an idea and not a mind. It is therefore not the same thing as a mind. Yet it is so intimately bound up with the mind (however we may conceive of this relation metaphysically) that impinging upon it directly impacts the mind. Therefore, it is clear that these two fundamentally different substances, whether conceive of as mind vs. matter or spirit vs. idea, interact with one another in a manner which we cannot explain.
This is further problematic for Berkeley because he distinguishes mind or spirit from idea by arguing that spirit is active whereas idea is passive. How is it, then, that acting upon a passive idea like the brain can so readily and immediately impact a substance that is supposedly purely active, like the spirit or mind? In any case, it is simply indisputable that we have an instance here of two fundamentally different substances impinging upon one another. Of course, I am presupposing a dispute between Christians, and therefore presupposing that neither of us are physicalists. Problematic though this may be, it seems evident to me that Berkeley's new dualism fares no better than the Cartesian dualism he problematizes.
That all consciousness is dependent upon a Supreme Mind for its origin and continued existence:
P1: human or animal consciousness is dependent on conscious content, for a consciousness with nothing to be conscious of is a contradiction in terms.
P2. All of conscious (mental) content originates in a Supreme Mind and is therefore dependent on that Supreme Mind.
C. All human or animal consciousness is dependent on This Supreme Mind.
P1: All is dependent on this Supreme Mind continuously.
P2: To be continuously dependent is to be under the power of that which one depends.
C: This Supreme Mind is All-Powerful(Johnson).
None of this is objectionable, and though it is certainly an element of Berkeley's idealism, it in no way necessitates it. Malebranche holds to the same position, yet argues that our knowledge is imparted to us by means of God's ideas in a non-empirical manner(contradicting Berkeley's empiricist epistemology, which I will deal with shortly) and he believes that each individual occurrence comes about by means of direct fiat of God, according to which God orchestrates all mind and matter in such a way most conducive to regularity and predictably, thus contradicting the spirit/idea dualism with which he replaces Cartesian mind/body dualism (a position of Berkeley's with which I have already dealt.
Johnson rightly notes that the finite human mind cannot be the cause of one's own percepts. To argue that one is the cause of one's own percepts would, Johnson points out, is untenable. For one to be the source of all of one's percepts, Johnson argues, requires omniscience, which is an incommunicable attribute of God and therefore cannot be predicated of any man. Suffice it to say, as Johnson notes, that nobody actually serious adheres to solipsism anyway, so it is mostly a moot point.
Since it is evident that I am not the source of my own perceptual concent, it follows that some other mind must be its source: So Johnson:
P1. I am not the originator of my own percepts (established above).
P2. Percepts are mental content, they exist in consciousness (the mind).
P3. Something cannot give what itself does not have.
C. My percepts must necessarily have come into my mind from some other distinct Mind.
P1. My knowledge grows because I do not have all percepts or mental content.
P2. All of my knowledge, and all potential percepts that I gain, exist and originate in the other distinct Mind.
C. This other Mind is Omniscient (hereafter called The Supreme Mind).
If this Supreme Mind is the source and organizer of all perceptual experience and its order to us, and our consciousness depends on this perceptual experience, it follows that this Supreme Mind is powerful over all, and is therefore omnipotent in the ordinary sense of the term, for He is powerful over all that there is, that is, all other minds and their perceptual content(Johnson).
This Supreme Mind, as Johnson notes, has not yet been established to be the Triune God of the Bible. Johnson's argument for the necessity of the Triune nature of God will be examined in the next issue.
Like Berkeley and Edwards, Malebranche holds that all humans are dependent upon God for their knowledge as the obvious result of the fact that all of creation is dependent upon God for everything, not simply because He upholds the world by the word of His power, but because He ordains all things. So also Johnson:
1; God is all good.
2; God is omnipotent.
3; Evil Exists.
C; If 3, then 1 or 2 must be false.
So arguing from my position, how would I answer this problem? Well to put it simply, my argument responds to the problem of evil by pointing out that it commits the fallacy of the false dilemma.
It is incorrect in the above syllogism to conclude that either 1 or 2 must be false if 3 is true. Rather if God is all good, and God is all powerful, and evil exists, then it actually follows quite easily that God must have a good reason for having evil exist.
This argument was used by Jonathan Edwards, but was pioneered by Gottfried Liebniz. Essentially the argument goes like this in more positive language;
“Since God is good and omnipotent, and since He chose this world out of all possibilities, this world must be good—in fact, this world is the best of all possible worlds.”
This is known as “the best of all possible worlds” argument. What this argument entails about evil as it exists, is that it serves a purpose for good as God ultimately defines it from within His own stable idea of the world in its totality. In essence, even evil acts ultimately serve to glorify God and bring benefits to His elect.
This position is overwhelmingly biblical; both in its negative and positive presentation. For instance, when Joseph encounters his brothers he gives them this same argument in its positive form to explain the meaning of their evil act in beating him and selling him into slavery in Egypt;
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Gen 50:20)
God used the evil act of Joseph’s brothers to bring about the saving of Egypt by Joseph the Hebrew that God may be glorified and His saints benefited, for it was by josephs work that his family was saved for even canaan was effected by the famine.
“You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory..” (Romans 9:19-23)(Johnson)
Johnson is dependent here upon Jonathan Edwards' work The End for which God Created the World, in which Edwards argues that God ordains all things for His glory; that is, all things are teleologically ordained for the end of glorifying God. This includes evil. Since God is both good and omnipotent, as Johnson points out, God's intention in ordaining evil could, strange though it may seem to unsanctified reason (and sometimes even to sanctified, yet fallen, reason), could only be for the greater good.
Nolan, Lawrence, "Malebranche's Theory of Ideas and Vision in God", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2013/entries/malebranche-ideas/>.
Downing, Lisa, "George Berkeley", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2013/entries/berkeley/>.