Hume and Descartes

by judechua

There is something that photography does to us, and it is that it invites us to accept and welcome the ordinary man’s take of phenomena: what if I am right is called the cenoscopic perspective.

We often read Hume to see what he says about how unreasonable our inductive leaps are, but forget he recommended that we adopt, if we are to live, the vulgar viewpoint. There’s a kind of epistemological norm in that advice: that the vulgar ontology is somehow, also right, or perhaps more right, than the philosophical one. Yet from the philosophical point of view, the vulgar viewpoint is one of faith. It is, in fact, the faith of and in signs. X leads to Y is never proven, but abduced, as a connection between a sign and its implied signification. Is the photographic semiosis which relates by the act of faith, an abduction, one thing semiotically with another, just as vulgar as Hume’s ordinary epistemology, but also, just as right? For the photography as much as Hume, then, the fallacy of induction, and the issues surrounding science, which Popper sought to overcome, are not issues at all, perhaps. For him, the photographer, it is the vulgar epistemology, one of semiosis, of abduction, of faith, which creates an ontology, that is theoretically paradigmatic.

Another thing. The photographer engages his subject, and immediately assumes it is out there, etc. Norris Clarke has developed the idea of dialogue into an argument by retorsion against Cartesian worries that we are caught up in idealistic solipsism. For the photographer, the assumption is already that these things are outside of me, that these are other than I, and real. This does not answer Descarte’s critical objections that one’s mind could be deceived by an evil demon, etc. But perhaps an argument may be made that in photography, it does not really matter, esp if we take the above into consideration. One’s photography thrives in a constructed world, emerging an ethics that should hold true and hold one fully responsible in one’s will whether the world we grasp is in he end, ala Hume, unscientific, or ala Descartes, illusory.

I will need to think more about this. Perhaps something like this will make up the next blogs. Maybe I will focus on some more metaphysical issues in the next couple of chapters.