Things in Space: Realism and Idealism in the Philosophy of H. W. B. Joseph

Dissertation, University of Toronto (Canada) (1980)
Ronald K. Tacelli
Boston College
Appended to the study are the autograph of a small MS by Joseph ; the printed version of three lectures on space-perception delivered by Joseph at University College, London, February, 1933. ;Chapter V. From this it is concluded: that the principles of Cook Wilsonian Realism are by themselves insufficient to dispose of all forms of Idealism. It is possible to accept much of what Cook Wilson held about knowledge and yet still march under the Idealist standard. But also Joseph did not succeed in making intelligible his own Idealism. It is not easy to see how it avoids any of the difficulties he urged against Realism; how it does not introduce others; and so how any conviction could possibly be produced by it--any more than by the subjective Idealism he repudiated. Joseph's work, however, is not without value--at least in showing some of the things which must be taken into account, some of the problems which must be faced, if any resolution of the issues at stake is to be found. ;Chapters I and II. The usual view of Joseph's work is not correct: he was never a Realist who turned dramatically to an Idealism he had once abandoned; he was, in fact, always an Idealist. Joseph's position is philosophically interesting in that he accepted views of Cook Wilson--e.g., that knowing does not make its object what we know it to be--which were considered cornerstones of Oxford Realism, and tried to accommodate these insights to a non-Realistic metaphysic. ;The Thesis concentrates on the issue of space-perception, an issue Joseph thought of the first importance in the dispute between Realist and Idealist. In the relevant sections are presented: Joseph's development of Cook Wilsonian lines of thought: his view that we are aware of things, or bodies, in space: that awareness of nothing less can account for such beliefs about that world as we have come to possess; Joseph's criticism of the Realism toward which these principles seem to point: the difficulties about size and solidity and motion with which Joseph thought Realism powerless to deal; Joseph's own Idealism--one which renders to Cook Wilson the things that are his, but avoids the difficulties with which he believed Realism hopelessly beset
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