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I recently read a passage from Kenneth R. Westphal's Realism, Science, and Pragmatism that read:

Or imagine, following Stout (1938-39), someone in a room which is supported by foundations which no one perceives. What the person perceives--i.e. the room--is actual, but the foundations either do not exist (idealism), or are at best mere unfulfilled possibilities (phenomenalism). But how could something actual be supported by unfulfilled possibilities (or even something non-existent)? It seems that this would lead us to reject many of our ordinary casual and other explanations.

What I don't quite understand is why the idealist/phenomenalist cannot logically infer that since the room he is in is not collapsing, there must be supports underneath the flooring. My question is this: cannot an idealist/phenomenalist have knowledge of unobserved entities through logical inference from his experiences?

  • Our experiences are phenomenal, so logical inferences from phenomenal experiences lead to phenomenal conclusions. To draw conclusions that apply beyond the phenomenal, you need a source of information that is independent from experience. – user3017 Jun 16 '16 at 1:12
  • Scientists do, why can't everyone else? We had 'knowledge' of chemical atoms long before we could observe them, based entirely upon logical inference from the ways in which they combined. – jobermark Jun 17 '16 at 21:14

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