In this section we are going to continue our examination of the question “What is there?” In the last sections we looked at various arguments concerning the existence of God and the nature of the self. In this section we will look at various arguments and theories concerning the existence of what philosophers call “the external world.” The external world is philosopher’s speak for the what in ordinary language we call the world. Philosophers distinguish the external world from the internal world, the internal world is our conscious experience of the what we ordinarily presume to be the external world.

As we will see in our discussion of skepticism there is a basic gap between what we can prove about even our most basic beliefs about the external world, that it exists, and our common sense intuitions about the external world. So, there is a basic epistemological choice that one must make in response to the challenge of skepticism; one must either acknowledge the force of the skepticism or reject skepticism altogether. There have been various arguments against skepticism and attempts to prove the existence of the external world but ultimately as we will see with Moore’s proof of the existence of the external world it comes down to a choice of whether or not to reject skepticism. Once that choice is made there are some basic theories one make.

First we are going to look at two classical presentations of skepticism regarding the external world, the first is Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and the Second is Descartes’ first and second Meditations. Then we will look at G.E. Moore’s “Proof of the Existence of the External World.”

Then we will look at some basic theories of the external world:

  1. Realism or Materialsim
  2. Barklean Idealism
  3. Transcendental Idealism

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