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perceptual requirements of conceptual consciousness

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paraphrasing Kelley in "The Evidence of the Senses", sensations act upon our receptors, and initiate a causal chain of interactions resulting in our perception of objects. in the visual example, we do not simply sense a 2D retinal image, and arrive at ideas of objects by means of conscious processing.

my question is, I agree that the former, and not the latter, is an accurate account of human perception according to cognitive science, but is the former a *requirement* for conceptual consciousness?

is it concievable that, if we did only have a 2D retinal image (as in the example of a newly-sighted person), that our faculty of conceptual consciousness could function and we could live and think intelligently (in the same sense that Helen Keller could get along without hearing or sight at all)? I don't mean "would we reproduce by conscious processing the same perceptual effects that we normally get through the causal chain of interactions done by our neurons"... I mean- could we get by without those normal perceptual effects of object recognition?

How much of perception is required for conceptual consciousness to work?

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Certainly the more means of perceiving the world, the better, as far as conceptualization goes. Given how important communication is for passing down concepts and building knowledge over generations, entities that could only sense smell or taste would have a much more difficult time communicating than those that can sense touch, sight, or sound.

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paraphrasing Kelley in "The Evidence of the Senses", sensations act upon our receptors,

Nitpick: actually it is stimuli that act upon our receptors, then the receptors' response is what becomes sensation and perception.

my question is, I agree that the former, and not the latter, is an accurate account of human perception according to cognitive science, but is the former a *requirement* for conceptual consciousness?

It is a requirement for consciousness as such, human or non-human, conceptual or not.

is it concievable that, if we did only have a 2D retinal image (as in the example of a newly-sighted person), that our faculty of conceptual consciousness could function and we could live and think intelligently (in the same sense that Helen Keller could get along without hearing or sight at all)? I don't mean "would we reproduce by conscious processing the same perceptual effects that we normally get through the causal chain of interactions done by our neurons"... I mean- could we get by without those normal perceptual effects of object recognition?

How much of perception is required for conceptual consciousness to work?

Quantifying perception abstractly can be done in principle by a straightforward application of mathematical information theory and measured in bandwidth.

Ah. You wonder if there is a rule of proportionality between ability to perceive and ability to conceive. We know many animals have keener senses than humans, and some even have additional senses entirely (echo-location, infrared or ultraviolet perception, sensing magnetic fields). Those animals do not have conceptual faculties.

The requirement is for some non-zero perceptual quantity as a necessary but not sufficient condition. Conceptual consciousness also requires a large memory capacity (concept and symbol memory, not percept memory), and memory and perceptual capacities are independent.

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Nitpick: actually it is stimuli that act upon our receptors, then the receptors' response is what becomes sensation and perception.

It is a requirement for consciousness as such, human or non-human, conceptual or not.

Quantifying perception abstractly can be done in principle by a straightforward application of mathematical information theory and measured in bandwidth.

Ah. You wonder if there is a rule of proportionality between ability to perceive and ability to conceive. We know many animals have keener senses than humans, and some even have additional senses entirely (echo-location, infrared or ultraviolet perception, sensing magnetic fields). Those animals do not have conceptual faculties.

The requirement is for some non-zero perceptual quantity as a necessary but not sufficient condition. Conceptual consciousness also requires a large memory capacity (concept and symbol memory, not percept memory), and memory and perceptual capacities are independent.

thanks, your nitpick is correct, i misspoke. i agree that we need some 'non-zero' perceptual capacity... but can we say more than that? how much perception do we need? I was asking specifically about the idea that the perceptual capacity of humans normally results in a perception of objects. unlike the '2D retinal image' example, human vision adds many things to that, such that we end up with perceptions of well defined, invariant objects. how much perception is needed for conceptual consciousness? non-zero, yes, but can we say more? do we need to resolve sensations into constant objects by tracking invariants, for example? are there other requirements, if so what are they and how far do they go?

Edited by epistemologue

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here is an interesting passage from p.115:

"But here is the problem. If perceptual integration does not occur, so that there is no awareness of the primary qualities of objects, than the sensory qualia which remain are not the forms in whch we are aware of the secondary qualities in objects. In the film mode of color vision, as we saw, the color qualia were forms in which we are aware of attributes in the light itself. Only in the context of perception, through the operation of constancy and other mechanisms, is that primitive response to light bent to the discimination of reflectance properties in the objects themselves. Thus the awareness of either a primary or a secondary quality is possible only at the perceptual level, and neither is possible without the otther. Qualia such as colors warmth, odor, sounds, pressure are not forms in which we perceive secondary qualities in objects unless we can discriminate those objects as units, with some more or less definite distance and/or direction from us in space. That requires some awareness of spatial attributes, which are primary."

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Some considerations to add to the train of good responses for the good lead question of this thread:

All consciousness is organic. Perhaps we organics will introduce artificial non-living forms of consciousness, even conceptual consciousness, into the world eventually. I doubt it, but even if we did, it would remain that natural consciousness arose as a living activity useful for survival of certain animals, individually and as a species. Without the natural, organic, conceptual form of consciousness, no artificial forms, whether living or non-living, shall have come into existence.

As a lower bound on perceptual requirements of an animal possessing what Rand called percepts, I would say that three-dimensionality, shapes, relative sizes, and degrees of solidity given in percepts, would be required for its species-success within its feasible range of behaviors in its environment. It seems implausible that the further range of adaptability to environments that is brought about by extensive manipulation of environments—through conceptual thought and communication—would be possible if evolution to this highest level of animal life had to develop straight out of lower animals possessing no percepts, no consciousness of entities, only sensations. So I would say that three-dimensionality, shape, relative sizes, and degrees of solidity given in percepts also form a lower bound of what must be perceptually given for conceptual animals.

Turning from phylogeny to ontogeny should yield tighter, fuller specification of what must be perceptually given for the emergence of symbolic representation in general and linguistic, conceptual representation in particular.

Shape, Action, Symbolic Play, and Words

Linda Smith and Alfredo Pereira

The Origin of Concepts

Susan Carey

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Background:

Rand thought that higher animals, such horse or wolf, are guided by percepts. The actions of such animals “are not single, discrete responses to single, separate stimuli, but are directed by an integrated awareness of the perceptual reality confronting it” (OE 19).

We should note, however, that “an animal has no critical faculty. . . . To an animal, whatever strikes his awareness is an absolute that corresponds to reality—or rather, it is a distinction he is incapable of making: reality, to him, is whatever he senses or feels” (FNI 17).

“A percept is a group of sensations automatically retained and integrated by the brain of a living organism. It is in the form of percepts that man grasps the evidence of his senses and apprehends reality. . . . Percepts, not sensations, are the given, the self-evident” (ITOE 5).

“The first concepts man forms are concepts of entities—since entities are the only primary existents” (ITOE 15).

The ability to regard entities as units is man’s distinctive method of cognition, which other living species are unable to follow” (ITOE 6).

On Rand’s concept entity and its role in cognition, see ITOE 264–76 (seminar) and Peikoff’s OPAR, 12–14, 74–75. From Gotthelf’s On Ayn Rand: “In the concept’s primary sense an entity is a solid object with a perceivable shape, which acts or resists action as a whole. The beginnings of cognition, at the perceptual level, involve the grasp that the ‘somethings’ out there are distinguishable things, entities, and the concept is basic to all subsequent cognition” (40).

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