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This should probably be in Laboratory section, but I haven't found a way to post there, so I am posting to the next most related forum, which is one concerned with epistemology and metaphysics. I've recently been fascinated by David Kelley's philosophy of mind described in Diana Mertz Hsieh's "Mind in Objectivism: A Survey of Objectivist Commentary on Philosophy of Mind" (2003). Here is an excerpt: The idea of upward and downward causation in terms of brain-consciousness interface is really interesting and, I think, can be applied to a deeper understanding of epistemology. It would be helpful if anyone knows where Kelley elaborates on this idea, if he ever did so. Maybe since 2003 he touched upon it in any of his articles or books? Maybe it can be applied if we consider downward causation a stimulation done by consciousness in the manner of focusing as in Harry Binswanger's understanding of perception. Let me first explain some things before I go into further details. Sensation, as I define it, is a thought that is externally stimulated or excited. There are five kinds of sensation in two groups: electromagnetically stimulated (sight - photons, touch - electric force) and molecularly stimulated (taste and smell - chemical, hearing - vibrational). We may be not aware of these thoughts, such as when we sit we may not be aware of the chair and our body pushing against each other or when we close our eyes we may not be aware of all the photons that are continuously sensed in our eyes. We may be aware of these thoughts but still not focused on them. I think that focus is directly related to our consciousness, and it is the stimulation that is caused by our consciousness internally and in a downward manner. When we focus on a sensation we are more than aware of it - we are also affecting it consciously. Here is the idea: it depends on the strength of sensation whether it would directly get into our consciousness. So if we feel very strong pain, we focus on it, so it becomes a conscious experience. This can be called an upward causation. Upward causation can also occur when we think about something internally (conceptually) and we get a random thought or even a related thought but one we didn't cause with our consciousness but rather that came from a stimulation of some adjacent neurons, thus entering our consciousness from our brain, like other sensation does. I think these ideas can be related to how we perceive. If perception is an integration or synthesis of sensations, then it is also an integration of thoughts. But the question is: what thoughts are being integrated? Are we aware of these thoughts or not, are we conscious of them or not, and are they only internally or only externally stimulated? Moreover, can we have a pure perception, that is from only externally stimulated thoughts, pure sensations? I think this question directly relates to the epistemological questions academically posed: namely by Thomas Reid. Are perceptions conceptually manipulated? Kant took this important point and basically reduced perceptions into his categories and forms of intuition, whose content is sensation. An interesting point is that sensation in Reid, Kant, and also Rand is considered to be pure empiricism and not related to thought per se. But I think that by understanding sensation as thought we are not necessarily mixing it with conscious thought, as I explained. Moreover, this picture becomes more complex when we consider how sensation is synthesized by our brain and consciousness. If we are to form percepts or concepts, all agree that we must somehow synthesize sense data, that is, we need to take multiple sensations as they are co-occurring or coexistent. But how does this synthesis occurs? I think this synthesis is formed by particular processes in our consciousness. First, we focus. The focus implies limitation to what enters our consciousness. We cannot focus on all thoughts that are constantly happening in our consciousness or in the tissues of our body. Instead, we like to work optimally, so we don't go insane. However, we do not know what to focus on if we haven't had enough experience. So how we focus depends on our prior experience. We learn to focus through trial and error in order to know what are the essential areas to focus upon. But this means that concepts that we have formed affect what we focus on, and a lack of concepts affects our ability to focus efficiently and correctly. For example, American Indians never experienced ships before and so hadn't formed a concept of a ship. When Europeans were approaching in ships, Indians had a hard time of focusing on them right away. Instead, they were only able to perceive the ships when those were already near land. Moreover, they didn't even necessarily try to focus, but could have just been unaware of the ships when those were on the horizon. This issue of when our perceptions are affected conceptually can be likened to downward causation affecting our thoughts. For example, the better our concepts are of an object, the more expertly we can perceive and understand it. This also applies to external stimulation from reading. When we read a word we first get sight sensation of which we are aware, and when we focus on the word with our consciousness we start stimulating its thought inside our consciousness which relates to our memory of concepts. The accuracy of our knowledge of the concept that is expressed by this word depends on how many integrations of these thoughts we'd experienced before and thus how proficient we are in isolating essential concepts, which means the same process of focus happens not only on sensation and perception but also in conception. The second process that happens when we focus is our volition or will combining areas that we accept as essential. This is the tricky part that could lead to mixing make-believe hallucinations (upward causation) with our own ideas of what we perceive (downward causation as in Binswanger's explanation of how our concepts affect seeing a pencil bent in water). So can we purify our perception by ignoring our internal stimulation of the externally stimulated thoughts? I think this depends on practice and experience, as mentioned before. The more we learn what are essential characteristics for us to focus on (and this depends on what we do in life, what profession we choose, what we perceive more than anything), the better our essentials become. This means that our concepts change based on practice because we change what essentials we focus on. When we are children we do not yet know what areas of sensation we need to focus on, so we may focus on things that we later deem to be not essential. Education also helps us (if not just inculcates us) to form better concepts, which condition how we perceive the related objects later on. The point that our concepts affect our percepts is very important. It shows that concepts are required for us to be better observers (this especially applies in art). With concepts internally stimulated, we can become more efficient and knowledgeable concerning our interactions with environment and other people. In a way, concepts precondition our percepts, if we accept that there is evolution of our consciousness in terms of how we 'grasp' things by focusing on them and using our will to synthesize or integrate thoughts to better connect with external things. So in order for external things to be reflected better in our consciousness, we need to have a developed internal 'environment.' That is, we need to have our own concepts to help us better integrate sensations and perceptions. An interesting consequence of this is that sensations (S) and perceptions (P) that we experience vary from person to person. Additionally, concepts also vary through conception (C), depending on what your area of expertise is. Because of variations of S, P, and C, we may presume that all three are infinite in possibilities. So the next question becomes is there some area that is limited to all people, regardless of what they do or how they conceive. One way to answer this question is no, we are all conceptual beings and thus are different because we all conceive of things differently and relate them to different words. However, we find in this answer a hint that something is still shared in this infinity besides even the trivial understanding of us as human beings. Or perhaps it indeed helps that we as human beings share something that is limited for our purposes of more efficient conceptualization. We call this categories. Categories are not concepts, but instead they are preconceptual conditions. Categories are in all concepts and also beyond concepts as metaconcepts. We use categories to think more concisely, like we use concepts to perceive better. Categories are filled with concepts like containers with objects or rivers with water. In this case, categories can be viewed as the stage of epistemological development after C. All philosophers, and perhaps most people, use categories of thought. Rand's category, what she called an implicit concept, was existence. She used existence as a precondition for all concepts. Categories thus metaphysically necessitate particular ways we conceive. When we focus upon many concepts that we can summon to our minds from memory encoded in neurons, we learn that we cannot focus on all of them but only on specific ones, as the amount of units we can be conscious of from memory is limited and based on what we are dealing with or thinking about. Categories help with this as essential features of concepts that we pick out when we focus conceptually. In contrast to S and P stages, or stages of externally stimulated and internally/externally - mixed - stimulated thoughts, C and categories (C2) are purely internal stimulations, whether of downward or upward causation. In any major philosophy, C2 plays a pivotal role in structuring what we conceive. In Kant, for example, C2 are the conditions of deriving knowledge from experience (S, to which P is also reduced). To describe C2 Kant uses a lot of abstract C, which makes it hard to understand. Because there is not one C2 chosen by Kant but instead a bunch (but not all!), we can become kind of lost in his realm of C2. Perhaps what is needed is to simplify C2 further like we had in Rand. Because C2 have a limited number in contrast to the units of S, P, and C, we may think right away that why can't we simplify this number to, say, a single C2. And Rand's way shows that it can be done. However, it also shows that there can be other ways to simplify C2, based on our experience with this internal realm. I will mention how I categorize categories metaphysically just to complete the whole picture of my discussion. To select a unity among categories you need to conceive (select a word with some conceptual connotations, of course, and not a mere idea) a metacategory that can structure other categories and contain them precategorically. Such a metacategory also needs to organize other categories. For me, existence is a metacategory of choice, but not the only one. Perhaps it would help if we think not of C2 per se but C in terms of infinity of concepts. Since all concepts are organized by categories, they can also be used to understand how we can organize categories themselves. An infinity of concepts involves taking all concepts there are and trying to find basic distinctions among them. Once we think of infinity (which is a daunting task requiring much abstract thought) we cannot help ourselves but think of something singular, like a line, a unity, or singularity. To think of all concepts becomes easy when we think of just one or two. Or three, when we also include infinitesimally small and infinitely large in C. These three ways of thinking of C is how I think of metacategories. The infinitesimally small is nonexistence and infinitely large is existence, but both at the same time, as in singularity, is APEIRON, which cannot be comprehended as it becomes meaningless from the metaphysical equation of nonexistence and existence, thus continually mixed, spread through all space and time, containing all that is conceptually physical but themselves are categorically metaphysical. Nonetheless this fifth stage, let's call it A, provides a condition for C2 that is based on belief, since we already know that all our C2 are internally stimulated and condition our internal stimulation retroactively. To understand A, we reduce it to C2, to understand C2, we reduce it to C, C to P, P to S. Once we grasp each stage, we can understand how epistemology, through David Kelley's two causations, works in both directions. Any thoughts?
What is the Epistemological ground for believing the universal validity of the basic laws of logic (Identity, Non-Contradiction, Excluded Middle). How does one properly validate that "A is A", universally? Can one know that it is true universally or is it only possible to know it about that which one has perceived? If it is only possible to know it concerning that which has been perceived, then how can one know that "contradictions do not exist"? I do not question the validity of logic. However, the ground upon which one validates an idea is crucially important and it seems that Objectivists tend to ground the validity of logic in very intellectual dangerous territory-- such that if one takes Objectivist Epistemology seriously (or, at least, that which is professed by many parts of Oist Epistemology), one cannot also consistently take the laws of logic seriously. So, I want to test that out and reveal what is and is not the proper epistemological grounding for the validity of logic. Many (if not all) Objectivists hold that the validity of logic is grounded in perception (along with all other knowledge). However, if this is the case, one can only know it's validity concerning that which one has perceived. If one can know that it is valid concerning that which has not been perceived, where did this knowledge come from and upon what is it grounded? Is it simply believed as a pragmatic necessity? Is it assumed by whim or by faith? OR is there some other form of validating knowledge aside from perception? I obviously would argue that there is. I want to ask everyone who participates in this conversation to attempt to accurately understand what is (and is NOT) being said in order to avoid straw men, and that everyone attempt to be CONSISTENT with their professed views. I predict that most (if not all) objections will be the result of failing to do one of the above.