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2011-09-22
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?

Is the world that we experience around us, the real world itself, experienced out there where it lies? Or is our experience of the world a "picture" generated by our brain inside our head?

I posed this question in Lehar( 2003 ) and Lehar( 2003 }, and I have posted an informal cartoon outlining the issue here:

A Cartoon Epistemology
http://cns-alumni.bu.edu/~slehar/cartoonepist/cartoonepist.html


What is the current state of consensus in the community on this subject? Are there more naive realists out there, or is representationalism the dominant paradigm yet?


And why is this most central and foundational issue not discussed more widely? Surely just about everything else in philosophy and psychology depends critically on getting this profound epistemological issue right. The issue is by no means irrelevant or insignificant. What is your view on this?

  Steve Lehar



2011-09-26
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
Dear Steven,I share the sentiment of your last paragraph, although I might add that several threads here have covered the issue and revealed the range of views at least of those that post, and perhaps enough times!  

Clearly, the consensus in neuroscience (and there may be more neuroscientists in my institution alone than philosophers on this list) is to a first approximation what you call representational. Nevertheless, philosophers have a beef about representations that I do not think most neuroscientists take seriously enough, even if it tends to make philosophers fall back into an unhelpful 'naïve' stance. Representationalism seems to require that there is a relation between some experiencing subject and some 'sense data' the subject accesses deep inside the structure of the brain. To be taken seriously, neuroscientists must, like Descartes, do the decent thing and suggest what at least might be this inner subject. A common neuroscience stance is to dismiss Descartes as a misguided dreamer and pretend there is no problem, thereby making the representationalism incoherent.

There is then the worry over what the sense data are. Here I think the terms representation and picture can be troublesome. It may be inferred that the 'picture' is something of the same general category as the world it represents, maybe miniaturised or encoded in a Gabor transform perhaps. I think two issues get confused here. Neuroscience (Hubel and Weisel etc) tells us that there are indeed patterns of activity in brains that are analogues of the outside world in this sort of sense and these occur on the pathway to experience. There is nothing metaphysically troublesome about postulating these intermediaries. But these are not themselves experiences or sense data because they are defined independent of what (who?) they might inform. A sense datum cannot be defined just as a dynamical pattern, it must entail the way in which that dynamical pattern is accessible to (influences) our experiencing subject - and thus is a feature of a relation (where Russell I think goes wrong in making the phenomenal intrinsic). Postulating sense data needs no new metaphysical stuff, just the recognition of the reality of relations between patterns we already know in biology. What it does need is a suggestion as to what biological relations might do the job!

If you espouse representationalism, do you have a suggestion?

Best wishes

Jo

2011-09-26
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar

Physicists and Philosopher of Science Henry Margenau made these points in an article called "The Problem of Physical Explanation". It was originally in The Monist Vol. 39, No.3, July, 1929, and later replicated in Physics and Philosophy: Selected Essays (Henry Margenau) 1978.

"The term "nature" will occur more frequently than any other in the subsequent discussion; hence it should be more clearly defined, and stripped of all colloquial implications which do not belong to its strictest meaning. Nature, in the most noncommittal sense, is the totality of sense impressions, this latter term including observations of a systematic and scientific character. It comprises nothing external to the human mind and postulates no things in themselves. Nor does it involve any assertions with regard to the non-existence of things in themselves. Data of nature will be understood to be parts of our consciousness, and should imply no suggestion as to their origin. The very word datum is misleading. For if our perceptions be gifts we might expect to find a giver, which some recognize in an objective nature, others in a divine agency. But inductive experience teaches nothing about a giver, nothing about the origin of sense impressions; it leaves us in the bare state of having cognitions, without even an indication of their whereabouts. The term "habita" instead of "data", the use of which was advocated by a philosopher whose name I have forgotten, would appear preferable in the view of this condition. But its introduction would constitute too radical a break from current terminology to warrant its usefulness. The word datum will be employed in this specified sense."

and he went on to say...

"We have seen that nature is the sum total of data. However it is a common practice of the mind to project these data into an external space and time, to endow them with substantiality and construct an objective nature which is a thing in itself. This process is so universal that a few critical remarks need be made concerning its legitimacy. Let us analyze it briefly and consider some of the steps. Certain experiences cause us to form inseparable associations between sense perceptions, persuade us to become convinced of their existence independently of our perceptions, which we finally accustom ourselves to look upon as accidental. We have invested the possibility of sensations with the quality of permanence. So far an objective nature is a psychological structure. Belief in an external world is simply the belief in a permanent possibility of sensation. It is important to recognize that we need not go farther than this to establish a ground for science. But the realist will refuse to stop at this point. His next step will be to class these permanent possibilities as existences distinct from our sensations, and this may be proper if "existence" is not understood in the medieval ontological sense; but if he thinks of them as generally distinct, as causes of our sensations, he is deluding himself by a fault use of what is called causation. The law of causality may not derive its unconditional binding force from, but certainly manifests it in actual experience, and every conceivable case to which it is applicable consists of two sets of data of which one may be inferred if the other is known. Now an objective nature is not a determinable factor of experience, and we have no evidence that it come within the range of entities over which causality has legislation. It is for this reason that the argument fails-that causality can never form a bridge between the known and the ultimately unknowable, and that an objective, if it exists, is forever unintelligible. Another feature which strengthens the fallacy of an objective nature is the tendency of our mind to ascribe greater immediateness, to to use the word reality, to notions which present themselves more readily than other. For instance we are tempted to consider matter as more immediate and real than, for example, energy or an electric field. But it is evident that this propensity is caused by the constitution of our senses, or mind in general, and must therefore be regarded as accidental."

But I think we have a serious problem. We normally assume that there is an external world, a world independent of us humans. We can never know this, and we can just assume that there is, because neither experience or logic can lead us to that conclusion. But people usually take this one step further, and will say something like our perceptions are close to the way the external world is, but not exactly like it. This is wishful thinking itself, and it is not something that experience tells us. We can say there is an external world, but it could be completely different from the way that we have presented to us, or there could be nothing external to us but another mind (which looks nothing like what we experience), or half of what we experience is similar to the way that the external world is that we assume to exist. Maybe it is completely faithful to the way it is. Maybe there is no external world, and there are just minds floating around. We could go on. So we see that we don't really have much to base our second assumption that our experiences are close to the way that this assumed external world are.

But I think we find ourselves in another problem. We like to think that physics leads us to a picture of the way the world is, but this goes against what some physicists say. "The most common misunderstanding about science is that scientists seek and find truth. They don't - they make and test models,", said by Neil Gershenfeld, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Centre for Bits and Atoms. "In the final analysis, physics is only indirectly about the world of nature. Directly, it is talk about experimental arrangements and observations. Given a particular experimental arrangement, physicists can predict the outcome of certain measurements. There is nothing arbitrary about these outcomes. Anyone with the requisite ability can replicate them- they are perfectly objective in this sense. Nor is there anything arbitrary about the predictions. What is not given to the physicists by nature, but rather is invented by them, is what they say about these outcomes, the language they use to talk about nature. If physicists try to step outside of the scheme of experimental arrangements and observations to envision what sort of independent mechanism in the world “really” produces those observations, in Feynman’s words, they “get ‘down the drain’, into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped.” by Bruce Gregory. And Einstein, as retold by Bruce Gregory, said  "Einstein said we cannot compare our theories with the real world. We can compare predictions with observations of the world, but we "cannot even imagine...the meaning of" comparing our theories with reality." So it seems we are left with our sensations being the world we know.

But we have to ask ourselves, what is one of the biggest parts of physics? It is based on sensory experience, which is where the experimental physicists comes in. They view things of there senses, and this is to test their models by seeing if they make true or false predictions. But physics is also heavily based on mathematics and sense perception with experiments. The mathematics exist in our human minds and not the world (as far as we can tell, since the assumed external world could just be numbers). But these physicists have minds or brains, and so we have to go to neuroscience to find out how the brain or mind works.

So we have to ask our question, "Which is more important, Neuroscience or physics?".

Neuroscientist make observations, like images on a computer screen that comes from an MRI or EEG experiments. But these scientist are themselves having perceptions, and creating models of perceptions, which themselves will usually talk about what physicists talk about (i.e. photons hitting the retinal walls, even though no one can have a perception of a photon). We seem to come up to a circular argument. Even the neuroscientist has to compare their predictions with observations, and the observations are the only reality they will ever know.

Cognitive  Scientist, and author of perception, Donal Hoffman talked about our perceptions. He said, "Research in the cognitive and neural sciences has made clear that our visual systems are not simply passive recorders of objective reality, but instead are active constructors of the visual realities we perceive. Each of us has within us a reality engine, which takes the images at the eyes and constructs three-dimensional worlds of objects, colors, textures, motions, and depth. What we see with each glance is not the world as it is objectively and as it would be even if there were no observers. Instead what we see is entirely our own construction. Our process of construction proceeds so rapidly and confidently that we are misled by our own prowess into thinking that we are not constructing at all, but simply reporting what is there independent of us. In short, our belief that we see the world as it objectively is, unadorned, is an illusion made possible by the very brilliance and efficiency of our reality creating process."






2011-09-26
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar

Long answer:  Being conscious requires a rudimentary self-model.  Awareness is aligned with an organism and is for the purpose of orienting the organism and coordinating its movement and adaptational responses to the environment.  An organism must assess the environment so that it can act against the environment to perform acts that result in successful nutrition, procreation and self protection.  For successful volition the organism must act in a specific way against a specific kind of environment.   To do this it must create a model of the environment that accommodates the kind of tasks it must perform and the kinds of volitional capabilities it possesses.  The organism does not objectively tally ALL the features and characteristics of the environment; it only recognizes the features relevant to its own imperatives, and only in a combination that reflects its own capabilities and characteristics.  The modeling of the world is a creative, interpretive, subjective, inter-accommodative task for an entirely singular purpose: survival.

Physics is the primary way we model the world as humans.  We are adept at discerning the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of the environment.  We combine well-articulated concepts about time, space, matter and energy, but we still model the world in the same creative, subjective, interpretive way all creatures do, and for the same basic reasons: to accommodate the kind of thing we are, and to achieve the kinds of things we aspire to do.  As is the case with all other creatures, our world-model is dependent on our self-model and our self-model is dependent on our world-model.  The two are inextricably linked in constant cross-reference and continual reconfirmation.  We like to think we are detached, objective and that the way we tally and combine phenomenal characteristics results in something absolutely true that is entirely separate from us.  We like to think that our world-model is distinct from our needs and purposes, from our capabilities and aspirations.  We like to think that our model of the world is freestanding and that its properties and characteristics are inherent to the world itself.   We like to think that our world-model provides the relevant characteristics by which to understand the universe even were we not in it.       

The assumption that the world we model in physics is equivalent to an objective freestanding model of the world, as it is in-and-of itself, is a somewhat harmless delusion if one is just doing physics.  However, if one desires to understand consciousness, and the cognitive processes by which we model a self and a world, one has to be a little more courageous and admit to the contingency and artifice of physical models, since these are just cognitive products produced in conscious processes for very specific reasons.  This letting-go of the physics delusion is the primary task in the development of a field of consciousness studies.  It is a difficult habit to break.  The empirical project was entirely prefaced on the notion that perception provides us an accurate objective measure of reality; that measuring things provides us the one true absolute truth.  20th century physics threw a wrench into that, introducing quantum truths about matter in stark contradiction to the classical truths that had been established in explicit relationship to our bodies and our senses.  But converting a matter-based model to an energy-based model, or a quantum model into a string model, does not significantly alter the deluding assumption that we are achieving objective access to absolute truths about the fundamental nature of the universe itself. 

The new models we make in physics are indeed more interesting in relation to the classical model and perhaps more efficacious in relation to our aspirations of control and certainty over a wider range of physical processes, but we cannot claim access to objectivity until we are able to understand the modeling process itself: the inherently subjective, creative, and interpretative nature of sentience which binds self-models to world-models -- a dynamic informing any model be it physical, social, emotional, spiritual, or psychological.  

There is no point in claiming we can explain the fundamental nature of the universe until we can explain the modeling process behind such claims, and until we can fully comprehend the cognitive context in which such claims are made – the meanings, purposes, values , aspirations, and interpretive characteristics that define our conscious condition.  Physical models do not describe the context of our conscious condition, but our conscious condition when well understood can explain our penchant for physical models, our preference for control and certainty, and the fundamental nature of our inescapable cognitive interrelationship with the world around us. 

That is the goal in consciousness studies – to illuminate the processes and purposes behind modeling a self and a world.  It does not help us to get distracted by the truth claims of physics, the false assumption of access to absolute truth about the fundamental nature of reality.  Like it or not, conscious processes are ever and always going to be the decisive element in any equation concerning reality.  And like it or not that equation is never ever going to produce absolute truths.  We are only ever going to be making models of a self and a world in direct relation to our needs, purposes, and world-modeling capabilities.  We have an opportunity and an obligation to render the world-modeling process explicit and fully available to conscious awareness so that we as a global culture can improve our world-modeling capabilities across the board, in every area of endeavor.         

CH


2011-09-27
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
I just wanted to say that I don't at all agree with the suggestion that this fundamental question is rarely discussed.  On the contrary, I think it's pretty much *all* that is ever discussed in philosophical literature since Descartes.  Nearly every book or article (except those on ethics or aesthetics) that may not seem to be about whether the world is in our head or not--say it's on the nature of number or the question of stimulus synonymy--is generally an attempt to clear up some issue thought to be preliminary to this in-or-out-of-head business or to get at that matter through a side door.  
Are there universals?  Are persons bundles of experiences?  Are there natural kinds?  All are doing their little part in trying to answer this "ignored" question.
W


2011-10-06
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?

Dear Jonathan,

Thank you for weighing in. 

The fact that, as you say, neuroscientists tend to dismiss or maybe just ignore the representationalist paradox is exactly the problem. Conscious experience is what makes the brain interesting in the first place. If we figure out everything about how the brain works, except for how it generates conscious experience, neuroscience would be a complete waste of time.

If the brain currently seems to offer no clue as to where to find the mind, we can approach the problem from the other end, examine the mind itself directly, "from the inside" to see what kind of information it contains, and that in turn surely must set constraints on the information content expressed in the brain.

And what I see when I examine my experience is a spatial world full of volumetric objects bounded by colored surfaces, embedded in a spatial void. That experience has the information content equal to a theater set, or museum diorama of a scene. Whichever way that information is encoded, that information must exist in some form in the brain. Is that of no relevance to neuroscience?

I see colored surfaces as a spatial continuum, every point of which presents a distinct experience of color at that point, to a certain resolution. If experience is analogical in nature, composed of continuous volumes with continuous surfaces, is that not evidence for an analogical principle of representation in the brain? Why would neuroscience not be interested?

If perception is emergent, as seen in the famous Dalmation dog picture, does that not suggest an emergent principle of computation in the brain? Wave processes are naturally emergent. Is emergence in perception not direct evidence for a wave-like theory of neural communication?


There is a great deal that can be learned about the brain based on the observable properties of conscious experience. We are in such a privileged position, here inside a living conscious brain, to see the inner workings of the mind. Is this really of no interest to neuroscience? Where do they think this picture comes from? Thats what I'd like to know!


As for representationalism requiring a relation between some 'sense data' and the subject, that little dualism only appears in the naive realist's world, where he sees the world out there being experienced by him in here. The representationalist understands that the world "out there" is not really out there, because everything in his experience, all the way to the dome of the sky, is all part of his own self, and is all inside his head. The head we have come to know as our own, is not our real head, but merely a miniature replica of our head, inside a miniature replica of the world, all of which is contained within our real head in the real world. It is not the subject in here perceiving the experience out there, but the spatial experience being somehow aware of its own spatial structure.

There remains a residual profound mystery. Representationalism does require that patterns of activation in your brain be somehow aware of their own spatial configuration. But is that any more incredible than the fact that we have consciousness at all? Or that the universe exists, instead of nothing? All of the competing paradigms also have to explain this most profound mystery of the universe, which is how parts of it become conscious. But the representationalist paradigm at least provides a physical storage location (the brain) to store the information content of experience.  We have to begin with what we know for certain, and I know for certain that my experience exists, and I know that it is spatially structured. And I would be a lot more interested in neuroscience if they persuaded me that they were interested in the question of how the brain creates the spatial structures of my experience. That would be interesting neuroscience! That would be worth investigating!

If I espouse representationalism, you ask, do I have a suggestion for the process in the brain that corresponds to conscious experience? I do indeed, it just so happens.  And it is analogical, spatially extended, with parallel analog field-like computations taking place across a spatial medium. The very kind of process one might expect of the brain, given the observed properties of the mind. If, that is, one were to give any credence to the evidence of one's own direct experience.

The Constructive Aspect of Visual Perception






2011-10-06
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Hi Gilbert Albans,

I agree entirely with your final quote from Donald Hoffman "that our visual systems are not simply passive recorders of objective reality, but instead are active constructors of the visual realities we perceive." However your skeptical conclusions about the possible existence of an objective external world go farther than is warranted by the facts.

While it is true that logic can never prove the existence of an objective reality, solipsism is always a possibility, there is in fact very good reason to believe in an objective external world. In fact, the entire enterprise of science is founded on the assumption that such a world exists, because the study of that objective external world is exactly the objective of science.

Now this is admittedly a PRE-sumption of science, an initial axiomatic assumption that can never itself be proven. But the fact that we can never disprove solipsism is more an indictment of our system of logic than of the external world. Because the circumstantial evidence for the existence of the world is so overwhelming that only a madman could possibly deny it. Those who require absolute proof will be forever disappointed. But those who are satisfied with as great a certainty as anything else that we know, will just get on with their lives as if they lived in a world that actually exists. 

Even though, as you say, the external world may be (and almost certainly is) completely different than the world we see in experience, nevertheless, every time we successfully navigate in the world without bumping into walls or falling down stairs, we re-confirm the fidelity of the world of experience, that it is a reliable model of the basic structure of the world sufficient for practical interaction with it. While our experience of solid volumes bounded by colored surfaces, embedded in a spatial void, may be  completely different than the real objective external reality, nevertheless, this perceptual/experiential model of the world is the very best approximation of external reality available, and it is evidently sufficient for practical interaction with the world, and thus, until it is superseded by a better model, this one works for us and I believe in it. 

And science is constantly improving on our perceptual model of the world, adding to it atoms and molecules and radiation that we cannot see, but which we can imagine in our mind almost as if we could see them. And those imagined entities account for experimental results that would otherwise be baffling. The fact that these models have, over the centuries, provided ever better and more precise predictions of experimental outcomes, is itself a pretty good sign (though not absolute proof) that there is an objective reality out there that we are modeling. 

Physicists (along with everybody else) are constantly stepping outside the scheme of experimental arrangements, to envision such independent realities as their home and wife and kids, whom they can confidently assume to continue to exist even when they are not experienced. Far from "getting down the drain into a blind alley", these assumptions are what make us get up in the morning confident in the continuing existence of our job, and a paycheck at the end of the month. We feed and clothe ourselves because we believe that we exist and need nourishment. We care for our wives and families because we believe them to have real existence. It is those who doubt these basic realities who slip down the drain to the blind alley.

The absolute certainty of Boolean logic is an illusion. There is only one thing that is absolutely certain, and that is our experience of the world, and that it is spatially structured (if we see it so). Beyond that there is no absolute certainty about anything. Evolution has provided us with a perceptual system that operates by building models of external reality. We see for ourselves that those models are often illusory, and our experience of dreams and hallucinations cast the entire edifice of experience in doubt. But if you think of the alternative, that all that exists is MY mind imagining this world into existence, and that my mind seems to have come into existence with the sole purpose of deceiving itself most convincingly of the existence of a world that supposedly does not exist? That my own mind, by itself, is capable of imagining the whole thing into existence? If thats the alternative, I'll take the existence of the real world instead, thank you. Let us extend and expand on the enterprise of perception, extending it with science, by proposing ever better models of external reality because it is by those models that we understand the world. This is a trick that science has learned from perception. And it works remarkably well, as if there really were an objective world.

In the words of Fichte, "The person who doubts there is an external world does not need proof: he needs a cure."

I have a little web page on the subject:

Solipsism: The improbable hypothesis.





2011-10-06
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Hi Christopher Holvenstot,

Your long answer was very eloquent and well stated, I agreed with everything you said. I guess we can count you among the Representationalists.

I also found your on-line review of Hawking&Mlodinow's The Grand Design, that suggests that they are on board too. I am encouraged to see that this idea seems to be in ascendence. 

In your discussion of the wider significance of the book, you argue that the necessity of "mental models we all create in order to interpret and understand the everyday world" ... "allows us to begin formulating legitimate models of consciousness without the compulsory reduction to physical causation ... We can now focus on explanations of consciousness that rely on its own unique properties"

All of that sounds really good in the abstract. But do you know anyone who is actually doing this kind of modeling?

Almost a decade ago now I wrote this Gestalt Isomorphism paper that proposes a perceptual modeling approach, that is, to model the information content apparent in the subjective experience of vision, rather than the  the physical mechanism in the brain. I modeled visual perception as a transformation from a two-dimensional stimulus (in the monocular case) to a full three-dimensional spatial experience, and I proposed a computational algorithm that could perform this kind of transformation. 

It took four and a half YEARS of the most acrimonious wrangling with SIX (6) different reviewers, and with the editor, who also weighed in, just to get that paper published! (It barely made it!) The objections were passionate and paradigmatic, challenging the very validity of modeling experience directly. They argued that this is so obviously invalid, that the paper should not be released to the public. Here were some of their objections:

"This model explains the epistemology, but not the ontology of conscious experience. ... It is not appropriate to describe the objects of experience as the 'product' or 'output' of consciousness." ... "If Lehar subscribes to a 'picture-in-the-head' approach to visual perception he must do more to defend it against the numerous objections it faces. ..."The author must show how other theories cannot satisfy the phenomenological constraints mentioned." "There is dubious scholarship and a series of non-sequiturs on philosophical issues. ... It is begging the question to assume that conscious experience corresponds to electrochemical activity, rather than merely correlating with it. ... Searle is not being naive, but merely pointing out the obvious, that we see the paper itself, not just a percept of the paper. ... Conscious experience need not be either in the head, nor out in the world. It can be in neither place but still exist. ... Causes and correlates need to be distinguished from identities. ... How can the objects of consciousness also be the product of consciousness? ... Lehar creates a misleading account of alternative positions in order to bolster his contention that his own position is the only tenable one."

In the end, one reviewer (Professor Richard Held from MIT) single-handedly pushed the paper through to publication, arguing that the perceptual modeling approach is at least as valid as the alternatives. After all, all I was proposing was a perceptual model, a model of the geometry of visual experience as it is experienced, independent of how that experience might be represented in the brain.

When the paper was finally accepted for peer review commentary (in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences journal) the fireworks started anew. 

Booth: "There are well known conceptual reasons why no such purely introspective approach can be productive."  
 
Dresp: "As a scientific approach to the problem of consciousness, the Gestalt Bubble fails for several reasons." 
 
Duch: "The Bubble Gestalt perceptual modeling disconnected from neuroscience has no explanatory power."  

Fox: "Much of the argument is based on setting up theoretical straw men and ignores much known perceptual and brain science."  

Lloyd: "The 'Gestalt Bubble' model of Lehar is not supported by the evidence offered. The author invalidly concludes that spatial properties in experience entail an explicit volumetric spatial representation in the brain."

You can read the full commentaries, and my feisty rebuttals to them here.


I have written several other papers on the perceptual modeling theme, some were even published, but most were rejected for publication outright for daring to propose a different approach.


Now, nearly a decade after my Gestalt Isomorphism paper, I don't see anyone citing my work, I don't see anyone following in my footsteps, and I don't see anyone talking about visual experience as an explicit spatial structure constructed in the brain.

So although Representationalism seems to be gaining ground in the abstract, how come nobody else is modeling conscious experience explicitly as a spatial structure?





2011-10-06
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Walter Horn
I guess my critique is that nobody is talking about the 3-D PICTURE of the world that we see in experience, and how nobody in neuroscience seems to be concerned with the fact that we have found no pictures in the brain that look anything like the fully volumetric three-dimensional multi-modal unified experience that we have.


There is a great deal that can be learned about the brain just by observing the "picture" of our experience. For example consider phenomenal perspective, the fact that objects in the distance appear smaller by perspective, and yet at the same time they appear undiminished in size. Your hand shrinks to half size when you double the distance to your eye, and yet at the same time your hand appears to stay the same size, even as it shrinks! The sides of a road converge to a point on the horizon, and yet at the same time the road appears straight and parallel even as it converges! This is direct and incontrovertible evidence that our experience has a variable representational scale, it is like a scale model with large scale at the center and smaller scale in the distance.

This is not a property of the world itself, nor is it a property of the retinal image, which is just a two-dimensional projection. Phenomenal perspective is a unique and significant property of the internal image representation in your own brain, and it has the very useful property that it can encode an explicit model of an infinite space within a finite representation. Is that not deeply fascinating?

It is time for philosophers to start banging on the doors of their local neuroscientists, and demanding that someone go look to find the picture that we know is in there! Here is a case where philosophy can inform neuroscience for a change, and tell them exactly what they should be looking for in the brain!

2011-10-06
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/334808/title/The_minds_eye_revealed

2011-10-18
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar

Dear Steven,

Again, I support the sentiment:

 

‘It is time for philosophers to start banging on the doors of their local neuroscientists, and demanding that someone go look to find the picture that we know is in there! Here is a case where philosophy can inform neuroscience for a change, and tell them exactly what they should be looking for in the brain!’

 

However, I do worry about your suggestion that we ask scientists to look for a 3D picture. The ‘3Dness’ in our experience is not a feature of some (picture) thing we are beholding but a feature of the way we behold it. That is clear from all the pop-out illusions or indeed the Dalmatian. To get the 3Dness it is reasonable to assume that we would need to manoeuvre ourselves into the position of that part of the brain that accesses the signals that are beheld in a 3D way. (As to see the skull in Holbein’s Ambassadors we need to get in one specific position. http://claudia.weblog.com.pt/arquivo/2007/07/post_76.html) We would also need to be in a form that receives signals the way that bit of the brain does, which probably means that we would have to kindly ask that bit of the brain to step aside and make way for us.

 

It is not going to work is it? We cannot ask anyone to look for something that has 3Dness for a part of someone else’s brain by looking for 3Dness. What we can do is ask scientists to look for groups of signals that have a sufficient number of independent degrees of freedom relevant to their relations to each other to account for the very wide variety of experiences we can think of having and which are co-available to some part of the brain. As indicated above, a sense of 3Dness in an experience or beholding does not imply anything about the spatial arrangement of that which is beheld any more than the taste of sugar is a property of sugar on its own.

 

I must admit to having difficulty with certain aspects of your model and one that I worry about is suggested by your statement ‘Representationalism does require that patterns of activation in your brain be somehow aware of their own spatial configuration.’ I cannot think of any account of something being aware of itself that makes any sense in the causal framework that we normally couch all these ideas in. I would be happier with ‘Representationalism does require that something in your brain be somehow aware in a way that is dependent on the spatial configuration of its relation to the influences that inform it.’ Awareness is then tied to a causal path, as I think it must be.

 

So, yes, we need philosophers to bash scientists over the head – preferably in a civil fashion over a glass of reasonable quality wine – and say ‘No, you are not solving the problem your grant applications say you are going to solve’, but we also need to take into account the concerns philosophers have themselves raised about representationalism construed in terms of ‘pictures’.

 


2011-10-18
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
"While it is true that logic can never prove the existence of an objective reality, solipsism is always a possibility, there is in fact very good reason to believe in an objective external world. In fact, the entire enterprise of science is founded on the assumption that such a world exists, because the study of that objective external world is exactly the objective of science."

Solipsism isn't the other option, as I already pointed. There's always some form of idealism, or panpsychism, and other possible things. And no, science isn't founded on the assumption that such a world exists. The first two quotes I gave came from a physicists. Science's main assumption, as a side note, is that our experiences are predictable, and that says nothing about some external world. Science isn't about the study of the external world, it is about checking testing it's models, and seeing if those predictions match observations. Observations don't entail any external world. They just entail some sort of perception. Starts with perception and ends with perception, and the rest is mental gymnastics, logical in it's coherence, but still mental gymnastics.

"Because the circumstantial evidence for the existence of the world is so overwhelming that only a madman could possibly deny it. Those who require absolute proof will be forever disappointed. But those who are satisfied with as great a certainty as anything else that we know, will just get on with their lives as if they lived in a world that actually exists."

I don't think that helps you, at all. That circumstantial evidence supports those other stances that I brought up, and shows no favoritism to one or the other. And I think the greatest tell is that you've used the word "as if", which is a sign of someone talking about something that isn't the case, or just an empty term. "He acted as if he saw a ghost", which is just saying, "he didn't see a ghost". Hans Vaihinger pointed this out, and it's a very powerful tool that many overlook in their mental mechanics.

"And science is constantly improving on our perceptual model of the world, adding to it atoms and molecules and radiation that we cannot see, but which we can imagine in our mind almost as if we could see them. And those imagined entities account for experimental results that would otherwise be baffling. The fact that these models have, over the centuries, provided ever better and more precise predictions of experimental outcomes, is itself a pretty good sign (though not absolute proof) that there is an objective reality out there that we are modeling."

Did you notice how you've used that word "as if" again? You've brought up atoms, molecules, and radiation, which were also things that Hans Vaihinger brought up for fictionalism of "as if". And like the physicists I've read, they only know something by a reading on measurement device, which is what they can see. In point of fact, you're taking mathematics for reality, and it's being applied to reality. Don't mistake the menu for the food, or the map for the territory. And it's no surprise that we have models that make correct predictions, because we get rid of the ones that don't work. That's not surprising, and that's just part of the scientific method and enterprise. Not to mention that science is hypothetical, and the predictions are the consequent of the hypothetical predictions (like A-->B). We always check B, but finding B doesn't give us any warrant to think A is true, or even probably true. For it could be ~A, and there's a logical infinity of models we could create that are ~A and would all have the same exact predictions. They contradict each other over the *cause* of what we observe. So we can't think that we've caught on to how the world is because the models made correct predictions. That's one problem, and here's another that philosopher of science John Worrall brought up, "Every false theory, of course, has infinitely many false consequences (as well as infinitely many true ones) and there are things that my "nearly true" theory gets totally wrong." This, in itself, shows that we can't even say that we very nearly approximate some external world.

"Even though, as you say, the external world may be (and almost certainly is) completely different than the world we see in experience, nevertheless, every time we successfully navigate in the world without bumping into walls or falling down stairs, we re-confirm the fidelity of the world of experience, that it is a reliable model of the basic structure of the world sufficient for practical interaction with it. While our experience of solid volumes bounded by colored surfaces, embedded in a spatial void, may be  completely different than the real objective external reality, nevertheless, this perceptual/experiential model of the world is the very best approximation of external reality available, and it is evidently sufficient for practical interaction with the world, and thus, until it is superseded by a better model, this one works for us and I believe in it."

The world we see and experience is the world of our senses, and we don't need to think of any external world, at all. We only know and experience our sensations. That's what's presented to us, and that's the world of the tables and chairs that you navigate and interact, not some external world. You don't bump into a table because you see the table and act in accordance with what you see, and you don't see some external table, if there is such a thing. Not to mention, the very persons quote you liked of Donald Hoffman, he wrote a paper in the peer-reviewed paper of Journal of Theoretical Biology. In this paper he goes on to show through evolutionary game theory, that those species that think that their (i) perception faithfully resembles a part of reality,but not all of reality, will have a harder time surviving. He goes on to show that (ii) perception need not,and in general does not,resemble any aspect of reality, have a better chance of survival.  And through evolutionary game theory, it's found that (ii) has a better chance of survival than (i). So this approximation stuff isn't found through experience, and it isn't found through the mathematical formulation of evolutionary game theory. What's left? Not logic, not mathematics, not experience. This leaves us with one thing, faith in the unseen.

And you might question some of the things I've said here about science. I'll let some scientist do the rest of the speaking for me. They're all physicists.

"The most common misunderstanding about science is that scientists seek and find truth. They don't - they make and test models,". Neil Gershenfeld, Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Centre for Bits and Atoms

“Science is not about truth. Science is a system of inquiry that seeks to build falsifiable models of the world.” David Helfand chair of Columbia’s Department of Astronomy and creator of Frontiers of Science

"Science never aims to reveal the ultimate reality. Science only tries to make models of reality that have predictive power." Benjamin Crowell

"physical concepts are free creations of the human mind." Albert Einstein

"Are theories 'out there'? I don't think so. Theories are inventions." Heinz Pagels

"In physics, all ‘experience’ consists in ... instruments ‘pointer readings’." Neils Bohr

"Scientific theories serve to facilitate the survey of our observations and experimental findings. Every scientist knows how difficult it is to remember a moderately extended group of facts, before at least some primitive theoretical picture about them has been shaped. It is therefore small wonder, and by no means to be blamed on the authors of original papers or of text-books, that after a reasonably coherent theory has been formed, they do not describe the bare facts they have found or wish to convey to the reader, but clothe them in the terminology of that theory or theories. This procedure, while very useful for our remembering the facts in a well-ordered pattern, tends to obliterate the distinction between the actual observations and the theory arisen from them. And since the former always are of some sensual quality, theories are easily thought to account for sensual qualities; which, of course, they never do." Erwin Schrödinger

"In our description of nature, the purpose is not to disclose the real essence of phenomena but only to track down, so far as possible, relations between the manifold aspects of our experience." Niels Bohr

“We therefore build our measuring instruments to display their results in terms of position-typically, the position of a meter pointer or of a light pattern on a screen.” Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner

"Science is a created work of art; for new ideas are not generated by deduction, but by a creative imagination." Max Planck

"The principle of science, the definition, almost, is the following: The test of all knowledge is experiment. Experiment is the sole judge of scientific "truth."" Richard Fenyman

"The observation of physical phenomena does not put us into relation with the reality hidden under the sensible appearances, but enables us to apprehend the sensible appearances themselves in a particular and concrete form. Besides, experimental laws do not have material reality for their objects, but deal with these sensible appearances, taken, it is true, in an abstract and general term." Pierre Duhem

"The electron is a theory that we use; it is so useful in understanding the way nature works that we can almost call it real I wanted to make the idea of a theory clear by analogy." Richard Fenyman

"We realize now that science has nothing to say as to the intrinsic nature of the atom. Our knowledge of the object treated in physics consists solely of a schedule of pointer readings. The schedule is we agree attached to some unknown background." Sir Arthur Eddington

“Einstein said we cannot compare our theories with the real world. We can compare predictions from our theory with observations of the world, but we “cannot even imagine…the meaning of” comparing our theories with reality.” Bruce Gregory

"One benefit of switching humanity to a correct perception of the world is the resulting joy of discovering the mental nature of the Universe. We have no idea what this mental nature implies, but — the great thing is— it is true. Beyond the acquisition of this perception, physics can no longer help..There is another benefit of seeing the world as quantum mechanical: someone who has learned to accept that nothing exists but observations is far ahead of peers who stumble through physics hoping to find out ‘what things are’." Richard Conn Henry

"When experiments were done, Bell's inequality was violated. Assumptions of (external world) and separability yielded a wrong prediction our actual world. Bell's straw man was knocked down as Bell expected it would be. Our world therefore does not have both (external world) and separability. It's in this sense, an "unreasonable" world." Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner

And I'll leave with a Wittgenstein quote: "There is a tendency to make the relation between physical objects and (perception) a contingent relation. Hence such phrases as "caused by", "beyond", "outside". But the world is not composed of (pereceptions) and physical objects. The relation between them is one in language-a necessary relation. If there were a relation of causation, you could ask whether anyone has ever seen a physical object causing a (perception)...All causal laws are learned by experience. We cannot therefore learn what is the cause of experience. If you give a scientific explanation of what happens, for instance, when you see, you are again describing an experience. It is a fallacy to ask what causes my (perceptions)."





2011-10-18
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar

Steven,

Mlodinow, when I tracked him down in person in Stockholm, denied the significance of the explicitly representationalist statements in the Grand Design, said such explorations had nothing to do with science, were irrelevant dead-ends.  So those passages of their book, which could not have been any more explicit as per the construction of mental models, were either the handiwork of Hawking, or were aspects that simply needed to be avoided as per Mlodinow’s current commercial commitment to representing a specific scientific stance in counterpoint to Deepack Chopra’s spiritual one (they were in town test-running their War of the Worldviews schtick at a conference on consciousness).  I have not been able to reach Hawking for comment through either his university or his publishers.  At any rate, in The Grand Design H&M applied the implications of mental models to physics exclusively and came up with M-theory which simply put, just allows for as many mental models of physics as one needs or wants, no matter how contradictory the models.  So, at least in their minds (ha) they get to maintain the supremacy of physics as a descriptor of reality over and above other models of reality that must sensibly be considered on an equal footing if one considers the implications of mental models that are now allowed to contradict and overlap (social models of the world, psychological models, emotional models, language/meaning models, moral/ethical models, and so on).  <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

 

Why is no one else making models of the cognitive dimension (I am currently writing an origin of cognition for this purpose) or pointing to the significance of model-making on neuroscience or vision? You answer the question yourself: the hot pokers administered to the eyes of those who attempt this vital and interesting new work. Yet, a change of thinking is inevitable; there is no logical way around it.  I encourage you to keep at it. You are not alone and you are on the right path.  When you find yourself discouraged just call to mind the church’s peer review of Galileo’s work.  (No one expects the Inquisition, but science is also a belief system with defensive adherents.) Or drop me a line.  I will cheer you on.

 

CH 


2011-10-18
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
Steven: "And I would be a lot more interested in neuroscience if they persuaded me that they were interested in the question of how the brain creates the spatial structures of my experience. That would be interesting neuroscience! That would be worth investigating!"


I'm a neuroscientist who has for a very long time been interested in the question of "how the brain creates spatial structures" that are analogous to phenomenal experience. 


See "Space, Self, and the Theater of Consciousness", here:
http://people.umass.edu/trehub/YCCOG828%20copy.pdf


and

"Evolution's Gift: Subjectivity and the Phenomenal World", here:
http://journalofcosmology.com/Consciousness130.html




 

2011-10-18
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
Great question, it's both, the world is in your head and  your head is in the world.
Equator of self-contradiction (oneness of pair), is the Absolute Logic and unity of All in all (Cosmos)
  -Aiya-Oba (Discoverer of Principle of Included Middle).

2011-10-18
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
I would like to answer this question from the perspective of a high school epistemology student, which hopefully can offer an insight though this might be a wishful thinking on my part.

Humanity tend to believe that there is external world out there, be it that we perceive it directly or that we only perceive the representations of it, in the sense that sense stimuli are processed in our brain and we obtain the picture, the representation of the reality that supposedly exist independently of our existence. This is often argued on the view that our perceptions are way too uniform most if not all the time for it to be only a conjuration of our minds, though this intuition on uniformity itself is questionable. In a way, we find it more appealing to argue that external reality exists instead of our minds establishing the reality that we seem to experience.

The main issue that I detect here is that there is no logical necessity for both models to be true; there is no principle that could necessitate external reality nor 'internal' reality created by our minds. Assuming external world exists, we cannot access it, i.e. noumenal in nature. This noumenal nature of external reality already implies that there are infinitely many ways in which we can think of the reality-in-itself (reality's ding-an-sich) in which we would still have no contradiction in our empirical observations and experiences. Assuming the world is created by our minds, i.e. the world in our head, there is no contradiction either; there is nothing that forbids uniformity of sensory inputs and outputs even if all minds conjure their own realities. The coincidence of having identical representations among each person cannot be used for an argument against "the world in our head", for coincidence itself is not logical but merely phenomenal (just a phenomena that requires no logic to operate(?)).

Once we allow this demarcation to dissolve, we end up in a situation where we cannot decide whether external world exists or not. Physics can only deal with observations of the world and not the world in itself; regardless of how this reality-in-itself actually manifests itself, Physics will not change for the noumena is not within the domain of physical study of the world. In a way, it is the method of inquiry that forbids us to make sense of the 'external reality', or rather, there exists no method of inquiry in which this matter can be inquired. Asking about noumenal world would be meaningless, and forcing an answer out of it would allow all sorts of probable interpretations and solutions to be devised and still make sense to us humans.

Why can't we solve BIV problem? It is because the context we are in, i.e. we are the brain in vat, robs us the method of inquiry in which we could know that we are brain in vat. How this robbery occurs is very simple; one just have to put the subject into a non-third party perspective, i.e. we are not one who observes the brain, and we will then have no way of knowing we are brain in vat. Infinite regression seems logical to us and asking for its resolution seems absurd; but precisely that because it is within the realm of logic and we cannot avoid logic that it does make sense; logic is the tool of inquiry that tells us about the unsolvability of infinite regression and existence of external reality and BIV problem. I would not be so bold as to claim that in principle there exists a way to solve them if we can extricate ourselves from our logic that bindsus in this plight, but this claim itself is based on logic and thus its conclusions must be logical by nature.

Hence, I think that it is precisely the fact that we are in the non-third party perspective of the world that we cannnot access the 'external world', and this in turn results in arbitrary possibilities of conceiving what it is. It works like mathematical axiomatic systems; the axiom is "there is external world independent of our experience", then we begin building knowledge systems which conforms to this axiom, and Physics works precisely by taking this axiom as a necessity - that if this 'axiom of external existence' is true, physics will make sense. For the independence of the external world from us would suggest that objectivity is plausible concept and uniformity of nature can be understood without invoking coincidence, which in turn implies that this axiom suggests to us that what we termed as Logic makes perfect sense and comes naturally to us as the necessary tool to study the world around us.

2011-11-11
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
You seem to have missed out Dennett's Dualism in which the view is on the bridge of the nose or at the optical centre of a mobile camera if that could be attached to the brain. 

2011-11-11
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Jonathan Edwards:
http://sharp.bu.edu/~slehar/webstuff/bubblemodel/diorama.html


>>>
However, I do worry about your suggestion that we ask scientists to look for a 3D picture. The "3Dness" in our experience is not a feature of some (picture) thing we are beholding but a feature of the way we behold it. That is clear from all the pop-out illusions or indeed the Dalmatian. To get the 3Dness it is reasonable to assume that we would need to manoeuvre ourselves into the position of that part of the brain that accesses the signals that are beheld in a 3D way.
<<<

Yes, all points well taken. However my point is that in the end, when it all comes together, it does so in a 3-D spatial way, at least in terms of the information content of visual experience, and the pathological condition of visual agnosia demonstrates the total dysfunction of a visual experience that fails to integrate as a coherent spatial "picture". This shows that the brain is first and foremost an extraordinary image-generation machine that operates much like a ray-tracing algorithm that "paints" the 3-D moving colored picture that is our experience. This fact alone sets constraints on the possible mechanisms in the brain, for example, excluding "grandmother cell" type theories where the activation of a single neuron corresponds to a whole scene.

But you speak as if nothing can be inferred about the representational principles of the brain from the observed properties of experience. How can that possibly be so? I can tell much about the representational principle of television just by observation of the images on its screen. I can see that it has finite bounds at the edges of the screen, a finite resolution with a grid of pixels, each of which is composed of three colors, and its motion is expressed as a series of static frames, as revealed by the fact that it cannot depict motion faster than its frame rate. All of these are also true of visual experience: It has a finite spatial resolution, it has finite boundaries of the "screen" of experience that extends only to the dome of the sky. Nothing larger than that can be experienced except as a 2-D projection on the dome. Rotating propellors appear as invisible disks if they spin faster than our own frame rate. Whatever way that image might be represented in the brain, the information content of that experience is clearly a spatial image, even if we'd need to maneuver ourselves into the right part of our brain to "see" the picture.

But we are philosophers! The object of our study is the mind, not the brain. We are already maneuvered into that part of our brain to see the picture of our experience, so long as we don't confuse the map for the territory. And the world of our experience is clearly analogical in nature, it looks to us like this diorama, composed of solid volumes, bounded by colored surfaces, embedded in a spatial void. This strongly implicates an analogical principle of representation in the brain, a fact that should be of great interest to neuroscientists! Our observation of the "picture" from the "inside" is every bit as valid and certain an observation as anything neuroscientists measure from the "outside". Until these two modes of investigation meet in the middle, neuroscience is clearly tunneling in the wrong direction! They should look up from their digging and observe the direction of their objective, they are looking for a picture in there, and their work is not done until they find it.

>>>>
I worry about is suggested by your statement "Representationalism does require that patterns of activation in your brain be somehow aware of their own spatial configuration." I cannot think of any account of something being aware of itself that makes any sense in the causal framework that we normally couch all these ideas in.
<<<<

The point I was making was that whether in experience, or even in dreams and hallucinations, you don't view your experience, for example, of the dome of the sky, from inside your head, as it appears naively, but rather, the dome of the sky and everything within its compass are images in your head that are part of your experience. Your awareness takes the form of 3-D structured experiences, there is no need for a "homunculus viewer" of those experiences, any more than you need a "homunculus listener" to hear your own verbal thoughts. Verbal thoughts just pop into your head as part of your experience, and so do visual images, whether veridical or hallucinatory.

I suspect that it may be lack of clarity on this point that makes you (and others?) hesitate to identify the images of your experience as the 3-D images that they are. They are not ghostly apparitions devoid of material substance, as suggested by naive realism, they are actual physical patterns of activation within your own brain viewed from the "inside", and their prominent spatial structuring clearly implicates an analogical spatial imaging mechanism in the brain, whether neuroscience admits it or not.


2011-11-11
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
All forms of Idealism (or panpsychism or "other possible things") are plagued by the stark contrast between perceptual experience and hallucination. Dreams and hallucinations are characterized by bizarre, absurd, and inconsistent sequences of events, *as if* (yes, "as if", meaning, "providing evidence consistent with…", "as if it were actually the case that…") the mind were hallucinating images and events randomly from memory, unconstrained by an external reality. Perceptual experience by stark contrast, presents to us a world that is more stable and self-consistent than anything that can come from our own limited memory and imagination. I can hardly remember my own house in precise detail, and yet whenever I go back to it, it seems to have "remembered itself" in far greater fidelity and detail than anything of which my own paltry memory is capable. Perceptual experience operates *as if* (i.e. "consistent with", "providing evidentiary confirmation of…", "as if it were actually the case that…") there were a real world that underlies experience, a world that exists independent of experience, a world that informs experience whenever we are present to view that part of the world. I use the term "as if" in respect to the fact that there remains the tiniest most improbable possibility that an objective world does not exist, and that all that exists is my own mind and experience. But that would require that my own mind is capable of remembering the details of my own house far beyond my own limited capacities, and yet it uses this superhuman mnemonic talent to fabricate a world that does not exist, in the most stunning and elaborate detail, complete with all its molecules and atoms, planets and people, each with their own independent minds, and yet my mind must be actively deceiving itself into believing that my memory is far more limited than it actually is, "fooling myself" into believing in an external world which does not exist. This requires that "my mind", presumably the only thing in existence, came into existence for the sole purpose of deceiving itself into believing in the existence of an external world that actually does not exist.

The idealism of Kant is different from solipsism in that he believed that the objective external world was the Mind of God, and that Mind does have objective external existence independent of our own individual minds. Science, by this view, would be models of God's mind, an "objective reality" outside of experience. However that requires that we believe that intelligence predated the universe, and that intelligence created the universe, even though all the scientific evidence seems to point to a non-intelligent purely physical origin to the universe, and that intelligence evolved from animal life on planets in a universe that must have already existed.

I acknowledge that the modern trend in science is to consider models of reality as merely models, not as reality itself. However nobody would bother to propose any models if they did not believe there was a reality out there to be modeled in the first place. Ultimately, a physical model of the force of gravity, for example, is not a model of observations or experiences of falling objects, it is a model of a force field which is believed to have actual existence, even if that model is later supplanted by one that models gravity as a warp in space-time. If gravity did not exist in some form in the first place, there would be no point in modeling it. In the end, even the solipsistic professor of philosophy drives home to his home and family confident in their continuing existence *as if* they were objectively real.

But this entire idealist issue is a total diversion from the issue that I raised originally, which is that our mind and experience take the form of explicit spatial structures, and that therefore our models of our experience must also take the form of explicit spatial structures, even if our experience does not have objective existence, but appears only to ME in my own solitary solipsistic universe, its STILL a spatial structure!




2011-11-11
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Erickson Tjoa
Reply to Erikson Tjoa and Gilbert Albans:
Tjoa >>>>
It works like mathematical axiomatic systems; the axiom is "there is external world independent of our experience", then we begin building knowledge systems which conforms to this axiom, and Physics works precisely by taking this axiom as a necessity - that if this 'axiom of external existence' is true, physics will make sense. [the ] uniformity [or lawfulness] of nature can be understood without invoking coincidence, which in turn implies that this axiom suggests to us that what we termed as Logic makes perfect sense and comes naturally to us as the necessary tool to study the world around us.

<<<< Tjoa


Exactly so!

It is curious that merely raising the issue of "the World In Your Head" causes some, like Gilbert Albans, to react by casting doubt on the reality of something we know with such certainty to be true. The *only* thing that we can know with absolute certainty is that we have experience, and that our experience takes the form that we experience it to have. As to whether that experience is a baseless hallucination, Albans is right, there will always remain a tiny possibility of doubt, that the whole thing is unreal, and his methodological purity demands that he acknowledge that as a "real" possibility, even if its probability of truth is something close to 0.00000000001 or less. What he is saying is that strict rules of logic prevail over common sense reality. I know for a fact that the external world has objective independent existence, because if it didn't, I wouldn't bother writing this if I didn't believe you were there to read it! Gilbert Albans demonstrates the absurdity of strict adherence to Boolean logic, which is futile because EVERYTHING is in some tiny doubt, there is nothing we can DO with the possible non-existence of the external world, even if we considered it a real possibility.

I say, instead of arguing about the possible non-existence of that which everybody *knows* exists, lets work on the problem of *HOW* it is that the brain informs us of (or "fools us into a belief in") the nature of the external world, that is, by examining the properties of the world of experience which is the tool or medium by which our brain informs us of the external world.

Once we acknowledge the distinction between the external world, and our internal experiential effigy of it, then we can begin to make quantitative observations of the nature of that internal representation, that it is spatially extended in three dimensions and time, that it expresses an infinite space within a finite representation by using a warped reference scale, and that it is analogical in nature, composed of solid volumes, bounded by colored surfaces, embedded in a spatial void.

Why am I the only one to be modeling the space of experience as an explicit spatial structure? Why is there no interest in this kind of modeling? Is this not a very useful next step to set the pre-requisites for a neurophysiological understanding of how information is expressed in brains? How our brain PAINTS THE PICTURE of reality that is our experience?

The extraordinary dogmatic resistance in neuroscience to the notion of explicit pictures projected in the brain, makes it difficult to get follow-on articles published, articles that examine the operational principles behind the projection mechanism in the brain, as I have proposed below:

The Constructive Aspect of Visual Perception

Harmonic Resonance in the Brain

Harmonic Resonance Theory

Those are some really interesting proposals for the kind of projection mechanism in the brain that might account for the explicit spatially extended structures in our experience. But I can't get those papers published because nobody sees the need for a whole new principle of neuroscience, all because nobody seems to notice that OUR EXPERIENCE APPEARS IN THE FORM OF SPATIAL PICTURES, and that therefore OUR BRAIN IS A FANTASTIC IMAGE PROJECTION MECHANISM! 

When will neuroscience wake up to this pictorial reality and begin an earnest investigation of its basis in the brain? This is a classic case of failure to see the forest for the trees. The paradigm shift to beat all paradigm shifts, that turns the world of knowledge inside-out placing the interal as external, and the external as internal. That is a BIG scientific revolution that is just BURSTING to occur, just as soon as people realize the central significance of this issue!











2011-11-11
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
>>>>
Why is no one else making models of the cognitive dimension ... or pointing to the significance of model-making on neuroscience or vision? You answer the question yourself: the hot pokers administered to the eyes of those who attempt this vital and interesting new work. 
<<<<


Yes! Exactly my point!


>>>>
Yet, a change of thinking is inevitable; there is no logical way around it.  I encourage you to keep at it. You are not alone and you are on the right path.  

<<<<


It warms my heart to hear that I am not alone! Thanks for your support!


Some of my friends insist that "everybody already knows" (that the world of experience is a spatial structure constructed in our brains) and yet I run into such resistance when I try to publish this stuff that it doesn't seem that way to me. That is why I started this thread, to see whether or not "everybody already knows", or whether they are all still naive realists out there.






2011-11-11
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
Wow -- has it already been THREE WEEKS since I posted those replies?
Hard to keep up the momentum of a discussion when there is a whole MONTH between replies!

Kind of takes the fun out of it. Is this typical of PhilPapers? Or are my postings being censored for not being of "professional quality"? 

Who knows?


2011-11-14
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
The world might be in our heads. It depends upon its conceptualization. If you treat the world as composed of facts, situations, states of affairs and other propositional entities, surely the world exists in our heads. On the other hand, if the world is composed of individual, non-propositional eentities, (Tarski's truth-makers), it would be difficult to defend your standpoint. At any rate, on the grounds of propositional comprehension of the world we should adopt some version of the epistemological idealism.

Hence, cognitive representations are encoded in the brain as facts. The main issue concerns ways of formatting them. Of course, we may adopt the concept of the deepr bottom consisted of individuals ( Wittgenstein's objects or Kant's things in themselves). But this is not so interesting.
Wojciech Krysztofiak

2011-11-19
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar

Dear Steven,

Firstly, let’s agree that this is where the real issues are in philosophy of mind – how you get a 3D-looking view and such like. Neuroscientists in general do not appear to see the problem. Philosophers see a problem but are hamstrung because they do not think in terms of causal dynamic models with predictive power; there does not seem to be much point in arguing for and against physicalism if the basic axioms of physics are not recognised.

 

One of those axioms, equally for Newton and Pauli, is that dynamics and experiences are incommensurable complementaries. The key issue, that I sense is still not taken on board by both your approach and that of JWKMM, is that experience has no metric in the sense that dynamics does. The dynamics underlying an experience do but the experience itself does not.

 

So, let me take your points in order in that context. You say that experience has 3D informational content. But a computer can handle 3D informational content using a set of connections that have no constraints on their 3D relations. As long as there is a clocked feed to gates nothing else matters. The brain works on a one dimensional computational system in which the position of a signal along a tubular extension of a neuron is the only thing that mattes to its computational import. There is no reason to think that the brain creates ‘images’ in any other way. What would be the point – it would certainly have no ‘informational content’.

 

All that matters from the informational point of view is the number of degrees of freedom and the number of discrimnable values of each. A single neuron has up to 40,000 degrees of freedom of input, which is probably enough even if there are only two discriminable values for each. What it seems like is irrelevant to this, as a computer shows.

 

I do not claim that nothing can be inferred about the representational principles of the brain from the observed properties of experience – I have just inferred some things above. But the analogy with a TV screen is entirely false, as I indicate in my book (a pity so few people seem to have looked at it, but never mind). You cannot see the parameters of experience in the way that you can for a TV screen. You cannot see the edges of your vision because to see those edges would be to see beyond your vision and indeed to see beyond those edges and on ad infinitum. Similarly, you cannot see how many pixels there are in experience because that would mean seeing the lines between the pixels and the pixels that made up those lines and the lines between those and to infinity again. The crucial point is that experience has no metric – it cannot be measured in this way because to measure would require experiencing beyond the experience to infinity. When I see five roses of the same red I only need one signal to encode the red. There is no rule that says that you need to repeat the signal for lots of non-existent pixels. A computer programme can manage easily without (you just 'select all' and 'paste colour'. The file just saves this command; only the screen gets updated in pixels but this is not used for further computations.) We need a jolly good number of degrees of freedom, yes, but there is no need for these to be laid out in a spatial metric analogous to that of the referent. The dome of the sky is an interesting feature, but there is no reason why it should not correspond to certain parameters of computations on signals along tubular neuronal extensions.

 

The world of experience is not analogical to the dynamics that cause it. The dynamics that underlie the world of experience are not going to be analogical to the dynamics being ‘represented’ because they are dynamics of ‘thinking about a thing’ not the dynamics of 'a thing’. They must be totally different in informational/computational structure. The intuitive idea that we create analogies of things is absurd, and in the seventeenth century this was widely understood. How low has philosophy sunk since!

 

You decry a homunculus, yet you talk of a view from within - so what is viewing? What has the view? I fear that your model is the true homunculus fallacy because you want the mind to create an analogy of just the sort that Dennett said would make the homunculus a bogeyman – repeating entirely the talents the homunculus has been rung in to explain. Like Descartes, I go for a viewer that does not need a ‘3D image’ to view, but rather just enough data with enough degrees of freedom to experience according to rules that have no dynamic description because they are immediate in the sense of being unmediated. At some point we have to get beyond reduction and have the unmediated immediate interaction – nothing else makes sense in science or anywhere, so Descartes’s proposal is in no way a cop out.

 

I am absolutely clear on this point Steve!! I have no hesitations, just rejections of self-contradictory proposals!

 

Best wishes

 

Jo


2011-11-19
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar

(SL):
I acknowledge that the modern trend in science is to consider models of reality as merely models, not as reality itself. However nobody would bother to propose any models if they did not believe there was a reality out there to be modeled in the first place. Ultimately, a physical model of the force of gravity, for example, is not a model of observations or experiences of falling objects, it is a model of a force field which is believed to have actual existence, even if that model is later supplanted by one that models gravity as a warp in space-time. If gravity did not exist in some form in the first place, there would be no point in modeling it. In the end, even the solipsistic professor of philosophy drives home to his home and family confident in their continuing existence *as if* they were objectively real.

But this entire idealist issue is a total diversion from the issue that I raised originally, which is that our mind and experience take the form of explicit spatial structures, and that therefore our models of our experience must also take the form of explicit spatial structures, even if our experience does not have objective existence, but appears only to ME in my own solitary solipsistic universe, its STILL a spatial structure!

(CH):
Although we do not as yet (as a culture or as a species) render our model-making processes and purposes explicit, it would be more honest to say that we do not model for reality, we model to get specific kinds of things done.  The models we make of gravity are an exact reflection of what we hope to do with it or about it: our models are for incorporating or overcoming its force (but keep in mind that even the notion of a force, of cause and effect, of a linear temporal order, etc. are also defined in relation to or as a reflection of our own needs and purposes).  It would be more honest to say that all of our models (whether physical or teleological) are pragmatisms rather than truths. Bernard O. Williams claimed something to the effect that when we make up a story about events, and the story provides a satisfying and useful explanation, we are obliged to invest in all the elements of the story as if they were absolutely true. Whatever notion of reality we are entertaining, it is always going to be that kind of story, with projections and investments made for specific purposes.

And as I began to parenthetically point out above, the temporal order, causation, a differentiation between self and world, the survival imperative, and many other conceptual orientational parameters in addition to the spatial structures you mention combine to produce the standard reality model for living systems.  Were this model not in our heads we would not be living systems.  But this does not mean that any of these orientational parameters represent an absolute truth.  Yes.  Shocking.  Appalling.  Yet that is not the end of the game!  By exploring the way we model the world, and by rendering our purposes more explicit, we can eventual correct for the kinds of distortions we would by our nature prefer. It is a matter of knowing ourselves better in order to understand the world in a new, more objective, and much more interesting way.

The field of consciousness studies is positioned to deliver that analysis and that particular kind of self understanding and world understanding. However, rather than admitting to the contingency and artifice of all versions of reality so that we can get to the task of mapping world-modeling and meaning-making in more generalized terms, it is a field mired in infantile arguments about whose reality version is the really real one.  Instead of letting go of the absolute truth investment inherent to all satisfying and useful world-models, everyone is digging in their heels to assert and defend their own unique personal or professional version. And the philosphers just speculate, poll, wield their doubts, and hedge their bets on the sidelines. It is a funny thing to watch but also deeply distressing since we could be doing so much more, amassing more interesting analysis, if people would just let go of it.  I guess their fear is that if they let go, their world will implode; that somehow their beliefs are holding it all together.  That may be so to some extent but I assert that humanity survived many such implosions in the past: in our (Western world) transition from paganism to monotheism for example, and between monotheism and empiricism.  It is not easy but it has got to be done. It is best in my opinion to just rip the bandage off in one quick pull.  Otherwise it is just this interminable mulling about in limbo, moaning about the explanatory gap.

It is interesting what you mention about your friends because it is something I have noticed too about people in general who are not in the sciences or academia.  They don't give a damn about proofs, they are fully willing to accept the notion that reality is a useful delusion.  It is a part of the culture already.  As in all paradigmatic transitions, the learned lag behind, and instead of articualting new truths are only forestalling progress.


2011-12-04
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
SL: "How our brain paints the picture of reality that is our experience?"

Your putting this question perhaps brings you in position to appreciate the issue of paints, or pigments, used for painting the experience. Experiencing and painting are one and  the same action,  and the experiences, or paintings /rather than "pictures"/, are painted with the paints. Now, colors and paints are not identical. There are paints, or pigments, which are not colors (they are colorless) and yet they play the most profound part in painting the experience.

And here comes the question that shakes the Universe:

WHAT PIGMENT DEPICTS THE OUTSIDE(NESS)?

I think I have an answer, but I also think this question deserves its own thread. However, the Philpapers moderators for some reason rejected my earlier attempt to start simmilar thread and I am afraid they would do the same thing again unless the question pick up certain response within this thread. .

2011-12-04
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Dear Jonathan,

Just rejecting self-contradictory proposals? Thats funny, that is exactly what I have beed doing! Its just that evidently one man's "self-contradictory" is another man's "patently obvious".

This is interesting, we are getting to the core of the matter! We are clearly arguing from totally opposite paradigmatic assumptions. To you, it is manifestly self-evident that the world you see in your experience is the world itself, viewed directly, not some kind of image inside your brain, whereas I begin with the opposite assumption - we cannot in principle see the world directly, it can only be an image in our brain. Like debates between believers and atheists, or liberals and conservatives, we each begin with our initial assumption, which inevitably leads to a conclusion that confirms the initial assumption. This is why debates between paradigms so often are circular, as explained so clearly by Thomas Kuhn.

But I am interested in the paradigmatic choice itself: What led each of us to our initial assumption? Is it a kind of thing that can be debated and reasoned about? Or is it simply beyond debate? A belief as dogmatic as any belief in God?

For example in each of the points you made, the situation can be viewed from either perspective, direct and indirect, but your arguments only hold when viewed from the direct perception view. Can you temporarily and provisionally suspend your direct perception belief, and entertain the serious possibility that perception may be indirect? Then, from that perspective re-examine the points you have made, and then explain why it cannot be so.

You say there is no reason to think that the brain creates images. That makes perfect sense from the direct perception view. But from the indirect perspective what you see as the world *is* the image. Can you entertain that possibility just long enough to explain why it could not possibly be so? What is it about your experience of the world that convinces you that it cannot be an image in your brain? Dreams and hallucinations are also spatially structured experiences, but they cannot possibly be perceived directly, because there is nothing objectively present to be directly perceived. The very existence of dreams and hallucinations demonstrates that the brain is capable of fabricating structured images of experience. Surely it uses this same projective capacity in perception also. Perception is a guided hallucination, informed by sensory input. Why is that notion so impossible? Isn't this confirmed by visual illusions?  And what are dreams if not images in your brain?

You say that experience has no metric. Again, from the naive realist perspective this makes perfect sense, because experience is not a spatial structure, but an invisible ghostly thing, it is an act of reception, not a projective reconstruction. But entertain the possibility that the world around you *is* an image in your brain. It does have a very peculiar perspective warp that is clearly not a property of the world. And it blinks out of existence when you lose consciousness. It is very clearly spatially structured and analogical in nature. How can you be so sure this is *not* a picture in your brain?

Yes the red color of five roses can be stored in a single RGB value, but that value would be useless if you couldn't then "paint-fill" with it, hoping there is an "image" like the contours of five roses, to tell the "fill" operation where to stop. Does the brain go to the trouble of filling in the picture of experience? Or does it encode experience in some abstract non-spatial form. If you entertain the possibility that perception may be indirect, then this question can be answered by inspection: visual experience is spatially structured and its colors are clearly filled-in. You do not need to step outside of the image of experience to see it from the outside, you can see it perfectly clearly right here from the inside. In fact, that image is *all* you can ever see of reality. Perhaps that is why you find it so hard to imagine a giant reality beyond experience.

Indeed, experience is our only direct metric on anything. All scientific measures and observations must be viewed through the veil of experience. Experience is our only direct and primal metric, its metric is the measure of your own body or self. As Empedocles said, "man is the measure of all things". Your arm span in your experience, whether awake or in a dream, is the measure of the scale of the experience you are having. Your statement that experience has no metric only makes sense from the direct perception perspective. But what makes you so certain that that perspective is not mistaken?

What makes you so certain that perception cannot possibly be indirect? What is the foundation of your certainty? Is it dogmatic belief? Or can you explain to a neutral third party why the direct perception paradigm better accounts for the facts of experience when viewed from either paradigmatic perspective? Because if your arguments only hold from within direct perception, they can hardly be persuasive in the choice between the paradigms.

If alternative paradigms are to be fairly evaluated, it is necessary to temporarily and provisionally suspend one's own paradigmatic assumptions, (a feat that many find impossible to do) and accept the assumptions of the alternative paradigm as if they could actually be true. Only then can the competing paradigms be fairly compared, not on the basis of the perceived incredibility of their initial assumptions, but on the overall coherence and self-consistency of the world view that they implicate in total.




2011-12-27
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
Dear Steve,
Point 1. As I have tried to emphasise at least somewhere in these threads, direct perception is a non-starter. All biologists have to have an indirect view, otherwise the data make no sense. What I am saying is that at the level we are interested in even the indirect analysis falls apart. The Eleatics had tipped us off to this but it is very hard to swallow the implications and rebuild a workable analysis.

Point 2. The relevance of the Eleatics is that the paradigm shifts here are not Kuhnian social fashions but personal development. (A few) people have been going through the relevant shifts for 2000 years. The process may be very slow. I got rid of direct realism in my twenties, but indirect realism not until my late fifties. Leibniz can be seen shifting through the options from 1670 to 1714, finally getting everything in line when he was 68. Russell shifts to his monism in his forties and maybe then never really sorts out the loose ends. 

Point 3. I would love to be able to explain to a neutral observer why I changed my view a few years ago, but my suspicion is that these changes tend to come from within. Language is not a good tool for forcing a change. As David Wiggins put it to me, Leibniz's Monadology may be a comprehensive and workable metaphysic but he gives no reasons for any of his claims. He is only intelligible to someone who has already reached the same point and can read the words in the different way. I happen to think he is entirely lucid but many people do not.

So I am not sure I can add much more usefully. 

Best wishes

Jo

2011-12-27
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?

>>
WHAT PIGMENT DEPICTS THE OUTSIDE(NESS)?
<<


I'm not at all sure how you mean that question, but I'll take a stab at it.


Philosophically speaking we are talking about the qualia of color experience, the property that makes red red, and green green. So the philosophical answer is "the qualia of color experience is the pigment that determines what color is experienced."


But I suspect you are asking a more physiological question - what signal in the brain determines our color experience? The short answer to that one is that nobody knows, because we don't even know the first thing about how the brain actually encodes the structures of our experience, nor the colors with which they are experienced to be painted.


However phenomenological examination of color reveals that colors are related to each other in the artist's color circle: Violet is similar to indigo which is similar to blue which is similar to green, and on around the color circle ending with red, but the opposite ends of this color spectrum join back up again through purple, which is a "non-spectral hue", there is no single wavelength of light that appears purple, you have to mix some red and blue to get the experience of purple. The fact that the color circle is circular implicates a circular phase code for color in the brain.


That is why when the first NTSC color television standard was defined, color was encoded with a phasic signal, the phase of the signal represented the color, and when the phase advanced beyond 2-pi (full circle) it was back to zero again, a scheme that worked so well exactly because it is similar to the way color is encoded in our brains. So my answer is "a phasic signal is the pigment that depicts color in our experience", although that is just a guess.


But something tells me even this in not quite what you are after. So I give up: WHAT PIGMENT DEPICTS THE OUTSIDE(NESS)?



2011-12-27
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
.

2012-03-12
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
I, lowly undergrad that I am, do not think that all direct realism can necessarily be reduced to naive realism. I would be interested in what you have to say in reply to, for example, Pierre Le Morvan on the distinction and the defence of a non-naive direct realism.

2012-03-14
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Hi Paul,
I took a look at your Pierre LeMorvan link, and I see that he is an apologist for direct perception, that is, his arguments are meaningful if you share with him the initial assumption that "of course" perception is direct, and here is how you can counter arguments of those who disagree. But the arguments themselves do not make the case, they only make sense from a naive realist perspective. They cannot convince one who does not already believe.

For example on the Causal Chain argument, that visual experience comes at the end of a causal chain of events from light to the object to the eye to the brain. LeMorvan does not contest that the causal chain is involved in vision, but argues that the causal argument establishes only the causal indirectness of perception, but not a **cognitive indirectness** involving a prior awareness of something other than the external object.

This is just word salad! What could this possibly mean? How could you demonstrate in an artificial intelligence, i.e. a computer attached to a video camera, how could the computer perceive its visual world with **cognitive directness**, how would that even differ from a *cognitively indirect* perception. What does that even mean?

The theory of direct perception fails catastrophically when applied to artificial intelligence, because the theory of direct perception requires a kind of *magic* of experience, something that is physically impossible, so you will find that most direct perceptionists also deny that a visual computer could possibly have visual experience, and that is one of the fundamental flaws of the whole concept.

Likewise with LeMorvan's refutation of the time-lag argument. He acknowledges that there is a time delay in the causal chain, that means vision is necessarily indirect, but his counter-argument is that just because experience is time-lagged, that does not mean it is necessarily indirect. It is possible to have a time-lagged experience which is however direct experience, not mediated by a time-lagged representation. Does THAT make any kind of sense? Again, in the case of a robot, how could the time-lagged representation possibly be perceived directly? Its a total impossibility in a real physical system, this is another serving of word-salad, that plugs the paradoxical void without providing any real beef.

If you would ask LeMorvan "How do you know that perception is direct in the first place?" I'm sure he would have no better answer than "Its obvious! How could it possibly be otherwise?" To which a believer in indirect percepton would argue "It is obvious that vision in INdirect, how could it possibly be otherwise?" LeMorvan's arguments are useless at resolving that debate.

But the resolution to the debate can be seen in the fact that the direct perception view incorporates a number of profound paradoxes and contradictions in the explanation: Perception is indirect but perceived directly; Perception is time-lagged but perceived directly, etc. paradoxes that simply make no sense in a mechanistic understanding of the perceptual process, one that could actually be built out of hardware. Direct perception outlines vision as a deeply mysterious paradoxical entity that we should not even attempt to understand, because that is impossible in principle, so just get used to these paradoxes, they are inevitable.

And that is exactly what is wrong with direct perception -- it is an explanation that explains nothing because the paradoxes that it supposedly "explains" remain embedded in the "explanation" and thats how we can know that it is wrong!

Do you, Paul, believe in direct perception? If so, what makes you so certain that it is right, given the prepondering evidence? Is the eye not like a video camera? The retina a photosensor array? The optic nerve a signal pathway to the brain? The visual cortex a visual representation?  What makes YOU so certain that perception is direct given all that indirectness in the causal chain?

Can you entertain the *possibility* that you may be mistaken? Because if its an initial assumption, further debate is useless.






2012-03-14
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
FWIW, I discuss the Le Morvan paper (and naive realism generally) in my "Reid and Hall on Perceptual Relativity and Error"  (which is in a recent _Journal of Scottish Philosophy_ but can also be found on the net if you google long enough). 

But I think the important point here is that one can't "prove" the correctness of either direct or indirect realism (or phenomenalism either), and the idea that one can seems kind of funny to me.  Those are categorial choices, like nominalism/realism or intuitionism/emotivism.  They aren't empirical questions, and the idea that, since they aren't, they can demonstratively proved from the Philosopher's Lounge, seems very 19th Century to me. 

Never mind Wittgenstein and Carnap: it's all in Hall.

W

2012-04-07
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Walter Horn
Reply to Walter Horn:

>>>
But I think the important point here is that one can't "prove" the correctness of either direct or indirect realism (or phenomenalism either), and the idea that one can seems kind of funny to me.  Those are categorial choices, like nominalism/realism or intuitionism/emotivism.  They aren't empirical questions, and the idea that, since they aren't, they can demonstratively proved from the Philosopher's Lounge, seems very 19th Century to me. 
<<<

You make a very interesting point, Walter, and a crucially central one.

After all, there are still people who believe that God exists and answers their prayers, that life is more than just biochemistry, that consciousness is more than just brain activation, and some even still believe that the earth is flat. None of them are about to change their minds, no matter how persuasive the argument or the evidence. Thats ok, people can believe what they want to believe.

But among the cognoscenti, we have come to tacit agreements at various levels. Most of us are disabused of the theist fantasy, and the animist explanation of life popular a century ago has now been roundly rejected, and we are currently in the process of evaluating the claim that mind and consciousness are nothing other than physical processes in our physical brains. This is the great question of our times, and like the question of God and supernatural explanations, this one will also eventually be resolved, and as a scientist I am confident that a scientific explanation will be found for consciousness and sensory experience, which must surely be located in our brains. To claim otherwise is an extraordinary claim, which would thus require extraordinary evidence. To date, ALL the evidence is for a representationalist explanation: the eye is like a video camera, the retina a photosensor array, the optic nerve a data pipeline, the visual cortex a representation that is time-delayed by transmission delays. If that't not a representationalist set-up then what is?

More telling is the fact that like the animist explanation of life involving an 'élan vital', a vital essence beyond mere biochemistry, there is not a scintilla of evidence for perception being direct, or experience being located outside our heads in the world, except for the naive realist illusion that it appears so. The "experience" that according to Max Velmans, is supposedly projected out of the brain and superimposed on the world, not only fails to deflect the needle of any detector known to science, Velmans insists that the projected rays are undetectable in principle in the world where they lie, because like the supernatural soul, they exist in a separate plane of existence beyond scientific scrutiny. Not all proponents of direct perception believe in waves of experience projecting out of their heads into the world, only those like Max Velmans, who have taken their theory seriously enough to pursue its full implications to their inevitable  and absurd conclusion.

And that one feature of direct perception is what reveals it to be not a scientific explanation, but like animism, merely a placeholder theory to paste over the mystery of consciousness as if to say that we have been there, pondered it, and explained that mystery with this mysterious explanation, so no further explanation is needed, the mystery is explained with mystery. But some of us insist on scientifically plausible and verifiable explanations because we believe in science.

I am happy to leave the incorrigible naive realists in their fantasy world that they can share with the theists, animists, spiritualists, and flat-earthers. My  intent is not so much to convince them, but to convince the other cognoscenti, the lurkers on this list, some of whom have never even heard the powerful arguments that refute direct perception, because this issue has never come to the fore, and been openly discussed and finally resolved, as has the question of life in the past century. My intent is to expose the absurdity of naive realism and direct perception, so that only the wackos and weirdos will feel comfortable defending that philosophy, and we the cognoscenti can exchange knowing glances and move on to other issues once this one has been resolved to our general satisfaction. I don't seek to educate the willfully ignorant, I seek only to persuade reasonable men.

Although the advance of philosophy over the centuries is glacially slow, it does advance slowly, one issue at a time. Today the issue at hand is whether there is a reasonable scientific explanation for the nature of mind and consciousness. This issue, I contend, can be easily resolved among reasonable people if only the arguments on both sides are put on the table for comparison. The choice is clear once you understand the issues. 







2012-04-07
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
Dear Steve,

You ask if I can entertain the possibility that I may be mistaken. I wish it were a stupid question: I study philosophy, after all. Be assured that for my part the answer is yes. With that established, I will reply to the remainder of your message in order.

I'm willing to grant that the theory of direct perception runs into issues with AI. It is also my understanding that AI runs into issues with John Searle. Perhaps I am a fool to think such, but I do not think that computers can replicate human consciousness. I do not think that a security camera perceives the bank robber any more than a pane of glass perceives a bullet. I don't think that consciousness etc. is mere data processing. Has anyone ever proved me wrong?

"It is possible to have a time-lagged experience which is however direct experience, not mediated by a time-lagged representation. Does THAT make any kind of sense?"

Yes, actually. Whether right or wrong, Thomas Aquinas (for one) can make sense of it (cf. Summa Theologia I.84-85 and surrounding). I personally don't know all the fine details of how to make sense out it of without adapting an Aristotelian matter-form understanding of the world, but it can be rendered coherently.

"If you would ask LeMorvan "How do you know that perception is direct in the first place?" I'm sure he would have no better answer than "Its obvious! How could it possibly be otherwise?" To which a believer in indirect percepton would argue "It is obvious that vision in INdirect, how could it possibly be otherwise?" LeMorvan's arguments are useless at resolving that debate."

I haven't asked him, so I wouldn't know. I have only read that paper. So far as I can tell, all he ever even attempts to do in it is to answer eight arguments against direct realism. If I wanted his particular form of direct realism I would probably have to read his doctoral dissertation. I can say that there are and have been direct realists who at least attempt justifications of the claim that perception is direct, but I do not *know* whether he is one of them.

In closing, I will note that I do not know of any comprehensive and comprehensible solution to the problems outlined with direct realism that does not rely on Aristotle, but that hardly means that there isn't one. I'm still learning; I study philosophy, after all.

2012-04-07
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Walter Horn
Walter, thank you for pointing me to your paper. It was an interesting read (although I am not sure that what you wrote there of Le Morvan counts as a "discussion").

2012-04-07
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
Dear friends, apologies for bumping into your discussion without having read it all or without being invited, but the question above seems to me to be like a chicken and egg question. once again, i apologise for not having gone into the details of your papers, i just wanted to join the conversation.

best regards
Haris

2012-04-07
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
Steven, It seems to me that you want to insist that the question of whether perception is "direct" or "indirect" is empirical--something determinable by science.  And you think that science has long established indirectness. But direct realists will simply say you are missing their point.  They are quite ready to concede that that perception is CAUSALLY indirect--no perceptual experience of a tree can take place without a whole bunch of things happening to ones eyes and brain.  That's not controversial, and no direct realist denies it.  What they hold is that vision is "epistemically direct".  (Reid put it that even mentioning that a thought is directly or immediately of its object is in the nature of uttering an unnecessary expletive.) 

These arguments go on interminably precisely because the science is only marginally relevant. The directness of perception is a conceptual, or categorial matter.  We can no more consult our ophthalmologist for answers on this than we can get a physicist to determine whether there are such things as shadows.

So how OUGHT we to approach an issue like this?  We try to take a position that involves the least insult to science, common sense, and, maybe, Occam.  That is, we are careful to keep our answers in the realm of the non-empirical, we consider the "grammar of ordinary language," and we try to keep our ontologies manageable.  And, of course, we honor the principle of non-contradiction.  If someone catches us contradicting ourselves, or the way non-philosophers ordinarily think about perception, or contradict some known scientific fact, we're duty-bound to admit we've made a boo-boo and not be surprised when the arguments will move in another direction (at least for awhile).  That's about it.  Because of the nature of philosophical inquiry, there will be no demonstrations, no knock-outs.  Both the Armstrongs (who believe they've proved that vision is direct) and the Coates (who think they've demonstrated its indirectness) are simply confused about the nature of the question.

Best,

W

2012-04-22
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Paul Niesiobedzki, with a Hello to Haris Shekeris and a response to the chicken-and-egg quandary.

PN >>>>
I'm willing to grant that the theory of direct perception runs into issues with AI. It is also my understanding that AI runs into issues with John Searle. Perhaps I am a fool to think such, but I do not think that computers can replicate human consciousness. I do not think that a security camera perceives the bank robber any more than a pane of glass perceives a bullet. I don't think that consciousness etc. is mere data processing. Has anyone ever proved me wrong?
<<<< PN

That there is the central issue behind this whole debate. And it is not an issue to be "proven" in the ways of "normal science", this is a paradigmatic issue, in Thomas Kuhn's (1970) terminology, from whom I quote: 

p. 47
"The pre-paradigm period ... is regularly marked by frequent and deep debates over legitimate methods, problems, and standards of solution, though these serve rather to define schools than produce agreement. ... 
(p. 48) "Although almost non-existent during periods of normal science, they recur regularly just before and during scientific revolutions, the periods when paradigms are first under attack and then subject to change."

p. 93
"Like the choice between competing political institutions, that between competing paradigms proves to be a choice between incompatible modes of community life. Because it has that character, the choice is not and cannot be determined merely by the evaluative procedures characteristic of normal science, for those depend in part upon a particular paradigm and that paradigm is at issue. When paradigms enter, as they must, into a debate about paradigm choice, their role is necessarily circular. Each group uses its own paradigm to argue in that paradigm's defense."

(Thus Haris Shekeris's raising of the "chicken-and-egg" paradox)

p. 93
"...this issue of paradigm choice can never be unequivocally settled by logic and experiment alone."

p. 147
"The competition between paradigms is not the sort of battle that can be resolved by proofs."

But that does not mean that both alternatives are equally right! Eventually the "right" paradigm wins out over the "wrong" one, and in retrospect one can often see the error of the "wrong" solution directly in the paradoxes that are embedded within it.

And the profound error embedded at the very core of the theory of direct perception is exactly that it "runs into issues with AI". In fact, direct perception precludes the possibility of EVER finding a mechanistic solution to the question of consciousness, because it DECLARES such a solution impossible from the outset!

If mind is nothing more than a physical process taking place in the physical mechanism of the brain, and since mind is conscious, that is already sufficient PROOF that a physical process can under special circumstances become conscious of its own existence. If one accepts the initial assumption, that is.

Direct realism begins with the assumption that a physical process can NEVER become conscious of its own existence, and that in turn makes our own visual consciousness deeply mysterious and paradoxical, because we become conscious, not even of the activation of our own brain, but of structures outside of our brain, *AS IF* they were inside our brain, but they're NOT. Is that really any LESS mysterious than being conscious of the processes *within* our own brain? 

The fact that direct perception "runs into issues with AI" is exactly its profound Achilles' heel, because it declares that visual experience is not the kind of mechanistic process that can be constructed of mere matter and energy; that there is something deeply mysterious and inscrutable about consciousness that is unique to human (and animal?) experience that is beyond a mere materialist process. And it is that un-stated implicit assumption that makes direct perception not a scientific hypothesis but a statement of faith in the supernatural. It can never help us to build an artificial mind that sees as we do, because it declares that to be an impossibility from the outset. That is exactly what is wrong with direct perception, and why it can never help resolve the quandary that it proclaims insoluble.

I too begin with an initial paradigmatic assumption: I begin with the assumption that mind is nothing more than a physical process in the physical brain, and that the essential operational principles of the mind will eventually succumb to scientific explanation, which in turn will open the possibility of constructing robots that can see as we do. I can't prove this to be true (although even a simple photocell on an automatic door-opener demonstrates the essential principle!) but if I did not believe this to be a scientific possibility, I would not be interested in biological vision in the first place! 

I don't expect Paul Niesiobedzki, or other committed naive realists, to adopt my own initial assumptions as their own. If Paul is happy with a solution that "runs into issues with AI", then he can have his mysterious explanation-that-explains-nothing, and we can all give up on the project of creating an artificial mind. I am not willing to give up so easily without even a fight! Can we not first perhaps PROVE that representationalism is impossible in principle before resorting to mysterious extra-scientific explanations? Meanwhile, the stupid automatic door-opener is busy demonstrating the principle of representationalism to anyone walking through, with no magic involved! Just normal scientific causality and an internal representation.

More quotes from Kuhn (1970):

p. 150
Max Planck: "a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. 

p. 156
the issue is which paradigm should in the future guide research on problems many of which neither competitor can yet claim to resolve completely. A decision between alternate ways of practicing science is called for, and in the circumstances that decision must be based less on past achievement than on future promise. ... A decision of that kind can only be made on faith.

p. 157
"Something must make at least a few scientists feel that the new proposal is on the right track, and sometimes it is only personal and inarticulate aesthetic considerations that can do that."

Kuhn T. S. (1970) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: Chicago University Press. 



2012-04-22
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
Walter Horn made a good point, and you don't seem to have evaded it. You, in fact, seem to beg the question, or you rest your case on suppositions that are neither evident nor seem to concluded by an inference, without assuming the very thing under question.

Walter Horn points out that you can't "prove" either direct realism, indirect realism, or phenomenalism. You list a bunch of individuals who believe in certain things which, at least some of them that you listed, can't be "proved" either. This puts them in the same case as direct realism and etc.

Next you go on to bring up, "But among the cognoscenti, we have come to tacit agreements at various levels." Tacit agreements among various levels of individuals to the same thing doesn't say anything about it being "proved" or shown to be the true way or the correct way. This is just an argument from masses or argument from authority, and carries no weight on this issue. We might even find it falls for another fallacy besides at least one of those two listed. And experts, even within that field, disagree about perception being either direct or indirect, or phenomenal. You also happen to fall for the problem that you mention just one group of individuals who hold to one thing, and you have another group of individuals who hold to something else that is opposite. In other words, one group disagrees with another group.

You come to bring up this interesting point, which itself seems fraught with problems. "this one will also eventually be resolved, and as a scientist I am confident that a scientific explanation will be found for consciousness and sensory experience, which must surely be located in our brains. To claim otherwise is an extraordinary claim, which would thus require extraordinary evidence. To date, ALL the evidence is for a representationalist explanation: the eye is like a video camera, the retina a photosensor array, the optic nerve a data pipeline, the visual cortex a representation that is time-delayed by transmission delays. If that't not a representationalist set-up then what is?"

I would first ask you how do you come to know of a brain? I would guess, like Einstein mentioned, "all knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in (experience)." This means that you had an experience of the brain bringing about sensory experience or consciousness. But this is impossible. You don't have sensory experience giving rise to sensory experience. You just find sensory experience. Worse yet, you never have sensory experience of your own brain, but only other people's brain, which is some sensory qualities. Never once do you have a sensory experience of other people's sensory experiences. This would be impossible. So you don't see the brain giving rise to other people's sensory experience to say that the brain gives rise to yours. You have neither found by experience that the brain gives rise to your sensory experience, or the brain give rise to other people's sensory experience.

And let us look at your example that you bring up. Did you see the eye, through your sensory experience, coming into contact with the thing it represents? Did you see the retina becoming like this photosensor array? (The answer is, by scientific consensuses, no. You cannot see a photon, this is impossible by scientific consensus.) Did you see the nerves have an electrical impulse go through them? Did you observe this electrical impulse, going through the nerves represent something?

But let us see your problem even more clearly.

All scientific knowledge comes to the human senses and ends in the human senses. Observation in and observation out. This forms the empirical method of science. We mostly come to rely on human sight. Now let us take a look at human perception under scientific agreement of a group of scientists that specialize in human sensory system. What we find is that human sight is what, in physics, is confined to the "visible spectrum". Human beings can never come to observe anything outside of the visible spectrum. The cause of what we see is said, by physics, to be "photons". But you cannot, by hypothesis of human perception and of a photon, can observe the photons as the cause of what you observe. This isn't allowed by both theories. And we never observe a photon, but we do observe numbers on an instrument created by human beings to show numbers or symbols on a computer screen.

The other problem is based on the theory of evolution. By this theory human being perception doesn't have to "represent" anything at all, or even be close to representing anything. All that matters is that the traits that help for survival in the environment and to reproduce, is all that matters. And it is said to be a non-teleological processes. This means that we have survived because the traits have made us adapt at surviving in our environment and reproducing. But none of this, the successes of the species surviving with the traits it has, means that it is any closer to how the world is. We only view the world in a way that has allowed us to survive, and this is related that having true consequence doesn't say anything about the truth of what lead to true consequent. Here, true consequent would be surviving.

Another problem, based on scientific research, is that the "What is "real" to the brain is the signals it receives (and it itself generates), signals which are always ambiguous in the sense of having multiple interpretations. In the face of this, what the brain has evolved to do is not to lessen its imperfections in painting pictures of "reality", but rather to make of the ambiguous information it has candidate unambiguous paintings, not one but many, which it can then test by additional observations. The brain is not designed to have a single picture of "reality" as an outcome, but rather to explore an infinite variety of candidate pictures. Ambiguity and uncertainty are not (whatever the I-function might think) the ripples of the imperfect glass through which the brain tries to perceive reality. They are instead the fundamental "reality", both the grist and the tool by which the brain (and, hence, all humans, you and I among them) creates all of its paintings. In this light, "pragmatic multiplism" is not one possible interpretational posture among which inquirers into material things can choose, it is the fundamental posture from which all others emerge as alternate possibilities." Paul Grobstein

It looks like you have invoked one myth to replace another myth. You seem to be placing your bets on something that isn't defensible, without an invocation of arguments from authority or arguments from the masses.

2012-04-22
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Walter Horn
Reply to Walter Horn

>>>>
Because of the nature of philosophical inquiry, there will be no demonstrations, no knock-outs.  Both the Armstrongs … and the Coates …  are simply confused about the nature of the question.
<<<<

You speak of philosophy as if it were theology, where we each state our personal beliefs and don't care if we ever come to any kind of consensus. But unlike the theologian, the philosopher is supposed to care if his philosophy embodies a fatal logical flaw that renders it unreasonable. Now of course we are not all reasonable men, and in fact, humans are famously blind to the the unreason in their own philosophy, and that is why we still have theists, animists, and flat-earthers amongst our ranks, along with naive realists who refuse to acknowledge the unreason in their philosophy.

That OK, we don't have to fret over their refusal to see reason, as long as we reasonable people come to reasonable agreements amongst ourselves. The "knock outs" and critical demonstrations happen individually in our own minds through the course of our individual lives, as we first transcend the God illusion, then the animist and other pseudoscientific fantasies, and some of us even graduate to seeing through the Grand Illusion of Consciousness, and come to realize that everything in our experience is a re-presentation of reality in an internal virtual-reality replica. 

Like the tree-climber who finally tops the highest leaves and comes to see his whole tree from above for the first time, we can see and wave to others who have achieved the same God's-eye view perspective, even as we hear the cries of those still lost within the foliage proclaim "There is no whole tree! Everything is leaves!" 

It is not so much a question of whether the directness of perception is empirical--something determinable by science.  It is more a matter of updating the definition of science, when necessary, to begin to exclude concepts that were formerly acceptable within it, starting with God and immaterial spirits, moving on to animism and other pseudoscience, and I propose now we are ready to include naive realism amongst those views which are demonstrably untrue, at many different levels.

Yes it is true that the direct perceptionists will never be persuaded, and will carry their error to their graves, but their objections are clearly unreasonable. The absurdity of perception being "epistemically direct" is clear from the simplest example of a representationalist system: the stupid  automatic door-opener that opens the door, not when a person approaches the doorway, nor when they block the light beam, but when the voltage in the photocell drops below threshold, that what causes the door to open. Is there a way to make this opening response operate "epistemically directly" even though it comes at the end of the causal chain? We can, by simply declaring it to be "epistemically direct". But that does not change its causal dependence on the rest of the causal chain.

The fact that the notion of "epistemic directness" is totally meaningless when applied to a real physical sensory system that operates by causal laws, is exactly why the theory of direct perception has no place in science, but belongs in the naive fantasy world with Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, as impossible abstractions that have never been observed, and can never be demonstrated even in the simplest sensory systems.

The progress of philosophy is glacially slow. But at every critical period, there are those who see the light, and others who cling desperately to outmoded views: theists who believe in supernatural spirits, animists who believe in superscientific influences, and naive realists who believe they can see the world directly. In each critical era, philosophers had a choice to make their mark in history as forward-thinking men of reason who adopt the reasonable view, or backward-thinking dogmatists who defend the naive view. Although we may never know in our lifetime whether our view will ever become the consensus, posterity will eventually know, because it so happens that one view is right, the other is wrong, and posterity will judge us retrospectively, based on the soundness of our arguments and the reasonableness of our positions. I wish to be counted among those who saw the light, even while it was still occluded by leaves.

And this is not just an exercise in one-upmanship. The issue of the directness of perception has been an enduring distraction from the NEXT great challenge, which is not being addressed because we are collectively still hung up on the direct perception issue. AFTER we have all collectively reached consensus that perception IS INDEED indirect (among us reasonable cognoscenti, the naive realists will never be convinced!) THEN it will be time to address the next question which I am already working on,  which is the BIG question:

If the world of experience appears as an explicit three-dimensional structure, where is the "picture" in the brain corresponding to that spatially structured experience? Where are the (moving- colored- three-dimensional- ) "pictures" in the brain that we know for a FACT are in there?

That is the REAL interesting issue of perception that we can't even get to, over the objections of the naive realists who dogmatically insist that there are no "pictures" in the brain, because they can see reality directly, unmediated by their senses, while being mediated by the senses, but not "cognitively" so. So there is a very real and meaningful reason to expose the unreasonableness of direct perception, so we can MOVE ON to the next question without being forever hung up on this one, which is clearly resolvable among reasonable people, so lets dump the naive realists from the ship of science into the ocean of unreason, so we can move on to the next challenges that are NOT as easily resolved as the rather "obvious" issue of the indirectness of perception.

Can we MOVE ON to the question of WHERE IS THE PICTURE? Because ultimately, it is that question which is really blocking the naive realists, that is, that they cannot bring themselves to believe that the brain, that seething mass of biological tissue, is capable of generating the sharp crisp three-dimensional real-time moving structured experience that we see around us. And THAT is admittedly a rather incredible accomplishment of the brain, as we know it. And yet to deny that the brain constructs the spatial reality that is our experience, is to deny its most remarkable achievement, and thus, to miss the whole problem of perception, how it works, and what it does. Doesn't that count for anything?

It is not the Armstrongs and the Coates who are "confused about the nature of the question", it is only the Armstrongs who are confused, believing as they do, that they can magically see the world directly, unmediated by their senses, while being mediated by their senses, but directly, not indirectly, an un-mediated mediation or indirect-directness, a non-explaining explanation that relieves the pain of ignorance without providing a cure. The Coates have it right: The world we see in experience is not the world itself, but is indeed a re-presentation of the world in a miniature virtual-reality replica inside our brains. The proof is simple: Close your eyes and the experience blinks out of existence, as if it were causally dependent on light entering our eye. The case is clinched by the existence of dreams and hallucinations. Whoever does not understand that simple fact, is not in need of a proof, but of a cure. That position is unreasonable! It is time to stop affording naive realists the dignity of reasonableness until they can defend their position with something better than an outright contradiction in terms.


2012-04-22
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
This is a common argument for anti-realist, who advocate that that the only thing that exists is our minds and everything else is subjective. I am a realist, meaning I believe that science ought to provide a true description of reality, whereas, anti-realists hold that science ought to provide a true description of the "directly observable" reality. Realists, like myself, advocate that there is real world that correspond to what we believe about it. The you have critical realism, which is a movement that believes that our understanding of reality is based on the way things are, but our understanding can be improved because through experience they believe we are getting progressively objective. They also believe that this is hard because people cannot help but to think in a certain perspective or bias. 
For science it is more pragmatic to use a realism view because it is currently the way the vast majority of science thinks. If the vast majority of science was anti-realist, then little would get done because all that exists is our minds and there wouldn't much of a motive to search for truth. To go religious, anti-realism believe everything is subjective and God would be non-existent. Realism is practical because what keeps science progressing is finding truths we have yet to discover. Science, to progress, ought to assume that there are at least some universal truths.  

2012-04-22
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
Steven, I agree with much of what you write in your very eloquent post and I don't want to be reduced to bickering here, but on the off-chance we haven't reached an absolute impasse, I'd like to respond to just a couple of the points you make.  (The bolded stuff below are excerpts from your remarks.  I hope my snippage hasn't resulted in any misrepresentations: it was done only for the sake of brevity.  Your whole post was quite nice.)

You speak of philosophy as if it were theology, where we each state our personal beliefs and don't care if we ever come to any kind of consensus.


I admit that it's not terribly important to me that some sort of consensus be reached in the philosophy of perception, metaphysics, etc., but I don't think that's ALL that makes theology theology (if theologists actually take that view at all).  In my last post I provided what I take to be the criteria by which I think philosophical arguments ought to be evaluated, and there's nothing in there about revelation or "spiritual uplift" or anything of that ilk. One could claim, after all,that  your philosophical positions have somewhat more in common with theology because your absolute certainty of correctness and passion to be agreed with.  I don't, however, accuse you of being a religionist for that reason.

But unlike the theologian, the philosopher is supposed to care if his philosophy embodies a fatal logical flaw that renders it unreasonable.


I dont' think good philosophy requires anything about "caring,"  If I were to discover tomorrow that Descartes or Quine, e.g., never actually gave a tinker's damn about anything they wrote or whether it was likely to produce consensus, it would have no effect whatever on my admiration for their work.  And, for the reasons I gave in my last post, I absolutely DO think that the philosophies of Armstrong, Coates (and Lehar) embody a "fatal logical flaw that renders them unreasonable."


 I propose now we are ready to include naive realism amongst those views which are demonstrably untrue, at many different levels.


I think that the force of this desire of yours to prove that naive realism is demonstrably untrue (no matter at how many "levels") pushes you into construing the naive realist as saying considerably more than he wishes to say.  While most NRs have been careful to strictly delimit their position so it cannot conflict with the findings of physics or neurophysiology, it is clearly important to you to try to prevent that move.  That means, I think that you want to  require that philosophy not be any sort of conceptual analysis, but that it, instead, make what are clearly empirical, indeed scientific, assertions,  In my view, philosophy simply is not a form of empirical science, and if I'm right about that, and it also should no longer consist of metaphysical pontification (of a 17th century/theological sort), then IMO, it can't really be much but loud grunting, however fun it might be to read. 


Yes it is true that the direct perceptionists will never be persuaded, and will carry their error to their graves, but their objections are clearly unreasonable. The absurdity of perception being "epistemically direct" is clear from the simplest example of a representationalist system: the stupid  automatic door-opener that opens the door, not when a person approaches the doorway, nor when they block the light beam, but when the voltage in the photocell drops below threshold, that what causes the door to open. Is there a way to make this opening response operate "epistemically directly" even though it comes at the end of the causal chain? We can, by simply declaring it to be "epistemically direct". But that does not change its causal dependence on the rest of the causal chain.


The sensible naive realist will have no interest in declaring perception to be causally independent of the rest of the causal chain.



The fact that the notion of "epistemic directness" is totally meaningless when applied to a real physical sensory system that operates by causal laws, is exactly why the theory of direct perception has no place in science, but belongs in the naive fantasy world with Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, as impossible abstractions that have never been observed, and can never be demonstrated even in the simplest sensory systems.


You again make here what I take to be the error of insisting upon a conflation of philosophy with science.  As I've said, I don't think that either direct or indirect realism can be "demonstrated" in any sensory system whatever--simple or complex.  And the view that either can be is, in my view, a sort of category mistake.  If you think you can show that direct realism clearly conflicts with the findings of science, I agree that would be important: good philosophy should not conflict with modern science. But you must be careful not to broaden what the NR is saying when you attempt such a refutation.  As indicated, the sensible direct realist simply  DOES NOT CLAIM THAT PERCEPTION IS INDEPENDENT OF ANY CAUSAL CHAIN.  To make any real philosophical headway on your quest, you would need to state a version of direct realism that produces something that at least some direct realist somewhere would or has agreed with and attack that.  The glacial movement in philosophy you mention below is, to a great extent, a function of persistent mischaracterizations of opponents' views.

Well then, if I claim that your statement of DR is a caricature, just what IS the position that I think is the statement of a categorial choice rather than some empirical claim that can be disconfirmed in a science lab?  Admittedly, it's not so simple to put this in a brief paragraph.  Unless one is going to start defining such terms as "epistemic directness" and "epistemic reliance upon" "ostensible perception," etc., in at least a paper-length work, probably the best we can do is say something like "the view of perception which is propounded in the Armstrong book already mentioned, or Austin's _Sense and Sensibilia_, or MacDowell's _Mind and World_ or Hall's _Our Knowledge of Fact and Value_, or Strawson's little book on skepticism."  Do you really think that any of these philosophers were ignorant of the role of rods and cones in vision? 

Again, I think you must try to formulate the position taken by these philosophers as accurately (and even sympathetically) as possible and try to refute those rather than your one-line parodies of them.  I don't think you (or anybody) can do this, precisely because they aren't making empirical claims--but, of course, I could be wrong. 


The progress of philosophy is glacially slow. But at every critical period, there are those who see the light, and others who cling desperately to outmoded views: theists who believe in supernatural spirits, animists who believe in superscientific influences, and naive realists who believe they can see the world directly. In each critical era, philosophers had a choice to make their mark in history as forward-thinking men of reason who adopt the reasonable view, or backward-thinking dogmatists who defend the naive view.

Claims to have "seen the light" seem to me not the best way of introducing an attack on others' dogmatism and theological leanings.  I take metaphysical claims of the sort "Phenomenalism is true!!" (along with, maybe, some dancing in a circle)  to be great examples of an old-fashioned style of dogmatism that, in my view, ought to have had no place in philosophy since Russell--or at least since Quine's "On What There Is."

In sum, I enjoyed your post very much, but while you make much of my relative indifference to consensus (which, as I've said, I can't deny), I think you might think a little about your own passion to be right about something that is generally taken to be neither a scientific claim nor a matter to be settled by revelation nor the volume of the assertions by which they are claimed.  I'm curious: do you take the same sort of stance about such propositions as "There are universals."?

All best,

Walter Horn


2012-04-24
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Gilbert Albans:
This debate is exposing an interesting schism in our views of philosophy itself, whether philosophy should be more properly viewed as a "pragmatic multiplism" of competing philosophies, or whether philosophy is the cutting edge of the advance of reason over unreason in a collective quest to understand reality. Is reason not foundational to philosophical enquiry? Should philosophy not reject unreasonable hypotheses? 

If philosophy is indeed a "pragmatic multiplism", then what distinguishes it from theology? Are not faiths and beliefs alternative philosophies? Is it impossibly Eurocentric and 19th-century to suppose that the philosophy of reason is a superior tool for discovering the real truth behind reality than any kind of faith or dogma or unverifiable hypotheses? In fact, the commitment to reason is exactly what distinguishes philosophy from theology. Philosophers are committed to debate based on reason. Or is that concept outmoded these days?

Now of course we do not banish the unreasonable from our debates, indeed we invite them to participate so that we can expose their unreason to each other, or to be persuaded by them if they are reasonable. Of course the unreasonable are never persuaded by reasoned debate, so in the end we have to agree to disagree and move on. But can we reasonable people not mutually agree amongst ourselves that we are persuaded by the reasonable argument? Or is that hopelessly reason-o-centric of a supposition in contemporary philosophical circles?

You are right that the brain does not always depict one reality, but often flips bi-stably between alternative interpretations, as in those Gestalt illusions. But the perceptual system attempts to reduce to a single interpretation, and it does so for a very good reason, that is, because at the scale of our reality (of tables, chairs, walls, and floors) there is indeed one objective configuration of reality, and any appearance to the contrary should cause us to stop in alarm and rub our eyes before progressing further for fear of collision with that reality.

Science, and philosophy more generally, are just cognitive extensions of the pragmatic sensory process of trying to figure out objective reality based on our subjective experience of it. Both perception and science presuppose the existence of an objective external world, because both would be useless if that were not already true. Indeed, neither would even exist without that objective reality. It is positively unreasonable not to acknowledge the existence of an objective external world, as the most reasonable basis of our experience of it. 

It is a fact of reality that we learn throughout our stages of learning beginning at childhood, that at every level, the pool of reasonable people shrinks as first the delusional, then the devoted, and finally the naive realists, depart our midst, each proclaiming their unreason to be the more reasonable view.  But if philosophy is based on reasoned debate, can we not persuade reasonable philosophers to reject unreasonable hypotheses? This is not "argument of the masses", this is the "consensus of the reasonable" where "the reasonable" are self-selected as are the participants on this list. I do not propose to ban the unreasonable from posting on this list, I invite them to try to persuade, and I am willing to be persuaded if they are persuasive. But I propose to establish a self-selected consensus of the reasonable, to stand up and reject unreasonable hypotheses such as solipsism and direct perception for their fundamental violation of reason. Is it really necessary to add that proviso of reasonableness to philosophical debate?

Is it perhaps creeping political correctness to condemn the out-dated "19th -century" philosophical "dead-white-male" tradition, the noble pursuit of learning and logic that brought us the age of enlightenment? Are we to abandon their ardent application of reason in pursuit of the real truth behind reality? Has philosophy not been corrupted from its foundational mission if it submits to a new "pragmatic multiplism" in which unreasonable philosophies are given equal weight with reasonable ones?

How did I come to know of a brain, and the causal chain of visual perception? It came to me in stages, beginning with direct experience, naive realism, then high school biology and a disconnected representationalism, and finally at some point I came to realize that the picture in my brain WAS the picture around me, and a whole bunch of profound paradoxes disappeared! Now you may cast doubt on any link of that chain you choose, but to me it appears the most reasonable explanation for the given evidence, I would need to be persuaded otherwise.

The truth is that there is, and always has been, a ladder of reasonableness, beginning with madness at the lowest rung, and stepping upward through levels of dogma and naive belief, through naive realism, on to scientific realism and, and for some people on to representationalism. At every level of the ladder of reasonableness, those on the lower rungs never acknowledge the unreasonableness in their position that more reasonable levels reject. Is philosophy the catalog of this whole ladder of reason, laid flat on the ground presenting all as of equal value? Or is a ladder by its very nature something that rises upward from primitive roots and advances through stages of ever greater reasonableness? It is true that quantum mechanics reveals a foundational indeterminacy of reality, but that is itself a clearer picture of reality than the billiard-ball model that it supplanted. And quantum mechanics is not accepted by dogma, it is demonstrated by a series of conclusive experiments that persuade the reasonable.

Paul Grobstein is right, "pragmatic multiplism" is the fundamental posture from which all others emerge as alternate possibilities. But after centuries of superstition and blind dogma, reason has emerged from pragmatic multiplism as the demonstrably best methodology to discover objective truth. It may not be persuasive to the unreasonable, but surely reasonable people should acknowledge the more reasonable of alternatives as being more reasonable.





2012-04-24
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
So, you answer to whether anyone has ever proved me wrong is a "No". Ok. For the record, I sided with Searle years before I'd even heard of direct realism, etc. (Aside: Question to the Wittgensteinians out there: Would his private language argument conceivably arrive at, say, supercomputers, or just at humans? I'm pretty fuzzy on it.)

Quick double question: Perhaps, Steven, I should have figured this out from other stuff you've written, but is your physicalism reductive or non-reductive? How does that cash out in your view of the nature of science? (cf. Fodor, Kim, etc.) From what I understand of the relevant matters, there are non-reductive physicalists who are direct realists.

"Direct realism begins with the assumption that a physical process can NEVER become conscious of its own existence, and that in turn makes our own visual consciousness deeply mysterious and paradoxical, because we become conscious, not even of the activation of our own brain, but of structures outside of our brain, *AS IF* they were inside our brain, but they're NOT."

I don't know any direct realist who begins with that particular assumption. Thomas Aquinas, for example, since I've mentioned him before. The beginning of his direct realism is simply being. If an immaterial aspect of consciousness is required for direct realism - and as I've said above, there are to my knowledge some who say that's not the case - for Thomas, at least, that immateriality is known as a consequence of prior observation and judgment.

Also, I have no real idea how a door-opener is proof of the fundamental principles of representationalism, but as a student of philosophy I admit that there are many things I do not know.

2012-04-24
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Walter Horn

Walter, I am glad you are enjoying this debate, as am I, despite the poor prospects for any kind of resolution. Sometimes just churning over the old ideas is both instructive and entertaining.

I am astonished at your apparent indifference to the actual issues of philosophy, as if it had no direct relevance to your life. Do you not burn to know for yourself, how it can be that we can see the world beyond the sensory surface? Do you not marvel at the stark paradoxes of perception? The retinal after-image hanging in space before you? The existence of dreams and hallucinations? The fact that distant objects appear smaller by perspective? Does your mind not boggle at these daily paradoxes of vision, and try desperately to make some kind of logical sense of it all? Or do you just shrug it all off as somebody else's problem, and just go with the most obvious interpretation? Is philosophy, to you, a matter of cataloging the various alternative positions without being persuaded by any particular one? Do you not feel a passion to want to discover the real truth among deceptive alternatives? Is that passion not what philosophy is all about?

I contend that it is only that kind of dispassionate philosophical indifference that can tolerate the logical ambiguities inherent in direct perception. You say I must be careful not to broaden the claims of direct perception beyond what they actually claim, but that is exactly my point: the concept of direct perception is never specified sufficient to be a real theory that can be implemented in a real device, and thus refuting it is like proving a negative. Any way you try to implement it in a real device, it is impossible, because the whole idea is incoherent. Causality insists on following causal chains. I don't wonder at your own helplessness in trying to summarize the key ideas, which you eventually give up on with "the view propounded by the Armstrong book" Which view is that exactly? Was that the view that experience is dependent on the causal chain except that it isn't? Or would it take a paper-length work on varieties of epistemic directness to explain what he means? Thats exactly my point!

It comes down to the stupid automatic door-opener, which is clearly a demonstration of the principle of representationalism: The door can't know to open until the voltage drops on the photosensor. HOW DO YOU MODIFY THAT SYSTEM TO BE COGNITIVELY DIRECT? Give me the circuit that gives the door-opener direct awareness of the door, without the causal link of the light and the photosensor, and yet while using the light and the photosensor, but  directly, not indirectly. Build me that system just to explain what you mean by "cognitive directness", and I will concede that direct perception is a coherent hypothesis. Otherwise it is nothing but a bald contradiction in terms, declaring something to be "cognitively direct" which is obviously causally indirect.

Claiming to "see the light" is a clarion call to those still lost in darkness, that there is another alternative formulation of the problem that turns everything inside-out, and suddenly all the paradoxes disappear, and a whole array of new issues are exposed! The experience of seeing the light is the experience of a paradigm shift, a sudden reformulation of the problem in your mind that reveals a whole new perspective. I can only invite you to come and see things from the other perspective. Only you can decide to come over and see the world from the other side for yourself. You don't know what you are missing! 

Do I take the same passionate stance on the question of universals? You bet I do! As I do on the existence of God, the origin of the universe, the nature of mathematics, good and evil in a scientific world, and many other topics of profound significance to everything. Is that not what philosophy is all about? The love of sophistry! Philosophy without passion is like sex without love: it goes through the motions but misses the whole purpose.








2012-04-24
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
Stephen, I'm afraid you have tried to proceed here by mainly by mischaracterizing.  I said I was indifferent to consensus, not that I was indifferent to the issues.  Those aren't nearly the same thing. 

And, again, I take all assurances that one has "seen the light"-- from whatever quarter they may issue -- with a grain of salt.  I'd have thought that one as apparently skeptical of theological claims as you claim to be would do the same, but I have long found that people tend to exclude their own visions from that sort of caution.

Best.

WH

2012-04-30
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
I'd like to offer a simple observation.

"...  at some point I came to realize that the picture in my brain WAS the picture around me, and a whole bunch of profound paradoxes disappeared!"

There's a supreme irony here in that a good Thomist could both interpret that declaration of yours as agreement with him and propound the disappearance of paradoxes as why one should be a Thomist.

2012-04-30
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
You are right, nobody has ever proven direct perception to be untrue. Neither have they ever proven the non-existence of God, or the non-existence of the animist's ''elan vital", the vital life force that is supposedly beyond mere biochemistry. However none of those are scientific hypotheses exactly because they are unfalsifiable. However it IS possible to show that visual experience is dependent on the causal chain, blocking any link of the chain disrupts the experience. That causal relation has never been disproven either, and it proves itself anew every time you blink your eyes. ALL the evidence favors a representationalist view, NONE supports the naive view, besides the naive realist illusion that it appears so.


My physicalism is reductive, in the sense that mind and brain are different aspects of the same basic underlying neurophysiological process, thus, the dimensions of conscious experience cannot possibly be greater than the dimensions of the corresponding neurophysiological state. If we see the world in the form of a 3-D "picture" of reality, then there are 3-D moving colored pictures in our brain, and what you see around you IS that picture in your brain.

This is the paradigmatic hypothesis, the initial assumption which is not itself ever proven, which lies at the core of the debate. My point is that the alternative, that there are 3-D moving colored pictures in our experience, but there are NO moving colored pictures in the brain, is positively anti-scientific, because that-which-is-to-be-explained, the explanandum, the 3-D colored pictures that define the puzzle of visual consciousness, are "explained away" as if they did not have real existence in the physical universe known to science. Whether like Max Velmans, you insist the images are projected out of the brain superimposed onto reality, or like the Behaviorists and J. J. Gibson, you simply refuse to discuss them at all, is immaterial. Like a magical disappearing act, you simply declare the explanandum to be undetectable in principle by physical means, and we can all go home, the problem is solved, the images don't exist in our brains, so don't even go looking for them in there. But they continue to exist in our experience! And they exist as 3-D pictures! And as I scientist, I insist that those pictures have real physical existence in the universe known to sciene, and the causal chain clearly indicates that they are generated in your brain! To claim otherwise is an extraordinary extra-scientific hypothesis that would require extraordinary evidence, to accept the notion that 3-D pictures can exist in our experience, but be undetectable in principle by physical means.

Your apparent bafflement at the relevance to this issue of the stupid automatic door-opener is indicative of your conceptual problem here. The photocell is a physical device. It cannot detect anything that does not impinge on it physically. There is no mystery to how light changes the voltage in the photocell, it is an ordinary causal reaction that can be easily followed back up the chain. A human viewing the entryway would be subject to the same causal limitations: breaking any link of the chain eliminates the experience of the scene that comes at the end of the chain. The causal dependence of experience on that chain of events is demonstrable and indisputable. To claim that this process is in any way 'direct' is a claim which is extraordinary, equivalent to claiming that the photocell detects a person in the entryway 'directly', not mediated by the beam of light that obviously triggers the photodetector, something that cam be demonstrated to be untrue.

To claim that perception is 'cognitively direct' despite every aspect of it being demonstrably indirect, is equivalent to claiming it is 'paradoxically direct', i.e. we know for a fact that it can't be direct, but we also "know" that it is direct anyway. The theory of "direct perception" is no different than the theory of "paradoxical perception", our visual system is obviously and demonstrably an indirect, representational system, our experience of the world is nevertheless paradoxically direct despite its demonstrable indirectness. That is what makes direct perception not a scientific hypothesis. Nor is it any kind of explanation to simply claim that the explanans, that which is to be explained, exists but is undetectable in principle so its existence cannot be demonstrated.

When the "obvious" explanation is blocked by chronic paradox, I say again: When the "obvious" explanation is blocked by chronic paradox, it is time to give serious consideration to the "incredible" alternative that the world you see around you IS the picture in your brain. Instead of trying to convince me how something indirect is actually direct, can you explain to me why you cannot possibly accept the fact that the world around you is a picture in your brain? Why is THAT notion so paradoxical to YOUR view that you'd rather accept a stark contradiction in its place? 

There is a peculiar asymmetry to this debate where I am required to prove that perception cannot be direct, when it has already been demonstrated again and again to be indirect, and yet nobody has ever, nor can ever possibly demonstrate how ANY ASPECT of perception can be direct.

This is evidence for the kind of paradigmatic debate where the naive view, which is plainly "obvious" to the common man, is challenged by a profoundly counterintuitive hypothesis which, however, addresses the profound paradoxes which are totally invisible to the naive observer. That is why this debate is always on "your terms", like debates with believers in God, where the burden of proof is always on the atheist to demonstrate that God does NOT exist, when there has never been the tiniest scrap of evidence for His existence. The one-sidedness of this debate reflects the paradigmatic schism in our world views. I can fully understand your position because I was there before, thats where I came from, we all begin as naive realists. But you cannot seem to bring yourself to consider that perception could be indirect, even as a theoretical possibility to be considered and rejected. Why is the burden not on YOU to demonstrate that representationalism is impossible in principle? Because until you do, it does remain the most plausible explanation for an eye that works like a camera, a retina like a photosensor array, an optic nerve like a data pipeline, and a cortex as an internal representation of external reality that is subject to transmission delays. Can you explain to me why that possibility is so improbable in your mind? 

How did you ever come to reject that hypothesis? What exactly was your reasoning?

Or have you ever really given it serious consideration as an actual possibility?


2012-05-15
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Walter Horn
Walter Horn >>
I take all assurances that one has "seen the light"-- from whatever quarter they may issue -- with a grain of salt.  I'd have thought that one as apparently skeptical of theological claims as you claim to be would do the same, but I have long found that people tend to exclude their own visions from that sort of caution.
<< Walter Horn

I have indeed seen the light, and it is the light of REASON, the same light that dawned on Western Civilization and exposed all the dogmas and superstitions that could not be demonstrably verified. Has the light of Reason gone dim in contemporary philosophy? Is it now reasonable to propose that experience, which comes at the end of a causal chain, is actually the first link in that chain, when it is demonstrably causally dependent on every other link of the chain? Is this "cognitive directness", or "paradoxical perception" what passes for reasonable hypothesis in contemporary philosophical circles? Why do I not hear shrieks of protest from the other lurkers on this list to this stark logical contradiction? Is anyone else even following this thread? Or am I out here all on my own?

The Professional Philosopher Class seems to view philosophy as totally distinct from science and objective reality, each professor choosing a favorite philosophical position to support, while respecting the equal right of other professors to occupy their own theoretical positions, whether they are reasonably defensible or not. This kind of professional-courtesy-philosophy is more akin to religion. There is not much light down that road! Nobody cares what the real truth is! No wonder so many believe that philosophy has become irrelevant to modern life, that nothing practical is ever accomplished through philosophy.

That view is deeply misguided. Philosophy is a belief system: It is a belief that REASON offers the best path to discovering the real truth behind experience. Reason entertains all proposals equally, that is what makes it reasonable. But that does not mean that it accepts all proposals equally. A proposal must be demonstrated to be reasonable to be accepted by reasonable men. Now of course we do not have a Reason Police to decide on issues of unreasonableness, that is a question that we must each decide for ourselves individually. The only punishment for unreasonable philosophers is that they automatically fall out of the set of reasonable people, a fact that they never seem to notice themselves. It is hard to perceive one's own unreason.

And that is why we have a community of philosophers who enjoy public debate to check up on each other's reasonableness. Because some of us actually ARE interested in the REAL truth behind appearances, even if, (or especially if!) that truth turns out to be so incredible that it seems totally counter-intuitive. In science, irrefutable evidence triumphs over incredibility, and this is exactly what gives science the power to discover unexpected or incredible truth. Solipsists and naive realists have a place in philosophy, but not a place among reasonable people. They are examples to us all of the errors of unreason.

But if this debate is to be in any way meaningful, if anything useful is to come of it, it is incumbent on the lurkers who are following this debate (is there anyone still out there?) to call out NONSENSE! wherever it rears its ugly head! And a theory of direct perception through a demonstrably indirect perceptual system, is a complete and total contradiction in terms as stark as black-is-white, or up-is-down. My skepticism of theological claims extends to all unverifiable dogmas including direct perception.

Is there anyone else out there on this list who sees this stark unreason? Or is everyone else gone, and I'm left alone arguing dogma with a dogmatist? If philosophy is to have any relevance to the modern world and reality as it really exists, we must not abandon the pure light of REASON as the only reasonable arbiter between conflicting opinions. 

Otherwise I'll just give up on debating philosophers as an exercise in futility!


2012-05-21
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar

I suspect that the present argument reflects a weakness of that thing called reason. What seems reasonable to one person seems quite unreasonable to another.

To judge between two cognitive constructs (positions, perspectives, points of view, world view, model, mental model, theory, paradigm, policy, etc.) there must be some criteria. If the criteria are somewhat objective, we may have some way so say which position is best. Otherwise, our only tool for measurement is some intuitive feeling of what makes sense. Then,m unfortunately, we end up looking for a consensus of opinion, or holding some wort of popularity contest. Those, of course, are not very good ways to advance our thinking. Sadly, objective criteria do not exist in the mainstream. Thus, we need new ways of thinking about how we do our thinking

Let us first consider three generally accepted ways to determine the validity of a presented point of view.

First, there is empirical validity. This is the favored approach for mainstream science. It becomes problematic for at least two reasons. First, because there are things that are difficult or impossible to measure (consider, for example, measuring the level of morale in a work team or the existence of a deity). The second problem is that we measure depends on what we think we are measuring.Recall the saying, "We do not see the world as it is, we see it as we are." Or less prosaically, if we don't have the right point of view we won't see the right empirical "things." A researcher who believes in an omnipotent deity will say that everything he sees is prrof of that deity. A non-believer will see other things. That is not to say that one view is better ore more true than another, simply that we have no way to evaluate those observations as having some sort of objective validity.

Second, there is the notion of coherence - does the point of view fit with existing points of view. For example, back in the days of Darwin, scientific papers were judged by their adherence to church dogma. A paper attempting to explain an odd geological formation would be deemed more reasonable if that paper explained how the new geological insight was related to the flood of Noah. So, one way to judge what is reasonable is to ask if the new point of view will fit some existing (usually dominant) point of view. The problem with such a measure is what I would call a fallacy of regress. There is no way to determine if the dominant paradigm is valid, or not.

Typically, the dominant paradigm is judged acceptable because "it works." This goes back to the first example. Unfortunately, this is again something that it very difficult to measure because everything "works" to some extent. Even church dogma can be said to work. One trick, therefore, is to find a way to measure how one point of view works better than another.

The third approach is to look at the internal coherence of the position or argument. Historically, this has been done in an ad hoc way. Generally by reading an argument and asking if it seems reasonable. As suggested above, that approach does not seem to work very well. And, it may be that such intuitive tests of "reason" rest on each person's personal point of view. Typically, such points of view include many hidden assumptions. Thus, they are not useful for clear and rigorous analyses. Yet, we persist in using our intuitive sense of what is reasonable - because it seems to have worked in the past (see above for what seems to work).

As you may guess, I have some frustration around this topic. It seems clear that there are many problems in the world that might be solved if we had better theories of psychology, sociology, economics, and policy (to say nothing of philosophy!). Yet, we are unable to advance those fields because mainstream science has no way to judge between two theories and so no way to advance the field.

My research provides new methods for objectively analyzing cognitive structures - the internal coherence of concepts within a cognitive structure. These methods seem applicable to a wide range of such structures including theories of the social and natural sciences as well as policies (and, apropos of the present argument, points of view).

The key to this approach is called Propositional Analysis (PA). In a nutshell, this is a rigorous, objective method for quantifying the internal logics of a theory, policy, or point of view. This approach allows us to measure cognitive constructs in two ways. First, by measuring the Complexity of a cognitive structure (essentially, the number of concepts it contains) and the Robustness (the degree to which those concepts are conceptually linked).

By itself, that is an advancement over the old methods of evaluating arguments by asking if they are "reasonable" because we can assign a number to the structure that defines how reasonable it is. The research also goes a step further by linking the Complexity and Robustness of a cognitive structure with the effectiveness of that structure in practical application. For an example from the natural sciences, theories in ancient times had low levels of Complexity and Robustness were not effective in practical application. During the scientific revolution, theories became more Robust and Complex - and were somewhat useful in practical application. After the scientific revolution, theories were highly Robust - and highly effective in practical application.

It seems , therefore, that we can use Propositional Analysis to analyze cognitive structures (including theories, policies, and philosophical positions) and get some indication as to how useful they will be in practical application. For those who are interested in such concepts as "truth" and "reality" this may also be understood as a method to measure those things.

So, yes, there is a way to judge between these two perspectives with some level of rigor and objectivity.

I would note that there is some measure of effort involved. This kind of analysis is much more effective when applied to a causal diagram or a set of clear causal propositions. I would not want to analyze long conversations... too much ambiguity.

If the arguers are willing to have their positions judged by this new method, the results might be quite interesting. Using PA, I can identify which parts of the positions are well understood compared to those parts of the positions which are not so well defined.

To make it workable for my own participation (I am more than a little bit busy at the moment) I would ask that the arguers present their positions as a set of propositions (numbered, indicating causal relationships). Or, better, as a diagram with concepts in boxes and causal relationships as arrows. Further, if anyone would like to learn this method, we can analyze the positions in parallel - and see if we come up with similar results (thus creating an experiment in the repeatability of this method).

I have a number of published writings on this general topic. Some available on this site, others available on request (depending on how much reading time you have).

Using this new approach offers the opportunity to advance philosophy more rapidly and gain more relevance in the world. Much better, in my humble opinion, than unresolvable arguments, attempting to develop a consensus of opinion, relying on intuition, or the many other approaches that have not served to advance philosophy in recent years..

Thanks,

Steve

swallis@projectfast.org



2012-07-08
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steve Wallis

I am extremely skeptical of any kind of deterministic scheme contrived to evaluate the relative truth of different paradigms. It is not the kind of thing that is reducible to Boolean propositions. But to humor Steve Wallis I will give it a go.

>>>
To make it workable for my own participation (I am more than a little bit busy at the moment) I would ask that the arguers present their positions as a set of propositions (numbered, indicating causal relationships). Or, better, as a diagram with concepts in boxes and causal relationships as arrows.
<<<

Representationalism:

1: Visual experience depends on a causal chain, which involves illumination of the scene, an image on the retina, a signal up the optic nerve, and a particular pattern of activation on the visual cortex.


Direct Perception:

1: No it does not. Visual experience is direct. We see the world directly, even though we view it through the mediation of the causal chain, the view is direct nonetheless.

Can your system of logic detect the error of logic in these propositions? Please send us the results quickly, I can't wait to see which one turns out to be right!

2012-07-08
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
Steven,

Thanks for your good humor. This is a new approach, so I am open to insights and suggestions for improving it. let's see if this pastes from Word... Hmmm... having some difficulties getting the diagrams to work..

OK - below is the text. The complete document is posted at: http://projectfast.org/representation-and-direct-perception.doc

One caveat – many of these representations are “atomistic” – essentially claiming or implying truth and value within themselves. So, although it is better to work with the actual propositions, I will adjust the propositions slightly to show casual relationships. If I misrepresent in any way, let me know and I will be glad to fix it.


Representationalism:


1: Visual experience depends on a causal chain, which involves illumination of the scene, an image on the retina, a signal up the optic nerve, and a particular pattern of activation on the visual cortex.

VERSION A:

         DIAGRAM HERE

Because there are five aspects to the model, the model has a Complexity of C = 5.

Because the relationships are all linear logics (no concatenated logics) our logical understanding of each aspect is informed only by one other aspect (for #1 – there is no causation – illumination seems to happen… magically).

 

While the intervening steps may add something descriptively (the breadth), they do not add to the explanatory power (the depth) of the logical structure. One might just as well say that more illumination causes more visual experiences. Such a position would assume the existence of an observer (along with retinas, etc). The existence of such assumptions, however, is key… because they are everywhere. For example, the above logical chain mentions retinas and optic nerves… but only assumes the next level of detail. The model might be made more complex by including descriptions of the electro chemical actions within the retina, nerves and brain. However, we would still be left with a linear logical chain. And, we would still know full well that there are many assumptions that are not addressed.

 

That said, another way to interpret this model might be to say that:

 

VERSION B:

        Diagram here



 

 

In this version, the Complexity remains C = 5. Because there is one concatenated aspect (#5) the Robustness of the model is R = 0.20 (the result of one divided by five). This is a slight improvement over the linear model – but not much. Visual experience is well defined, but the other aspects (individually) are less well defined because they do not seem to causally result from anything (at least in this version).

 

 

 

Direct Perception:

1: No it does not. Visual experience is direct. We see the world directly, even though we view it through the mediation of the causal chain, the view is direct nonetheless.

 

If I get the gist, this may be diagramed simply as:

[ this one worked for some reason - perhaps simplicity has its uses]



1. Visual experience is direct

   

 

 

 

 

Such a model is a simple truth claim. There is only one concept/aspect so the Complexity is C = 1. The Robustness of the model is zero.

 

As we all know, a truth claim must be supported. When it stands by itself it has little explanatory power or standing. It remains wide open to interpretation. Another point to be made here regards the testability of models. Here, the atomistic claim provides no causal relationships that might be tested experimentally/experientially.

 

COMPARISON

 

Based on the measure of Complexity, Representationalism wins easily. A model containing a greater number of aspects has more explanatory power – more breadth. More causal connections means more logic and more reason.

 

One caveat here is to ask exactly what is being explained. The Representationalism approach seems to be describing biological functions. Is that relevant or useful for the reader? This model may be of more use to a biology student, than a philosopher.

 

Based on the measure of Robustness, all models are at such a low level that they have little depth of explanatory power. By this I mean that the aspects within each model are not well defined/explained. Recall here that just because something is accepted as being true or well known, does not mean that it is well explained logically. While the existence of an external light source is now considered well known, the ancient Greeks believed that the source of illumination came from within a person’s own eyes.

 

The models of Representationalism may be tested through experimentation. One might set up an experiment where the causal aspects are varied and subjects are asked to report on their visual experiences. No such experiment seems possible for the Direct Perception model because there are no causal relationships.

 

To improve all models, they should be made more complex, with more causal interconnections between the conceptual aspects. The act of developing those models will help to focus the conversation and provide theories/models that are amenable to testing.

 

DEEPER VIEWS?

 

These models are (of course) incomplete. And, they may misrepresent the intended focus.

 

Are we really trying to describe/diagram/model the experience? Or, would it be more useful to develop a model of the philosophical implications of the alternative views?

 

For example,

 



       DIAGRAM HERE

 

As you will note, if you have learned quickly from the above analyses, these simple models may be no better than the above analyses from a structural perspective (they are simple and linear instead of complex and concatenated). They may however be more closely focused on the philosophy of the discussion.

 

Oh yes, check out a short audio-visual presentation I have. Please download and hit F5 to play: http://projectfast.org/DRAFT-Wallis-POSTER-SESSION-ICP 2012.ppt

 

Thanks,

 

Steve

 

swallis@projectfast.org

 


2012-07-09
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
No "system of logic" is required to detect the "error of logic" in those propositions.  If you had any idea what theories of direct perception held, you'd understand that everything in 1. is consistent with it.  Thus, the "No it does not." is simply based on a bad confusion.

WH

2012-07-09
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Walter Horn
WH,

Of course a system of logic is required to identify errors of logic. That is how you did it. Well.. that is an assumption on my part... I'm assuming you have a system that you use to make such judgements. If you did not, there is no shame - that is what most of us do most of the time anyway.

One important part of this new approach is that the system of evaluation is formalized. That is, it is a measuring stick of set length. Thus, when we judge a cognitive structure (philosophy, theory, policy, etc.) we can all agree where it comes up short.

I see this as an improvement over the current state of affairs where (for better or worse), we each have our own philosophy - full of half-formed ideas and semi-related concepts. Difficult to understand within our own minds... and very difficult to communicate to others. Problem is, each of us also has our own measuring stick - some half-formed method for evaluating the cognitive systems of others. No wonder we spend so much time arguing back and forth - we are all saying "look, my theory is perfect because it is one yard long" while everyone else... each having his or her own yardstick... is saying, "oh no its not, your theory is flawed because it does not measure up to my yardstick."

Where you see the flaws as obvious, that view is the result of your slogging through all kinds of presentations, readings, etc. One important benefit to this approach is that I did not need to suffer through the convoluted explanations and discussions that you did. I can "cut to the chase" and determine the relative validity of a cognitive structure.  This kind of presentation and evaluation helps to clarify and formalize our hidden assumptions. It provides a yardstick with clear markings.

Also, when we have a quantifiable system of logic, new forms of analysis become possible... ;)

Thanks,

Steve

2012-07-28
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Walter Horn
I second the above remark of Walter Horn.

2012-07-28
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Walter Horn
Reply to Walter Horn:

>>>

If you had any idea what theories of direct perception held, you'd understand that everything in 1. is consistent with it.  Thus, the "No it does not." is simply based on a bad confusion.



<<<

Ok, let me try again then:



Representationalism:


1: Visual experience depends on a causal chain, which involves illumination of the scene, an image on the retina, a signal up the optic nerve, and a particular pattern of activation on the visual cortex.


Direct Perception:

1: Yes it does, and at the same time visual experience is direct. We see the world directly, even though we view it through the mediation of the causal chain, the view is direct nonetheless.


2012-07-28
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steve Wallis
Steve Wallis wrote:

>>>>

Of course a system of logic is required to identify errors of logic. That is how you did it. Well.. that is an assumption on my part... I'm assuming you have a system that you use to make such judgements. If you did not, there is no shame - that is what most of us do most of the time anyway.

<<<<

Boolean logic systems such as yours, and Whitehead and Russell's Principia Mathematica, are totally useless for resolving paradigmatic issues, as explained so clearly by Thomas Kuhn. For example when Copernicus' heliocentric system challenged Ptolomy's epicycle model of the solar system, there was not enough evidence available at the time to resolve the debate logically, and yet reasonable people like Copernicus could see the greater simplicity in the heliocentric model, while more dogmatic conservative thinkers could not bring themselves to believe that the whole earth with its all its mountains and oceans was spinning round and round. Another paradigmatic issue involves the belief in God, which again cannot be proven either way, and yet in my view belief in God it totally unreasonable given the scientific alternatives, by that logically immeasurable quantity of Occam's Razor. And that is exactly the kind of issue involved in the question of perception. Logically, *ALL* the evidence favors the representationalist view, and yet dogmatic die-hards just cannot bring themselves to believe that the world they see is an image in their head, even as a theoretical possible to be discussed and refuted. As Kuhn (1970) explained… 

p. 93
"Like the choice between competing political institutions, that between competing paradigms proves to be a choice between incompatible modes of community life. Because it has that character, the choice is not and cannot be determined merely by the evaluative procedures characteristic of normal science, for those depend in part upon a particular paradigm and that paradigm is at issue. When paradigms enter, as they must, into a debate about paradigm choice, their role is necessarily circular. Each group uses its own paradigm to argue in that paradigm's defense."

p. 93
"...this issue of paradigm choice can never be unequivocally settled by logic and experiment alone."

The truth is that paradigmatic choices are made using an entirely different kind of human reasoning than that reflected in Boolean logic systems, a holistic Gestalt style of thought, or human judgment, a methodology which has not yet been formalized, because we do not yet understand how the mind comes to such holistic conclusions.

If someone who acknowledges the indirect mediation of the causal chain of vision, still insists that vision is direct, they will never be persuaded by any proofs.



2012-07-28
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
I don't know who originally came up with it, but I do believe in "objectively, the subjective and subjectively, the objective". In words of what I consider to be my own philosophy (standing on the shoulders of giants of course), "knowing what we sense and sensing what we know". The line I follow back, I believe, is from my professor theoretical psychology and theology Cees Sanders, to Herman Dooyeweerd, to Bergson, and to Kant. The latter came up with the latest and greatest integration of Anglo-Saxon and continental philosophy which before it got a good hold was taken by Hegel and turned into something it was not. Bergson returned to Kant, criticizing him for being too strict and dogmatic and urging us to find replace anything static and closed by dynamic and open (The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, 1932). The postmodernists, like Deleuze, Lawlor and Zizek lately, have found what they call evidence in Bergson's work for the postmodern idea. However, they are wrong. At the same page (http://bit.ly/LDASdf) where multiplicity or cultural pluralism supposedly is defended, there is a reference to "duality of origin", which I always took to be sensing and knowing or empiricism and metaphysics as Bergson calls it. 
Thank you for a great topic and a fine discussion. Hope this post will make it into the thread too.




2012-07-28
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
That's about right. As Reid pointed out, the "directly" is an expletive.  When inferences are made or when we're looking through a telescope, it may be right to say we're thinking or seeing "indirectly."  That's compared to typical the "directness" of sight, hearing, etc. 

Maybe you're finally getting that the theory of direct perception is not a denial of any causal claims at all.

W

2013-07-11
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
Hi, the answer to your question is "both". To make it easy for ourselves, we assume that external objects are real (Although we cannot have direct contact with them.) otherwise we would not be able to form an image of them in our minds. We open our eyes, not our minds, then we see. Bert Halliday

2013-07-12
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
"Both" is right, because there is a duality in perception: The object being perceived is distinct from the perceptual experience of that object, which is a replica constructed by the mind.
The implication is that a primary function of the mind is as a fantastic three-dimensional real-time virtual-reality generator, as we see in dreams and hallucinations.

2013-07-12
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar

Nice one, Bertie!!  I reckon we could also say the opposite, that the world is NEITHER in our head NOR our head in the world, that the concepts of INNER/OUTER, ME/NOT ME, are just useful cognitive artifices that evolved for managing our biological conundrum (i.e., nutrition, procreation, self-protection, etc.).  Our minds evolved to formulate and utilize dichotomies (i.e., SELF/NON-SELF, LIGHT/DARK, HOT/COLD, NUTRITION/TOXIN, PREDETOR/PREY, etc., etc.).  These are OUR concepts and have nothing to do with the world’s own characteristics, per se.

Ergo…… if we are looking to elucidate the subject of consciousness we must ultimately forgo our reliance on concepts that were self-fabricated for other purposes. 


Best,

CH


2013-08-08
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?

And I suppose among the first cognitive artifices we should abandon is the whole notion of "rightness" and "wrongness" of a theory or a fact as, if there were an ultimate objective truth beyond the illusion of experience?

I'm a stodgy old white European male and I'm stuck on those antiquated notions that when there are alternative explanations of a phenomenon, one is right and the other is wrong, and that it is important to distinguish. If experience is a direct consequence of electrochemical activation in the brain, then the only place it can possibly be located is in the brain, where the electrochemical reactions are taking place. The alternative is pure magic, because it postulates experience to be located somewhere where it cannot be detected by physical means, which is not really a scientific hypothesis because it cannot be falsified. In truth the mind and its experiences are products of the brain and are located nowhere else but within the brain, just as the computations of my computer are located in its circuit boards and memory chips.

2013-08-08
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
Yes, I understand that the world is not in my head - only a private, mental representation of it. Whether my head is in the world is another question (Even more difficult to answer after a pint or two of beer!). Certainly, our physical body is. We can look out at parts of it and, when using a mirror, also see our head. Other minds can see us and, over time, continue to recognise us therefore we exist in a public space. I think that the major difficulty is in what lies between these two areas, public and private.

Consider sight. Science has spent much time and effort explaining what might be called the Visual Pathway - from the eye,fovea, along the optic nerve to whatever forms the mental images that we see, and interpret, as "the world" that surrounds us completely. (Thought of in that way, it becomes a very lonely place?) And, biologists can explain what each stage does. But, the real question is, what does it carry that becomes visual images? What is sensory data, apart from - a bit crude perhaps - electrical signals etc shunted along nerves? Sensory data cannot be excluded from the equation. We cannot see without them!

Bert

2013-08-08
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
I'm not sure if the word "replica" as I've always thought of the mental image as a "representation". The word replica suggests a hard copy - as in a replica of a painting. But that is a moot point - language itself can be very confusing.

    It is remarkable that the mind has developed the ability to represent space. It would be interesting to be able to see inside the mind of a new born baby. How it sees at that moment would tell us whether we learn to see - much as we learn to walk - or whether we "arrive" with the ability to perceive the world as it is. I've always assumed the latter. Bert

2013-08-15
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
>>>Certainly our physical body is [out in the world]. We can look out at parts of it...
<<<

This statement suggests you are missing a key distinction. The body that you "see out there" in the world, is itself an experience, although a spatially structured one, and as such, the experience must be located in your head. But not the head you have come to know as your own, the one you can view with a mirror. That "head" is a perceptual replica of your true physical head, which in turn encompasses all of your experience.

In other words, beyond the farthest things you can perceive in all directions is the inner surface of your true physical skull...

And beyond that skull is an unimaginably immense world, of which all this that we see around us is merely an internal replica.

THAT is the issue  in question. 

>>>
But the real question is, what [is it that *carries*] that become visual images?
<<<

This is the real kicker. If you understand that your experience is a pattern in your mind, corresponding to some patterned something in your brain, if you accept the inescapable fact that your experience is in your head, that there suggests that there are actual colored 3-D moving images in your brain every bit as rich and complex as all this that you see around you.

The arms and legs you see "out there" are actually inside. THAT is the only satisfactory explanation of the relation of public to private spaces. The private space is located inside the head in the public space, although it carries a whole surrounding world with it as if it were indeed external. It is indeed a replica, in the sense that the experience is distinct from the world it represents, which by definition is beyond experience. Like the image on a television monitor displaying a scene from a video camera. Just look at the after-image after seeing a bright light, and think where that colored spot is actually located, when it appears in the space before your face. Why is it not in the back of my eyeball? And why is it not upside-down?

Have you seen my Cartoon Epistemology?

As for what the images are actually "made of", I have an answer for that too. Harmonic resonance -- electrochemical standing waves in bulk neural tissue defining spatial patterns that can rotate and translate independent of the tissue that sustains them.

Harmonic Resonance in the Brain

Its pretty radical stuff, but if you look into it, the evidence is overwhelming.











2013-08-22
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar

Steven, you wrote, 'It is indeed a replica, in the sense that the experience is distinct from the world it represents, which by definition is beyond experience.’

I said in an earlier post that there is the problem of language and meaning (And, doubtless, I also fall into this unavoidable, unavoidable.) The fact that what we experience represents the objective world is what philosophers have been arguing about since the Ancient Greeks. Therefore human experience and the world that we experience are not distinct - that is: easily seen, clear. That is why they are, after more than 2,500 years, still argued about?

For sensory beings, such as humans, experience is all. There is nothing else, apart from sharing an experience with others which, naturally, is nothing more than another experience. We argue over whether we experience, are in contact with, an objective world and how that might come about.

I find, after reading some earlier posts, that there is a great deal of confusion over what is Indirect and what is Direct Reality. Some of the argument is not concerned with focusing on the basics of epistemology. Rather it is about science: such as the biology or the physics of the physical processes of seeing. Respondents have diverged, often quite dramatically, from your initial question into the deeper science, not the grasping of the basics of the philosophy.

In your reply to Paul Niesiobedzki you wrote that: 'Perception is indirect but perceived directly; Perception is time-lagged but perceived directly'. I agree with that. A simplified causal chain looks like this:

 

Perceiver > Image < Casual Chain (The senses etc) < 3D-objective world

 

Perception is Indirect, both because it is perceived via a casual chain and because there is a time lag. The casual chain and the time lag are the "cause" of the Indirectness.

For some, Direct Reality restricts seeing to the simple viewing of the image that appears at the end of the causal chain. In simple terms it would look like this:

 

Perceiver > Image

 

Even this is made more confusing by alternative definitions and language use. For example, In Reid's Non-Naive Direct Realism, Rebecca Copenhaver wrote: 'Indirect realsits hold that it is in virtue of the intrinsic characters of mediating entities and external objects that the former represent the latter, while direct realists hold that it is in virtue of an extrinsic relation that mediating entities represent external objects.'

So, what is Direct Realism, and what is Indirect Realism? If someone could explain that to me then I would be very grateful. If I cannot grasp the difference (Or are they, at heart, fundamentally the same thing: only different viewpoints of perception and of what happens between the subjective and the objective worlds?) then perhaps I should stay in bed each morning when the sun comes up to show me the world in which I think I live! Bert


2013-09-10
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Albert said:

>> 
So, what is Direct Realism, and what is Indirect Realism? If someone could explain that to me then I would be very grateful. 
<<

You can only comprehend the distinction in the context of the paradigm that views the human organism as a biological machine, with sensory organs that operate like microphones and video cameras transmitting information to the brain for central processing. In this paradigm all of experience is nothing other than the electrochemical activations in the brain which in turn represent external reality indirectly.

If one denies the biophysical nature of man, and believes that experience is all that exists, then the concept of representationalism appears profoundly paradoxical. This is your paradigmatic perspective, as revealed in this quote:

>>
human experience and the world that we experience are not distinct - that is: easily seen, clear. That is why they are, after more than 2,500 years, still argued about?
<<

You are saying that it is self evident that the world of experience is the world itself, not a replica of the world in your brain. From that perspective representationalism is profoundly paradoxical, as are dreams and hallucinations that appear like solid reality but are also self-evidently not real.

Indeed, it is that profound paradoxy in that view of perception that flags the whole paradigm as questionable. Yes indeed after more than 2,500 years, this is still in debate! Because most people still believe in the demonstrably wrong paradoxical paradigm that we all adopt instinctively as infants, and many, even vision scientists, refuse to even consider the alternative even as a theoretical possibility to be considered and rejected.

But we cannot have a debate about the directness or otherwise of perception if you begin with the assumption that perception is direct, because that is the issue in question. Can you temporarily and provisionally suspend your initial assumption long enough to explain to me why it is impossible for perception to be indirect, besides just claiming that it is self-evidently so?

Don't tell us of your conclusion, but the mental process that led you to it. Or have you ever even explored the alternative, that the world of your experience is NOT the world it appears to be? Can you entertain that hypothesis long enough to explain WHY it is wrong? 

Because to me, the indirectness of perception is self-evident in the existence of dreams and hallucinations, which in turn reveals the paradox of visual experience to be merely a biochemical process that takes place in the biochemical organ of the brain. I will admit that this opens another, perhaps deeper paradox, which is, how can the biochemical organ of the brain construct such a magnificently persuasive illusory reality? You will never enjoy the challenge of engaging that delicious paradox if you remain wedded to your direct perception paradoxes which are easily resolved. You cannot even know of the existence of that deeper, more magnificent paradox until you abandon yours and see the world as it really is.

Till then we will just be talking past each other -- a characteristic of this whole thread, if you care to review it!

Its a sure sign that a dramatic paradigmatic shift is about to occur when bizarre paradoxes begin to appear in our philosophy. History will view this debate in the same category as the debate whether life has an "elan vitale" (vital essence) which is beyond scientific explanation, and whether mind and soul is a supernatural entity invisible to science. The result will be the same: No, it is not magic, it is just physical reality as always. But it is magnificent nonetheless.


2014-01-14
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
I think it's unhelpful to use terms such as "perceptual replica". One needs to be a bit more radical. Yes, our sensory machinery produces a representation of the external world. But it's a wrong to give the impression that this representation is a "replica" in the sense that it is  "like" the external world.
If one had a red apple and a photo of that red apple then the two would be similar in many ways. For example, the spectrum of light reflected from both would be similar.

But our inner representation of the red apple is very different from  the real red apple. To take an obvious though challenging example, the real apple is not actually "red". "Redness" exists only in our perceptions. The real apple just reflects light of certain wavelengths because of its molecular composition. Nowhere does it actually have any quality of redness. That light hitting our retinas elicits the sensation we name red and we have a nice internal model of a 3D world containing round red apples, which is what we perceive.

So I am not comfortable with words like "replica". I think in our heads we have a useful functional model which represents reality in particular ways, which is derived from reality. But it does not "reflect" or "resemble" reality.

I feel that if people grasped this idea more completely they would get a clearer view of the issues. For one thing, if one could "directly" sense reality, as direct realists seem to think one could, one wouldn't see a world anything like the one we are familiar with. Just a bunch of electromagnetic radiation bouncing around at different frequencies.

I've tried to write more about this here. Please feel free to ignore the annoying religious stuff if it bothers you: http://godsipods.blogspot.co.uk/

Here's a single paragraph from it which I think tries to get across the main point:

"To summarise, as we all already know, the human sense organs and nervous system provide an apparatus by which certain phenomena in the universe are detected, such as light of a certain wavelength, air vibrations of a particular frequency, certain molecules which can be tasted or smelt. Then the information from these stimuli is processed by the brain and somehow transformed to build up a representation of the world. The thing we may sometimes forget is that the universe does not really resemble this human representation of it. Our perception of the universe is a construct which occurs inside ourselves and the universe does not in fact contain any colours or sounds as we would recognise them. I am not at all saying that the universe is not real. Nor am I suggesting that our perception is necessarily inaccurate. I am saying that if things are the way modern science tells us they are then the universe as we see it does not exist. Except in ourselves."


2014-01-22
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar
Absolutely agree, David.

Jo Edwards
UCL
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/jonathan-edwards/test/realmeanknow


2014-01-22
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Steven Lehar

Instead of "perceptual replica", I suggest a "neuronal analog" as the brain representation of the external world. For more about this, see "Where Am I? Redux" on my Research Gate page here:


https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Arnold_Trehub/?ev=hdr_xprf


2014-02-10
Is the World In your Head, or your Head in the World?
Reply to Dave Curtis
Hi, I also questioned Mr Lehar's use of the word 'replica'. It is not correct. It is widely known that the external world is not how "we" see it. For example, the colour of objects - the colour of the external world - is thought to be a sort of grey. Real world objects absorb a range of light rays, the remainder being reflected to the eyes of the viewer. Those remaining light rays, after entering the eye are "seen" as giving colour to objects. However, that colour is in the mind only. The colour blind cannot see some colours.