Neural worlds and real worlds

States of the brain represent states of the world. A puzzle arises when one learns that at least some of the mind/brain’s internal representations, such as a sensation of heat or a sensation of red, do not genuinely resemble the external realities they allegedly represent: the mean kinetic energy of the molecules of the substance felt (temperature) and the mean electromagnetic reflectance profile of the seen object (color). The historical response has been to declare a distinction between objectively real properties, such as shape motion and mass, and merely subjective properties, such as heat, color and smell. This hypothesis leads to trouble. A challenge for cognitive neurobiology is to characterize, in suitably general terms, the nature of the relationship between brain models and the world modeled. We favor the hypothesis that brains develop high-dimensional maps whose internal relations correspond in varying degrees of fidelity to the enduring causal structure of the world. From this perspective, the basic epistemological relation is not “single-percept to single- external-feature” but rather “background-brain-maps to causal-domain-portrayed.
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