In view of the excellent arguments that have been put forth recently in favour of qualia, internal sensory presentations, it would strike an impartial observer - one could imagine a future historian of philosophy - as extremely odd why so many philosophers who are opposed to qualia, that is, sensory experiences internal to the brain, have largely ignored those arguments in their own. There has been a fashionable assumption that any theory of perception which espouses qualia has long since been (...) overcome by a number of 'formidable' objections, in particular, the Homunculus/Infinite Regress Objection, the Solipsism Objection, Austin's Illusion/Delusion Objection, the Ludicrousness-of-Colours-in-the-Brain Objection, the Indirect-Realist-has-to-assume-Direct-Realism Objection, the Impossibility-of-Comparing-Internal-with-External Objection, the Impossibility of Intrinsic Experience, and several more minor varieties of these. It is uncanny how they continue to be repeated, indeed, with a kind of automatism, evidenced by the fact that none of those who repeat them appear to have taken note of the answers to the objections. Indeed, they only appear to refer to those philosophers with whom they agree: it has long been insisted upon in the study of rhetoric that one of the weakest things to do in an argument is to ignore the main points made by one's opponent:
[it is] the wisest plan _to state Objections in their full force_ ; at least, wherever there does exist a satisfactory answer to them; otherwise, those who hear them stated more strongly than by the uncandid advocate who had undertaken to repel them, will naturally enough conclude that they are unanswerable. It is but a momentary and ineffective triumph that can be obtained by man. (shrink)
If a sensory field exists as a pure natural sign open to all kinds of interpretation as _evidence_ (see 'Sensing as non-epistemic'), what is it that does the interpreting? Borrowing from the old Gestalt psychologists, I have proposed a gestalt module that picks out wholes from the turmoil, it being the process of _noticing_ or _attending to_ , but the important difference from Koffka and Khler (Koffka, 1935; Khler, 1940), the originators of the term 'gestalt' in the psychology of perception (...) ( is that the emphasis is upon the gestalt projection as motivated . Gestalt-attention of this kind is usually enforced in the first instance by pain or pleasure, and the resulting projections are placed in memory tabbed with fear or desire, such that if such a pattern recurs in the sensory field, fear or desire are triggered. In advanced animals the ability to play with the gestalt module has been evolved, because experimenting in curiosity has proved adaptive, as the exploratory behaviour in the Rat, the Raven, the Apes and _Homo sapiens_ bears out. (shrink)
A sensory receptor, in any organism anywhere, is sensitive through time to some distribution - energy, motion, molecular shape - indeed, anything that can produce an effect. The sensitivity is rarely direct: for example, it may track changes in relative variation rather than the absolute change of state (as when the skin responds to colder and hotter instead of to cold and hot as such); it may track differing variations under different conditions (the eyes' dark-adaptation; adaptation to sound frequencies can (...) lower the difference threshold; the kinesthetic sense will shut down if a limb is held in a stationary position too long - the limb 'going to sleep'); it may be subject to distortion of the input from overloading (dazzle producing strong-after-images); it may not be confined to one channel of sensitivity (the retina is sensitive to pressure; the hands can feel some strong sound-vibrations, the tympanum of the ear records touch). Strictly speaking there is no limit as to what intensities and what ranges receptors could be sensitive. Sharks are sensitive to electrostatic fields, homing pigeons to magnetic fields; snakes to infra-red rays; bacteria to acid concentrations; perhaps there has even been a mutant organism sensitive to the passage of cosmic rays, even though that would hardly have bestowed any conceivable survival value. What is irrefutable is that individual receptors differ markedly from organism to organism, between different members of the species (one dog being better at tracing smells than another; one person being able to sense light-waves of 375 nanometres, another not; children able to hear 20,000 Hz, older persons not), and between receptors of the same kind within one organism (one eye being sensitive to 765 nm and the other not; one ear deaf to 15,000 Hz and over, the other not). There are also just-noticeable-differences (JND's), in that one person can see two shades of a colour where another sees only one; similarly with sounds. (shrink)
One evolutionary advantage is that, because of sensory and perceptual relativity (acknowledged as an empirical fact), the tracking of portions of the real relevant to the living creature can be enhanced if updating from species-member to species-member can take place. In human perception, the structure is therefore in the form of a triangulation (Davidson's metaphor) in which continual mutual correction can be performed. Language, that which distinguishes human beings from other animals, capitalizes on that structure. The means by which updating (...) of adaptiveness takes place in the human species is shown to involve a covert hypothesis of singularity in co-reference, a structure that brings the idea of mutual faith and its character to the fore. (shrink)
It is the purpose of this article to explicate the logical implications of a television analogy for perception, first suggested by John R. Smythies (1956). It aims to show not only that one cannot escape the postulation of qualia that have an evolutionary purpose not accounted for within a strong functionalist theory, but also that it undermines other anti-representationalist arguments as well as some representationalist ones.
This discussion takes up an attack by Jerrold Aronson (seconded by Rom Harre) on the use made by Norwood R. Hanson of the Gestalt-Switch Analogy in the philosophy of science. Aronson's understanding of what is implied in a gestalt switch is shown to be flawed. In his endeavor to detach conceptual understanding from perceptual identification he cites several examples, without realizing the degree to which such gestalt switches can affect conceptualizing or how conceptualizing can affect gestalts. In particular, he has (...) not confronted the possibility of such gestalt selection being involved in the basic identification of what we term "entities". (shrink)