Monday, December 27, 2010

Just Your Perception, Man.

Recently reading Chalmer's Character of Consciousness I was struck by one of those enigmas that sends question marks rising to the furthest reaches of outer space--those enigmas of purely philosophical discourse
that are brought up so quickly that its assumptions are blinked over. The notion is that one could see an X that is, in reality, an o.

Reality here will mean the world as it is in-itself, independent of our practices of accessing it.

I see an X; is it really an X or simply my perception of an X that is really an O?

The best way to do this would be to examine the grounds or conditions necessary for saying that X is perceived and is not real (or not a part of reality as it is in-itself). If no conditions can be found, then one does not merely perceive, but accesses the world directly.

1. An 'X' is not really an X when there is an independent reality behind that 'X' that has nothing to with 'X'. Let me make a picture using my keyboard where < represents the perspective of a person, such as with his or her sight:

< Xo;~';'/?#]'[/~~/

See all of that junk after the 'X'? That's the chaotic objective world that we can never know and that does not cause X (in this particular model). But wait, what is also in that picture? Isn't it the X itself?

What else could it possibly be? Were it anything else, it would be placed in front of the X relative to the individual's perspective, and the individual would no longer see an X, but would see what's in front of it, and we would be interrogating the reality of that entity instead. It should be obvious from this illustration that the X is not any less a part of 'objective' reality than all of the stuff behind it that is hidden from perception. They are all equally a part of reality as it is in-itself, but the perspective merely lacks the ability to see through the X and to the rest of the junk behind it. This can be looked at coherently in any mixture of the following two ways: the X is hiding the rest of reality but is not any less a part of that reality, or the perspective is not wide enough or does not have the conditions necessary to see the rest of reality.

2. An 'X' is not really an X when there is an independent reality behind that 'X' that, in part, causes 'X'. Another keyboard drawing, only this time include '<--' to mean 'causes' where 'X<--o' means 'o causes X':

< X<--o;~';'/?#]'[/~~/

Here, we clearly see o causing X. Of course, the individual only sees the X and not the o that is causing it. Does this place the X outside of reality as it is in itself? If I put the Jack of Hearts in my hand and hold it up to your face so that you cannot see my hand, does that remove the Jack of Hearts from the world just because my hand is what caused it to be in front of your face? No. In the same way, just because there is a hidden causal element behind the X does not remove the X from reality as it is in-itself.

3. This is not very necessary for the purposes of my argument, but another common view-point should at least be addressed--all of 'objective' reality causally interacts with one another which then causes your percepion of X:

< X<--o<--;<--~<--'<--;<--'<--/<--?<--#<--]<--'<--[<--/<--~<--~<--/

The implications are the same as 2, except that behind my hand that holds up the Jack of Hearts there is also an arm and that that arm also covers up a body and eanything else that causes the card to be placed in your vision.

Conclusions: The world as we experience it is the world as it is in-itself, even if it is a limited view of that world.

Other Conclusions: Representationalism places an arbitrary distinction between the representation and what is represented. It should be clear that, at the very least, making the world in-itself as a represented virtual-reality construct in a person's mind does not help in the philosophical investigations about drawing the line between the 'who' and the 'what.'

Next: The Brain Must Also Be a Representation.

Next next: Where Consciousness (What representationalism tries to explain) Properly Belongs.


  1. That is all seemingly mathematical. I was bad at math :)
    I can then say it like this--when I take a psychedelic and look at a LEAF, I feel I am seeing the leaf DIRECTLY. I am seeing the leaf with my whole organism.
    How do I compare this with when I 'come down'? Well the trick is to integrate these deeper insights so you do not pine for some 'higher reality'--as some philosophies and religions have done.
    But I can say that there are states of mind that does not see the leaf really---it is not feeling connected to them in any deep way.

  2. "I am seeing the leaf with your whole organism--"I think that is the right way to think about it.

    In the philosophy of perception, halucinations are usually taken as evidence that we do not perceive reality as it is, but rather that there is a virtual world in our heads that has become befuddled about the world as it really is.

    I have to say that I agree more with you. The leaf is seen directly in ordinary circumstances and a more complete picture of a leaf might be seen in more extraordinary circumstances such as that of taking a psychedelic. For some, this difference in perception in differing circumstances seems to weaken my argument that we perceive things as they are in themselves. I don't think that it does: I'm not arguing that we have full-access to the world as it is, but we have an access, a direct access, that can be opened or closed.

    "But I can say that there are states of mind that does not see the leaf really--" Again, I think that's the right way to think about it. Extraordinary circumstances do not necessarily mean a more open access to the leaf as it is itself. Heightened emotions and moods, perhaps fears and anxieties or certain thoughts can make one's 'whole organism' close off or cover up the leaf itself. I think that 'hallucinations', when properly construed, is always either about thoughts, emotions, feelings, with little sensory experience by way of the five senses, or is a alteration of the bodily sensory equipment itself--dialation of the pupils for example. A person who must wear glasses is not hallucinating, but is only filtering light through bad focal lenses (in the eye).