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Brain: Constructs rather than mirrors reality

 
 
coberst
 
Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2008 03:42 pm
Brain: Constructs rather than mirrors reality

Thomas Kuhn, in his famous book, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions", explains the difficult we have with recognizing and accepting experiences that contradict our anticipations.

Kuhn details some of the problems that arose while scientists discovered such scientific anomalies as X-ray and oxygen.

As Kuhn observed:
"Novelty emerges with difficulty, manifested by resistance, against a back drop provided by expectation. Initially, only the anticipated and usual are experienced even under circumstances where anomaly is later to be discoveredÂ…Further acquaintance, however, does result of awareness of something wrongÂ…[which] opens a period in which perceptual categories are adjusted until the initially anomalous has become the anticipated."

He concludes: "What a man sees depends upon what he looks at and also upon what his previous visual-conceptual experience has taught him to see."

Kuhn provides us with an experiment performed by Jerome Bruner and Leo Postman undertaken to illuminate this human characteristic of seeing only what we are prepared to see.

Subjects were shown standard playing cards mixed with the anomalous card a red six of spades and a black four of hearts. Subjects repeatedly and erroneously identified the anomalous cards as a six of hearts or a four of spades. Some, even after the experiment was over, displayed confusion and even anger at the experiment. Only after repeated exposures to the cards did the subjects slowly feel something was askew here. Only after forty exposures did the subjects correctly identify the cards.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 1,049 • Replies: 18
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Joe Nation
 
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Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2008 06:51 pm
So they will make lousy scientists but wonderful preachers of myth.

When a person can look at something entirely out of their realm of knowledge and say "oOo, I see." that person is tuned to this reality.

Joe(at first, the idea that there could be more than five dimensions, more than seven dimensions, maybe more than twelve dimensions, gave him a couple of spinning moments of -what was that? - anxiety?)Nation
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Buescher
 
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2008 12:32 am
Kuhn's ideas on that matter go all the way back to Kant (though his application of them to science was very interesting and original.) The tendency has also shown by work in gestalt psychology. The emphasis is, of course, that these positions should be balanced. The mind is not a blank mirror of the world, but it also does not radically construct it. I would rather say something to the effect that the mind tends to see things as things rather than impressionistic-ly.
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coberst
 
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2008 01:27 am
There is indeed some sensory input that stimulates the reality we create. It is a difficult thing to discuss because we do not have a vocabulary suitable for discussing it. Kant speaks of the thing-in-itself as being that reality out there and we speak of the reality that we know. Our problem lies in that we use the same word "reality" for both because up until recently everyone considered what we know is what is out there.
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fresco
 
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Reply Thu 1 May, 2008 11:51 am
Quote:
Brain: Constructs rather than mirrors reality


No. What we call "the brain" is also a construct. Think about it !
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Shapeless
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 May, 2008 01:01 pm
coberst wrote:
up until recently everyone considered what we know is what is out there.


Up until recently? As you pointed out, Kant said it over 200 years ago. The distinction between the noumenal and the phenomenal can be traced at least as far back as Plato.
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coberst
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 May, 2008 02:34 pm
Shapeless wrote:
coberst wrote:
up until recently everyone considered what we know is what is out there.


Up until recently? As you pointed out, Kant said it over 200 years ago. The distinction between the noumenal and the phenomenal can be traced at least as far back as Plato.


It is true about Kant but common sense fortified by objectivist philosophy supported a non embodied paradigm for reality.
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coberst
 
  1  
Reply Thu 1 May, 2008 02:35 pm
fresco wrote:
Quote:
Brain: Constructs rather than mirrors reality


No. What we call "the brain" is also a construct. Think about it !


I guess it is a construct just like the heart.
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 May, 2008 12:57 am
Quote:
I guess it is a construct just like the heart.


No. The structure and function of the heart are non-controversial. The error is to assume that "data" is analalogous to "blood" , when in essence data are observer defined. i.e. "information" is never objective.
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coberst
 
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Reply Fri 2 May, 2008 01:07 am
fresco wrote:
Quote:
I guess it is a construct just like the heart.


No. The structure and function of the heart are non-controversial. The error is to assume that "data" is analalogous to "blood" , when in essence data are observer defined. i.e. "information" is never objective.


Nothing we do is "objective". Everything we do is subjective. Objectivity is shared subjectivity. However, the more closely the work we do becomes closer to dealing with things that we are inclined to hold ego or social irrational influence the greater the problem.
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fresco
 
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Reply Fri 2 May, 2008 01:32 am
Social and individual influences are not "the problem"....they are the "solution" ! Your use of "problem" lies within the narrow "scientificism of prediction and control". That level of discourse must be transcended if we are to "understand" the concept of reality. (See for example lengthy discussions of Maturana on this forum, or alternatively Capra "The Web of Life")
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coberst
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 May, 2008 05:53 am
fresco wrote:
Social and individual influences are not "the problem"....they are the "solution" ! Your use of "problem" lies within the narrow "scientificism of prediction and control". That level of discourse must be transcended if we are to "understand" the concept of reality. (See for example lengthy discussions of Maturana on this forum, or alternatively Capra "The Web of Life")


You are correct we must transcend the common level of discourse. We can begin that process by studying CT (Critical Thinking).
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 May, 2008 10:50 am
Perhaps not. "Thinking" may be an epiphenomenon of language...and language is no biologocal big deal according to Maturana.
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Fri 2 May, 2008 11:21 pm
Coberst, do you believe it to be an objective fact that "Everything we do is subjective"?

This is not a trick question.
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coberst
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 May, 2008 01:49 am
JLNobody wrote:
Coberst, do you believe it to be an objective fact that "Everything we do is subjective"?

This is not a trick question.


Yes

Objectivity is shared subjectivity.

These are matters that are difficult to discuss because we do not have a vocabulary suitable to reality. The common view, supported by many a priori philosophical views, holds that what we see is what is. Only in the last few decades has serious empirical research made it clear that these objectivists views are in error.
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 May, 2008 07:31 am
Coberst,

The path JLN is indicating to you is that neither "subjectivity" nor "objectivity" are viable concepts with respect to "ultimate reality". i.e. That is the essence of a nondualist position. "Empirical research" has little to do with this because that assumes at least one side of a dualistic dichotomy. A second casuality of the position is the recognition of the illusory nature of "self" as permanent "observer". Indeed various "selves" are evoked by rerquirements of different communication situations, whence comes resistance to non-dualism by those who have a vested interest in the maintenance of a particular "self perception".
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coberst
 
  1  
Reply Sat 3 May, 2008 07:43 am
fresco wrote:
Coberst,

The path JLN is indicating to you is that neither "subjectivity" nor "objectivity" are viable concepts with respect to "ultimate reality". i".


I agree. Neather subjectivity nor objectivity can tell us anything about ultimate reality.
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Thalion
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 May, 2008 06:50 pm
This is similar to the other thread of yours I just replied to:

While the mind might filter reality or see it according to some perspective, it is perhaps problematic to suggest that the mind entirely creates what it observes. It would probably be more accurate to say that the mind must see things as things that it have pre-existing categories for observing (not necessarily universal categories) that sometimes do not match the categories actually expressed by nature. Ideally, then, humans would have a nearly infinite number of such categories so that there is an almost perfect correspondence between what the human is seeing reality *as* and what reality really *is*.
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JLNobody
 
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Reply Tue 27 May, 2008 09:09 pm
Thalion, I agree that "our" reality is inter-subjective--insofar as it is culturally constituted as mental constructs. It is not likely that I could have this conversation with a Dani tribesman of highland New Guinea.
We do perceive that "reality" in terms of learned (pre-existing) categories, and it seems obvious to me that only we create such categories; they do not exist as "categories actually expressed by nature", except insofar as we are nature. But we do reduce the world of "concrete" phenomena to classes of "things". This is necessary even though it involves a falsification of reality.
Note that I wince when I say "reality", "concrete", "things", etc. for fear that you will take me for a naive realist who thinks their referents are objects "out there" rather than inter-subjectively shared constructs "in here" in OUR cartesian heads (wince).
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