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Thread: Senses: What is it we are sensing?

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    Senses: What is it we are sensing?

    This is a fascinating but long article that I am taking this quote from:http://www.essentialism.net/mechanic.htm

    It is a new philosopy of essentialism and here is a very poinent statement about what our senses indeed are:


    But the physical apparatus by which we sense everyday experience is proprioceptive, which means that what we are actually sensing are the responses of our own cerebro-nervous system.

    Let me bring this idea down to earth with an ordinary garden variety illustration.

    There is a rose growing in my garden. I say that the rose "is", meaning that it exists and has being; but do I actually know this for a fact? I could be wrong about the species, of course, having only a smattering of botanical knowledge. But a rose by any other name is still a rose to me, and this particular flower happens to exhibit a set of characteristics that matches the description of every other rose in my memory. I also judge the object of my perception to be a "physical reality" because I can support my visual impression of it with related sensory data. But of what are such data composed?

    Cupping the delicate blossom in my hand, I study the flower's crimson petals; but the color, shape and texture that I am experiencing are not attributes of the rose itself but of my visual and tactile sensory faculties. The familiar sweet fragrance I sense in its presence is, in actuality, a chemical alteration between my olfactory nerve endings that recalls past encounters with roses from my memory. I stoop to pluck the flower but am stopped by the *****ly thorns of its stem; the pain I feel—a result of the traumatized condition of the nerves in my fingertips when the skin is pierced—is a further reminder that, except for the presumed beingness of this living plant before me, all of its identifiable attributes are actually properties of my organic sensibility. Thus, the flower whose existence I so confidently and without hesitation reported a moment ago on analysis turns out to be the mere spectre of a rose—a concoction of my own proprietary awareness. I do not even know for a certainty that what I've called a rose has a being of its own that is distinct from my cognizance of it!

    Now I may try to corroborate the existence of the rose by inviting my wife to the garden and asking her to confirm it. But what she perceives will be her own set of sensory data relative to what is, in effect, another experience. Since I have no direct access to her sense impressions or values, we can only compare our observations verbally, in a very general way. Likewise, the form of the rose and its physical position among the other plants in the garden may be described, sketched or photographed to provide additional evidence of its existence. But these abstract "proofs" do not validate its "being" any more than self-awareness validates my own. Physical things like houses and stones—even living trees and flowers—are dimensional phenomena that relate to space and time in an objective world, not to being as such. Their supposed beingness is a consequence of their being experienced. And the tools we employ to confirm their existence will always produce data consistent with our experience because that is what they were designed to do.

    So if we are only sensing the responses of our cerebro-nervous system, what is truly, objectively "out there"? This article suggests that everything is a part of an "essence", and that we are what we are because we have this cerebro-nervous system that differentiates itself from everything else. But the fact that we call all else but ourselves as "other" is only a function of our cerebro-nervous system. So what think ye?

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    I think it is extremely interesting, and I have often thought about this idea in the past - partly as a result of studying art and having to also study about 'what is perception?' (especially relating to visual perception). But, too tired now to write any intelligent post...

    I am also amused to notice that the censor has decimated the word '*****ly' - you know, that word that means 'spiky' not unlike a hedgehog...

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    the physical apparatus by which we sense everyday experience is proprioceptive, which means that what we are actually sensing are the responses of our own cerebro-nervous system.
    This looks like another case of 'man-within-a-man' model of idealism.
    According to the insights of empiricism; the phenomenon of sensation has primary value, while all other entities are secondary.
    Through repeated experience, we learn there are constants and variables.
    To explain our senses, the constants, and the variables that show regularity or range of variance, we have developed a vocabulary of entities (nouns) where the arrow denotes the direction of flow of an information bit.

    1) object-->2) observer.

    In terms of object-agent relations, a formally identical relationship can be said in vebs (actually verbals)

    1) (that which is) observed-->2) (person who is) observing (which)
    or
    1) (that which) reveals (itself) --> 2) (to whom it is) revealed.

    This process of knowing can be called 'sensation,' 'perception,' or 'cognition,' and this suffices to explain our sensation of objects.
    It is to be noted there is already an abstraction involved; assuming two entities to conveniently explain our experience of 'perception.'

    Now to assume a third entity 'response,' borrowing the word from the passage, to come between object and observer is not only unnecessary, but misleading.

    1) object-->2) neural response-->3)observer

    This model is an overcomplexified model of perception. Perhaps the author is assuming abstact thinking; such as reflecting on pimary perception... then it might work. In fact we can go on in any number of abstractions upon abstactions on end. But the thesis regarded 'sensation.'

    Often times 'knowing' something through our senses is non-reflective, as when a soft ball player catches a ball in the field with little conscious reflection but in a combination of desire to catch, empirical calculation of ball speed and running speed, and conditioned reflexes obtained from years of physical activity all happening in a split second. The mental calculations may be fast, numerous, and adaptive, but there is no intermediate 'neural response' that is separate from, and observed by, the player's mind. See Mad Pierrot's post in Descartes.

    Another possiblity is that the author could have confused syllogism with perception. We can have several primary perceptions in parellel, all adding up to a grand sum so to speak. That does not require a tri-partite model of perception; only a number of two-partite perceptions.

    We are not Mazinga Z's requiring pilots to man them because we are the pilots themselves.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    There is a state of physical activity called 'oriented' ~ing.

    The idea of not having the customary gauges to fine-tune or adjust your maneuvers (such as night-time shooting; swinging a bat; what else..??) to use the end result as a substitue for ordinary predefined gauges engineered to be used for one's adjustment. In this case, the first sensation becomes one's feelers for the second move. And the rifle or bat, although without any neural connections or receptors, works as if it were part of the nerve-connected body of the shooter or player.

    The elevated state of the person's senses will give superior results. But this does not involve the tri-partite model of perception, either. This is merely parallel two-partite perceptions in temporal sequence where learning/adjusting becomes accelerated by way of iterated accumulation due to keen observation of one's bodily coordination.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    @Kinsao: Yes, the -p-r-t-c-k-ly also brought a smile. Why is it such a hated word ? Does anybody use it to offend anymore ?
    Last edited by lexico; 28-07-05 at 01:38.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CreativeChaos
    the physical apparatus by which we sense everyday experience is proprioceptive, which means that what we are actually sensing are the responses of our own cerebro-nervous system.
    This may well be true, but it seems trivial. As Lexico says, it is overcomplexifying (Lex, I think you made a neologism!), and could lead to an infinite regression. What is causing that response that we are sensing? What is causing that? and so on, ad infinitum - or else we lapse into solipsism.

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    When I'm thinking about that kind of thing, I feel like I'm trying to look into 2 facing mirrors... and that my eyes are literally doing this --> My brain just can't deal with that sort of analysis!

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    I haven`t much time to read the article, so i`ll move from the quote.

    So if we are only sensing the responses of our cerebro-nervous system,
    what is truly, objectively "out there"?
    maybe, i am bringing it to the ground, but look if our senses were ... hmmm... corrupted ... more likely the very first live-being would never survive. Some mechanical model - we are equipped with sensors which recieve a lot of information (tactile, audio, visual, ...), neurons with help of electrical signals and chemical reactions transmit this information to the brain,where it`s being processed. If brain would 'make' wrong desisions we would not jerk the finger away from the thorn or the flame. Wouldn`t be able to perform many other
    complicated actions (like that catcher, for example).

    The other problem is language. There are numbers of very useful social
    stereotypes which help members of one society understand each other. Like implicit 'theory of social contract' on semantic level. So in our daily life we can coop with each other. If there is one table in a room no matter how it would look to each observer it`s still a table. And if you ask to move a table it won`t bring misunderstanding (what people think at that time about you and your intentions its separate question )

    But, certainly, there is a difference in each other perception of this world,
    which is not reduced to actions, but also includes various relations and
    abstract staff (at least, human world). That`s the field where difficulties
    exist and, yet they can be solved and agreement achieved. And this has little
    to do with square responses of cerebral system (unless its seriously
    physically damaged).

    There was a sci-fi story by Bradbury, when the child was born in another dimension and parents saw him like a small pyramide. But it still was a baby who needed their love and care.

    But maybe, even disregarding solipsism, i am just some vegetable which was
    consumed by a monster whose acid belly juice causes all these colourfull
    hallucinations
    Or, maybe, we are just a mould on the stone which imagined all this world for
    its own amusement, `cause it`s too boring roast on the stone under two red stars

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    Quote Originally Posted by Void
    There was a sci-fi story by Bradbury, when the child was born in another dimension and parents saw him like a small pyramide. But it still was a baby who needed their love and care.
    I've read that story too. Bradbury is surreal, but cool. His stories are like the prose equivalent of Chirico's paintings. I have a signed copy of Golden Apples of the Sun , but my favourite book of his is Fahrenheit 451

    Quote Originally Posted by Void
    But maybe, even disregarding solipsism, i am just some vegetable which was consumed by a monster whose acid belly juice causes all these colourfull hallucinations
    Or, maybe, we are just a mould on the stone which imagined all this world for
    its own amusement, `cause it`s too boring roast on the stone under two red stars
    Or maybe I am just a figment of Descartes imagination!

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    Yeah, Fahrenheit 451 is indeed outstanding. But i also was bewildered by short story Kaleidoscope

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tsuyoiko
    I've read that story too. Bradbury is surreal, but cool. His stories are like the prose equivalent of Chirico's paintings. I have a signed copy of Golden Apples of the Sun , but my favourite book of his is [I]Fahrenheit 451
    1) Are there any volumes of Ray Bradbury's short stories? Maybe the story about the baby is in one of these?

    I read a good Phillip.K.Dick one about a guy who's job was to test transport systems. In the story he is testing a kind of 'wormhole' type thing(which distorts space and time), and each time he goes through he notices these little people waiting at an opening in the 'tunnel' wall,who seem to be bringing him offerings.
    It turns out that the designers of the wormhole had not taken into account the expansion of the universe.The little people were in fact from a very long time ago and viewing the man through a 'rip' in space/time. He looked huge because of the expansion.
    The offerings were because they thought he was God!
    He later reads a bible and discovers it has altered because of his involvment with the wormhole experiment,and he has changed religious history.

    - so kids, don't mess around with wormholes!


    2) de Chirico eh? - good surrealism skills. keep it unreal!
    Do you know Yves Tanguy? He was also a really good painter.



    Or maybe I am just a figment of Descartes imagination!
    3) I like the film 'Dark Star', when Doolittle is trying to explain Descartes to a robot bomb that is about to blow everyone up.

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