March 27, 2014
In a discussion at another site, I am noticing some misunderstanding of what is meant by direct perception. I’m seeing comments similar to “vision uses photons, so is indirect.” Those who favor direct perception have never denied that vision uses photons, retinal receptors and neurons. The usually prefer saying that visual perception is mediated by photons, neurons, etc. What they disagree with, is the idea that first a representation is formed inside the head, and then we perceive that representation.
Apparently this distinction is confusing. So I plan a short series of posts where I contrast direct perception and representationalist perception. This post is the introduction to that series. The subsequent posts in this series are:
Illustrating with science
It is sometimes said that scientific discovery is learning written big, and scientific data acquisition is perception written big. The problems that science must solve to acquire useful data are similar to the problems that a perceptual system must solve to gather information about the world. I shall use that analogy between perception and science, to illustrate what is meant by direct perception.
My next post in this series will give a representationalist account of getting temperature data. I’ll follow that with a post on a direct way of getting temperature data. And then, in one more post, I will attempt to point out the important distinctions.
November 13, 2013
When I mention my ideas about the role of conventions in science, I am often accused of being a relativist or a social constructionist or a post-modernist. Those seem to all be related. I am not any of those. Today’s post will look at why my ideas about conventions do not have any relativist implication.
What am I
I’ve just said that I am not a relativist or a social constructivist or a post-modernist. So perhaps I should say something about what I am. It’s not easy to say what I am, because my views don’t fit any of the standard labels.
In his book “Science and Relativism“, Larry Laudan presents a discussion between four philosophers of science, whom he labels as a positivist, a realist, a pragmatist and a relativist. I disagree with all four of them. For each of them, there are places where I agree with what they say. But, overall, I do not see science the way that any of them see it.
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October 28, 2013
Recently, Massimo Pigliucci hosted a discussion of the computational theory of mind on his Rational Speaking podcast, with an accompanying post on his blog:
That blog post has a link to the podcast. I listened to that podcast this morning, and will comment on it in this post.
I have been clear that I am skeptical of computationalism. And Pigliucci is equally clear that he, too, is a skeptic. But I don’t plan to repeat those earlier posts here.
What surprised me about the discussion, was that O’Brien emphasized analog computation. Perhaps O’Brien is conceding that there might be problems with computationalism in the form of digital computation.
I remember, perhaps around 15 years ago, somebody argued for analog computation rather than digital computation. This was in a usenet post, and possibly the poster was Stefan Harnad. I remember, at the time, that my response was something like:
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May 26, 2013
I don’t much like the word “qualia”. I don’t find it useful. People who use that word (and its singular form “quale”) hope to be able to discuss questions about conscious experience. In this post, I’ll try to address those topics without the assumptions that seem to be built into use of “qualia.”
I’ll start with a review of earlier posts in this series.
- Experience: I have identified this with internal activity of homeostatic processes, such as are commonly found in biological systems. In particular, I have identified “experience” (with the scare quotes) with internal event to which the system reacts, so can be said to be reactively aware. How we become conscious, and not merely reactively aware, I take to be related to our ability to have thoughts. I expect to discuss thought in a future post.
- Information: I have suggested that an organism acquires information about the world, and represents this information as internal events of which the organism is reactively aware. This reactive awareness of represented information mediates the organisms awareness or consciousness of the external world. Perhaps one could think of information as being represented by biochemical events or by neural events. I prefer to not be that specific, because I am discussing principles rather than implementation details. AI proponents will want to consider whether computational events could be used instead of neural events.
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May 27, 2012
I have made no secret of my disdain for the idea that knowledge is justified true belief, as is often asserted in the literature of epistemology. In this post, I want to say more about my own view of what constitutes knowledge.
I recently posted a parable, “The blind man and the cave” in to illustrate what is required in order to have knowledge. To my surprise, one of the comments dismissed everything that I thought important in that parable, and insisted that knowledge is just facts.
All the blind man needs to know is WHAT he is measuring (a fact), and then know the measurement (a fact). Then the facts that he gains (height of the cave) will be the newly acquired knowledge because he understands the facts based on previous facts learned.
That leaves me wondering why philosophers seem to miss (or gloss over) what I see as important.
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May 1, 2012
A commenter to a recent post said, in part:
The consensus in science is that objective data (like photons, matter, etc.) interact with our body via the sensory system (nervous system, etc.) converting a truncated amount of incoming data (due to limitations on nervous system processing speed and resolution) into even further truncated streams of information (due to nervous system compression before & as a result of space limitations in the body/spinal cord), eventually leading to the brain where that truncated data is translated into what we perceive (perceptions).
That is a view known as “representationalism” and computationalism is the particular version of representationism that says that what the brain is mainly doing is computation.
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April 7, 2012
This is partly a comment on “The Knight’s Song, or What is a [scientific] theory?” and partly a post on my own view of science and how it differs from what philosophers of science say.
If we follow the Shannon-Weaver theory of communication, then
- we start with semantic information (the natural world, as studied by science);
- we encode that in a symbolic form (syntactic information, Shannon information, linguistic representation);
- that syntactic information can then be transmitted or recorded;
- a final receiver of the syntactic information can decode it to recover the semantic information.
With science, the method we use for symbolically encoding nature is what we call “measurement”. This process of encoding produces the data on which science very much depends. I also discussed this way of looking at measurement in an earlier post.
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March 20, 2012
As previously indicated, I intend giving an outline of my own non-typical views of philosophical topics. I’ll start by indicating in broad outline, how I look at knowledge.
There’s a traditional division between rationalism (roughly, knowledge is innate but perhaps requires reasoning to uncover it) and empiricism (knowledge is acquired through experience). Between those alternatives, I clearly select empiricism. It seems rather obvious that we acquire our knowledge through experience, and I suppose I find it a bit of a puzzle that there are rationalists who deny this.
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February 5, 2012
The conventional view appears to be that perception is passive. Observations somehow pop into our heads, and we just have to apply logic to determine what it is that we are observing. However, getting useful information about the world is more difficult than that, as I suggested in an earlier post.
We often hear variations of the slogan “cognition is computation” and sometimes people seem to be taking that as fact rather than as a slogan or a hypothesis. It is a slogan that comes from the idea of perception as passive. I am suggesting “cognition is measurement” as an alternative slogan and hypothesis. I use the term “measurement” broadly, to describe activity undertaken get useful information about the world. So I will take perception to involve measurement activity.
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