Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How Do Our Eyes Know What's In Front of Us?

This is a common enough type of question for people who know little or nothing of the 'simple level' cognitive mechanics of the mind, the kind that might be called in college "Cognition 101". The eyes don't "know" anything; but lets use this question as a metaphor.

Our eyes don't know until our mind figures it out. Our mind doesn't figure it out until it has enough prior examples in the memory from which to make inferences and draw conclusions. The mind doesn't have any prior (a priori) examples at birth.

"As far as can be ascertained, an infant’s sensory experience is an undifferentiated chaos. Discriminated awareness begins on the level of percepts.

"A percept is a group of sensations automatically retained and integrated by the brain of a living organism. It is in the form of percepts that man grasps the evidence of his senses and apprehends reality. When we speak of “direct perception” or “direct awareness,” we mean the perceptual level." http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/percep…

We must go from that state of undifferentiated chaos, to a mental state whereby we can begin to makes sense of the world. We can only do that by using the hard-wired system of the brain that is like an empty thumb drive--empty except for the operating software called "logic"; a thumb drive which gets filled by life's experiences--like seeing and touching a tree for the first time. You don't know what it is. You parents or a sibling or someone tells you.

("Logic" has two connotations. The one we think of first and most often is that of an induction, deduction, argument, etc., that demonstrates a thought that is in accord with reason; in other words, it appears rational, whether or not we detect a mistake in it, such as a fallacy. The second connotation is the processes of the mind by which thought would be impossible without, like a car without an engine.

(The second form of logic is built in to our brains. If it was not, then Aristotle could not have deduced that there are exactly 256 forms of categorical syllogism, no more no less, that the mind has at its disposal. These 256 are identical in every culture and language on earth. But they are devoid of content, i.e., of metaphysical measurement, until we gain experience from which to form percepts using that system of logic.)

Just as your lungs know how to breath, and your stomach knows how to digest, your mind knows how to perform the functions of logic. But an empty stomach can't digest; and an empty mind can't make inductions.
Until your mind knows whatever basic percepts it requires for survival in its specific environment, your eyes "know" nothing that is front of you--neither things of empirical content, nor the things of conceptual content that you can "see" even with your eyes closed.

Ardi Pithecus ™,
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