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Medical Square-circles? Why?

  1. Jul 9, 2011 #1
    I really don't understand this. I can't get my head around it. Why is it that the mind arrives at such nonsensical stuff? Such as a square circle. What is it that leads to these weird "conclusions"? If I can imagine these square circles then how can I know that anything I think of is correct/valid?
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  3. Jul 9, 2011 #2


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    Can you imagine a square circle or is it a case of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doublethink" [Broken]). In these cases the people aren't really seeing square circles, they are just looking at circles and having the illusion that they are seeing them square.
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  4. Jul 9, 2011 #3
    I'd rather not concentrate on the subjective here (mentalisms or psychobabble). As I think this thought or nonsensical statement may also be thought up by another person. I'm asking 'objectively', why does this kind of thought occur at all?
  5. Jul 9, 2011 #4


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    Sorry I'm not sure what you are really asking. Are you asking what the thought experiment is used for?
  6. Jul 9, 2011 #5
    No I'm asking why do you think it occurs? Because there are no such things as pure necessary conclusions? Because knowledge is fallible? So on...
  7. Jul 9, 2011 #6


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    Why do I think what occurs :confused:
  8. Jul 9, 2011 #7
    Nevermind. I'll just go and read some Quine.
  9. Jul 9, 2011 #8

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    It seems the question is about why the brain can concoct logically impossible concepts. Moved from Philosophy to Medical Sciences.
  10. Jul 9, 2011 #9
    I am not quite sure I get what you're asking either, or atleast I don't understand why you are insisting on it being answered in a specific way. When speaking about combinations of conceptual categories, including ones which could be nonsensical, I don't see why you would say you wouldn't be interested in a psychological answer. Are you asking how can language refer to things which do not exist? And if langauge does refer to a non-existent term, must it not in some sense exist? What does it mean for something to exist?

    The square circle cannot exist and this can be shown with mathematical or logical reasoning. Are you asking how we know it cannot exist? How can we know we don't suffer from similar delusions with other concepts? (We don't).
  11. Jul 9, 2011 #10
    It's important that the brain be able to do this. Creativity works by breaking things apart and putting them back together. A square circle may be a self-contradictory concept but mulling it over may lead to new ideas like the Superellipse.

    The squareness parameter k=2 for a circle and you approach the square as k-> infinity.

    [tex] r = {\sin^k\theta}+{ \cos^k\theta} [/tex]
  12. Jul 9, 2011 #11
    i'm not certain i'm interpreting the question correctly, but if so, i've had a similar question for a while now. now, where this comes from is that some people, under influence of certain hallucinogenic drugs (lets say from mushrooms), claim some sort of ability to suddenly "get it" and understand grand concepts about the true nature of the universe. there is even an (untrue) urban legend about the structure of DNA being discovered under influence of LSD.

    now, the curious thing to me is that i see this even from people i know to be reasonably intelligent when sober. yet, i still think it is all hooey. reason being, i think judgement is obviously being impaired. what i don't understand is what the mechanism is. i'm guessing that somewhere in the brain, there is a mechanism or three that make comparisons and determine whether an experience agrees with the known facts. but that's really vague and unsatisfying.

    however, there is a process we all experience that may lead to a conclusion, and that is dreaming. dreams are often quite bizarre, and yet we seem to have the ability to suspend rationality during dreaming and accept our alternate reality as reasonable. and there is another hallucinogenic drug that gets released when we sleep: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimethyltryptamine" [Broken]. OK, apparently even this is still hypothetical. but here in my wake state, it at least seems a rational way of explaining some of the weirdness of dreaming, even if the mechanism is maybe nowhere nearer.

    so what else is there to go on? anyone? Beuller?
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  13. Jul 9, 2011 #12


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    I think you'd like the book I linked above (the man who mistook his wife for a hat). Part of the problem is a disconnect between the faculty for characterising something and the faculty for identifying. For example, people with http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosopagnosia" [Broken] can fully characterise somebody's face (they can describe the shape, eye colour, hair colour etc) but they lack the ability to recognise that person. If you put their wife in front of them they wouldn't know who it is, you can even say to them describe your wife and they might say "blue eyes, short brown hair, cute nose" then ask them to describe the person and they say "blue eyes, short brown hair, cute nose". Then they might realise but that autonomous faculty is gone.

    I suspect that for people who claim to have seen square circles that it is a similar phenomenon. They could be looking at anything and something in their brain is identifying it as square circle, even when they can characterise it for what it really is.
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  14. Jul 9, 2011 #13
    I didn't think this thread would go this way. But, it doesn't matter. I was wondering about our notions of rationality by asking about these square circles. That a square circle doesn't really fall into an analytic/synthetic distinction. Why it does not, and what does that imply... And so on. Anyways carry on.

    EDIT: But, I see that this thread is taking a cognitive approach. Fine
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2011
  15. Jul 9, 2011 #14
    thanks, i will check that out

    topologically, a square and circle are the same thing. just as a donut is a coffee cup. is that what you're getting at? (i don't quite get a lot of philoso-speak).
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  16. Jul 9, 2011 #15
    Zen masters tell you to think about one hand clapping. It's supposed to bring you toward enlightenment.

    EDIT: V. O. Quine was not a Zen master as far as I know, but he was a philosopher.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2011
  17. Jul 10, 2011 #16
    As a tangent, Proton Soup what is it that makes you think people experiencing creativity on mind-altering drugs as being hooey or that judgement is "obviousley impaired"? It seems that our culture makes a number of assumptions about "drugs" as being inherently imparing of judgement. However, "drugs" doesn't say much other than being a label we put a large class of otherwise non similar things together under.

    The nature of an LSD or other psychedelic drug impairment and the nature of the impairment from say alcohol are drastically different. It doesn't seem at all surprising to me that changing your brain chemistry and thus the way in which your awareness is directeded and how you perceive the world would change the angle by which you view your reality and thus enable you to approach a problem from a different point of view.

    Of course, psychedelics are "impairment" inso far as you would not want anybody to be operating machinery or "doing" anything that requires a linear train of thought, but I don't see why simply the difference in perception is sufficient to discount the experience. It seems rather arbitrary.

    Why would you doubt otherwise intelligent people who say that it can enable you to see things from a different point of view? Simply because "drugs are obviousley mind impairing"? Where did you get that idea and how has it shaped yours and others views and attitudes towards "drugs"?

    You wouldn't want to be on these drugs all of the time, for they aren't good for the linear structuring of behavior, however they certainly are not of the same variety as other drugs.

    Apologies if this tangent is too large or not allowed, if so let me know and I will delete this post.
  18. Jul 10, 2011 #17


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    We're not going to go off topic, and we're not going to discuss using illegal drugs. Sorry.
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