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Subjectivity Explained (Hypothesis)

  1. Mar 30, 2003 #1

    Another God

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    Of late much of my spare thinking time has been dedicated to trying to understand how the objective world of chemicals and electrical gradients etc are translated into the subjective world of perception. I am not sure that this new hypothesis has made the final connection, but I hope I have worked to at least narrow the gap between the two.

    I now present my new hypothesis to you all, awaiting all criticisms and pointers.
    I will make side comments, clarifications, and important considerations after each paragraph in this color.
    The Begining of 'Self'
    In the begining, we are born as a blank slate with particular tendencies pre-programmed in. We are born with various behaviouralistic qualities, with sense organs, with sensory storage space (memory), and advanced computational hardware (the brain - The Subconscious).

    At this stage of life, the very first moments of experience (whenever that actually is), I am claiming that the baby does not percieve. I am claiming that the baby does not 'think', nor does it have conception of the 'Self'. At the first moments of life, the human baby is an automaton, acting out the pre-programmed genetic tendencies that instil other animals, like gazelles to get up and run before they even know what they are running from. The baby is following this programming, and all the time, it is storing the experiences in a cleverly designed 'Experience storage' part of the brain. (Memory)

    I claim that the baby cannot perceive. By this I mean to differentiate between an 'experience' and a 'perception' in that an experience = Stimulation to a sense organ, in turn recieved by the brain. Perception = Meaningful interpretation of that experience.
    It is probably clear already that my stance on the subjective mind is a materialistic stance, and as such does have a large dependence on Neurology. I am not overtly knowledgable in Neurology, so I will not be describing the neurological functions behind my theories of the brain/mind, but simply claim that they occur in some way which is either already known about by some people other than me, or in some way which is yet to be understood.

    The child at this stage of life (The stage of first experiences) is only following the genetically programmed directives that control it, and at the same time, recording everything that it experiences in its memory. What is then done with these experiences is the interesting part. The brain stores every piece of sensory input, and instantly starts calculating. It compares the sensory experiences, it contrasts them, it categorizes them, it juxtposes them, it notes how some experiences were recieved in groups (all at once) and remembers these facts about them. It associates experiences with other experiences. It computes the experiences.

    Over time, this computational process begins to make sense of the sensory inputs. As the same inputs are received time and time again, and as the same input associations are made again and again, and as the contrasts are made between Experience and lack of said experience are built up, meaning starts to be derived from experiences. The brain can start associating a stimulus with a soon to follow consequence. It can use these sets of information to figure out the relation between the stimulus 1, consequence 1, and consequence 2. (Our developed perception of this relation may be See thing (Baby Mobile) in front of me, feel thing in front of me, see thing move). It is only through the computational power of the brain, that meaning is slowly derived from a completely internal series of collected facts. This is a major point of consideration towards my final conclusion, that the 'Mind' and the conception of 'Self' is an internally built, self affirming construct of the brain. The subjective experience is no more than a complex collection of experiental shortcuts used by the brain to percieve (see definition above)our environment.

    My description of the new-person's assocation of experiences need to be understood as I am attempting to describe it. The new-person does NOT see sticks and space ships and univorns and whatever' haning above its head. Nor does it 'see' 'a combination of blue, red, pink, yellow and green, moving in a particular constellation'. The new-person is still completely unable to see anything let alone differentiate colours. All it can do, is have the eyes recieve electromagnetic radiations upon its surface, have that reception change the rods and cones in particular ways, have those changes affect other transmitter cells, and have those messages affect the brains memory in a particular way. That is experience, and that is all that a new-person is able to do. Experience, and store the memory. It is not until later that 1. meaning can be derived from the experience, and then not until much later that 2. subjective experience can be percieved from those experiences.

    Through this method of storgae, comparison, classification (categorization), and contrast, the brain is slowly able to form a picture of its world. it is able to figure out that it recieves a consistent variety of stimuli from the eyes. It is then able to use this accumulated knowledge, and understand when it recieves 'experience 576, 567 and 634' that it is not recieving 'experience 45' and that is information that it can use. (where the three experiences may be 1. Illumination, 2. Blue from the roof, and 3. bright. while the experience lacking, is the experience of no light. These experiences could also be associated with a predictive experience of soon being fed for example). Through all of these experience associations etc, the brain is still working overtime to recieve, store, and calculate everything. Every bit of information is important, and needs to be stored for later recall. Every experience helps the brain to formulate a picture of the outside world, and so is rigourously scrutinized for relevence.

    The Subjective View
    Eventually, the brain starts to feel comfortable in the use of various regular experiences. It has to deal with these sensory inputs so often that it has been able to categorise them well, it has been able to contrast them appropriately, and it has been able to figure out exactly what the experience 'means'. The brain will then be able to make a 'shortcut' for this experience. The brain doesn't need to associate the sensory stimulus with all other relevent memories to perceive the stimulus, it already knows what the perception is, so it just follows the shortcut, and arrives at the conclusion. The conclusion will be red. Everytime, it will be red. The brain doesn't need to keep checking this, it doesn't need to keep verifying it. it doesn't need to keep affirming its own internal system each time such an experience occurs to it, it just follows the shortcut to 'Perception = Red'.

    And thus, is the subjective world view born.

    The subjective world view is a construct, by the brain to assist its own goal of finding meaning in its sensory inputs. Once a sensory input is encountered so frequently that it would only clog the calculatory system up to continue analysing it, it is turned into a perceptory shortcut. These shortcuts give us our subjective vision, our subjective touch, our subjective smell, our subjective hearing and our subjective taste.

    I'll leave it there for the moment. Its a lot to take in as it is, and I am incredibly eager for some feedback. I have a lot more to add to this, but I will await initial feedback before I continue.

    The next installments will have to do with the claims that all of our 'thinking' consists of this same brain process which occurs from birth (comparing, constrasting, associating and categorizing of past experiences.). I will also claim that our conscious mind, and our 'super-conscious' (the voice in our heads) is just an imperfect playback of our experience memories.

    Everything written in this post comes from my own head, and is not based on anyone elses work. I have briefly read a short paper by U.T Place and J.J Smart recently, and I agree with their materialist conception of Mind/Brain, but their own ideas have had very limited impact on my thoughts, at most giving me more confidence in my own convictions.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 30, 2003 #2
    If you are going to insist on viewing life mechanistically you would do better to study those who came before. Radical behaviorists have already managed to link the subjective and objective, cognitive and behavioral with experimental evidence and logical rigor. In fact, they are the only ones to do so yet. The way they did it was by asserting context is more important than content, the opposite of what you are doing here. Skinner and other more conservative behaviorists tried this approach and despite enormous funding, brillance, etc. they failed consistently for over fifty years.
  4. Mar 30, 2003 #3
    good work.
    ..i always like a piece of well considered overview on a topic.
    right, ..brain stores all it perceives, no matter if we're aware of perceiving it, even everything, that's e.g. not in focus of what we see, but in wide range aswell.
    ..depending on outer world's circumstances and surroundings, the process of "'mind' and 'self' constructed by brain" being due to mechanisms of evolution of man and his brain (survival, assertion, success, try and errance, diversity, variety, interaction, mutation, adaptation, redundance). man's 'tool' to survive.
    this, i think, happening, when babys grow up and brain ripens, can in analogy be found in man's primate ancestor's history, when brain starts forming.
    abstraction. reducing observations to the meaning they have for us. forming of 'notions'.


    i'm sure you know about the mirror test: paint a red dot on a man's baby's or an animal's nose without them noticing it, and then see what happens when they get in front of a mirror..
    this actually fits in your concept of the 'Self', i think.

    ...then, an experiment with young cats was made, you maybe know of, depriving them of any vertical views (poles, vertical wall's corners, aso.) while growing up, another young cats without horizontal views. first group was unable later to climb trees, latter group couldn't walk any stairs..
    this shows, how surroundings have great impact on brains developing.

    PS: what you name "perception", i think, is "experience"
    and vice versa, so this sounded a little confusing to me..
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 30, 2003
  5. Mar 30, 2003 #4


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    interesting hypothesis AG...i found your first part interesting about babies as a clean slate...if i understand your perception correctly, then my only contradiction to your statement of:
    is that how amazing it is that a baby knows EXACTLY what s/he wants...i guess this is could be partly attributed to the remarkable tuning to their instinct...

    i think the two have a distinct difference actually...for example:

    the child perceives snow is a much different meaning then the child experiences snow...


    perceiving pain is different then experiencing pain...

    i think experience is more of an active participation where perception is obtaining and understanding knowledge through the mind, or what i call intuition:smile:
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2003
  6. Mar 30, 2003 #5

    Another God

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    About to leave for uni, so I can't really reply, but I will change my use of the word 'Experience' into the word 'Senses'. It is much more appropriate.
    So now:
    Sense = To have external stimulus translated into signals which are sent to, and stored in the brain.
    Percieve = To have the brain recieve these signals, and place them in the appropriate category, thereby understanding them.

    I guess experience can be used synonomously with perceive now. As long as we have this divide between recieving the data, and understanding the data.

    Wuli, I haven't been too impressed with behaviourist theories in my short course of reading on the topic. I do appreciate their points, but I feel like they are too stuck on inter-mind relationship. ie: What do I know about your mind?

    I don't acre about the problem of other minds. I am only concerned with how each individuals mind develops.

    Actually, reconsidering that first sentence there, behaviourism is more appropriate, on my model, to explain what other people feel, but still, I am not concerned here with what other people feel, I am only concerned with how that feeling is developed internally.

    But more on that later.
  7. Mar 30, 2003 #6
    These are Radical Behaviorists, how the mind itself works internally is precisely how they differ from traditional Behavorism which ignores the issue altogether. For example, your explanation of how the physical brain translates and integrates experiences into the mind resembles a linear computer program when the reality is demonstrably unlike any computer in existence today.

    A single neuron can remember up to five previous events and possess up to twenty thousand direct connections to other neurons. Unlike transistors, neurons come in a wide variety and do a great deal more, most of which I will not go into here. The point is they do not merely compare experience one with experience two. They compare contexts, of which each experience we have possesses many.

    For example, when a newborn comes into this world they have multiple simultaneous experiences. They may feel pain squeezing out, they may feel pain when bright light touches their eyes for the first time, sounds may become louder and clearer, the air is colder than the embrionic fluid they are used to, etc. and all of these experiences occur simultaneously. Rather than attempting to process each seperately and then integrate them according to some inflexible hardwired predetermined configuration of neurons, the experiences themselves shape the neural nets to a great extent. Likewise, the multiple contexts in which these diverse experiences can be interpreted work in a similar manner to again shape the neural networks.

    The neural networks compare and contrast all of these experiences, playing with all the various possible combinations. Does the bright light make sense of the cold air? Or is it the other way around, does the cold air make sense of the bright light? With each new experience and the growing number of contexts in which they can be intpreted grows, complex abstractions begin to develop. Babies will suck on their thumb in the womb, and when they come out usually have no problem breast feeding immediately. After experiencing breast feeding, they have an entirely new and abstract context in which to view sucking their thumb.

    Anyway, I don't want to get too complicated and verbose here. Just give you an idea of what I am talking about. :0)
  8. Mar 30, 2003 #7
    Great piece of work, AG!

    I would like to ask you though, are you implying that the new-human is much on the same level of "perception" (as you - rather eloquently - defined it) as a sponge (for example) and then progresses up the evolutionary ladder, so to speak?
  9. Mar 31, 2003 #8

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    Thanks for the info Wuli. What you have said though, isn't so much against my hypothesis (at least the last thread isn't. I will re-read your first thread and reply to that again if necessary), but rather a demonstration of how incredible the brain is, and just how possible it is that our subjective experience is entirely internally constructed from mere collated senses.

    I didn't mean to make it sound like the brain needs to be a dumb arse linear processor, but rather, I needed to dumb down my explanation to try to explain basic facts. The truth is, I doubt I would be able to explain exactly how the sensory inputs from the external world could be turned into subjective experience. All I wish to achieve, is argue that such a thing is what happens.

    Sensory Input= The cold data which is sent to the brain from the senses, and which is then stored.
    Perception = The meaning which the brain, over time, learns to ascribe to sensory input.
    (subjective) Experience = The subjective phenomenon. The 'vision' which we experience. The 'Touch' which we feel. The 'smells' we smell. No longer are these things just sensory inputs, nor are they just percieved. They are experienced, subjectively.

    Please accept these new definitions in place of all previous definitions.

    Thanks roeighty and Kerrie for bringing these points to my attention. I hope these new definitions seem a little more logical.
  10. Mar 31, 2003 #9

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    Well, i guess you could think of it like that, but I do not believe there is any real evolutionary link here. It is mearly a fact of learning. You start with nothing, then u accumulate knowledge.

    So yes, in the begining, the new-person percieves about as much as a sponge. Over time, the person will be able to percieve more and more things, until the brain learns to accept certain perceptions as standard ones, and it creates 'experiental shortcuts' for those perceptions. And thus we become the subjective creatures we are.

    I just need to figure out now, how exactly it is that I can make that final step into subjectivity. (I know I am fudging something)
  11. Mar 31, 2003 #10

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    I probably should, but so far everything I read from people before me either puts me to sleep, or irritates me with its sheer bloodymindedness. I feel like so many of the earlier philosophers of the mind completely ignore the facts which they are faced with every day of their lives. They come up with 'good ideas', but stick by those ideas even through all of the hard evidence against them.

    Now its just up to me to not make that mistake! Which is part of the reason for me being here. I'm looking for faults.
    Strangely, i would have thought that having the subjective phenomenon explained would have attracted more attention. But then again, its not like the world seems to actually care about philosophy I guess.

    I will have to find some of the texts written by these radical behaviourists though, because u make it sound like behaviour can explain subjectivity. I don't get how external characteristics can be made to reflect the internal phenomenon in any sort of way. In fact, it seems to me like the whole idea behind behaviourism is to completely dispell the whole concept of subjectivity. AS if subjectivity is a complete myth, and all we have is our own actions.

    But I am not the most well informed person on this subject yet. Over the next 6 months or so I will learn a lot. I'll come back at that time and correct myself where appropriate . Until then, you can do that for me.
  12. Mar 31, 2003 #11


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    None of us are born blank slates. We all have a big big set of predispositions and instincts.

    Its true that as the brain grows and completes its development, our full cognitive faculties come into play.

    Aside from that, what are you saying, really ??

    - S.
  13. Mar 31, 2003 #12

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    Did you read the original post? I thought I made it pretty clear what I was saying. If I failed to do that, then say so, and I will try again.
  14. Mar 31, 2003 #13

    Another God, have my deep respect and admiration for your being excellent (and for your photo :wink:). I'm used to bow to those I feel respect for, alas, we've got no "bowing" emoticon.


    Then, what you're intending with "subjectivity" is not what I usually understand from that term. You're studying the development of a "symbolic system of interpretation" and call the system "subjectivity." My understanding of the term "subjectivity" implies that it has to do with distortions introduced into the system of interpretation. As long as one has a one-to-one representation (even if it is symbolic, eg uses certain symbols for certain patterns) of the Universe one is an objective device; the twist is that the Universe isn't mapped into the mind through a one-to-one continuous smooth function. We're facing a bizarre function which gives no guarantee on delivery of content and/or form and/or context. This bizarre function is the cause of subjectivity. It introduces totally unknown distortions into the input as well as its symbolic interpretation thus isolating the Universe from its mapped version in the mind and creating the objective-subjective, subject-object, observer-observed, etc dualities.

    When, how and why this function develops is obscure (to me) but it is known to be to certain degrees alterable by conscious/unconscious efforts. Alteration of this function can be seen when individuals put aside their prejudices or take over new ones or when a skeptic (say hi, that's me) is in Epoche state.

    Regardless of the term "subjectivity", whatever development process you're studying, I think you've forgotten (why?) that a human being is always in "interaction" with the Universe and that interaction is full duplex. A very important part of human experiences are self-induced (stimulus, response) pairs. The newborn human (perhaps because of its genetic program) grips everything close and records the response. These (stimulus, response) pairs, viewed as a general method of information acquisition, have later developed into what we call scientific method. The Scientist stimulates the giant, the Universe, to get the response; she/he asks, the Universe answers in its own terms.

    The concept of interaction and its being full duplex is vital to my (perhaps your) idea of the development of consciousness and self-consciousness which is surely vital to your topic, Subjectivity Explained. All living beings constantly experiment with various stimuli to get responses that are necessary to their survival. Eventually, every living being knows a set "triggers" that activate Universe processes useful to it. Every trigger induces a certain process that includes several stages before it causes the desired effect. I call the understanding of these stages "process consciousness". Different living beings of different complexities have different levels of "process consciousness", ie they know more or less of the stages of process, which is directly proportional to their complexity; the more the number and detail of the known stages are the more control over the process is gained. I guess Homo Sapiens has the highest process consciousness among all species on this planet.

    A lion can induce the death of a gazelle by interacting with the Universe in a certain way; giving the Universe the right stimuli for its purpose (hunting) while it knows nothing of the quantum level interaction of its jaw and the gazelle's neck, and the lethal respiratory effects of a broken oesophagus. Killing the gazelle is all that lion can do but a Homo Sapiens with higher "process consciousness" is able to alter the process to its own needs, eg not kill the gazelle but capture it.

    "Process consciousness" is also directly proportional to self-consciousness. When an individual of a species is able to recognize its own role in an interaction it has gained a degree of self-consciousness depending on the degree of its "process consciousness" which determines how much it knows about its role in that specific interaction. That individual can and does further its self-consciousness by examining the effects of its own behavior on Universe processes hence getting more detail in its self-representation.

    A cat is not able to recognize its own picture in a mirror that means its self-representation (and perhaps mental processes) lacks some ability or information. The same cat, however, is well aware of its dimensions when it attempts to go through a hole in a wall that implies that it has a minimal self-representation (much more than an Amoeba).

    Self-consciousness is, in fact, one form of "process consciousness" especially interested in the inducer of the process which is the first stage of the process.


    Aside from this whole, you didn't write what measures will be taken to verify your hypothesis. After all, every hypothesis should someway be verified. Should I try to compare it to scientific facts and carry out experiments in cognitive science labs? Or should I compare them to what the Holy Scriptures say? What should be done to verify them and why?

    Besides simple questions and concerns like the above there are deeper questions. How did you come to think of something called "subjectivity"? Is there such thing as subjectivity? Why should it be there? Isn't such assumption itself subjective? What is objective?

    And if there is such thing subjectivity, what are consequences of studying subjectivity with an essentially subjective mind? How could it ever be related to objective reality? Is there an interface between them? What are the nature, structure and function of this interface? Is it a full duplex interface or half duplex or simplex, eg is subjective reality able to affect objective reality the same way objective reality affects it?

    You see, the subjective-objective are an old couple, as old as the occidental (and perhaps parts of oriental) thought. They dawned on Descartes in their other semblance, mind-matter. They've been around for a long time.


    Your hypothesis is an AI expert's everyday life. Those experiencing with artificial neural networks everyday bring up their networks from scratch and with training data, sufficiently large sets of (stimulus, response) to adjust interconnection weights so that the network gains a certain degree of accuracy. Their experiments are scientific (read: objective) and well explain (not yet) what happens inside our brains/minds. In a course of 100 years (actually much less), Neuroscience has become a rich branch of science as rich as the 5000-year-old Mathematics. The biological side has become shockingly complicated; I once saw an equation describing noise spikes in an isolated neuron's output, well, the equation demanded the rest of my life to be understood. The rest of it has another story.

    Yet, elementary questions of Neuroscience field have not been answered just like elementary questions of all branches of Science and Philosophy: What are the side effects of perceiving a neural network through another neural network? How accurate is the observer's neural network? Are there limits to the capacity and ability of the observer's neural network? What are the effects of parallel processes running on the same network on the results of an observation? ...
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2003
  15. Mar 31, 2003 #14


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    What was I replying to, then ??
    I did read the entire post, multiple times, but didn;t understand where you were coming from and getting to.

    Some parts of what you said (that a child is following instincts) is not true, or rather, it ignores the fact that we all follow instincts. As our brain develops, more instincts come in. Behaviour therefore becomes more complicated.

    And no, children are not blank slates. They come complete with all the pre-programming. The brain development happens till puberty of course ... and so the full range of behaviour becomes apparent only later.

    A baby perceives too, just like us grown ups.

    If your entire post is based on the fact that babies (foetuses and later) do not have fully developed brains/sense organs/cognitive faculties ... then I am with you.
    Else I am not.

    - S.
  16. Mar 31, 2003 #15

    Another God

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    Well, i have never felt so honoured Thank you.

    I don't think our conceptions of Subjectivity are too far different. Your explanation of subjectivity (as I understood it (subjectively :wink:)) is a consequence of being subjective beings. So what you say is still completely true, but I am really trying to get to the foundations of subjectivity. Not just the consequences of it.

    I will try to explain my own meaning behind Subjectivity. When I talk about subjectivity, I literally mean the world which you experience. I believe that the universe exists objectively, and an objective existance is simply an existence of absolute facts. Subjectivity then may interact with those facts, and gleam meaning from them. Whether the meaning gleamed from them has any actual relevence to the facts or not is up for debate at another time. All I am concerned with though, is the subjective world which I personally live in, or, in your case, your subejctive world which you live in.

    Everything you see, you hear, you think, you smell, you touch, you taste....that is your subjective world.

    The very reason I am here with a Hypothesis, is because I could not understand how subjectivity could be manifested from an objective universe. Where does it come from? How can 'colours' be made up from chemicals and electrical impulses? How can 'sounds' be 'heard'? Subjectivity is a strange thing which doesn't seem entirely consistent with reality....so how do we explain it?

    This is how I am attempting to explain it.

    As of this stage, I haven't really gotten into how the fully developed mind understands complex concepts, nor how it then interacts with the world around. Its sorta funny that I have started at the begining in the way I have, since this idea actualyl had its origins in the realisation that I, a functionally developed mind, can only think within my own previous experiences. And my thoughts were of a kind which were mere relations of previous experiences, comparisons, rejiggings, and categorizations etc. This hypothesis of initial foundation of the mind, also continues on into later life, but of course, it has a lot more to work with. I believe that 'levels' form in the mind. Where we have our base perceptions, then thoughts built on those, which are then used with other thoughts to get more complicated thoughts etc... I'll get into this properly later though.

    I don't know if I have forgotten it as such, but i haven't needed to include it yet. I said that new-people follow basic genetic programming, and from the interactions illicited by that programming, stuff is sensed and recorded. Yes, its true that they reach out and touch stuff, but I didn't need to spell that out I didn't think.

    More relevent to the later more developed mind, and how that mind continues to learn and develop. But for the moment, I have only attempted to explain how initial subjectivity is birthed.

    Once Subjectivity has been created, then that subjective creature is able to 'experiment' with its subjective experiences, and learn how to manipulate them.

    Well, this is still just a philosophical concept more than a Scientific one. I have made some 'Bold Conjectures' in it though, which may one day be turned into falsifiable claims. For example, an experiment may some day be devised which shows that a new born has a meaning already ascribed for various colours. I don't know how such a thing could be tested (since showing that a baby reacts differently to different colours no more reflects the fact that the baby is recieving different sense inputs than the fact that the baby is percieving different things). Perhaps more tests of the kind where someone is raised in an entirely black, grey, and white house. And they are never let out. Bring someone up in such an environment, completely devoid of colour, and see if they are able to meaningfully differentiate colours at the age of 18 when you bring them out into the real world.

    Of course such an experiment is unethical, but I think it might be a reasonable experiment.

    I live in it.
    Without objectivity, how could there be subjectivity? (where objectivity is the true world. Even in a world where there is only my subejctivity and nothing else, than my subjectivity could still be objectively described) So objective = true. Subjective = What I experience.

    Don't know. I'm only working with what I have. I can do no more.
    I dream that perhaps, if my hypothesis has any semblance of truth in it, that perhaps one day it can be properly devised, and so it may one day help answer some of these types of questions.

    If we understand exactly how our mind works, then we are better equiped to understand our interaction with the outside world, and so we will be able to make more quality assured statements about that world.
  17. Mar 31, 2003 #16

    Another God

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    Often people skip the long posts and try to pick up on points from shorter posts. I wanted to make sure before I went through and explained it all again.

  18. Mar 31, 2003 #17
    Nice post AG . . .

    Firstly some extra info on development of the visual system in the brain (just learned this in neurophysiology last week hehe):

    While the retinal cells are either on or off, multiple retinal cells (photoreceptors) synapse (link) onto multiple ganglion cells (ie each ganglion cell receives input from a cluster of retinal cells) - eg a particular ganglion cell may respond maximally when a vertical line falls on the receptor field of the cluster of retinal cells, and other ganglion cells may recognise horizontal lines instead. Most probably multiple ganglion cells synapse onto higher-level cells that recognise more complicated patterns. In fact neurocscientists have found a region deep in the temporal lobe (ie far away from the primary visual cortex - so it's probably a 'high-level' visual centre)that's responsible for recognising faces and another region responsible for recognising locations.

    What's this got to do with anything? The synapses from retinal cells to ganglion cells are selected for and against based on the amount of stimulus received, early in a child's development. So this is a physiological explanation for what roeighty said about the experiment with cats not being able to climb ladders if they are raised in a 'horizontal-free' environment. Pretty good 'evidence' on the neurophysiological front that supports the 'blank slate' hypothesis. I think that such plasticity in the nervous system extends to all sorts of perception - that we are indeed born almost a 'blank slate', with no innate ability to recognise patterns.

    There may be some misunderstanding about what AG means by 'blank slate'. I understand what AG means by 'blank slate' as follows (correct me if I'm wrong, please!)- we are not born with the ability to predict such 'obvious' events eg an object falling when unsupported, and we have to be exposed to certain kinds of patterns over a certain period of time early on in life to be able to recognise them later on. In the visual system such patterns are relatively 'basic' building blocks such as lines and curves. (The 'fundamental' building blocks of individual photoreceptors are hard-wired, though.) As we move towards more complex patterns (esp those involving multiple sensory inputs), the brain's plasticity during development becomes more crucial to recognise those patterns. (I use 'pattern' in a loose sense: it covers things such as a visual pattern like a grid, or a 'causal relationship' such as a vase falling on concrete and breaking.)

    AG: I am puzzled as to why you said 'the new person is still completely unable to see anything'. There's definitely 'sensory input' in this case, and it's reaching the brain and doing things to the brain. Now perhaps the brain doesn't ascribe any conscious meaning to the raw input data, but is conscious meaning necessary for 'perception'? You defined perception as 'the meaning which the brain, over time, ascribes to sensory input'. Each time we receive sensory input, something happens in our brain, even if we don't consciously notice it.

    Interesting how you put 'subjective experience of the perception' in a separate category from perception. From what I read, you seem to suggest that subjective experience is a subclass of perceptions - those perception repeated frequently enough to be recognised as a pattern. I tend to agree with that stance - the view that subjective experience is not something 'extra' added onto some sensory inputs/brain processes.

    I know you'll probably address this sooner or later, but I would be interested to know your position on the absent qualia problem: is it possible for a being to 'receive sensory input', and even 'perceive', the colour 'red', without ever having the subjective experience 'red'? How about the possibility of a being that does all the things a person does, yet has no subjective experience whatsoever?
  19. Mar 31, 2003 #18
    AG: another point . . . you said that a new-person 'only' receives input and computes/stores it, without experience. Certainly the new-person will not have 'our' experience of the same input, but how can you be sure that no experience at all is present?

    You also said that memory is essential for perception. This makes sense if we go from your definition of perception as 'a meaning ascribed' to stimulus. But I don't think memory is essential for experience. (Of course, memory is probably essential for 'our' experience.) In my post above I said that I thought you regard experience as a subset of perception, but that seems to contradict with what I just said, so something is wrong here.
  20. Mar 31, 2003 #19

    Another God

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    Nothing pleases me more than to see Zimbos name in a thread which I have particular interest in
    Thanks for the info.

    I think you have got the essence of what I mean by blank slate. I have to step back for a moment though, and point out that I actually know essentially nothing about phyiological development of humans. So I don't know how much is actually 'innately' programmed. What I am concerned with though, is that there is a degree of genetic programming, and we are born with that. But that programming (which affects how we sense, what we are able to sense, and how we 'compute' those senses) is not our 'mind'. Our programming is not our 'Subjectivity', but rather it is the scaffold upon which our subjectivity is built.

    Well, this last line gets to the point. What I am concerned with here, is the construction of the conscious and the super conscious mind. See, the origin of this theory (in my mind) actually rests on the fact that our ability to 'think' comes from the computational method of our brain (the comparisons, the contrasting, the categorization etc) combined with all previous experiences. Without those experiences, we are unable to think. Without those previous experiences, we can't even understand our sensory input. Without that understanding, we are unable to 'percieve' (where percieve is understanding the sensory input).

    So sure, we sense, and the sensing does something to our brain. Its just that at this early stage (and this is still VERY early), it is not meaningful. Meaning is built up over time, as the brain is able to put the sensory input into practical categories of sensory input, and contrast it to opposing categories of sensory input.

    Perhaps I need to spend more time on this factor of the development of understanding. (i'll try to find a way of explaining the analogy)

    To spell it out (well, try to), perception is recieving the sensory input, and then understanding it, while subjective experience is bypassing the understanding part, and having the sensory input shot through straight into the 'symbolic representation' part of the brain. ie: A picture is worth a thousand words. Instead of having the brain read the paragraph of data, the brain is shown a picture, which is associated with a particular set of data. (this is the part of the hypothesis which is still fudgy. More work needed.)

    well, recieving sensory input comes first, then percieve second, and then subjective experience is last. But, under this hypothesis, I wouldn't say that 'red' is ever percieved. What is percieved is the sensory input (and the meaning derived from it) of the electromagnetic spectrum at wavelength x. Colour only makes sense subjectively.

    Absolutely. They would recieve sensory data, and they could even percieve their surroundings. They would be able to understand what happens around them, and interact with it. I would just suggest though, that they were slow witted, and too intelligent. they would be lacking the instant recognition process which allows us split second reactions to our environment.
  21. Mar 31, 2003 #20

    Another God

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    Well, by experience, I mean the subjective experience (as defined). ie: experience of colour, experience of sound etc. I am 'sure' (If i can be 'sure' about anything :wink: because the hypothesis here states that experience has to be derived from abstract correlations between a collections of other stored sensory input data series'. Until such data series' of sensory input is collected, there can be no meaning behind the data, and therefore no experience of it.

    let me try to take my hypothesis to the next stage, and see if this helps.
    Well, now that you say there is a problem there, I have to confess that I am not sure what you mean by 'subset of perception'.

    This is a large part of the fundamental claim I am making here, that memory of previous sensory inputs is required for the brain to form any sort basis upon which 'experience' can be constructed.


    Hopefully I am not alone here in having done one of those word puzzles which you find in newspapers or crossword books and things like that. The type of word puzzle where you have something similar to a crossword setup, but instead of clues, you have a number code which represents letters. You have to guess, from essentially nothing, what number might be what letter. You then move around filling in letters where that number is, checking to see whether a word might be formed here and there, if it does, than you write it in, and start writting out the new letters you ahve just discovered etc.

    This is similar (though much more simple) to how I imagine the brain figuring out its perceptions. It starts with inputs, which have no meaning. But as a collection of these inputs build up, it can 'guess' meanings onto those inputs, and maybe this guess can be matched onto related inputs. If that guess wields useful results (the body instinctively knows what is good for it and bad for it for example), then it might keep that guess for a while, and keep guessing more stuff until the cascade starts, and the rest of the puzzle starts solving itself.

    So in the begining, the puzzle has nothing. No meaning. Then, as the first few letters start being placed, and the associations within the puzzle are checked, meaning may start to be derived.

    The interesting thing about the brain, as opposed to the puzzle analogy, is that there is no right answer. The brain can guess whatever it wants, and as long as it sets up some sort of logically consistent system for ascribing meaning to new sensory input, it is acceptable. The implication of this, is that we literally do experience something different to everyone else. When our perceptions are translated into subjective experiences, those experiences are so arbitrary, that they may be completely unlike everyone elses arbitrary experiences.

    We all have the same 'behaviour' though, because our brains all follow the same sort of genetic rules of logic.
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