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The Mind's Eye

  1. Mar 27, 2008 #1
    How does the mind's eye 'see' in the absence of light?

    Imagine a large empty room with a dresser at one corner. You walk up to the dresser and open the top draw. You see a red book and a box of matches. You light the book on fire and throw it on top of the dresser. I assume you could all imagine this (after you read this first of course), and quite vividly I would imagine. How is the mind able to conjure up and 'see' these vivid images in the absence of light?

    Sorry if this is a stupid question but it's been bugging me. Is this a quality of the physical brain or metaphysical mind? Are synaptic flares generating just enough light for our imagination to 'see'? Is light no longer necessary because we can replicate light from mere experience? I don't know what to think.
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  3. Mar 28, 2008 #2
    I've read that your subconscious mind imprints just about everything from the paper clip in the corner of the room to the temperature in the room.

    If you walk into a room you have never been in before with your eyes closed... you'd stumble over everything.

    If you walk into a room you are familiar with, you can navigate it with little difficulty with your eyes closed.

    I guess it would all depend on how in-tune you are with your "minds eye". Someone who had gone blind after the age of 12 would be able to navigate much easier then someone who was born blind.

    Unless of course they had robot eyes... -Grandma's Boy
  4. Mar 29, 2008 #3
    I was referring to the images your imagination conjures up and not talking of an actual room. When we 'see' something, what we see is the refraction of light off the object. If I were in a room devoid of any light and tried to 'picture' this red book in a dresser drawer, I am able to do so. My mind's eye is able to picture any detail I wish to assign to this book, from an etched in title to it's very color. It almost seems like our minds can replicate the refraction of light without there actually being light. I don't know. Just makes me wonder.
  5. Mar 29, 2008 #4
    Our minds are not replicating the refraction of light. Our minds can create a representation of a book, but we do this whether it is based on sensory data or not. We have seen many books and understand the concept of 'book', so we can create the image of a book in our minds based on memory and our ability to visualize concepts or based on direct sensory data.
  6. Mar 29, 2008 #5
    I'm not sure you have much of a problem here? I can even visualise things I've never seen given an adequate description. As already said if I know about the object in question I can draw on memory.

    The imagination does not need light to see, it creates an image based on the images it has seen before. How it does it is well beyond science at the moment, but the fact it does it doesn't mean it necessarily needs light, any more than a blind man needs light to make sense of words or the world.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2008
  7. Mar 30, 2008 #6


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    I wonder, are blind people (blind from birth, of course) able to imagine visuals?

    I would think they could at least see basic shapes of things, just by feeling them, but I may only know how feel relates to sight because I have both.
  8. Mar 31, 2008 #7
    The "mind's eye" of which you speak, and a scenario never before witnessed... isn't that the same thing as seeing your thoughts, or memories even? I would imagine they are very similiar, like in a dream, your brain can understand the concept of light because they have experienced it.

    I would think that they wouldn't have much idea, except from what people tell them. For light, they may be told to think of no color, and then to fill that up with white, however they may not know what white is, so they may picture light differently, and when they are told the scenario in the question, then they probably see different results than that of a non-blind person. I can only hypothesize, as I am not blind, but it would make alot of sense to associate their touch with their sight, so they may have an idea of what a match looks like.
  9. Mar 31, 2008 #8
    I think our mind replicates the sensations of light experienced with sight when imagining objects. I don't think blind people have any way of mentally visualizing anything at all. If you have never experienced a sense, then I don't think you can understand what it's like. There's no such thing as "no color", "dark", "black", etc. to them. It's just like Thomas Nagel's "What it is like to be a bat" question, where he asks if we can understand what it's like to have sonar. It operates on a time differential of rebounding soundwaves. We haven't the slightest clue on where to begin imagining what it's like. It would be like us describing colors using smells.
  10. Apr 1, 2008 #9

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    You are a very astute and analytical person. I am impressed that you have read Nagel's essay. One thing that you might consider is that "visual experience" can happen independently of information coming directly from the eyes. One way is memory. Another immediate way is the jarring or stimulation of neurons in the visual cortex, a part of the brain near the back of the head (if you have even hit the back of your head and seen "stars", you know what I mean). In other words, the brain creates visual experience.

    It's unlikely that we can ever gain the true experience of what it is like to be a bat, but we are somewhat ahead of the game in that we can imagine it in far greater detail than what a bat could (or would even desire) to imagine what it is like to be a human.

    But I want to be careful here, because I think that Nagel was really driving at something a little deeper, and that is, an "experience of something" counts as a true "something" in it's own right, and is not just a simple biproduct of neural machinery.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2008
  11. Apr 3, 2008 #10
    Mind's Eye Concept

    The mind's eye is a concept, that are mind's create the image's that we see, and are eye's gather the light and turn it into information and a corrected image, then are brain create's the image that we see from that information... its mainly backed up by the how dream's create there own picture's that look just like real thing's, but are eye's are closed... but people try to say are eye's work like camara's do, there right but there also wrong due to the fact that we still have to look at the image that the camara create's then are eye's do the same thing as the camara, and then we see the image's. eye's dont really see thing's they just gather light and turn it into (retna) information that we can understand on any level of thought

    To understand and answer your question of (how can the mind's eye see in the absence of light?) The mind's eye create's its own information(aka light) it can do such because everything we see is made out of line's and color. and your brain would be your subconscience and your mind would be your conscience state... your brain speaks the lang of your body and your DNA, and has access to all your memory's and things that have been stored in short and long term, so based on the things that have effected your conscience mind within a period of long or short term time, those thing's would effect your mind, and in tern your mind would effect the action's of your brain, resulting in a dream, i wont go into what things effect what kind of dream you have right now... its not rellivent to your question you asked.

    So your mind's eye see's what it see's by taking from what you have within your long and short term memory. all it dose is use the information thats in your head still, instead of using the input from your eye's... So instead of the source of information(aka light) comming from your eye's it come's from your (Mind's Eye)

    And thats what the second concept of mind's eye. but people cant control it because the path way the brain will use dosnt speak english :) and aslo 1000's of years of using the eye's have made a fixed pathway that dosnt get over ridden by the mind, brain has deemed that its wanted and important for self presaverance of one's self.

    Monks use self control over one's thought's to gain mind over madder. :/
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