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Thread: Do we perceive it because it is meaningful? Yes!

  1. #1 Do we perceive it because it is meaningful? Yes! 
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    Do we perceive it because it is meaningful? Yes!

    How does the man with agnosia (loss of ability to perceive the familiar due to brain damage) manage on the street? Quoting such an individual “On the sidewalk all things are slim—those are people; in the middle of the street, everything is very noisy, bulky, tall—that can be buses, cars.”

    Rudolf Arnheim says, regarding agnosia, that “Many people use their unimpaired sense of sight to no better advantage during much of the day.” How can this be true? I suspect it is true because many of us have such a very narrow range of familiar objects that have any meaning to us. Our narrow intellectual interests leave us with a very narrow world of reality because we perceive only what is meaningful.

    Our emotions are one source of meaning. Occasionally, while walking in the woods, some movement in the underbrush will cause my blood to “run cold”. Was that a source of danger? I suspect that to most animals without the ability to create abstract concepts all perceptions are those induced by emotions (we also call them instincts). I can be alerted by a mouse darting across the floor well on the peripheral fringes of my vision while I am busy concentrating on something else because animals survive based upon their response to movement.

    Humans, however, can create an abstract concept, which means that we can create a virtual world on top of the world directly created by Mother Nature. Mother Nature has prepared us through emotion to be very aware of movement pattern but Mother Nature has not prepared us for dealing with the world of abstract concepts.

    We have placed into the hands of ordinary people the extraordinary power of technology; it is this virtual world, where technology is dominating and grave danger lurks, for which Mother Nature has not prepared us.

    Quotes from Art and Visual Perception: A psychology of the Creative Eye Rudolf Arnheim


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    Forum Professor sunshinewarrior's Avatar
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    Try William Calvin's How Brains Think to see how perception relates to the creation of meaning. Fascinating stuff, neurobiologically, and philosophically, speaking.


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    The thing i wonder about abstract thinking is, is there any reasonable purpose left for it besides "Art". Since its looks like a genetic trait, in other words, something that evolved over the past thousands of years of environmental purpose for anticipating life-threatening situations? Which made it a subconscious instinctive ability?

    For example;

    Lets say you didn't sleep for a night, your body and mind become a bit more intense on certain tasks, as you may be more prone to hallucinate or more like abstract visualizing. So, you lift your rock or whichever you were doing, you go outside look up to the sky and you see? clouds. No..those ain't clouds there MAMMOTHS! RUN!

    Could i concieve abtract thinking as this? In its first instintive form?
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    Forum Professor marcusclayman's Avatar
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    Adressed to the off topic comments:

    Without abstract thinking there is no language, mathematics, science or philosophy. There is no critical thought.

    Your body has mechanisms to influence your wake-sleep cycle, the accidents we as individuals make when our nerves are distracted by fatigue is in no way an indicator of the usefullness or origin of abstract thinking.

    Abstract thinking involves conscious involvement, not instinct. If it's instinct, it's not thinking, and although the division between the two is probably -- like other dualities -- arbitrary.

    Also, I'm not so sure humans are the only creatures capable of abstract thinking. Whether or not we are, this is not to say that all humans are equally skilled at it. Humans are a very diverse species, and something like abstract thinking, seems to be the product of environment, more than genetics. The genes give us the ability, but unless we are stimulated at a young age, we quickly loose our potential.
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    Adressing Coberst:

    "Do we perceive it because it is meaningful? Yes!"

    Is it meaningfull because we perceive it? Maybe!

    but, Coberst, remember: correlation doesn't imply causation.

    We don't percieve things as they are, we percieve the meaning that we associate with the thing itself. So we are only percieving the meaning, and in that sense you are right, but this is not to imply that attaching meaning to something will help us percieve it.

    Meaning is often the very thing preventing someone from percieving something: like in the case of magic tricks: when patter and gestures seem meaningfull, but are distracting you from percieving what is really going on.


    Also, an unrelated observation: The man with agnosia is not unfamiliar with everything: for example, he is familiar with abstract concepts such as tallness, loudness and thinness; and he recognizes the sidewalk and the street.

    "Rudolf Arnheim says, regarding agnosia, that “Many people use their unimpaired sense of sight to no better advantage during much of the day.” How can this be true? I suspect it is true because many of us have such a very narrow range of familiar objects that have any meaning to us."

    I suspect it is true because it saves energy. The brain uses upwards to 1/3 of our energy, and our vision is a large portion of that. Caloric economy will forever be the most adaptable trait, generally speaking.

    Also, when someone is "actively seeking visual information" people pick up on their body language, and it sends cues to be weary of such individuals. For the most part, if someone in a crowd of people, and is "actively seeking visual information" I would want to keep my eye on them, for good or ill. It can send the wrong message. In department stores, one of the best cues security uses for noticing shoplifters, is "Actively looking around, but not at products" in other words "Actively seeking visual information"

    Eye fatigue and injuries caused by eye stress are fairly common. This suggests that many people use their eyes too much, and/or don't rest them enough. Maybe this "passive viewing" that Arnheim suggests, is the defensive mechanism to this cultural habit.

    Also off topic: I think that people simply live in both extremes, they go through long "visual fasts" where they are not very focused, and are very passive, and then at work, on the computer or while playing video games they stress their eyes a lot. It is no different than a weak person lifting heavy things, they are going to hurt themself.


    "We have placed into the hands of ordinary people the extraordinary power of technology; it is this virtual world, where technology is dominating and grave danger lurks, for which Mother Nature has not prepared us. "

    It seems to me, that mother nature's preperations are to blame. Mother nature has prepared us for a great deal of things that, throughout the course of our evolution have been relatively common threats. Our technological advancement is not unatural, but it is advancing faster than our biological evolution.

    So now, we have a surplus of food, but all the of the instincts to eat and seek more and more. Eating disorders, are virtually universal. Lower class folk, who have had chaotic lifestyles, and never a stable diet, are prone to obesity and overeating. Given a stable diet, people find that they are no longer a slave to their appetites. This is not a problem with abstract thinking, nor a problem with technology, it's a problem with human interaction, and arbitrary social divisions preventing us from helping one another freely. These social divisions are not the product of abstract thinking, but a product of hormonal fluctuations.
    Dick, be Frank.

    Ambiguity Kills.
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ravendell
    The thing i wonder about abstract thinking is, is there any reasonable purpose left for it besides "Art". Since its looks like a genetic trait, in other words, something that evolved over the past thousands of years of environmental purpose for anticipating life-threatening situations? Which made it a subconscious instinctive ability?

    For example;

    Lets say you didn't sleep for a night, your body and mind become a bit more intense on certain tasks, as you may be more prone to hallucinate or more like abstract visualizing. So, you lift your rock or whichever you were doing, you go outside look up to the sky and you see? clouds. No..those ain't clouds there MAMMOTHS! RUN!

    Could i concieve abtract thinking as this? In its first instintive form?
    Examples of abstract concepts freedom, justice, communism, capitalism, private property, patriotism, religion, god, angels, time, causality, hereafter, etc.

    We are meaning creating creatures, most of the concepts that we live, die, and kill for are abstract ideas.
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