October 2012


I was watching me some contact juggling, and I got to thinking about how they “represent” space.  I use the term “represent” in a rap fashion rather than a cog sci fashion, as they show off their conception of space, and it is Euclidian.  The beauty of the art form lies in the absence of body-based constraint: no top-heaviness or balance issues. Space is the metric space it seems to be in the performance.

Now look at time and the body.  What I object to most strenuously is the notion that anything could be timed independently of the body.  The oscillator modellers all seem to think that the time of behavior is a Euclidian time – a raw metric space, unformed by the proclivities, inertial drag, and symmetry properties of the body.  They treat movement as if it were contact juggling.

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In my P-world musings, I am at some pains to avoid pinning down the P-world.  Indeed, the P-world is not an object, or thing of some sort, and considered as such, a P-world does not exist.  Husserl seems to have trodden a similar path in his later work, the Crisis of European Science.  In that work, he makes liberal use of the notion of the Lebenswelt, which, as far as I can see, is roughly co-extensive with the P-world.  Like any good phenomenologist, he clings rigorously to the centrality of lived experience, but with the Lebenswelt, he seems to move further from the silly idea that there might exist a technique that would allow you to capture, and then describe, experience in some raw form.  He also correctly points out the tragic consequences of ignoring the P-world/Lebenswelt by science.

The solipsistic stance is often compared to living in a soap bubble.  Von Uexküll even used this analogy in talking of the Merkwelt.  But consider the square soap bubble (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yo6z8GKL0sQ).  It might think that its squareness belongs to it alone.  But from the outside we can see that no part of it has any independent existence whatsoever.  The square bubble exists only as a relatively stable equilibrium among the many tensive forces that exist between the surrounding more-or-less spherical bubbles.  Its squareness is entirely relationally constituted.  So to with the P-world, or the solipsist’s bubble.

There is a myth perpetrated by the non-discipline of cognitive psychology, that knowledge divides into (at least) two kinds of things: procedural knowledge and declarative knowledge.  The former, it is grudgingly acknowledged, is poorly handled by algorithms, and is evidenced only in the doing, as when I tie my bootlaces.  The latter, illustrated by the sentence “Paris is the capital of France”, is assumed to be free of any particular situation, and to be encodable.  It is the kind of knowledge folks in AI believe they are equipping their programs with. But this is nonsense.  There is no sentence in the computer, and the sentence “Paris is the capital of France” could index knowledge only in its use by a linguistic being who can skillfully cope with language.  Words are not fundamentally different from bootlaces, and we can not teach machines anything, for they can not know.