Neuroscience


“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”  ~ Anais Nin

What are we that we should see such?

unpickerBig

Advertisements

Let’s define an anti-embodied cognitive science.

We start, not by disagreeing with the enactivists, but by agreeing with them up to, but excluding agency.  Let’s discard the assumption that the lived body is the locus of experience.  That should get the party started.

Then we wait for someone to cry foul.  We take their argument, whatever it is, and we examine its agential commitments, and associated mentalese. There is no test one can do to distinguish between the tumblebot and the goldfish without presuming some locus of agency.  There will be many domains of relative autonomy though.

Take whatever ‘mind’ is offered, and call it the P-world.  The domain of present experience.  Identify the P-world in a variety of ways: Umwelt, milieu, consciousness.  The P-bomb is, of course, that the P-world does not exist.  It is a construct that allows the discussion of a world.

What’s the endgame?  Do we no longer draw the boundary at the species?  Is this the way to realize that we are the natural world?  We are the world we see.

So much blood and ink has been spilt trying to bridge the gap between something called mind and something called world. The gap I seek to bridge is instead between something called experience and something called language. This we can do. And with that the game is won.

So I started working on a sketch today that links two ideas, and the combination is surprising.

On the one hand we have O’Regan and Noe’s take on sensorimotor correspondences.  This is actually not far from a lot of Gibsonian work within Ecological Psychology.  The basic idea is that in perceiving, we are skillfully engaging with the world, and that practiced and tuned action gives rise to a corresponding characteristic change in the sensory array.  Gibsonians would say this is the basis of direct perception.  Enaction-heads would say this is skillful coping, or some such.

On the other hand, we have the peculiar issue of sensorimotor synchronization, perhaps best illustrated by a group of people dancing or beating drums together.  In the scientific literature, this has withered to a laboratory situation in which people tap in time to a metronome. (The horror, the horror.)  This is a singularly human achievement, the very odd animal counterexample notwithstanding (yes, Snowball, I’m looking at you and the Gelada baboons).  A fuller account of the basis for sensorimotor synchronization would help us enormously.  It may underpin a burgeoning theory of memes; it speaks to Gibson’s intuition that the nervous system displays resonant properties; it fits with a range of specific situations, from air guitar to stuttering.  All can be described, in some fuzzy essence, with a conceptually simple model in which two processes enter into a coupled form of synergy which looks like resonance within and among coupled systems with many degrees of freedom.

(more…)

Dehaene has an interesting article in Edge.org on his work in studying brain activity related to consciousness experience, or rather brain activity associated with the ability to report on the nature of brief stimuli presented visually. He uses language in an infuriating way typical of neuroscience:

We can see a lot of cortical activation created by a subliminal word. It enters the visual parts of the cortex, and travels through the visual areas of the ventral face of the brain.

Now, If I have a basin of water, and I tap the side, waves propagate through the basin, but my tap is not propagating, and there is an important distinction between the wave pattern and the tap. Yet neuroscientists talk as if stimuli were being passed around in the brain. An important insight of the enactive tradition is to clearly separate between the tap and the waves, or between a perturbation to the dynamics of the organism and the effect of that perturbation.

In this article, the consequences of transparency in public life are considered. It appears that money revels the collective nature of the system. Lawfulness appears in behavior, but that lawfulness requires us to posit a limited sort of an individual. Essentially selfish, but with a limited notion of self. Revealing our collective side, once again. Brains drive those smaller units, as they generate P-worlds. Consensus will be of our common nature, and not of that which is first person.

The set of things generally acknowledged to be real is getting bigger. That’s gotta be a plus.

Next Page »