Rationality of the Universe

 Rationality of the Universe

In other words, unless the primary Laws of Thought were Laws of Things, our thought would be doomed by its very nature to misapprehend the nature of things.  – H. W. B Joseph,  An Introduction to Logic, p. 13.

Origins of Reality as Subject to Reason

The notion that the universe is rational is rooted in the idea that the universe possesses inherent order, identity, lawfulness, and that these are what make the universe knowable to a conscious rational being. These are what make the practice of science possible.  Reason and science (its application), then, are possible because the laws of identity and order exist and are out there in the universe for man to discover.  The laws of nature are not known in advance (fallacy of prior certainty) but must be discovered by a careful inner-regulated process of thought (rational epistemology) which must at its axiomatic level first grasp as most fundamental the basic universal axiomatic truths of being (ontology or metaphysics).

These truths, or rather first principles of all attempts to grasp or speak about truth,  were first explicitly defined by Aristotle as: 1. that all that exists has a definitive definite nature or identity (the law of identity).  2. that nature does not contradict itself, it is what it is, and is all that is (the law of non-contradiction).   3. That all facts of existence are or are not, there is no in between.  (The law of the excluded middle).   Nothing can be and not be at the same time in the same respect (the law of either-or.)

In other words, if we think about anything, then (1) we must think that it is; (2) we cannot think that it at once has a character and has it not; (3) we must think that it either has it or has it not.  – from An Introduction to Logic, by H. W. B. Joseph, Second Edition, Revised, Oxford at the Clarendon Press 1926, p. 13.

Law of Identity Bridges Epistemology and Ontology

As a bridge between ontology and epistemology, the most fundamental principle is that of the law of identity.  What is, when grasped as such, must constrain our thinking.  The laws of logic are laws of both reality and our proper method of thinking about reality.

The connection between questions about our thinking and what we must think things to be, is excellently shown in the so-called Laws of Thought. . . . Now though these are called laws of thought, and in fact we cannot think except in accordance with them, yet they are really statements which we cannot but hold true about things.  We cannot think contradictory propositions, because we see that a thing cannot have at once and not have the same character; and the so-called necessity of thought is really the apprehension of necessity in the being of things.  . . . The Law of Contradiction then is metaphysical or ontological.  So also is the Law of Identity.  It is because what is must be determinately what it is, that I must so think.  The Law of Excluded Middle . . . involves the mutual exclusiveness of determinate characters which is the ground of negation; and that is a statement about things.  In other words, unless the primary Laws of Thought were Laws of Things, our thought would be doomed by its very nature to misapprehend the nature of things.  – from An Introduction to Logic, p. 13.

Needless to say, both Aristotelian logic and the bioperipatetic.com entirely oppose any form of dialetheism (the admissibility of self contradiction).  Here is Aristotle’s basis for his first principle of non-contradiction:

According to Aristotle, first philosophy, or metaphysics, deals with ontology and first principles, of which the principle (or law) of non-contradiction is the firmest. Aristotle says that without the principle of non-contradiction we could not know anything that we do know. Presumably, we could not demarcate the subject matter of any of the special sciences, for example, biology or mathematics, and we would not be able to distinguish between what something is, for example a human being or a rabbit, and what it is like, for example pale or white. Aristotle’s own distinction between essence and accident would be impossible to draw, and the inability to draw distinctions in general would make rational discussion impossible. According to Aristotle, the principle of non-contradiction is a principle of scientific inquiry, reasoning and communication that we cannot do without.  – from Aristotle on Non-contradiction , (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) article Copyright © 2011 by  Paula Gottlieb

Consciousness Emergent from Ontological Lawfulness

As for consciousness as the capacity to know reality,  extending the above notion of the ‘rational universe’, the universe’s determinateness, order, lawfulness, causality, makes possible the emergence of a consciousness whose essential function is to identify the nature of existence, and in particular, its individual facts regarding the subject and its relationship to the world.  The primary function of consciousness is to guide the individual organism in discovering values (Gibson would say affordances) in the world and guiding the organism’s actions in the achievement, realization, utilization, acquisition of those values.  This is the biological basis of morality: the identification of values and the action to achieve those values.  A Darwinian might say that consciousness and reason evolved (emerged) because they effectively served the life and survival of the species.  Thus consciousness ‘works’ because reality is of such a nature that consciousness can grasp its nature so as to guide the organism in its efforts to flourish and survive long enough to reproduce after its kind.  Aristotle would say the contact with the world and self-direction of its possessor with respect to the world are jointly the final cause (that for the sake of which) of consciousness (psuche Greek root of psyche) exists.

The Rationality of Nature as Reified Mathematics

The notion of a universe as the manifestation of rational laws is the idea behind the notion that reality, the universe, is fundamentally mathematical in its essence.  This is explicitly the view held by the scientist-philosophers of the Renaissance, which gave rise to the ‘New Science’ of Galileo, Newton and Descartes.  Descartes, in particular, held that the physical real is the mathematical in that the real is the extended physical, which qua extended (res extensa) is essentially geometry reified.  The essence of consciousness, of thought (or res cogitans) was, according to Descartes, the power to grasp the mathematical order of the physical through thought.  This was the transcendental logical bridge uniting res extensa and res cogitans (although their direct causal interaction was not possible under this scheme of Cartesian Dualism).

The Rational Universe of Renaissance Science

The New Science of the Renaissance began with the doctrine that all facts in the physical world are rigidly determined, ruled by inexorable laws of cause and effect.  These laws were conceived as reifications of mathematical and rational order inherent in nature itself.

The pioneers of the seventeenth century, Thomas Hobbes and Isaac Newton, took over this form from mathematics, and particularly (as Hobbes tells) from Euclid’s geometry.  In Euclid, each proposition flows from those which precede it by logical necessity; and so in physics, they argued, each happening must flow from those which precede it by natural necessity.  Cause must lead unalterably to effect.  The laws of nature are to be like the laws of deductive reasoning: by these steps we are to go from first to last, from first cause to last effect, along a path which is unique, certain, and (in principle) predictable in every detail.  – from  A Sense of the Future: Essays in Natural Philosophy,  Chapter 5 ‘The Logic of Nature,’ by Jacob Bronowski, The MIT Press, 1977, p. 34.

Modern Science Rejects Renaissance Doctrine

But the second scientific revolution of the early 20th century, was forced to reject much of seventeenth century science.  The concept of physical continuity and infinite divisibility were proven false empirically.  It is interesting to note that the logic (ontology) of this fact was first argued by Aristotle based on his rejection of the concept of the infinite as an actuality, holding instead that the concept of infinity as purely methodological and hence a concept of potentiality.  This Aristotelian view has been adopted by modern science, especially by modern quantum theory.  Einstein deeply examined the concepts of space and time, which he found to be relative (relational) and not absolute.  Again, the concepts of space and time as relative and not absolute were first deeply argued and defended by Aristotle.  Significantly, like Aristotle, Einstein was both a philosopher of nature as well as a scientist grounded by modern empirical evidence.  Science had 1. proven that matter was discontinuous and 2. embraced an empirical atomism, both premises amounting to a rejection of Descartes’ dualist doctrine of res extensa, which held that the physical was characterized as a plenum (full and infinitely divisible matrix) of extensiveness.

But what of energy?  Once Max Plank proved experimentally that at the subatomic level energy was discontinuous, discrete, quantal, there ushered in the beginning of quantum mechanics with all of its ontological and epistemological difficulties.  (See the bioperipatetic article entitled Aristotle and the Philosophical Crisis of Quantum Mechanics.)

The Subatomic Failure of Newtonian Mechanics

Attempting to apply the Newtonian atomism to subatomic particles proved to be a conceptual failure.  Twentieth century science discovered that the atom has subatomic structure whose parts manifest unique subatomic (as contrasted with macroscopic, Newtonian) dynamics.  The electron became understood as the key subatomic particle that united physics and chemistry.  Furthermore, unlike the Renaissance concept of fundamental particles, the electron could not be a solid ‘billiard-ball-like’ entity.  It was found to have a negative electrical charge and to be attracted by (captured and held in place by) the positively charged nucleus.  Its orbit should, according to Newtonian mechanics, eventually spiral into its nucleus.  But it does not, and keeps it ‘orbit’ eternally (under normal conditions).  Furthermore, the electron has an embodied energy property (associated with it angular momentum).  Yet when excited, the electron  changes the radius of its orbit discontinuously, i.e., in discrete jumps, without passing through intermediate radial positions (or energy states).  So says the empirical evidence.  Thus the electron’s energy factor, by determining its energy potential in a strictly quantal manner, was a pure example of quantum mechanical behavior.

Eventually, under the influence of De Broglie, the electron’s orbit was considered to be more of a probabilistic wave than a fixed circular or elliptical orbit with a particle in time-determinant positions.  This idea was the beginning of the wave-partical duality of modern physics, shown experimentally in the famous, and widely replicated, double-slit experiment of photon (and later of electron) phase-based energy cancellation, exhibited as a wave-like interference pattern on the detection plate.

The difficulties at once became insuperable when Plank showed that energy too is atomic: it comes in indivisible pieces.  No longer could nature  be imagined to glide from one state to another by infinite degrees.  The parts of nature leap and her states are as separate as the frames in a film.

This picture has slowly made over all our concepts.  For example, think of an atom radiating one of its characteristic colors — a yellow line of sodium, say.  It gets the precise energy for this when one of its electrons makes the precise leap from one of its characteristic orbits to another.  This leap takes no time and does not pass through the space between: the electron disappears from one orbit and instantly appears in another.  — from A Sense of the Future, p. 36.

What does the behavior of the electron do to our classical concepts of a particle with its ontological temporal continuity and its fixed laws of inertial movement under the influence of universal gravity?   Bronowski continues:

It does not make much sense to call something with this behavior a particle, it does not even make sense to ask whether what appears in the two orbits is “the same’ electron.  Neither does it make sense to give the electron one place at one time in its orbit; its possible positions are spread around the orbit like a wave.  The electron, in short, is an electron and nothing else, with its own unusual but definite laws; and words like “particle’ and “wave” are mere metaphors, each of which describes an aspect and no more of the whole algebra of its behavior.  — from A Sense of the Future, p. 36.

With more and more experimentation and theory development regarding the subatomic level of physics, even the concepts of an event, a signal and an observation became hopelessly entangled.  As Bronowski put it:

No! Physics does not record events but observations.  And event, signal, and observation are linked in a way which cannot be taken apart.  We cannot abstract the event, we can only study the relation between observations.  Relativity is the understanding of the world not as events but as relations. — from A Sense of the Future, p. 39.

So modern physics tells us that an event generating an energy packet that acts as a signal to a sensing device or organ and that is detected by the observation of that signal, is a single, irreducible ontological primary.  This implies a radical inversion of the relationship between consciousness and existence.  For given this conception of an event entangled with a) the concept of a signal, b) the concept of a sensing device or organ, and c) the concept of signal detection or sensory awareness d) the concept of observation, events can only be said to exist (finally or completely) when they are sensed by some form of consciousness, where the event is transformed into an observation.  Quantum mechanics takes this analysis quite seriously, holding, for example, that the act of observation (or measurement, which is a species of observation) actually causes the quantum wave (electron position, for example) to come into existence as a discrete property/value.  What then is the conceptual impact of the 20th century scientific revolution with respect to subatomic physics on our view of the physical world?

So the second scientific revolution has abandoned the hidden tenets of the first.  Its model of nature no longer assumes that she must be causal, continuous, and independent.   These assumptions were idealized from everyday experience.  And they were right, and splendidly successful, during two centuries when physics worked and measured on the everyday scale.  They have turned out to be false on the small scale of the atom and on the large scale of the nebulas, and at least inappropriate to studies of the living. — from A Sense of the Future, p. 39.

We see in this last quote, that Bronowski’s view of modern science embraces the idea that reality is not independent.  Independent of what?  Of consciousness, of reason, of observation.  This is, in the opinion of bioperipatetic, a misreading of quantum science.  It is in effect the error of taking the properties of quantum physics as foundational to and continuous with all truth, based on the questionable assumption that all facts simply derive from quantum reality.  This assumption is not necessarily  true, even within the limits of quantum physics, and is in fact rejected by some leading quantum physicists.  We will discuss this more directly later in this paper.

The Rationality of Science and Logic of Nature

One might ask: If modern science now sees the physical (subatomic) world as probabilistic, and NOT deterministically causal, continuous and independent of consciousness; where lies the rationality of modern science and its view of an ordered causal world?  Bronowski argues that rationality is attributed to the methodology of science which captures the logic of nature.

For it is the method, the activity of science which expresses its profound rationalism. . . Science is rational because it is the unprejudiced discovery of the logic of nature.  — from A Sense of the Future, p. 41.

Implicit in this statement is the idea that nature is ruled by a logic that, though discoverable by man, is not necessarily that of man’s logic.   Clearly here is an equivocation of logic as a methodology and logic as an ontological external order.   Yet it is just that order that underlies the historical notion of a rational universe, ruled by logical laws.  And that is what is being denied by modern science (especially quantum physics) for it holds that all that is knowable requires observation which hopelessly entangles consciousness with the ontology of the subject of observation (sub-atomic particles).

Loss of Reason in Quantum Theory

But can we go further?  What of the ‘rational’ or ‘ordered’ or ‘lawful’ or ‘causal’ nature of existence?  Does existence, reality itself, require for its own existence and persistence, some principle of transactional interaction that rests on the lawfulness of all material objects?  Do objects actually operate (actively exist) by some inherent ‘rational’ principles?  Was Leibniz right?  Were the modern quantum transactionalists right?  Is the Copenhagen interpretation an implication of the ‘rational’ roots of being?  Here is a recent article that raises that question more boldly in the light of modern quantum mechanical theory:

A scientific revolution happens when the paradigm (of normal science) breaks down. In normal periods you need only people who are good at working with the technical tools — the master craftspeople. During revolutionary periods you need seers, who can peer ahead into the darkness. · · · We are in a revolutionary period but are using the inadequate tools of normal science. We are horribly stuck and need real seers, badly. · · · Do you want a revolution in science? Let in a few revolutionaries. The payoff could be discovering how the universe works. –  Lee Smolin, The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What comes Next, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, (2006).

In his book Lee Smolin addresses an essential issue with which the bioperipatetic is in fundamental agreement: the loss of the former interchange of ideas between physics (we would say all of the sciences) and philosophy:

Philosophy used to be part of the natural sciences – for a long time. For long centuries during which our understanding of the world we live in has progressed tremendously. There is no doubt that times change, but not all changes are a priori good if left without further consideration. Here, change has resulted in a gap between the natural sciences where questioning the basis of our theories, and an embedding into the historical and sociological context used to be. Even though many new specifically designed interdisciplinary fields have been established, investigating the foundations of our current theories has basically been erased out of curricula and textbooks. –  Lee Smolin, The Trouble with Physics.

The Loss of Direct Realism in Neo-Darwinism

Meanwhile, modern biology has widely embraced the Darwinian (or Neo-Darwinian) view of cognition, from perception through conceptualization, which holds that all tools of knowledge are the product of competitive environmental and inter-species adaptation to stress and to threats to survival, thus all knowledge and all tools of knowledge are the ultimate product of Darwinian pragmatic selection.  This was the view held by Karl Popper:

In sum, there is a clear conflict with Mach’s insistence that’ all sensations are immediately given and are certain [a form of Direct Realism]- “as if their character were independent of the way in which they were identified, or misidentified ” Such a theory, such an “epistemology which takes our sense perceptions as ‘given’, as the ‘data’ from which our theories have to be constructed”, Popper [Karl Popper in  Objective Knowledge (Oxford University Press, 1972, pp. 145-6.] denounces as “pre-Darwinian “, as failing “to take account of the fact that the alleged data are in fact adaptive reactions, and therefore interpretations which incorporate theories and prejudices… there can be no pure perception, no pure datum… Sense organs incorporate the equivalent of primitive and uncritically accepted theories, which are less widely tested than scientific theories. – from  Philosophy of Biology versus Philosophy of Physics by William W. Bartley, III, in Fundamenta Scientiae, Vol. E, No. 1, 1982, p. 66. (Bracketed enhancement added by bioperipatetic.)

This Neo-Darwinian view of the nature of knowledge and epistemology held by Karl Popper and Konrad Lorenz, author of  Behind the Mirror: A Search for A Natural History of Human Knowledge,   is called “evolutionary epistemology”, so named by American psychologist, Donald T. Campbell.  To argue that the evidence of the senses are suspect because the senses themselves have evolved and been the passive victim of (pragmatic) selection, is self-contradictory, for it denies that sense evidence is at the base of all knowledge.  To argue that the senses are unreliable (or non-objective) because they process environmental information in a particular way, as the result of their evolutionary history is to embrace Kantian skepticism and rationalism (where knowledge can at best be characterized as coherent with itself but never in correspondence with the external objects of knowledges).  This Kantian epistemological position denies the correspondence theory of truth and knowledge, an impossible paradoxical and contradictory position.

Materialist Neo-Darwinism Contra Consciousness

Yet there is a well-respected modern philosopher of science, Thomas Nagel,  who is a skeptic of materialist Neo-Darwinism and at the same time strong advocate of the doctrine of the intelligibility of the universe.  He argues that consciousness, being part of the universe is also part of the natural world, yet it is not reducible to matter, doctrinaire materialist reductionism to the contrary not withstanding.

This is a clear departure from Cartesian dualism, that continues to dominate modern science, even if most scientist have never heard of Cartesian dualism.  What Nagel is saying is that matter (as understood by modern science) and mind (consciousness) coexist as natural facts about the world, and that mind is the precondition for science itself, science is a conscious methodology that requires the free (non-deterministic) exercise of man’s reason over the observations of nature, yielding scientific theory as well as scientific fact.  Beyond that, science assumes that the universe is intelligible to the reasoning mind, else science could not succeed.

Science is driven by the assumption that the world is intelligible. . . In the natural sciences as they have developed since the seventeenth century, the assumption of intelligibility has med to extraordinary discoveries, confirmed by prediction and experiment of a hidden natural order that cannot be observed by human perception alone.  Without the assumption of an intelligible underlying order, which long antedates the scientific revolution, how discoveries could not have been made. – from Mind & Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False, by Thomas Nagel, p. 16.

Knowability of Reality Implies Emergence, not Reductionism

So we arrive at the end of this paper where we started, with the idea that reality is of such a nature that it is subject to identification and analysis through the application of reason and therefore is intelligible.   This is not to say that reality came into being in such a way that it would ultimately be subject to reason possessed by certain forms of conscious beings before either consciousness or reason ever came into being.  For that would be to argue for prior certainty, the idea that the requirements of the cognitive order precede and in some way (through some creative principle) determine (or condition) the nature of the physical order which precedes the cognitive, thus making physical order intelligible.  It is the other way round, that consciousness emerged in such a way as to be capable of grasping the order of the natural world.  Though some Neo-Darwinists argue for exactly this, Nagel argues that Materialist Darwinism cannot account for consciousness, qua consciousness, as we know and experience it, i.e. as the power to grasp and come to know the nature world around each of us through an intensional, teleological mental process.  Concepts of intention and teleology are not subject to materialist reductionism, and so are rejected as meaningless or metaphysical by modern philosophers of science and leading scientists as well.

Yet, modern science, under the mantle of materialist Neo-Darwinism, argues that all of human nature is the product of genetic mutation and natural selection which imposes its influence gradually over centuries of change and adaptation.

Nagel fully rejects the materialist premise with respect to the origins of consciousness.  Nagel argues that mere matter, something that is utterly lacking in any qualities, properties or potentialities that constitute even the simplest form of consciousness (let alone life) could not, no matter how long the evolutionary processed went on, ever evolve into consciousness whose fundamental qualities (sensations, perceptions, pleasures, pains)  and properties (intention, teleology, abstraction, volition, objectivity, imagination, cognitive creativity and  integration) are nothing like the properties, actualities  or potentialities of inanimate matter.   Nagel goes on to argue that consciousness, if it is to evolve from the primitive constituents of the natural world, must exist at least as a formal potentiality within those very constituents.

Knowledge of Reality Independent of Quantum Foundations

Modern physics, at least one of its most prominent physicists, Robert Laughlin, most profoundly agrees with Nagel’s premise that materialist reductionism cannot lead us to consciousness, and that human knowledge of the physical world does not depend on reductionism.  Laughlin has argued that knowledge of the fundamental infrastructure of reality is not necessary for objective knowledge of the laws of the macroscopic world.  This idea is a fundamental breakthrough regarding the proper philosophy of science.

As mentioned earlier, Bronowski’s implicitly argues that all of physics rests on quantum reality, (including its idea of the inseparability, or entanglement if you will,  of events, signals and observations) implying that all of our knowledge of reality is hopelessly entangled with the laws of quantum physics.  This conclusion and its basis is categorically rejected by the quantum physicist  Robert B. Laughlin (who is, significantly, winner of the Nobel Prize for his work on the quantum hall effect) who argues that the macroscopic world is neither reducible to nor dependent on the details of the subatomic world of quantum physical phenomena.  The universe is in fact an emergent hierarchy of layered phenomena and relationships that have at each hierarchical level, laws that are independent of those upon which that layer physically rests.  If this were not so, Laughlin argues, all knowledge of the physical world, including science itself (not to mention life itself) would not be possible:

Thus the tendency of nature to form a hierarchical  society of physical laws is much more than an academic debating point.  It is why the world is knowable.  It renders the most fundamental laws, whatever they are, irrelevant and protects us from being tyrannize by them.  It is the reason we can live without understanding the ultimate secrets of the universe.  – from Robert B. Laughlin‘s  A Different Universe : Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down, Basic Books, New York, 2005, p. 8.

This is a profound and brilliant argument that challenges the doctrinaire quantum reductionism of modern physics.   It should not be surprising to know that Laughlin is a strong defender of emergence theory, and discusses this principle at length in his book (cited above).

What are the Physical Foundations of Knowability?

 It has been repeatedly asserted that the inherent lawfulness of the universe enables the emergence of conscious beings that possess the power to know reality.  How do the facts of reality condition consciousness as a faculty for identifying fundamental facts about reality?This is a critical question rarely asked and rarely answered.  For it jointly involves epistemological, ontological and psychophysical principles.

Let us begin at the very foundation of cognition, the power of the organism to know its ecological environment, that part of reality directly interacting with the organism’s sensory system.  This is he perceptual level of consciousness, more specifically it is the basic level of consciousness as a cognitive organon. As discussed at length in The Causal Basis of Perception, and  A Direct Realist Theory of Sensory Qualities, it is asserted that the physical basis for perception is the fact that energy  gradients impinging on the sensory organs carry (in quite complex but also quite determinate forms) the specifications of external objects in the organism’s environment. This topic is discussed in The Physical Basis of Perception.   The theoretical and experimental work underlying this theory of the causal basis of perception rests, to a considerable degree, upon the life-long work of Professor James J. Gibson (especially his The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems, and An Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. It is upon his work and that of his collaborative partner and wife, Eleanor Gibson (especially her magnum opus Principle of Perceptual Learning and Development), that the above referenced  paper (The Causal Basis of Perception) is based.

Objects are not specifiable by static energy gradients, Object specification requires changing energy gradients.  The invariant features that define objects are specified in the relational invariants in the ordered transformations of changing energy patterns resulting from a moving sample of the available energy structure.  It is J.  J.  Gibson who first recognized the fundamentality of this fact to the process of perception.  Gibson is the only leading theorist to grasp as axiomatic the fact that, by the very nature of perception, receptor stimulation must carry the specifications for environmental layout.  Perception is a process of extracting these specifications.  Any other cause of conscious awareness or phenomenal experience is not perception. – fromThe Physical Basis of PerceptioninThe Causal Basis of Perception, by Jack H. Schwartz, 1975

This energy specific relational property of sensory gradients, is not sufficient to achieve perception.  There are two other levels of causal processes (also understood by Gibson) that are required for the achievement of perception.   These are discussed in turn below.

The first of these two levels consists of the physiological principles underlying our sensory systems.  This topic is discussed in some depth in  The Physiological Basis of Perception.  It is at this level that the dynamic movements of the organism and its own sensory organs, changing as they do the patterns and order of sensory stimulation and its structure, play a crucial role in isolating the organism’s internal states from those of external reality.

The receptor apparatus in general is a device for “capturing” and displaying the pattern or order contained in changing energy gradients.  Since it is the order that is fundamental, and not the form in which the order is carried, the sensory system may capture patterns carried as temporal order in an energy event, and display these patterns in terms of spatial adjacencies (as occurs at the basilar membrane). Or, spatial order in an energy pattern may be displayed in terms of temporal adjacencies (as-in optical, tactile, and acoustical scanning).  The capacity to “trade space for time” (Gibson, 1966) seems to be an inherent property of sensory systems. {26} – fromThe Physiological Basis of PerceptioninThe Causal Basis of Perceptionby Jack H. Schwartz, 1975

Finally, and most importantly, there is the power of the organism to actively seek out object order (with respect to its own body and external bodies) in its environment by directly controlling the movements and orientation of its own sensory organs and its own body with respect to the origins of externally impinging energy gradients.  This level of perceptual causality includes both active seeking as well as perceptual learning, achievable through the conscious attention to the content of perception, resulting in the automatic ‘detection’ in the form of noticing new features composing the sensory experience.  This level of control is discussed in The Psychological Basis of Perception.

In terms of its importance for perceptual development, the most critical differentiation achieved is the propriospecific / exterospecific distinction.  The hypothesis that I offer here is that this perceptual achievement is intimately dependent upon the perceiving organism’s capacity to notice and attend to the sensory effects accompanying self-initiated movement.  According to this hypothesis, during the very early stages of perceptual development, a series of “discoveries” take place.  What are discovered are several categories of ordered sensory effects, which are differentiated, based upon their connection to self initiated movement.  By attending to certain sensory effects, the young organism discovers that some effects are controllable by him, while others are independent of his control.  This represents the earliest form of an awareness of the difference between propriospecific and exterospecific sensory effects.  This stage represents the earliest awareness, therefore, of an external world, i.e., a world independent of the perceiver.  – fromThe Psychological Basis of PerceptioninThe Causal Basis of Perceptionby Jack H. Schwartz, 1975

(Physical Order) + (Energy Order) + (Sensory Order) = Cognitive Order

And so we arrive at the fundamental a crucial point, which was alluded at  in our fist quote from H. W. B. Joseph, the cognition must be in conformance with reality.  More specifically, we have asserted that as the basis for this conformance there exists in nature an hierarchy of causal systems that underly and serve as the basis for direct cognitive contact with the external world and which, by their nature, provide the complex basis for the seemly simple fact that  the physical order of the world is both the precondition for as well as the causal basis for our capacity to perceive, and later (as a consequence of this) to reason about the world.

References (Listed in reference order.):

  1. H. W. B Joseph,  An Introduction to Logic, Oxford University Press, 2nd Edition Revised, 1916.
  2. Paula Gottlieb.   Aristotle on Non-contradiction , (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) article, 2011.
  3. Jacob Bronowski, The Logic of Nature,  Chapter 5 in A Sense of the Future: Essays in Natural Philosophy, The MIT Press, 1977.
  4. Bioperipatetic,  Aristotle and the Philosophical Crisis of Quantum MechanicsJanuary 29, 2014, Revision Date:  December 29, 2014.
  5. Lee Smolin,   The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of a Science, and What comes Next, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, 2006.
  6. William W. Bartley, III,  Philosophy of Biology versus Philosophy of Physics  in Fundamenta Scientiae, Vol. E, No. 1, 1982.
  7. Konrad Lorenz,  Behind the Mirror: A Search for A Natural History of Human Knowledge, Paperback Edition: 261 pages, Mariner Books, 1978.
  8. Thomas Nagel,    Mind & Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False, Oxford University Press, 2012.
  9. Robert B. Laughlin, A Different Universe : Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down, Basic Books, New York, 2005
  10. Jack H. Schwartz, The Causal Basis of Perception, Unpublished Masters Thesis, 1975
  11. James J. Gibson , The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1966.
  12. James J. Gibson, An Ecological Approach to Visual Perception, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1979.  Note: A preprint of parts of  this book was given to Mr. J. Schwartz by Professor J. Gibson in March, 1974).
  13. Eleanor Gibson, Principle of Perceptual Learning and Development, Appleton-Century Crofts, 1967.

Copyright (c) 2014, 2015 by Jack H. Schwartz (a.k.a. bioperipatetic).  All rights reserved. 

Published on December 10, 2014 @ 12:14 am by bioperipatetic.com

Latest revision: July 4, 2018 @ 10:36 pm



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.