Perception a problem of philosophy or science?

What makes perception possible?

Can we resolve the issue of perception without addressing the question: what makes perception possible? Is this a philosophical question or a question that can be best left to cognitive science? Can science resolve a philosophical question? Are there questions that are purely philosophical that cannot be addressed by science? Or Are there questions that are purely scientific that cannot be addressed by philosophy? Are the methods of thinking or inquiry by science and philosophy different?

Let us hear what do you think about these questions.

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I’ll bite. But first, what exactly is it that you mean by perception in this context? Even my itsy-bitsy teenie-weenie dictionary lists four meanings of perception. I quote below after I volley back with a few questions of my own to you:

Can we resolve the issue of perception without addressing the question: what makes perception possible?

Can we remove the first coach from a train? Can we remove the first link from a chain? If we do, the next link will become the first link. If we remove that, the next link will become the first link.

Is this a philosophical question or a question that can be best left to cognitive science?

The question is philosophical, and its answer(s) are both philosophical as well as cognitive science.

Can science resolve a philosophical question?

It can help. What came first, the chicken or the egg? Well, let’s start with studying a sample of the primordial soup.

Are there questions that are purely philosophical that cannot be addressed by science?

Does god exist? Science can beat this question to death until the cows come home, but never come up with an answer that will satisfy either the believer or the non-believer.

Or are there questions that are purely scientific that cannot be addressed by philosophy?

Probably not. I can’t think of any, in that, I can convert any scientific answer back into a philosophical question.

Are the methods of thinking or inquiry by science and philosophy different?

Methods? no. Both require rational and analytical thinking. Results? yes.

Let us continue this delightful discussion.

** oh, how I wish I were having this discussion with you in-person


per·cep·tion | pərˈsepSH(ə)n |

noun

the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses: the normal limits to human perception.
• the state of being or process of becoming aware of something through the senses: the perception of pain.
• a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression: Hollywood’s perception of the tastes of the American public | we need to challenge many popular perceptions of old age.
• intuitive understanding and insight: “He wouldn’t have accepted,” said my mother with unusual perception.
Psychology & Zoology the neurophysiological processes, including memory, by which an organism becomes aware of and interprets external stimuli.

Origin
late Middle English: from Latin perceptio(n-), from the verb percipere ‘seize, understand’

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more rumination on this thread…

We have five senses (let’s stick to conventional wisdom):

  • sight
  • sound
  • smell
  • touch
  • taste

Of these, the first three don’t require physical contact, so we can think of them as remote sensing methods.

The three remote sensing methods, have different bandwidths, distance requirements, speed, etc., all functions of the underlying transportaton mechanism. I can see the moon (a few bajillion miles away) but I can’t see around the corner. I can’t hear what happens on the moon, but I can hear what happens in the next room even though I have no “line of sight.” Smell requires me to be even closer to the source than the other two, but in spite of its limitations, can reveal qualities about the source that sight and sound can’t.

The two non-remote-sensing methods – let’s call them physical-sensing methods – require very close proximity. They are severely limited in their bandwidth but are distinctly different from their more powerful remote-sensing cousins to merit their own place in the pentad of senses.

Together, these five senses help us perceive in the sense of what my dictionary terms perception as being “the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.”

But what is going on here?

Ancient nuclear fusion reactions at ~15M°C ~150M kms away emit light and heat in the core of the sun. Light travels at ~300K kms/sec and hits objects on earth wherein some of it gets absorbed, some may pass through the objects, and the remainder is reflected. The reflected light hits our eyes and sets off further chemical and electrical reactions that send signals to our brain. In the beginning, perhaps the brain has no idea what to do with this. Perhaps some of it is genetically encoded, but most of it is probably gibberish. But the brain learns quickly. A baby is constantly sensing, touching and grasping at things, putting them in its mouth and tasting them, listening, smelling, and seeing. The eyes, above all, are constantly seeing and filtering, filing. Imagine something like so

const fs = require('fs')
const rs = fs.createReadStream('stuff I am sensing')

rs.on('readable', () => {
    const seen = compareWithPreviouslySensed(rs.read())

    if (seen) {
        takeAppropriateAction(seen)
    }
    else {
        tryOrQuit(seen)
    }
})

rs.on('end', () => {
    fileForFutureReference()
})

But as the old adage goes, you can’t explain what is an elephant in terms of an elephant - “an elephant is like an elephant” is not a very good explanation. We need references. These references can be well-defined or subtle or even extremely difficult to impossible to resolve. Compare the two paths below

if (feelsHot(seen)) {
    letGoImmediately(seen)
}

// and

if (killAFewToSaveMore(seen)) {
    killAFew()
}

We’ve gone from the realm of decision-making by science to decision-making by morality. Can philosophy resolve this tension? Don’t know, but something tells me it has a better shot at it than science.

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It is not clear why understanding the conditions is similar to understanding the links in the chain. How many links are there if the conditions are arranged like a chain? What are they? The idea is to identify them and specify them explicitly.

for fun, I was kinda playing with words… you are trying to understand perception (which is understanding). So, you are trying to understand understanding. Which comes first?

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All senses require physical contact is sufficiently well accepted in cognitive science. The photons do touch retina, sound is a physical wave and it does touch tymphanum of the ear, the smell is caused by chemicals that touch the smell sensors in the nose.

There is now a very provocative approach on perception argued by philosophers like Alva Noë (see Alva Noë 2004 his book *Action in perception *. According to this approach, we cannot perceive what ever falls on our senses, unless we act on the input. We cannot see if we do not move the muscles in the orbit of the eye. We train ourselves by acting on the world we perceive. Sensitivity to physical perturbations can be acquired by birth, but those sensitivities are blind unless we move/act. We now have sufficient experimental evidence to trust this view, so this is becoming almost received view by the current cognitive science.

I am OK with clubbing perception and understanding together. I am favorable to this idea. But we still need to understand the scope of these terms clearly.

Does all perception the same as understanding? Does all understanding same as perception? When we raise such questions, we could see that maybe there is more to understanding than perception. Is perception a necessary condition for understanding? Is understanding an effect and perception a cause? Sure, perception may also have other causal conditions? Indeed your chain metaphor does work here.

Thinking also helps us to understand. Most people do not accept that thinking is the same as perception. I am of the view that even thinking is an extension of perception. Let’s leave this aside for the time being since this needs a book-length story to tell.

At this point, it is sufficient to know that these terms do not mean to many people as synonyms. So, we need to perform some clarificatory exercise.