A brood comb

….philosophical and other notes….

What Do We Literally See?

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on December 20, 2007

What do you think we can literally see? I’m inclined to say that we literally see those things:

1.Objects
2.Multitude of objects
3.Unfolding events
4.Objects affecting other objects (like a thing hitting another thing)
5.Colors of the objects, shapes of the objects, etc…
6.Other people looking at things
7.People doing things… performing acts like opening a door, opening a box
8.A good move in the chess game
9.A possibility to do something, like possibility to lift the cup, or possibility to open the door
10.People being sad, happy, etc…

It is really more or less random list based on some thoughts I have. I intend to argue for this in more details in some following post.

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9 Responses to “What Do We Literally See?”

  1. Aki said

    (As usual) I do not agree with everything you wrote. My main objections are concerning:
    3. Unfolding events
    4.Objects affecting other objects (like a thing hitting another thing)
    6. Other people looking at things
    9. A possibility to do something, like possibility to lift the cup, or possibility to open the door
    10. People being sad, happy, etc…
    IMHO, we do see objects and their qualities, but everything else related to those objects we understand.

  2. Hi Aki!

    Can you maybe put it in few words what is the reason that you think that we see objects and their qualities, but not for example unfolding events?

    (BTW, would you also deny that we can see a thing moving, or is it just about more complex events where there are multiple things affecting each other?)

  3. Aki said

    Sure I can.
    I will use Locke’s example of pool (billiard) balls (Please note that my understanding might be more influenced by Hume and Kant than Locke, but it is neither Locke’s, Hume’s or Kant’s idea I strictly follow, this is just an example). What you see is one ball hitting another, but you do not see cause and effect. You do see ball moving, hitting another ball and making it move. What you do not see is relation, law, necessity, causation. Maybe even better example for this is your body. You are constantly aware of your body and you see it changed but you do not see THE change. You see all elements of process, but you do not see the process itself. You see things involved in events but you do not see events. One might even go further and state that you can never visualize event, what you visualize are things involved in event, but never event itself. Something similar to imagining quantity, you can never imagine quantity itself, you always imagine quantity of something. I will stop here, because it could take me to topics like necessity, ousia etc. This one should answer my objections to 3. and 4.
    About moving, my answer would be the same, we do see thing moving, but we do not see the movement. This might sound confusing, but take for example Earth orbiting the Sun. We do see Sun moving, and if we accept idea that we do see movement as process, and not moving objects, we might conclude that we do see process where Sun moves, but the truth is that we see movement of object, but not the process.
    Word “process” is confusing, and you might use it in another sense, so I hope my answer was not useless.
    Cheers,
    Aki

  4. Aki said

    I just forgot to add that IMHO this is explanation of Copernican Revolution in Kant’s philosophy, and that is why Kant is so important even today. Yet, I do not like him at all :))

  5. Hmm, if I understand you right, you claim that we don’t see movement in case of Sun, but that we see Sun moving, that we don’t see change in case where something is changing but we see the thing changing. That in case of two balls we don’t see the law/necessity/causation as abstract, but that we see the ball hitting another ball.

    But then, it seems that we agree that we can see the ball hitting another ball, the Sun moving, and the picture on the TV changing. Because that is what I meant when saying that we see unfolding events and objects affecting other objects for example.

    Or am I missing the point here?

  6. Aki said

    My idea is that you do see objects involved in some process, but not the process itself. Problem is how to express this and explain it using language. So I will try different approach, using two different verbs to explain it: You see ball moving, you see it TOUCHING another ball, then this another ball starts moving. You think about what you saw, and you conclude that first ball HIT the second ball. You actually never saw one ball hitting another, you saw bunch of different states of those objects. You can use this explanation even on movement itself. You do not see ball moving, you simply see bunch of states. What I am saying is that you do not see the line, but you see bunch of dots, and your brain makes you think you saw the line (I hope this wont be misinterpreted).
    Smthn like that :)

  7. Ah, OK, that helps.
    I wonder if you have any principle reason though for thinking that we can see objects and not for example an object changing? (From your discussion you seem to be saying that we don’t even see objects but time-slices of objects?)

    I mean, do you hold this from biological reasons, maybe some principle like the following?

    P:’seeing’ is based on the registering of light by the eyes, so if something doesn’t reflect or affect the light which comes to our eyes, then that thing can’t be seen.

  8. Aki said

    Since I explain seeing not by eyes but by brain functions (espec by functions of cerebral cortex and hippocampus – see later in text why hippocampus), I am guided by three principles that IMHO can explain my idea. First one is the way we memorize things, and the way our neurons react to those things. Firing of neurons does not depend on situation you see, but on objects involved in this situation (they fire on image, text, shape or anything else that represent something they “memorized”). In some weird sense firing depends on meaning (semantics) of the object we “see”, and not on the situation in which those objects are involved. This is extremely puzzling, at least for me, since I thought meaning is acquired and explained through situations. I think Koch did some brilliant research to prove this. Second argument is from set theory. Basically any element of set is set itself. I think this is how our brain works too, and I am pretty sure this reflects on language. And third argument is simply quotation of Kant “Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind.”
    I hope this helps.

  9. Thanks for trying to explain the reasons Aki. Probably it is impossible to put in one comment your view on perception and the reasons for it, but at least I’m getting some feel of it :)

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