A brood comb

….philosophical and other notes….

Can We See What Will Happen In The Future?

Posted by Tanas Gjorgoski on April 20, 2008

We shouldn’t mix up what is seen with the mechanism of seeing. We shouldn’t mix what is seen with the light waves/photons which are part of this mechanism.

We don’t see light waves/photons.

One possible misconception based on not making this distinction is that because light get focused by our eye lenses and hit our retina, that what we see is light.

This is connected to something else I think. We create a sharp limit between ourselves and the world, on “our body” and “not our body”. And then, we consider the perceptual and other activities as connected merely to something going on in our body. It is “normal” then that seeing then, considered as something which is going on in ourselves, will find it most external point, in the eyes. And we know that in that “perceptual border” what the body get in contact are the light waves. So… if seeing is something that happens in the body, than what is seen will be those light waves.

But when people see a tree, we can’t pretend that the tree isn’t a constituent of “people saw the tree” sentence. The seeing is in the world, and both the tree and the brains of those people are part of that event of seeing a tree.

And when we remove the false idea that what we see are light waves/photons, and see those merely as a part of the mechanism of seeing, we see how it is normal to say that what we see are the objects. Also, the colors of those objects. That just light waves of certain frequency get reflected by certain object, doesn’t mean that it is those lights which are colored. Within the mechanism of seeing, they carry information about the color of the object. We know that even when there is ambient light of some color, e.g. red light, after some time we see blue things as blue, red as red, and yellow as yellow. That even the frequencies of the light waves are predominantly around the frequency that we associate with red. That is because the color opposition mechanism, which is part of the brain, is also part of the seeing. It is not just that event where photons get in contact with the retina.

OK, so we can say this, in the contents of our seeing a tree, we can analyze what goes on in the mechanism of seeing. In that mechanism we find entities which causally connect the thing that is seen to our eyes. We can say that those are the entities that carry some kind of information. Other part of the mechanism of seeing is the extraction of information from this medium in our bodies. (For the record I’m not saying that the seeing IS this extraction of information. Just that this is part of the mechanism of seeing. That is, that we what we find if we analyze the event of us seeing something).

Now, there is different thing we can point to. This extraction of information can be learned or innate. The innate extraction will be related to an innate ability to see certain things. By innate there, I mean both ability that we are born with, but also which develops in early childhood more or less ‘automatically’. There is no reason to put some extra significance on the moment of birth as the last moment for counting something as “innate”. If in the normal development of the person, some ability automatically appears when the person is 40, there is no reason to not count that as innate ability too. (‘Automatic’ would there mean that the causal explanation of appearance of the ability wouldn’t include anything but normal requirements for the development of the person and facts from that person’s body). Anyway, back to the topic…

Now we can ask what are the innate abilities that we have in relation to seeing. Or – what we can see, without having any training? Or differently – when analyzing the working of the brains, what kind of information is automatically extracted there?

I think it is safe to say that we see objects – their three dimensional shape, and their color. That we see their distance from us, and their size.

But also, I think it is safe to say that we see their movement, and as part of it we see where they will go. I don’t think this is problematic. If the brain based on the photons falling on the retina, also extracts information about where the object will go, there is no need to treat the aspect that is related to this information (which is… where the object will go) differently from other aspects as color, size, shape, etc…

What else? Well, in my thinking we probably have abilities to see lot of different things. Like things causally affecting other things, what other people are looking at, and that we can even intentions of other people. I don’t think that those abilities are result of training. I think those are innate, and I would think that good argument could be made for those, based on cog.sci. researches.

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