Brights Philosophers Brain 201807
My frequent disputant says "When you see a bowling ball, it looks spherical and it is spherical."
Er, no, you don't. A sphere is defined as a 3d volume bounded by a surface where each point on that surface is equidistant from a specific point.
At absolute best, you might claim to see the surface of a sphere. But even that is weak because you have a single POV and can only see less than half of it (a bowling ball is wider than your pupilary separation ...).
But of course even there you are not seeing the surface of a sphere. Your eyes cannot measure the points on the surface and deterimine their distance from the center. All you can see are patterns of light and dark .... a contrasted border arc that would shortly seem to achieve a closed circle ... likewise reflections from the balance of the surface THAT ARE CONSISTENT WITH WHAT YOU'VE SEEN IN THE PAST that would maintain that outer circular contrast if rotated.
In other words you don't "see" a sphere. You see patterns that are comparable with other things you've been taught to designate as "spherical".
He then cites Nicholas Rescher asserting that perception is reality and bemoaning the declarative that we cannot know reality.
In some ways I quite agree with Rescher .... REALITY IS A THING WE HAVE DEFINED, A QUALITY OF OUR CIRCUMAMBIENCE WE HAVE CREATED IN OUR MINDS AND CHOSEN HOW TO DEFINE ... which we can only do, ultimately from what is available to our senses.
Note that this is not in any way a denial of the consistent, persistent, repeatable, predictable determinable of our circumambient existence we have so painfully learned to discern and measure ... quite the contrary. It's an acknowledgement that "reality" is a token always manifest and effected within a finite, limited and bounded process. It is an ASSERTED reference to an external reality which can never be fully "realized" within the process schema of that token. The thing is never its referent, the reference is never the thing referred to.
The issue of course, is that by "reality" we have long since agreed that it means something more than what an individual can discern ... that relations and properties which are publicly, determinably and repeatably effected are vastly more "real" than any individual's perceptions or interpretations. We've even established detailed means of making measurements comparing such assignments and interpretations .... and the language of such public "ontologies" are now part of the common lexicon. Almost anyone of minimal quasi technical background will understand, at least vaguely, by what is meant by "Bayesian confidence".
Which is precisely why Rescher's appeal to "phenomenal realism" fails. There are no bowling balls in your head ... and nothing in what we see in your brain in you perceiving a sphere bears any direct relationship to radii from points and volumetric integration therefrom. What it *does* look recognizably like are ultra-complex electrical patterns .... and now with modern technology the relationships and connections between those patterns is being established such that those electrical patterns can now be reasonably interpreted as information processing.
There are no spheres or bowling balls in your head .... There are patterns that you have learned to recognize as similar to what you have in the past seen called or related to "spherical". We reserve "real" sphericity, for places they exist .... a physical bowling ball in the real world ... roughly the shape of largish astronomical bodies and so forth. What happens in your head is not a sphere, and we can now establish that to with impeccable and undeniable reliability.
Citing McGinn as claiming that introspection is not an experience asserting that there is no distinct quality or phenomenality of introspection that does not come from the external object of introspection. He concludes with a piece of idiocy from a Mark Rowlands so profound that it should be cited whenever the wisdom of philosophers is asserted:
Firstly whether or not one calls a (purely) introspective transaction an "experience" or not is purely semantics. It isn't what something is called that matters. Lets call instant perception Bob, and introspection Sue.
But all told ... I'd rather not. Because both Rowlands and McGinn are writing from profound ignorance and there are *multiple* "qualia" ... er distinguishable, memorable, and comparable aspects of the event ... which mark introspection and distinguish them from primary experience.
Information is fungible. Information with no difference is indistinguishable. If I give you a (perfect) copy of a song, you have no way of knowing whether I captured it from a CD player, from a music channel, a streaming service, over the air or even played and captured with high quality equipment from a vinyl album .... (assuming no water marks ... we're presuming capture and transcribe).
If there is no difference between an experience and an introspection of an experience you COULD NOT KNOW that you were not having the same experience again.
But of course you can. Trivially. By several separate and distinct means.
Firstly when you introspectively recollect the experience you *recognize* the stream of "re-experienced" phenomena as similar to the original event. You have memories that match any "re-experience" you are having. And you can create distinct and separable memories of the experience of introspecting the prime event ("while thinking about the concert the other night, I realized what I hadn't noticed at first, that they had changed the key from their album release of the song....")
Secondly, introspection is monitored and controlled. You can change the "re" experience of the primary experience either by pre-decision, in response to outside stimulae, or because of an association occurring to you in mid (re)perception. I can think about the tree in my back yard. Now to be sure my introspection of it is far from complete ... a moment ... but I can *choose* to think ... what would it look like if I trimmed these branches ... should I put a border around it.... does it need more mulch....
Thirdly introspection is VASTLY less detailed than primary perception ... because primary perception occurs while the object of perception is still being perceived ....
Which brings us around to the final cruelest cut of all. McGinn's simplistic notion and Rowlands incompetent (presuming the citation was reasonably reflective and comprehensive of what he intended) folly are in fact quite strong evidence for the constructive representation models of phenomenal perception.
Your "phenomenality" is more clear in immediate perception because your brain has immediate feedback to embellish and correct deficiencies in its modelling. McGinn is right about there being nothing in introspection - in the description of the object perceived, rather than "meta information" precisely because the introspection is built from memories of the primary object. (Note that there is absolute scientific evidence that we often introspectively "remember" - fallaciously! - "information" that was not there in the original perception.). And finally we can augment and alter our introspective perceptions ... "imagine" things differently, precisely because our perception is and way an artificial construct of our brains that simply happens in fairly consistent ways in accord to consistent patterns of sensory input (but is also prone to misread those patterns and construct patterns which do not reflect the external impingement).
In short you don't "see" a spherical bowling ball. Your eyes send signals to your brain in accord to patterns of shadow and luminance falling across them. Your brain makes patterns consistent with what it always does when the eye forwards those signals. Your brain then recognizes the patterns it has itself built in chemistry and electrical firings as similar to other patterns of things called "spherical". The only thing in your brain is chemistry and ionic waves of electrical charge.