In my previous post, cckeiser asked me the following question:

As with any journey; as with any story, it is usually advised the best place to start is at the beginning.
Perhaps the best point to begin explaining Perceptionalism is to first explain Perception?”

I decided my response was post worthy. 😉

That is a very good question. Perception is fundamental to the philosophy of perceptionalism. If Perception is not understood, how can any insight be gained?
I think that we limit ourselves by only reinforcing the five senses. In reality, we have seven perceptions. We have visual perception which is our dominant one. The eyes allow us a tremendous amount of observational power. Everything around us is clearly an object or a person which cannot really be questioned. This person, this location, this material is clearly perceivable and therefore exists.
Then you have olfactive perception. A very subtle but very effective observational power into understanding and decoding the universe around you, because you must understand that the raw universe is absolutely full of sensations. While our perceptions allow us to understand the nature of that rawness, it also limits some sensational extremes. Look at a dog, able to detect and follow day old smells. Their perception of smell is much greater than ours. Yet nonetheless that ability to understand odors is a good defense mechanism built into our evolved bodies to prevent possible harm or help if we were living in a world where it became necessary to judge based on smell whether a food item was ok to eat.
Aural perception is only after visual for it’s perceivable power to our understanding of the raw universe. Hearing has allowed us so many advantages. From reacting to the hush of an approaching lion in a sweaty African night to the communication of ideas and memes throughout an ever growing complex web of unique individual entities, sound has been a huge uplift in our journey as a species.
Tactile perception fills our perceivable universe with much of the solidness that we’ve all come to depend on. This window into the raw universe allows us to reaffirm without hesitation the fact of our existence in the universe. We exist and this tactile perception supports us. The act of contact surrounds our world with solidity and also raises the question of what is this barrier between myself and this desk? A collective colony of complex systems working together to bring about your awareness of that desk.
Taste just doesn’t have a good synonym to go with perception. 😉 This doesn’t take away from it’s power as a discerning tool in your understanding of the universe. Food is critical to our survival and at it’s roots was a means to defend (again) against possible sustenance that may be harmful to our existence. Just because it has a positive side effect of making the world delicious doesn’t mean it’s not just as important as the other perceptions.
Mnemonic perception is not included in the senses as it’s not used to filter the raw universe in the moment. The recall of past events, encounters and experiences is fundamental in our evolution as humans. Again with it’s roots as a survival mechanism, mnemonic perception has evolved to allow us to make new connections between moments in our life in order to add to our complexity. The wonderful and terrible thing about memories is that they can be collectively recalled or collectively forgotten. Here also is where some of the limitations our perception begins to show. No two people remember the same exact thing. We all have our unique perception of an event filtered through the jungle of our traditional senses mixed with our concious perception.
As this is the newest of our evolved perceptions, conscious perception is also our most powerful. This is where the discovery of the self lies and is very ephemeral to our biological body. Our body is an evolved tour guide in a raw universe of perceivable sensations; yet it’s the ephemeral perceptions that influence us the greatest in our day to day livelihood and our understanding of the universe. Learning and discovering new things about ourselves and the raw universe around us are what make us complete as human beings. Life and the Universe are profound concepts to ponder, especially when our increasing awareness of the balance of the world clashes with our present day disregard for the impact our existence has on those others entities struggling around us.
This planet that has given birth to our species and allowed us to evolve has become a disposable playpen for our excessive lifestyle. The impact not only on our future generations but the rest of the species living here as well is approaching a ridiculous level of arrogance. Who are we to destroy mother nature around us? What gave us the right to judge, sentance and execute all the other forms of life and our unborn children? But I digress.
Ultimately, what lies at the heart of perception is an observer experiencing it. This is your self. What is the self? What is an observer? Well I guess this is your soul. It’s the only thing that makes sense.
As biological beings, our existence is based off of collective cooperation and competition of less complex systems. All of our cells working together to form organs creating a complex system to coordinate energy in order to house an ever growing interconnected neural network. This biological system then communicates with other systems creating ripples and then waves in the actions and reactions of other systems through a socialogical level. Herein lies the power of the internet as a tool to increase our complexity as a species by spreading ideas faster.
This complexity is I believe at the heart of spirituality. I think that the physical complexity of our brain is almost like a magnet to increased perception. It’s almost as if some perceptual energy is drawn to more complex systems. These are all guesses mind you, and here’s where I start to question myself.
I am a firm believer in science but am complelety unable to think of a way to test any of my theories. The closest thing to an experiment is the whole 21 grams question, that of whether our body loses some weight when we die. If this question is answered positively then that gives us physical proof that there is something there, some weight to a soul. The only problem with this question is that if there is no loss of mass then it doesn’t deny the existence of a soul and close the book on this chapter of human evolution. That question will always exist.
All of this perception adds to our self. Our self is the most important thing in our individual universe. The key to perceptionalism though is the understanding and empathy towards other selfs. They are there, just as solidly in their perceptual world are we are, existing just as us in their individual universes. The leap of faith is believing that helping them through their troubles will end up helping us in ours. That’s the connection that occurs when you have the insanely intricate pattern of connections that is our social existence.
Ultimately, believing in ourselves leads to us believing in others. Every single one of the 6.3 billion individual human beings out there has their own universe to deal with. Most are unpleasant. Some are tolerable. A few are pleasant. Each and every one of us should strive to make surviving in the raw universe for ourselves and the others around us an opportunity for individual growth. While pursuing your own path you can help others if you sense there is a need, and all that working together forms a system of cooperation and competition to acheive another level of existence. We may not even be aware of it implicitly – what does a neuron know of international politics? Despite this fact the ‘lowly’ neuron is an integral part of a more complex and perceptual entity – a human not being but perceiving.

19 thoughts on “Perceptionalism”

  1. Memories are strange things are they not? According to some of the things I have read we never forget anything. Everything is stored in the mind somewhere, it is just that we prioritize which memories are to be readily available, and which are to be stored. We never forget them, we just file them away for future reference.
    Several years ago I tested this hypothesis and tried to recall my earliest memories. To my surprise I was able to recall a few events from when I was only about two years of age. I have one from when I could not have been more than six months old, but I cannot be sure if it was an actual memory or something I created in my own mind. And there in lies the rub.
    The courts have disallowed memories brought about through hypnosis because our memories can be so easily influenced by our perception and therefore cannot be trusted. Everything entering our memories is filtered through our perceptions, and no two people perceive the same event from the same perspective, and all our perceptions are colored by our previous perceptions.
    If you have not seen the movie “Solaris” based on a story by Stanislaw Lem, I highly recommend it. It has a lot to do with memories, and a lot to do with perception. Even if you have seen it before, it might be worth your time to watch it again with a different frame of mind.
    The reason Solaris did not do well at the box office in the U.S. is because it was billed as a Sci-Fi and not as the Philosophical essay it really is. I saw a different movie than everyone else who watched it. ( And for those of you familiar with my own philosophy of Poly-Solipsism, you will recognize the exact point in the movie where my soda came out my nose! ‘O)
    Ok, we perceive the Universe through our senses, so if we are all seeing the same thing, why do we all perceive it differently? Why did I like the movie Solaris so much more than anyone else? Is the mind just a receiver for our senses, or does it play a role in perception?
    It is when we try to define “Perception” things start getting complex.
    From the dictionary “Perception: Consciousness, Awareness, Insight, Intuition.”
    We can find definitions for these and say we know what these are, but they are circular definitions, and we do not know how they work, how we got them, or where they come from.
    Without knowing the answers to these questions, we cannot know what Reality is, and without knowing what Reality is we cannot know its purpose.
    You rhetorically asked: “What is an Observer?” but I believe “what is an observer” is a valid question. It goes to the heart of the matter; or should I say it goes to the ‘Mind’ of the matter!
    Once you delve into the philosophy contained in Heisenberg’s Uncertainty, Schrodinger’s Cat and the “Dual Slit” phenomenon, we are left to wonder if there can be an Observer in the Universe.
    The short of it is we cannot observe anything in the Universe without having an effect on the object being observed. We therefore become an active part of any experiment we observe and our perception can influence the outcome.
    If we influence the outcome, than we are not “Observers,” and there can be no Observers in the Universe.

  2. Perceptionalism

    My blogger friend ChefQuix has written a most interesting piece on his philosophy of perceptionalism. To me, this entry ties together all the fascinating tidbits and prolonged discussions I’ve been so privileged to partake in thanks to him. I urge…

  3. The concept of seven perceptions, particularly the actual distinction between mnemonic perception and conscious perception, was the most interesting part for me. I’ve never considered my mind as comprised of several components before, but I realize the distinction between mnemonic recognition and conscious recognition is very clear, and how much more powerful conscious recognition is. It’s the medium for the true impact of any input on the self. Before conscious perception, it’s all a bunch of automated responses, as miraculous as they are.

  4. cckeiser – I agree. Our subject / object view of the world is outdated, to believe that we exist without affecting everything around us is scientifically incorrect. Phenomenon like the “Dual Slit” experiment and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty are reinforced by questions raised by the Global Conciousness Project.
    I believe the seventh perception is responsible for these phenomena. The conscious perception, the focus of the now are the triggers for these unexplained mysteries. Perhaps it’s a window of one universe opening to another which causes some kind of energy transference. Maybe it’s your soul. It’s also possible I’m crazy or tired and yearning for my bed.

  5. interestingly said, and i will openly admitt that i agree at heart with you on most of what you mentioned. but i disagree that there is a difference between concious sense and your mnemonic sense. its romantic and faithfully satisfying to make a distinction bewteen the two but i believe if you wish to get technical you must fully analyze your distinctions. true, mnemonic sense is restricted to memories but isnt that what your understand of current conditions and experiences is based on. i kno this may come off as being a petty squibble from someone you’ve never heard from before (i’m one of jon’s friends) but i truly believe that to say that there is a difference between what has happened to you in the past and how you perceive things in the present is make a difference that truly does not exist. sorry seem argumentative but i only wish you cause further questioning of your ideas and judging from what i’ve read of yours, that is something that you can appreciate.

  6. D Schwa! Glad to see you found this place. To me, the distinction between mnemonic perception and conscious perception lies in their evolutionary chronology. As the processing of neural information became more and more complex over time, an organism-specific system of organization became evolutionarily prudent. Organisms that lived longer, ate more diversely, had to evade more diverse predators and so on needed more computing power to handle these strains, and thus an additional layer of perception over automatic, relational, mnemonic perception became necessary. For more about this theory, which is not mine, check out Wally Glutton’s fascinating essay on the matter.
    To clarify the distinction, an example: You walk into the kitchen, where your mother is cooking, and you detect a pleasant smell. Your mnemonic comparison of this smell to other previously “stored” smells indicates that this is the smell of cookies baking. Consciously, you take that information and realize “Cookies! I love cookies! When my mother bakes them, I feel like a little kid again. I think I’ll have them with milk,” etc. See the difference? Conscious perception allows us to relate information received through sense perception and identified through mnemonic perception to ourselves and our universe.

  7. yes, i understand what you suggest but i still believe that you are creating a difference where only complexity rests. true there are levels and if u say that mnemonic perception is restricted to merely survival instincts and the subconcious recalling of past simple memories, then yes, i see the difference. but i’m under the impression that the step inbetween recalling the past smell and realizing those other connotations is just a combination of thousands upon millions of combined mnemonic perceptions and to classify that as a different perception is just saying that when one perception reaches a level of complexity it ceases to be the same inherent perception. i take such a strong stand on this issue b/c this is the root of our reasoning that humans have reached a level of thought that deserves a new classification. i however do not believe that at a certain point of recalling memories can u call it a new style of thinking and that is making a false barrier between us and other animals of thought. i also believe that there must be a tangable classification between us and other apes for example, when it pertains to how we think, but i believe if humans start getting scientifically arrogant or have hubris, for the more faith-based readers, than we’re only making false satisfactions, which i kno you understand is a dangerous dangerous thing to do/attempt.

  8. Jon:
    I like that example. As to the evolution of the consciousness, that’s exactly how it went down. In order to process all of these perceptions we had to develop a complex ‘wrapper script’ to juggle our sense perceptions along with our mnemonic perception. This system of organization eventually evolved into our self. I think you understand this better than me. 😉
    Complexity is the foundation of perception. As our complexity as a species evolved, first as our physical brain and it’s interconnected neurons, secondly as our society with it’s inherited language, history and science, we have reached different levels of consciousness. Your wariness comes from the dangers of classifications, of labeling and static waypoints. From this aspect comes hubris as you say. If you realize that instead of distinct levels on some ladder to spiritual enlightenment it’s more like a smoothly curving rope of sensory and perceptual exploration, then you can find yourself appreciating the trials and tribulations of lifeforms that are ‘below’ you. You can see that there is only an analog curve of learning and not some flash of spiritual insight. You can respect their struggle and where they have to go by understanding your own path.
    That probably does sound arrogant. Nonetheless, that is how I feel. I believe that there is a part of my identity that will exist in another form and explore a new world when I leave this body. If the only metric to measure the ‘weight’ of a soul is your consciousness, then conscious perception must be the root of your self. If your self is all you take with you when you die, then it must be the metric by which your future path is determined.
    As for being sensitive to ‘more faith-based readers’, well you’ve probably come to the wrong place if you want religious coddling. I’m convinced that the major religions of the world are dead wrong. They can’t be right if they’ve lead us to the point where we are today.

  9. i see where we differ. we have very different ideas about religion and faith. i dont mean to come off as defensive, but if there is one thing i am not, it’s a religious person. i share ur belief, or lack of belief in religions today completely but i dont believe in them to the point where i feel that the idea of a soul v. traits determined by DNA and nurture, well i’ll put it this way, soul loses. i tend to lean a lot stronger toward science although that itself is just a faith based religion in itself so who knows. all i do understand is that we’re coming at this from different roots and i do believe that to suggest that there is a rope to enlightenment, no matter how unarrogant it is, is just something i do not believe in.

  10. An interesting question bubbles to the surface.
    If we assume that:
    i. Consciousness/self-awareness can be measured on a sliding scale of complexity.
    ii. Human consciousness has evolved over time.
    Q: Is our conscioussness still evolving?
    For me, the answer is yes.
    A QUICK ASIDE: The evolutionary path of complexity has no end. The history of the universe is the history of the evolution of universal complexity. Was the ‘big bang’ the initial complexity catalyst? Looking back in time, complexity approaches (but never reaches?) zero as we approach the big bang. (This way there doesn’t need to be a ‘before the bang’, Achilles and the tortoises all the way down.)
    For what is time if not a measure of the universe’s perception of itself. Remember, we are all pieces of the universe… not seperate from it.

  11. Well, I won’t speak for you, Chef, but I was simply arguing conscious perception in and of itself as an evolutionary phenomenon no less scientific than any other trait we’ve got. However, conscious perception provides me with an individuality that I cherish more than anything else because it allows me to be spiritual. The distinction between spiritual and religious is gravely important, because for me (though not for everyone) they do not intersect. This is a phenomenon that I have encountered ever since I discovered the two things I love, philosophy and music, and I will do my best to explain it because I believe that it speaks to the awesome power of conscious perception.
    One day, as I was listening to Jimi Hendrix for among the first times, I realized what truly great music was. I had previously been listening to exclusively contemporary popular music simply because it was immediately accessible, but I decided to give this legendary name a shot. At the end of “All Along The Watchtower,” a guitar solo begins that, to this day, I maintain contains the single purest note ever struck. If you listen to that solo at the end of the song, you will know which note I mean. The moment I heard that note for the first time, a shiver coarsed through me, giving me goosebumps, raising the hairs on the back of my neck, etc. You’ve probably experienced that sometime. Since that incident, I’ve experienced this phenomenon whenever I listen to truly mind-expanding music, when I am involved in a truly engrossing conversation, or when I simply recognize the utter beauty of something. Anything.
    I’ve heard the phenomenon explained scientifically, but it’s clearly linked to a type of perception that is subjective to the individual experiencing it, selective among the various causes of it, and not caused by simple sense perception of the cause. In other words, hearing that exact combination of notes did not cause that reaction automatically. It doesn’t happen every time I hear it. Rather, it happens every time I consciously appreciate that solo for all its beauty. It happens with music, visual arts, or even just intense interpersonal connections, and only when it’s something I perceive as beautiful on a conscious level.
    At this point in my life, this is my spirituality. I strive for that kind of connection with something or someone because I feel more complete when I feel it, as if I’ve grown to understand the universe just that much better. To me, the distinction between this level of understanding and the physical level on which I actually hear the music or the conversation is unquestionably clear. Enlightenment is a strong word, but what about understanding? Do we understand a song, a painting, a food with the simple act of hearing, seeing, or tasting it, or do we understand it when we consciously learn as much about it as we can?

  12. mmm, interesante indeed. i still maintain my stance that its only complexity and although its satisfying to generalize this complexity into a new classification, if its understanding that you seek, and its what i seek, then to generalize is a step in the wrong direction. i also like jon’s idea about not enlightenment but understanding but at the same time i think its only one more redefined and more educated way of asking for enlightenment. i feel the same way with film as jon dose with music and i have thought long and hard about differences between religion and other faiths and spiritual ideas and beliefs and although this is merely my young idea with litte experience to provide support, i believe that everything is just a faith. its easy to say that christianity and spiritual connection with music are completely different or at the least isolated and distinct, but at their core, they are manifestations of someone’s faith and intense desire for understanding. philosophy falls in the category in a much more literal way. thats why after i went around tooting about my intense distaste for organized mass religion i had to analyze my distaste for it more. was it that i thought the flaws were its effects and the negative phenotypes, if u wish to call them that, that they bring about? or was it that i was just extremely bugged by people following things that they didnt understand completely. i decided to go with the big picture and dislike anything that brought easy or any for that matter false and not fully understood satisfaction. this obviously is a very ignorant way of chosing what to like and dislike but once u fully apply that distaste to life observations, its kinda hard to not fully and truthfully analyze all of your motives whether they be to look to music and science for guidence and support or gandhi or the pope. this is me biting into a can of worms that my fingers dont enjoy messing with so if any of you wish to talk to me in person about this, contact jon. jon, you and i shall talk.

  13. As an interesting aside, look at Chapter 10 in Stephen Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science. Processes of Perception and Analysis. Maybe I’ll have to read this, although the online version is really slow…

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