From [Marc Abrams (2003.12.11.1645)]
Thanks Martin, for a very thoughtful and appreciated post. I hope I reciprocate in kind.
[Martin Taylor 2003.12.12.1354]
Sorry to be so long in responding, but your post made me think (which
is unusual:-) and I still haven’t made up my mind as to how to
respond to some of it. So please bear with me for a partial response.
At this point ANY response is great.
That’s the point at which I decided this requires thought.
I’m not happy with the word “cognitive”, neither am I in the least
denying or downgrading the huge number of feedback and control loops
that exist within our physiology, from subcellular to whole-organ
levels. But I find it hard to discover a clean boundary between the
kind of perception I consider to be part of the “canonical”
perceptual control hierarchy and those, such as blood sugar level
“perception”, which clearly does serve as a physiological signal,
which I don’t.
This, I think, is exactly what I was trying to say when I said that both ‘cognitive’ and ‘intrinsic’ are entwined. With, let me add, emotions or feelings being the ‘bridge’ between the two. We will come back to this later in your post
First, let’s consider “cognitive”. That word has no well-defined
Actually I think it has too many meanings.
I tend to link it closely with logical thinking and planning, and clearly you don’t mean it that way.
Planning and logical thinking are part of it, but not the whole ball of wax.
Another possibility is that you mean a perception that can be brought to conscious
awareness, which may be closer, but still isn’t right–especially if
it turns out that conscious awareness is limited to those perceptions
that are not under good control or that are competing against other
perceptions for control.
I thought we addressed this issue awhile ago when we determined that ‘awareness’ and ‘attention’ were two different animals. Conscious awareness (which I like better than cognition, for this purpose) always involve perceptions but not always control. We are usually aware of many things that we do not or will not control. The real question here is what is a ‘perception’ and what it is composed of?
Either way, I don’t think “cognitive” properly covers the perceptions controlled in the canonical hierarchy.
Ok. The hierarchy certainly attempts to ‘account’ for the control of perception. Again, I ask, what is a perception? According to canonical PCT, our sensory inputs are the only elements involved in our perceptions. I vigorously disagree with this notion.
Let’s take another tack (which doesn’t work fully, either, but which may help us converge on a reasonable definition).
This other tack says that a perception in the hierarchy has as part
of its input some signal resulting from the detection or measurement
of some variable in the environment external to the organism or organ
whose hierarchy is under consideration, and that is controlled by
some action of the organism or organ on that external environment.
With this definition, if the pancreas has a control hierarchy, the
blood sugar level would be a perception within its hierarchy, but it
would not be a perception within the hierarchy of the body that
contains that pancreas.
Wonderful. This would also allow and account for self-organization that might take place throughout the body. Brilliant. I would only add the caveat that we might be dealing with networks rather than pure hierarchies, or some combination of the two.
For a human, according to this definition, the actions can be
muscular or chemical, but they must influence something sensed by the
“official” sense organs (which do include kinaesthetic receptors,
which immediately says that the definition (that the variable
perceived is in the external environment) isn’t exact yet.
Yes, I would add ‘electrical’ to the muscular and chemical actions. Yes, everything ultimately is chemical in nature, but there are purely chemical (i.e. not chemical gradients causing electrical activity) actions. Peptides being a prime example of chemical and neurons being an example of electrical.
So, for now, I’m hung between the vague word “cognitive” and a too
restrictive definition based on actions and sensors working outside
the skin. It’s the “outside the skin” aspect that causes the difficulty.
Why? With your previous definition, where is the problem here? What am I missing?
This, I really don’t understand, because at the same time we have the
vague word “cognitively” and the word “intrinsically”, the definition
for which you disputed, so you can’t mean according to the definition
I originally proposed.
Ok, I see where I have turned you into a knot. When I said ‘intrinsic’ I meant to say 'life sustaining and we are not usually consciously aware of them.
In the sense of “I know what I mean when I see it”, dizziness and
hunger are not intrinsic perceptions, though changes in intrinsic
variables form part of the input into those perceptions. The
perceptions themselves derive from “official” sensors, don’t they?
A very good and important question. If you mean by ‘official’ the 5 major sense receptors and those alone, I would say no way. There is a lot more that goes into the construction of a perception besides the 5 major senses. In my mind, imagination and emotion probably play a bigger part in perception formation than sensory input some of the time. Sometimes we see what we want to see.
blood sugar far from its reference value, nevertheless, unless a
different cause is perceived, it is likely that some action such as
eating or having an insulin injection will solve the problem. These
are actions that involve the perceptual control system, not the
intrinsic variable control system, which is colloquially called
I have diabetes. If you don’t have your blood checked, there is usually no way you would ‘know’ your a diabetic. Sure, there are warning signs; dry mouth, excessive urination, constantly thirsty, etc. but the insidiousness of the disease is that it is silent until all hell starts breaking loose. I probably had diabetes for years without knowing it. As a healthy (or so I thought :-)) individual I rarely went to the doctor. Unfortunately now I am reminded of my diabetes with constant pain in my legs and hands from neuropathy.
To bad we don’t have an intrinsic control system for overall health of an individual.
>If you think I disagreed with that (allowing for the vagueness of >"cognitively" and "intrinsically"), you considerably misread what I >intended to say. (And to make that clear, I believe that such >misreadings are as much the fault of the author as of the reader,
perhaps more so).
No, I was simply making a statement
I disagree here. What the body does to control my blood pressure may have no
environmental element involved.
If the environment suddenly changed so that you no longer had access
to food, I think you would find that statement to be a little
extreme, wouldn’t you?
Maybe, and maybe not. My body cannot control the environment. We attempt to, but we can really only change or regulate what is inside of us. If I have no food, I will starve and there is nothing I can do about it except try like hell to get it.
“What the body does” has no environmental
element, which would take it outside the canonical hierarchy
according to my definition. But the stability of the environment is
what allows “what the body does” to work. “The stability of the
environment” allows corn to grow when corn is planted, for cattle to
give beef and not bowls of plankton, and so forth. “The stability of
the environment” says that when I go to location X and go in the
door, food is waiting for me to buy. If the environment is not
sufficiently stable, maybe the grocery has been replaced by a shoe
store, where I can’t acquire food (unless I’m really, really
Yes, I agree with you here. I also think that control provides us with both adaptability and self-organization.
Reorganization does not always work.
Is this a matter in dispute?
According to canonical PCT, what happens when it doesn’t? My understanding is that ‘positive feedback’ never takes place. If this is so, than one of two things can happen. 1) death to the control system (not necessarily to the organism) 2) replacement by some means.
Am I missing another option? If so, what? If not, how are these 2 things accomplished
Now to the question of the hierarchy.
I have no idea. The mapping of the hierarchy onto physiology
interests me as little now as it did when I was a graduate student
Martin, it’s not the mapping onto physiology that is of importance here. Who cares what the actual path is. It is the claim by Bill that the sensory modality binding problem is solved through the hierarchy. I just don’t see it working that way, especially since imagination and emotions are not Officially in the model
At that time, from a psychological point of
view, it was obvious that certain functions had to be executed that
physiologists said could not happen. When they found that those
functions did happen, they got a Nobel prize for it. I’ve never
thought that psychological functional theories have to map onto what
physiologists know now.
They don’t. It would simply make life much easier for the clinicians if this were so. The only thing that I think is important here is if it is plausible physiologically. Any theory that has your brains located in your belly might be suspect.
I’m not speaking for (or against) Bill, here.
Absolutely. Couldn't agree more. But how does that tie into the immediately preceding: "_This_ is why I believe the hierarchy cannot
work this way."
Because as I said above. Bill claims the hierarchy is his answer to the binding problem. How can it be when it doesn't include both imagination and emotion? >What I said in the past is that it is not a tree, or what I called a >"strict" hierarchy. Loops among elements at the same level still >allow for a hierarchy. Just look at any big business. You aren't >saying that the fact the VPs talk to each other means there's no rank
hierarchy, are you?
Absolutely not. You call it 'strict' and I call it 'pure' We mean the same thing
'Intrinsic variables' have perceptions. The question becomes to what extent are we aware of our intrinsic variables and the answer is usually not much, unless there is quite a bit of error, and then we become cognitively aware of them through our emotions and feelings and they in turn help determine
what we will ‘feel’ next.
That’s certainly different from the context in which Bruce Gregory
asked the question. I’d quibble with the first sentence, though.
So would I. Variables do not have perceptions. I meant to say that whatever control system(s) is controlling the intrinsic variable has, or has access to perceptions
Intrinsic variables neither “have” nor “are” perceptions. And I would
amend the rest of the paragraph to say we become aware of perceptions
toward which the intrinsic variables may have contributed. I do not
think we ever become aware of the intrinsic variables (and I’m keeping
in mind that “aware” does not cover all the variables in the main
perceptual control hierarchy).
But there are two aspects to this search. I think HPCT is just the
kind of “different look” that you advocate,
I thought so to. I felt it is and was a marvelous starting point for discovery
and that its properties have not been sufficiently explored to say that it will or it won’t
cover a lot of what concerns you.
Couldn’t agree with you more. But it I don’t think I will ever find out if it could, would, or should because…
This particular mailing list is devoted to a study of what HPCT will and won’t do.
Is it? What you felt was thought provoking (my post), no one else on this list responded too. If discovery were the main focus of this list everyone would be asking lots of questions and throwing out lots of ideas. But that doesn’t happen on this list. For the most part, Bill speaks and people listen. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Bill often has some great insights. But questioning the model is tantamount to heresy and taken very personally.
Let me show you what I mean;
From [ Marc Abrams (2003.11.24.2043) ]
[From Bill Powers (2003.11.24.0630 MST)]
Sorry Bill. Although I think your idea of the hierarchy was a stroke of
genius at the time, I just don’t think things have panned out as planned over
the past 30 years.
Nonsense. You are in no position to make judgments like that about it.
Why not? And who is? Where is the DATA on your hierarchy? That would shut
me up real quick. As far as I know only one piece of data exists, and that
is Rick’s spreadsheet model, that is simply not enough data.
What the hell do you think 90% of B:CP is about?
An internal reference condition and the regulation and control of input
(perceptions) Everything else, and I mean EVERYTHING else has no large
current pool of data and is highly speculative. This lack of data does NOT
make it non-worthwhile, bad, or incorrect. It simply means that we currently
have no way of validating the speculations
Martin, do you still feel this list is a place to discuss HPCT? I don’t. Can you see why I feel this way
The other aspect is a more general search for other answers to the
same general problems. What you find in this search may encompass
HPCT in the way that Relativity encompasses Newton’s gravity, or it
may suggest HPCT is invalid. Either way, it’s a different search.
Yes, I’m aware of this and was made acutely aware of it reading Lee Smolin and Stuart Kauffman
As to whether the more general search is an appropriate topic for
discussion on this list, I’m not going to offer an opinion.
I don’t believe it is, and I took appropriate action for that.
I will, however, offer the opinion that the main thrust of most of the
messages here ought to be about what HPCT is, what it will cover, and
what it won’t cover.
I agree. But Bill seems to think that my questions have hidden agenda’s to them and I’m trying somehow to destroy him and/or his theory
And I don’t know that it won’t cover emotions and imagination. Bill P. at least thinks it does, so it is certainly
legitimate to ask in what way it does, and to ask whether it has
predictive power in those areas.
Why don’t you try? I’ve tried. I get responses like I showed you above. I’m not really interested in asking any more.
I’m sorry I can’t respond to your thought-provoking post with a more
assertive response, but maybe that’s just as well, under the
You were terrific. Thanks for showing some interest. You were most helpful
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