Levels of perception; Hypostasis hypothesis; musings

[From Bill Powers (950307.1625 MST)]

Bruce Nevin (Thu 950306 11:08:16 EST)--

     Now wait a minute. The experience of yellow light is a sensation
     perception. Is the category "yellow" about sensation perceptions
     like this, or is it about some event? If an event, how?

A problem I confronted some time ago.

You have to understand how I got to these levels. It was all purely
subjective. I started with configurations, I think (it was a long time
ago and my only notes are in my head). Or really with the relationship
between configurations and sensations. I realized that if you ask what a
configuration is made of that isn't just another smaller configuration
(as a chair is made of legs, seat, back etc., more configurations), what
you end up with is sensations. Shadings, colors, edges, and so forth.

So this gave me the idea that some perceptions are functions of sets of
other perceptions. You can perceive colors, shadings, and edges without
seeing configurations, but you can't perceive configurations unless
there are at least some different colors, shadings, etc.. After fifteen
or twenty years, I realized that intensities are the substrate from
which sensations are created; you can perceive intensities without
perceiving specific sensations, but not vice versa.

In the middle of that fifteen or twenty years, I saw more or less at
random other levels of perception that were related the same way.
Relationship was fairly early, I think: relationships were composed of
configurations, the objects which stood in relation to each other. No
objects, no relationships, but it was possible to perceive objects
without perceiving relationships among them.

The problem you have noticed showed up quite early, because after a
while I realized that there were transitions, which are functions of
sets of configurations (as in stroboscopic motion), between the
relationship level and the configuration level. You can have
relationships among transitions (faster, slower) as well as
relationships among configurations (bigger, smaller). This implies that
the relationship level can receive signals not only from the transition
level just below it, but from the configuration level, two levels below.
And once you see that, you also see that there can be relationships
among sensations (saltier than) and intensities (brighter than), too.

And then sequence got stuck in between transitions and relationships,
and then the sequence level got changed to the event level, with the
sequence level being redefined and ending up two levels above (because
of some questions Gary Cziko raised, if I remember right).

What we have now is an 11-level hypothesis in which each level is
supposedly dependent on the existence of the level below and is derived
from it. There is no way to prove that this dependency exists except by
looking at your own experiences and seeing if the idea still holds up.
There's no single rule that will allow you to deduce the next level up
from the existing levels; you just have to look and see what's there, in
your own experience.

What all this suggests is that any level of perception can be a function
of perceptions of _any lower level_. Why not higher levels, too? Well,
I've tried that on, and all I can say is that I can't make sense of it.
Maybe someone else can.

I think it is fairly easy to find examples at each level in which a
familiar perception unpacks into perceptions of one or more levels
below. So you can have categories of intensity (blinding, bright,
medium, dim, black) and so on all the way up to relationships -- but not
categories of categories (whatever Betrand Russell said) or categories
of sequences (orderings) or higher things.

But I make no claims to have covered all real cases or possibilities.
The hierarchy is simply what I have noticed to hold true for all the
experiences I've applied it to. It's a naturalistic, phenomenological
system, not an orderly scientific or mathematical system. People seem to
think it makes sense at least in small subsets. It does cover a lot of
stages that seem necessary between thought and action. It seems
relatively context-free, and to the limited extent that I have
questioned people from other cultures, culture-free. But is it right, is
it self-consistent, is it complete? I have no idea. I have presented it
as a guess, and until we find some systematic way to check it out, a
guess it will remain.


RE hypostasis hypothesis

     First, concurrence with others is very persuasive in whether we
     perceive a particular CEV or some other.

This is certainly true, but it's not the whole truth. Don't forget that
there is a very large non-living world with which we interact, and the
way we perceive CEVs must also be consistent with our interactions with
that physical world. Even though most people thought and agreed at one
time that the Earth is flat, interactions with the physics of a round
world eventually displaced that notion -- in the face of what most
people believed. So while science is in large part a matter of
consensus, it is more than that, too.

In fact, isn't our problem with conventional science that we have
observations that seem to contradict what mainstream science believes?
As you say:

     So it seems that that exploration and testing of one's own
     perceptions in isolation from the judgments of others is essential
     for sound science, perhaps even deliberately challenging
     expectations, what "everybody knows" to be true. This aspect of
     science is essentially asocial in nature, even antisocial. The
     more famous episodes in the history of science bear this out.

     However -- and this is the second thing -- in science, replication
     is essential. Constructs must be testable, and anyone, in
     principle at least, should be able to replicate the tests. What's
     more, publication is essential. You need someone to say "eureka!"
     to, and they need to say "yes, something really has been found out

Yeah, verily, to both paragraphs. However, if you have found out how to
test your own perceptions in isolation, which means confronting your own
hopes and desires and understanding the temptations they pose, then it
becomes much easier to be confident about replication, and less
important to have someone to say "eureka" to -- except for the sake of
sharing the joy.

     Science is essentially social in nature.

I don't agree that the social side is any more important than the
facing-nature-in-isolation side. If you can't do both, you can't be a
scientist. If your only concern is the approval of your peers, then you
will fudge the results if they don't approve. If your only concern is to
explore nature face to face all by yourself, then when you die
everything you have learned will die, too.

     The outcome of reorganization is (by hypothesis) uncontrolled and
     unpredictable. Given the social nature of science, we need to keep
     one another abreast of our reorganizations. We can't let Tom get
     too depressed, we need him :slight_smile:

Given the social _side_ of science. When we're not socializing, however,
we have to be doing, which is something each person does alone.

I talked with Tom a few days ago. He seems more determined than
Oded Maler (950307)--

     Words, which are are greatest invention, are also the most
     confusing, because they denote such a diversity of perceptual
     variables which might have very little in common except for the
     latters and sound. (As noted before in this forum, this is a reason
     for many of the great debates in this forum).

     There are probably also some genetic factors in certain propeties
     of neurons that tend to influence the type of perceptual variables
     that the individual is likely to form.

Yes. Unfortunately, language reflects the beliefs of the current and
immediately past generations. We inherited a language in which
behaviorism is firmly entrenched, as well as other points of view. So we
can say "You're making me angry," and "I felt his grief," and see
nothing wrong.

As to the genetic factors, I quite agree -- I think we are genetically
inclined to construct perceptions in the classes intensity, sensations,
configuration .... system concepts, although not to construct any
particular examples of these classes. On the other hand, I don't rule
out anything but inherited perceptions that are peculiar to the world a
person happens to be born into.
Bill Leach (answer to direct post) --

Your musings seem on the mark to me, for the most part. But I think the
one you were most concerned with is the question of "right and wrong."

If "right" means "matching my reference level" then there is an inborn
sense of right and wrong. But most of us, I think, have or once had a
feeling that there are _specific_ rights and wrongs that are built into
us, and there I no longer agree. I was raised by a person who thought
that if you didn't just _know_ what was right and wrong, there was
something wrong with you, right? I now see this view as reflecting a
rather severe lack of self-understanding. What tipped me off was the
realization that different people have different senses of right and
wrong, plus the sudden jolt that came from seeing that if something is
really inborn, you don't need to be taught it; you'll do it without even
thinking. when you figure out _why_ certain things seem right or wrong,
you'll understand your own organization better, as well as understanding
human nature better.
Best to all,

Bill P.