[From Rick Marken (940912.0900)]
Bill Leach (940911.09:18 EST) --
1. An organism's perception of the external world IS the external world
to that organism . . .
Bruce Buchanan (940911.22:30 EDT) --
I still find some ambiguity in the description above, that the external
world is both (#1) the organism's perception and (#2) the physical reality
independent of the organism's awareness.
This is not quite what Bill Leach meant. Let me try to explain what I think
The external world is whatever it is. We know of this world only as
perceptions. These perceptions ARE the external world from the point of our
view. In fact, it takes a rather sophisticated organism to even consider the
possibility that what it is experiencing (as the external world) is just a
perceptual function of some other reality -- the "real" external reality that
is "behind" our perceptions. This notion -- that there is a reality "behind"
our perception -- is, I believe, the beginning of both science and religion.
Science and religion can be seen as attempts to understand the reality behind
our experience, each using different techniques.
What also is still a problem for me is to understand the status of the
organism that is observing and describing this total situation, i.e. the
PCT perceiver and investigator.
Let me try to diagram the PCT view of the situation. Let R be reality (what,
in previous discussions, was also referred to a "boss reality" to futher
distinguish it from our experience of it); let p1 be a perceptual signal in a
person observing an organism; let p2 be a perceptual signal controlled by the
organism being observed. So the PCT view of the situation is:
p1 <--f() --R -- g() --p2
The functions f() and g() are perceptual processes in the observer and the
behaving organism, respectively. The result of these perceptual processes is
(according to PCT) a continuous perceptual signal. This perceptual signal IS
the perception experienced by the system. The observer experiences one
aspect of reality (R) as p1, the organism experiences another aspect of
reality as p2.
Let's assume that the arguments to the two perceptual functions are exactly
the same aspects of reality (R). Let's also assume that we are a god who can
actually see that R is a rectangle with height h and width w. So the
arguments to f() and g() are h and w. Now imagine that f() computes a
perceptual signal that is proportional to h x w. So p1 is a perception of
area; as h or w vary (in reality) the observer has a perception of change in
area. Also, imagine that g() computes a perceptual signal that is
proportional to h/w. So p2 is a perception of shape; as h and w vary (in
reality) the organism has a perception of changing shape.
So the observer and the organism perceive (and experience) the same reality
(the arguments, h and w, to the perceptual functions) differently. If p1 and
p2 are the only perceptions of this reality available to observer and
organism, respectively, the observer would not be able to tell what the
organism is controlling. For example, suppose the organism wants to keep p2
at "square" -- that is, h/w = 1.0. Assume that the organism can control this
variable because it can vary the size of h. So disturbances to h and w are
resisted, and the organism keeps h/w = 1.0. But the perception of area (p1)
is not controlled. So, from the perspective of the observer, disturbances to
p1 (the observer's only perception of reality) are not resisted; the area
varies even as shape is controlled. The observer would (correctly) conclude
that the organism is not controlling area; but he would be unable to tell
what the organism is controlling because he is unable to perceive reality in
the same way as the behaving organism.
In PCT, we assume that it is possible for an observer to perceive (though
not necessarily experience -- see below) the world in the same way as the
organism being studied. This is the only way to discover what an organism is
actually controlling;it is the basis of The Test for the controlled
variable. We discover controlled variables by applying disturbances to a
perception and seeing if they are resisted by an organism. If we are
perceiving the variable that the organism is controlling, then we will see
that disturbances have little or no effect on this perception.
Of course, we can't really experience the world in the same way as some
organisms; we have to depend on "artificial" perceptions to some extent. For
example, we cannot experience sounds that are a function of a presumed
reality of pressure variations occurring at greater than abour 20,000 Hz. But
we have instrments that can measure variations in this presumed reality so we
can tell that bats are controlling something about perceptions of this kind.
We can see that the "meter reading" representation of this perception is
controlled. So we get the same perception as the organism; we just don't
experience it in the same way.
it is still my belief that, while all experiences are _based_ in neural
representations, these representations cannot _in themselves_ be what we
perceive but can only really be _the means_ or _mediating structures and
functions_ through which perceptual processes inform us of the external
The only problem here is "what's being informed"? What you seem to be saying
is that neural perceptual signals, like p1 and p2, are informing something
else-- "us" -- about something. But what is this "us" that is being informed?
The PCT model works without an extra "us". The neural perceptual signals in
the model ARE the experiences that are controlled.
WE ARE THE NEURAL SIGNALS IN OUR BRAIN. What we experience -- the
intensities, sensations, configurations, movements, relationships, etc -- as
the world is (according to PCT) what a neural signal "looks like" when you
ARE ONE. The idea that a neural signal is a "mediating structure" just moves
the problem of "why it looks this way" back one step; it doesn't seem to