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I Like Squirrels!

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Posted by Richard D. Stafford, Ph.D. on July 25, 2003 01:56:12 UTC

Hi Mike,

Yes, I do think a lot; it is my favorite pastime and yes I do believe my ideas are radically different from anyone else's. I think I know why also. I am a very strange person in that I do think about everything. I have, over the years, come to the conclusion that our educational system does not encourage thinking but rather encourages rote memorization of acceptable responses (don't argue with me, just leave it as an opinion). The problem arises because of the ease of measuring learned responses as opposed to the difficulty of measuring the ability to think. The consequence is that some of the most educated people in the world are also some of the stupidest. (Again, regard this as no more than opinion; I place it here only so that you might comprehend "where I come from"). Opinions are results of squirrel decisions and it is a complete waste of time to discuss them.

You make the suggestion that the problem arises because of my idiosyncratic use of the English language. I hold that you are in error. The problem arises because of the concept I am trying to communicate. The concept itself is so alien to common thought that there exist no words devoted to expression of the ideas I am trying to communicate. My only option is to use words that convey some aspects of my ideas. If you miss the essence of what I am trying to say, it is my fault and not yours. Somehow, I must try and place an issue before you which encourage you to find thinking about what I say more interesting than ignoring it.

You comment that, "it's perfectly possible that what is true under your conceptual scheme is false under mine" is a misrepresentation of the situation. In fact, what I am saying is that the appearance of such a situation is a consequence of failure to correctly map your conceptual scheme into my conceptual scheme. However, the mechanism which provides that mapping is out of my control and out of your control; the mapping is a consequence of squirrel decisions, and not logic. What I am saying is, let us not worry about that issue at the moment. The problems can only be resolved with logic. That is, the issue of resolving the controversy must be a conscious rational decision and not influenced by the squirrel decisions made by intuition. That is the real source of my difficulty.

Having made those statements, let me go to your specific comments. First, your comment that you can't possibly agree that you are out of touch with reality since you're part of reality yourself is actually a subtle means of misdirection of attention. English is a poor mechanism for communicating logical thoughts because the meanings of most words are very vague and subtle changes in meaning can considerably modify the meaning of a sentence without seeming to do so. These kinds of things are very common debating techniques.

The shift in this case concerns the shift from "perception" to "being out of touch". Being part of reality was never an issue in this discussion. The fact that your conscious awareness is part of reality and the fact that your subconscious processes are also a part of reality has absolutely nothing to do with what your perceptions are and is no defense whatsoever for your "squirrel decision" that your perceptions cannot be illusions created by your subconscious.

Another statement you make which seems to make sense when your intuition is allowed to make the interpretation, "if my subconscious is part of reality, then it can't isolate me from itself" makes no sense at all if looked at from an objective perspective. First, the shift from the word "subconscious" to "itself" hid the fact that there is much more to your subconscious than the aspects directly influencing your thoughts. Keeping that issue in mind, consider the sentence, "if that wall is part of reality and I am also part of reality, it can't possibly prevent me from knowing its internal structure". The statement is just a complete non sequitur.

I made the statement: "Now, even if the illusion created by my subconscious is a valid model of reality, I still know it is an illusion and, as a conscious entity, I can not perceive what is really going on." Your move was to misdirect attention to an issue which has nothing to do with what I was talking about. Again, I hold that your intuition ("squirrel decisions" again) pushed you to avoid looking at the issue I was trying to direct your attention to. I tried to be very careful to make sure that you understood that we were talking about "sense impressions", the "perceptions" perceived by our conscious minds, a very specific phenomena. The question was not the reality of the monitor before my eyes; the question was, were the sense impressions a direct representation of reality or were they illusions created by the mind?

If you accept the proposition that the mind created these perceptions from the image on the retina of your eye, or the nerve impulses to your brain or the functioning of your brain itself, you are accepting the idea that your brain is capable of producing such an illusion. The only concept which would hold that the image comprehended by your conscious mind was a direct sense impression of reality would require a direct, unprocessed connection to the real monitor.

Your other comments, "by the same reasoning your eye is just a bunch of nerves connected to your brain, your brain is just a concept in your conscious mind, your conscious mind is just... what next?" may seem intuitively to have some bearing on the issue under discussion but, on close examination, it has absolutely nothing to do with what is being discussed. "By the same reasoning" tends to imply that you are using the same reasoning I am using (which is completely false). Following that with statements which, on the surface, intuitively sound very much like they are analogous to what I was saying, amounts to no more than more misdirection of attention designed to augment the "squirrel decision" that what I am saying is insignificant.

All I can say is that the only interpretation which makes sense to me is that you are back paddling as fast as you can to avoid thinking about the issue I am bringing up. With regard to conscious perceptions and where they come from, let me place another example before you.

You must be aware of those prints which appear to be meaningless patterns of random spots or other simple patterns. The ones where, if you stare at them for a while, appear to be three dimensional. Now, that is a sense impression! You are consciously aware of the three dimensional illusion. Think about the mechanism which created that illusion. It certainly wasn't a conscious accomplishment; if it were, a person blind in one eye could perceive the illusion also. It certainly cannot require binocular vision because there is no difference at all in the images seen by the two eyes. What name would you give to the mental process which created that illusion? I call it my subconscious and I find it quite rational to consider the subconscious to be a mediator in all sense-impressions I perceive from a conscious level.

My position is very simple. By presuming that all your sense-impressions are direct perceptions of reality, you are avoiding thinking about the profound capabilities of your mind. Don't feel bad about that as everyone I have ever met has made every effort available to them to avoid such thoughts. (Paul is an exception; he has made valiant efforts to think about the issue but his intuition again and again derails his efforts.) I have a great advantage in this because I have thought about various aspects of this perspective intimately for over sixty years.

And, no, I do not agree with much at all that Alan says; however, I will not say he is wrong; it could very well be that we do not understand what he is saying. If you ever do come to understand my perspective, that sentence will make a lot more sense to you; and very probably not before.

Have fun -- Dick

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