Monday, February 7, 2011

World Views of Monism, Dualism, Trialism, and Quadrialism

Contempory science and philosophy prefer a monistic world view which is always in some competion with a dualistic view. The "Evolutionary Theory of Visual Gestalt Perception" (ETVG), however, which is an elaborated theory of the structure of visual (phenomenal) space exhibits a trialistic world view, while its supertheory, the "Evolutionary Theory of Being" (ETB) is even based on a quadrialistic world view that encloses the trialistic one of the ETVG: cause enough for dealing with the differences between these views.
Contempory monists believe that the world we live in consists of only one stuff: "matter". But they have difficulties in explaining something that is usually called "consciousness", which does not at all look like matter. In particular, the monists cannot explain, for example, the strcture of visual sensations, i.e. of conscious visual perception, which is an important ability of humans and many animals.
Other scientists (and philosophers) favor a dualistic world view by saying: no, the world does not consist exclusively of matter, "consciousness" must be a second stuff besides matter. However, also the dualists cannot really explain the important conscious experiences like visual sensations and their structure in space and time.
Both world views differ in the "nature" of consciousness; the monists say: consciousness is nothing else than matter and can in a certain sense be understood as an "emanation" of matter, while the dualists say: consciousness is of quite another nature than matter.
Monists and dualists believe that there are both material things with consciousness and material things without consciousness. Thus in both world views consciousness is somewhat additional to matter, while the opposite is not true as one cannot really believe that matter would be somewhat additional to consciousness. Thus both world views conceive a kind of hierarchical order between matter and consciousness with the latter being on a higher level above matter.
The dualists have developed different theories on the relations between matter and consciousness but obviously failed to recognize the right and convincing relations between them although science possesses a lot of knowledge just on matters involved in visual perception. However, our knowledge of conscious experience stems more from everyday life. Only few research has ever been done on visual experience, for example, as the astonishing lack of images proves that have been sketched from vision experience in experiments and thus could be found (or not found) in the literature.
There are few authors who are contented neither with monism nor with dualism and thus favor a trialistic world view, with or without calling it a "trialistic" one. Most of the "trialists" accept the two dualistic entities "matter" and "consciousness" so that the third entity is added to them. However, with proposing a third entity the universe is thought to consist of, an author has to determine the locus of this third entity relative to the loci of the other two entities.
Let us consider the case in which the third entity (X) is thought to be added to the accepted entities matter (M) and consciousness (C) in their accepted hierarchical order in relation to the course of evolution from the bottom up. This means that three potential cases of relations have to be considered:
the relations between M and X, between C and X, and between M and C.
There is an accepted hierarchical order between M and C with C is lying above M, independently whether this fact has or has not been considered in the respective theory If we write the higher level entity on the right side of the lower level entity, we theoretically contain the following three cases:
(a) If the third entity has evolved after consciousness (case M-C-X), the relations between matter and consciousness remain the same as conceived in monism or dualism; i.e. there is no need to change them in a trialistic view.
(b) If the third entity has evolved before matter (case X-M-C), the relations between M and C remain unchanged as well.
(c) If, however, the third entity has evolved after matter but before consciousness (case M-X -C), then all relations between M and C that ever have been conceived in all the dualistic and monistic theories are wrong.
The "Empiristic Theory of Visual Gestalt Perception" (ETVG) ( is a trialistic theory of case M-X-C. As is shown in the diagram of the Evolutionary Theory of Being" (ETB) ( visual perception relates predominantly to the worlds PF and PC. But it relates anyhow also to the worlds below PF/PC as seeing with PF/PC is only possible for living Beings (that are already evolved up to the worlds VM and VF), and life is only possible when already certain atoms and molecules (in the worlds UCO / UCM) are available. Thus both entities are necessary for conscious visual perception: the entity matter (=material manner of Being") and the entity consciousness (=phenomenal manner of Being").
However, to be able to conscious visual perception (=visual experience PC including "phenomenal space"), a third entity X is needed, which is called the "functional manner of Being". In the ETB diagram is to see first, that the "functions" (F) lie between matter (M) and consciousness (C) and second, that these three entities realize the hierarchical order of case M-X(F)-C. This means: the trialistic ETVG exhibits a general structure according to which all usual monistic theories (M) and all usual dualistic theories (M-C) must be wrong because any direct relations between matter and consciousness as conceived in monistic and dualistic concepts are not existent.
When I developed the ETVG further (2001) I also conceived another theory, the "Eight-World-Model of Reality" or "Four-Manner-Four-Level-Model of Reality" (first published in 2001, Part 10), later called "Evolutionary Theory of Being" (ETB). While the ETVG is a trialistic theory as shown above, the ETB is a quadrialistic theory. The ETB is a supertheory in respect to the ETVG insofar as the ETB encloses the ETVG: The three manners of Being that have evolved up to the third level on which perception occurred are thus thought to be "embedded" in a fourth manner of Being, called "ordinal manner of Being". As seen in the ETB diagram, first, the phenomenal manner of Being develops a second world of Mental Consciousness (MC) above Psychical Consciousness (PC). The MCs, however, produce when "actualized" their Mental Orders (MOs). With occurrence of the world MC, the living (VM/VF) and already perceiving (PF/PC) Being evolves itself into a fourth evolutionary level. With the MOs as produced by the MCs, it reaches in that fourth (="ordinal") manner of Being.
As the other three manners of Being do, the ordinal manner of Being consists of two "worlds" as well. Here on the fourth evolutionary level, there is the world of "Mental Order" (MO) or "Individual Cosmic Order" (ICO). The other world of the ordinal manner of Being lies on the first evolutionary level and is called the "Universal Cosmic Order" (UCO). So all worlds of the material, functional and phenomenal manners of Being lie inside the ordinal manner of Being as the Being "begins" with UCO and "ends" with ICO.
Now we have to ask for the locus of the fourth ("ordinal") manner of Being relative to the other three manners. The answer is less simple: indeed, also the ordinal manner of Being consists - like the other three manners - of two worlds (here UCO and ICO), but these worlds are lying extremely far from another, so we have to ask a twofold question:
a) When has UCO evolved? Answer: before matter.
b) When has ICO evolved? Answer: after consciousness.
Thus the relations M-F-C remain unchanged if the two "halves" of the ordinal manner of Being (O) are introduced and a fourth case is formed: O-M-F-C-O.
In summery: the most important innovation introduced in science and philosophy are both the "Empiristic Theory of Visual Gestalt Perception" (ETVG) with the trialistic concept in exactly that form as described, and its supertheory, the quadrialistic ETB.
If the ETVG and the ETB are true, all monistic/dualistic theories are wrong as according to the monistic/dualistic theories consciousness is immediately caused by matter, while according to the new ETVG and ETB, there is not at all any immediate connection of consciousness ("phenomenal" manner of Being) with matter ("material" manner of Being). On the contrary, an entire group of entites (the "functional" manner of Being) even separates consciousness from matter. Moreover: it is only a certain kind of matters that immediately causes a certain kind of functions, while a higher level kind of functions causes a certain kind of consciousness. So the lack of any immediate connection of consciousness and matter is perfect.
Since every monistic/dualistic theory and the trialistic ETVG are mutually exclusive, no intermediate stages are possible. So every scientist (particularly every reader of this blog) has to decide which theory or world view, respectively, he will overtake as his own. None of them has to be favored per se because it is absolutely irrelevant wether two, three, four, eight, or 25 parts (areas, spheres, worlds, manners of Being, evolutionary levels) are distinguishable as parts of "all that is".
It is the efficiency of a theory that is relevant for its scientific acceptance. In this respect, the number of facts that are explainable with a theory and the consistency of the laws which have been applied to explain them are relevant. Not the theoretical background is decisive for the choice of a theory, rather it is the efficiency of a theory that is decisive for the choice of its theoretical background.
If you - may be as a very young student - decide yourself for the most possible vicinity to scientific truth, then you will accept the trialistic ETVG as this theory is able to explain such a large quantity of visual facts, particularly in the domain of visual (phenomenal) space, as no monistic / dualistic theory ever was able to do. You will, moreover, also accept the quadrialistic ETB as there is no other world view suitable to be the ETVG's theoretical background.
However, I warn you not to accept the ETVG and the ETB or at least not to tell somebody else that you have accept them. In particular: you never should expect from other scientists to do the same as you have done: to throw their monistic / dualistic world views (fervently loved since centuries) on the scrapheap of History, no learned scientist is able to do that. Consider also the reaction of the scientific community on this scandalous demand for a shift in its members' usual thinking!


  1. Very interesting, Lothar. I, for one, would rather like to defer to our resident dualists to respond to what our German colleague has added to the existing soup of metaphysics. On the face of it, Lothar seems to be offering a somewhat more complicated version of John's dualistic theory.

    My first question is whether these four orders of existence are (a) different substances (as in "substance dualism" that we have already discussed here) and (b) what phenomena would lead one to believe that they exist as Lothar postulates?

    My hunch (and it is only a hunch) is that these reified/hypostacized separate orders of existence are an attempt to make sense of the same defects resulting from the initial assumptions made in building scientific epistemology and ontology (viz. scientific realism) that we have been discussing from the outset, and which initially split reality in two--and now with Lothar's conception, in four.

    As I see it, more we are dealing with a case of putting Humpty Dumpty back together after he broken to pieces! This ontological "Spaltung" (to use a good German word) I suspect has epistemological origins, rather than metaphysical ones.

  2. I also found this post interesting, and I certainly agree that materialism (at least eliminativist versions of it) have a hard time either explaining or explaining away consciousness. A couple of points though. One, there are other versions of monism besides materialism; in particular there is idealism (as espoused by Berkeley and any number of subsequent philosophers) which at least attempts to explicate matter in terms of our perceptions of it. A second point involves the issue of going beyond dualism to invoke the existence of a third basic realm of existence. Ockham's razor of not multiplying entities beyond necessity can be cited here. Of course monism is even more parsimonious than dualism but I think that we have very good reasons for ontological commitments to both matter and consciousness. Do you have similar good reasons for invoking a third realm?

  3. Very interesting! I wonder if Lothar would like to sketch out any relationship he sees between Heidegger's concept of "Being" with his own.

  4. As I ponder Lothar's theory some more, it occurs to me that it seems to rest upon one fundamental premise, and that is just entertaining the idea that rather than just two orders of existence (dualism), why not 2N? If that premise is accepted, one could advance the sort of logically contingent if/then relationships he describes above, which appear to be internally consistent. But what is not clear to me is a compelling necessity for the initial premise motivating a 3-fold or 4-fold ontology. Lothar?

  5. Some hints to your comment of February 8, Bill:
    (1) I don't know John's dualistic theory;
    (2) I cannot answer your question since the ETB has never hypothesized any "substance" as everybody knows who has read the ETB.
    (3) You have confused the ETVG with the ETB a long time. By referring to "four orders of existence", you are now referring only to the ETB, but now you are confusing the ETB's four "manners of Being" with its four "evolutionary levels"; which are în all eight orders (that are well defined and called "worlds").
    (4) These worlds are, however, not "separate" orders as everybody knows who has read the ETB. On the contrary, they are connected with another and form a hierarchically organized consistent system.
    (5) Thus, according to the quadrialistic (sometimes called "double-quadrialistic") ETB, reality is not "split" in four or eight orders of existence as it is split in two orders according to dualistic theories.
    (6) Like me, also Robert considers the ETB to be an ontological concept rather than an epistomological one.

  6. Thank you for your comment, Robert. After having reread it I think we can attempt a successful discussion. For doing this we have to guarantee that we are always speaking of the same thing. In particular, we have to avoid confusion. A great danger is to confuse a word with the meaning of the word. If somebody says "dualistic" or "trialistic", he says first of all a word and nothing else. However, a word is a carrier of a thought, i.e. the "meaning" of the word. Unfortunately, a word often has several meanings in the same language. Moreover, also for different persons one and the same word might have different meanings. So we often have to ask ourselves and the discussion partner:"What do I / you mean with...?"

    We (i.e. you and I) might differ in a number of aspects; we certainly also agree in other aspects. If we always try to recognize (and then keep in mind) in which aspects we agree and in which aspects we do not agree, we might be successful clearing up remaining discrepancies. If doing this, we will get a more realistic insight into the world we are living in. The chance is great to gain a "full insight" as this world is one and the same world; we only have to recognize how it is structured.

    Let me clarify some aspects before answering your question.

    1) I agree that there are other versions of monism (I think also of eastern philosophies).
    2) I agree with Ockham's razor.
    3) Do you mean that both matter and consciousness have to be considered as two realms (spheres, areas, parts or how we want to call them) of "all that is", then I agree. (The term "commitment" is unknown to me)
    4) Bill has several times asked me for a short message about what my theory of vision (ETVG) is about. His question remained unanswered thus far. Here is the answer:

    The "Empiristic Theory of Visual Gestalt Perception" (ETVG) explains the fact that a (material, physical) square consisting of four straight lines being connected with right angles is (or at least can be) visually (phenomenally) experienced as a square consisting of four straight lines being connected with right angles,
    (a) although the optical projections of the square's straight lines are rather crooked and not at all right-angled because God has fitted out man with eye lenses not comparable with modern high standard optical products coming from Germany and the USA,
    (b) and although the eye's retina even consists of millions of single receptor cells that are not immediately connected together so that every single receptor is only able to react for itself, so to speak "pointlike", to the light rays that are impinging at that moment just on this single receptor, and therefore it cannot react "linelike" to the light rays impinging on a number of neighboring receptors at the same time.
    Do you agree that (a) and (b) describe the goal of every "full" theory of vision, at least restricted to the perception of a square?

  7. 5) Your last statement, Robert, has been: "I think that we have very good reasons for ontological commitments to both matter and consciousness". And you ask: "Do you have similar good reasons für invoking a third realm?"
    I am not able to answer your question for several reasons:
    (a) You did not give even one "good reason" for invoking a second realm after somebody has spoken of "matter" as the only realm. So I cannot find a "similar" good reason for invoking a third realm.
    (b) After all, your question is based on the wrong idea that it would be possible at all to find in, for example, a one-realm-world-view some aspects that require a second realm, just a second one, and to find in a two-realms-world-view some aspects that require a third realm, just a third one.
    (c) Even suppose that there were indeed such good reasons for invoking a further realm: Which reasons determine the "nature" of that realm? How could Descartes find the so called "consciousness" that had to be the second realm? And how could I find the so called "functions" (VF/PF) to be the third realm?

    6) In 1961, I did not search for a third realm, I only searched for such a kind of relations between matter and consciousness that let me understand the unity of the world's material and conscious entities, a unity that I assumed to be but did not find in any scientific or philosophical concept. So I found between matter and consciousness a group of unknown entities, being neither material nor conscious, that in an understandable way are related to matter, on the one hand, and to consciousness, on the other. So I conceived the first version of the ETVG that is based on three "spheres": the "material", "functional" and "phenomenal" sphere (or "realm"), in this sequence as introduced during evolution. Since I did not know much of monistic and dualistic theories at that time, I did not yet call my own theory a "trialistic" one.

    7) As I already mentioned, the number of accepted realms has nothing to do with the quality of a scientific theory. The only aspect for the judgement of theories is their efficiency. Please, call me one or more theories of visual perception for comparing them with the ETVG. After having chosen the most effective theory in respect to explaining visual facts, we can, besides others, also ask for the number of realms this best theory is based on.

  8. Thank you very much for your comments Lothar, and I think that they can lead into a constructive dialogues on these intriguing and controversial matters. Since we agree about monism,and I think that we also agree about the separate ontological existences of matter and phenomenal experiences, I will just briefly address some of the other issues which you raise.
    You are absolutely right that I don't give my good reasons for holding that materialism cannot account for the phenomenal realm, but I think that they definitely can be given. One main point is that I think there is overwhelming evidence from science that naive realism (which numerically equates visual experiences with at least the front surfaces of physical objects being perceived) is false. If this is true then one needs to account for both the ontology of the physical objects which indirectly cause our experiences and for the ontology of the experiences themselves. If you haven't already done so, I encourage you to look at my posting on apparent distortions in photography and the resulting comments (this is the second posting on the blog)since this gives my position in more detail.
    You say that your third realm of existence is functional. It seems to me that a lot of work has been done in such fields as cognitive science and artificial intelligence in showing how physical systems (e. g., computers and brains) can perform various functions which had previously been thought to be within the realm of the mental. Are there any functions in particular which you think cannot even in principle be handled this way?

  9. Thank you, John, for your interest in my ideas. Unfortunately I am not very interested in the history of science and philosophy, so I do not know much about Heidegger and his thoughts about "Seyn". What I know about his philosophy is so strange to me and my thoughts having published thus far, that I prefer to further follow my own way of thoughts in order to reach an acceptable (though temporary) end in developing the "Evolutionary Theory of Being"(ETB) as I already have reached such an end in developing the "Empiristic Theory of Visual Gestalt Perception" (ETVG).

    However, I can try to tell you what "Being" ("Sein") means in the ETB without referring to Heidegger: "Being" is "all that is", is "the entirety of everyting". There is nothing else besides "Being". "Being" is the entire system of entities.

    However, "Being" goes beyond "reality", as "reality" consists of all entities being time-dimensioned, whereas "Being" also contains entites that are not time-dimensioned (those of the ordinal manner of Being).

    The system "Being" is hierarchically structured so that every entity takes up a certain locus within this system. One hierarchy known in science is that of the four evolutionary levels: In the beginning of the evolution, pure inorganic things (UCO/UCM) as stones, sun, moon and stars occured. With further course of evolution, things occur consisting of the "worlds" UCO to VF, called "living beings" The things being evolved up to the third evolutionary level are made of UCO-entities to PC-entities. They are "things" with the ability to "consciously" (PC) perceiving material things (UCM/VM). Some of them develop to a higher ability, called "Mind", they are structured by UCO-entities to MO-entities. They are able to "think" (MC) and to be conscious (MC) of being conscious (PC) of material things (UCM/VM).

  10. You expect us to take the time to read your book, Lothar, yet you do not take the little time required to read the posting in which John gave a concise and clear overview of his version of dualism for us here on the blog (title: "The Theory of Material Dualism in a nutshell"):

    No, I am not confused, because you made it plain at the outset that in order to understand your theory of perception we needed first to be acquainted with your "Evolutionary Theory of Being." Presumably, then, your theory of perception presupposes the ontology of your ETB. Is that correct?

    When John's theory was debated on the blog a few months back, we briefly touched upon the different forms of dualism so as to be clear as to whether John's is one postulating substance dualism (it is). If, as you now state, you claim that your four manners of being and four evolutionary levels are not separate substances (or states), what is it that separates them from one another as one would, for example, separate a chicken from an egg?

    One problem I see in your formulation, Lothar, is your idiosyncratic use of the term "evolution." In science it has two distinct senses: (1) applying to biology, the evolution of life from very simple to progressively more complex and differentiated organisms and (2) in a general way, cosmology speaks of the "evolution" of the (physical) universe, starting with the Big Bang, expansion, cooling, the formation of gallaxies, planets, etc. But those two senses of the word "evolution" are not combined into the single sense you are using. Do you have some reason for combining the two?

  11. Bob has made a very cogent point in saying that "a lot of work has been done in such fields as cognitive science and artificial intelligence in showing how physical systems (e. g., computers and brains) can perform various functions which had previously been thought to be within the realm of the mental." In the time of Descartes such things would have been unthinkable of matter and were the basis of the whole idea of mind being its own realm. Of course, my own "take" is that what AI has done has not created artificial intelligence but *automated* intelligence, much as we humans have automated through our technology many things we do, i.e., we have been able to automate intelligent behavior. I say "automated" because I see this as a sort of mimicry, since I don't think we really yet know what intelligence is, so we can hardly posit that we have created "artificial" intelligence (in other words, I think AI is a misnomer--one involving wishful thinking, no pun intended).

  12. One reason for studying the history of philosophy is that it bears witness to the fact that time and again problems that were thought to be ontological have turned out to be epistemological, sometimes even due to problems with language (a fact that Wittgenstein devoted his later philosophy to exposing).

    For example, some of the divisions you postulate, Lothar, whether levels or manners, may simply result from the process of reification, simply put, believing an abstraction of thought to be something concrete and real. This is known as the "fallacy of reification" or of "misplaced concreteness":

    From what I have read of your book, concepts that link your abstract metaphysical postulates (levels, manners) to observable phenomena are lacking, so that the theory is "under determined" by the facts you adduce in support of it (this is a common failing of much scientific endeavor, though).

  13. 1) I agree with you (and many others), Robert, that the "naive realism" is false. But tell me, please, in more detail what you mean with "ontology" (of the physical objects and the experiences, respectively), which you feel a need to account for.

    2) If you say that my "third realm of existence is functional" then in this phrase "functional" looks like an everyday word, whereas it has a very special meaning in "functional manner of Being", and one cannot simply express this meaning with "this manner of Being is functional".

    The ETB (and the ETVG as well) is a very new theory which describes very unknown relationships. In such a situation, new scientific terms (words with a special meaning) have to be invented in order to designate these unknown relations. The inventor is confronted with a dilemma: on the one hand, he is searching for a strange word in order to inform the reader: "Here is somewhat very new!" On the other hand, he is searching for a word with a meaning that is similar to a known term so that a certain preunderstanding for the new meaning can be expected. Thus the two words "material manner " and "phenomenal manner" are per se acceptable by the readers since these are either monists or dualists who know (at least believe to know) what matter is and what subjective phenomena are. This is not the case of a third manner. So I chose a word ("functional") the meaning of which is at least known from the everyday term "bodily function", and exactly this meaning has one of the two "worlds" of the "functional manner of Being": the world of "vital functions" (VF), so that the term "function" in "psychic functions" (PF) can be accepted as well.

    3) At the end of your comment, a question relates to the possibility to apply the word "function" in an acceptable sense to the functions performed by physical systems (e.g. computers and brains), and you are referring to cognitive sciences. Cognition occurs in (what you call) "the mental", indeed, but my own knowledge of my ETB-system is too small as to have enough to say about this fourth evolutionary level with the mental worlds MC and MO. Apart from that, "function" in "functional manner" refers to both the second level world VF and the third level world PF and thus can work without consideration and even without the existence of the fourth level worlds.

    4) On the other hand, I am interested to some degree to think about computer functions made by man. I remember to have recognized some years ago that it might be in principle possible to explain - or at least to describe - in ETB terminology - the production of cultural things, e.g. speech or functioning material things. (Does this reflect your question?)

  14. I have read your posting, Robert, (but not any of the 76 comments). Some thoughts or questions referring to your posting have occurred to me:

    1) I think you are mistaken when you do not compare comparable things: Comparable are
    - Material image A, as gained from a material thing which is projected by the lense system of a good camera on a film (or a sheet of paper), and
    - Material image B, as gained from the same material thing which is projected by the lense system of a good (healthy) human eye on the retina.

    However, both kinds of images differ insofar as the retinal image shows a number of distortions as compared with the film image. But your posting does not consider this fact but stresses distortions of the film image (although not in comparison with the retinal image).

    2) Your second mistake is that you are compairing absolutely different and thus incomparable things:
    - Material image A, as gained from a material thing which is projected by the lense system of a good camera on a film (or a sheet of paper), and
    - Conscious image C, as gained after the material image B has been processed toward a conscious (phenomenal, experienced) image.

    On the one hand, the geometry (the form) of this conscious image C always differs from that of the image B, although C is processed from B. On the other hand, the form of image C can be, and often is, the same as that of image A although image C is processed from image B, and B is in each case distinct from A. These relationships have been found by the gestalt psychologists. The laws according to which image B "becomes" image C which, however, often "looks" like image A, are content of the ETVG.

    3) I cannot comment your explanation of depth perception since the ETVG predominantly deals with the 2-dimensional space. I could not develop a theory of depth perception because in the human optical system an one-eye-depth factor is missing although under certain circumstances the third dimension can be experienced using one eye only.

  15. Bill, you wrote: "What is not clear to me is a compelling necessity for the initial premise motivating a 3-fold or 4-fold ontology." My answer: There is not at all any compelling necessity for the existence of both the functional manner and the ordinal manner of Being. As there is not any compelling necessity for the existence of both matter and consciousness. If it were, other thinkers would have already developed the ETVG and the ETB some centuries before. The four manners of Being are just existent, that's all. Although there are some definable relationships between them

    If somebody introduces a very new idea into an old and well known concept the reader can, indeed, expect a sufficient explanation, possibly a "compelling necessity", for this introduction. In many cases it is possible simply to derivate that new idea from the old ones. In these cases many scientists who know the old concept have the opportunity to find this new idea. But only that scientist who is able to think the old concept further - and this against the power of the "scientific" community that does not love any changes - will actually find the new idea.

    In the case of my both theories (ETVG and ETB) I cannot give such an sufficient explanation (by derivation from any law, for example) for the introduction of a third and a fourth "manner of Bing" to be added to the well known two old ones called "matter" and "consciousness. However, I have recognized that all old (monistic / dualistic) concepts are absolutely unable to account for the great amount of visual conscious experiences (sensations) if these are thought to be caused by matter alone. Thus one day I just "got" the idea that there must be something between matter and consciousness and being itself neither material nor conscious (phenomenal). I called it "psychic functions" (PF) and thought them to be causing the "psychic consciousnesses" (PC), e.g. sensations. In the meantime I had developed a hierarchy of PCs in the domain of visual perception, and so I thought each single PC to be caused by "its" single PF. After that, I realized that the PF-hierarchy as thought in this way would be only a "fata morgana" unless I would be able to derivate it with "compelling necessity" from a real law.

    I found this law in early literature, it is a law of memory which, however, was refused by the science of those days. But after having changed it a little bit, I could use it for derivating the whole visual PF hierarchy as a result of learning processes.Now it is a 10 level hierarchy with 28 PFs (and their 28 PCs)- - as shown in the diagram in Part 7-I of the ETVG, (17 of them are responsible for the static, two-dimensional visual perception.)

    Thus the concept of the trialistic ETVG with the functional manner of Being bertween the material manner and the phenomenal manner of Being is justified not by derivation from any monistic-dualistic law but by the fact that it is able to account for a great amount of visual facts, whereas all monistic / dualistic theories failed to do it.

    After having conceived the trialistic ETVG I found it easier to conceive the quadrialistic ETB, the justification of which is, however, more difficult.

  16. Some minutes after having posted two comments to Robert and one comment to Bill (No. 1 to 6), I could not get the blog again with No 7 to 10 for Bill):

    7) The ETB-diagram shows
    - the relationships between the four manners of Being,
    - the relationships between the four evolutionary levels, and
    - the relationsships betweeen the four manners of Being, on the one hand,
    and the four evolutionary levels, on the other, and
    - the relationships between the eight worlds which are defined by one of the four manners and one of the four levels to which each of the worlds belongs.

    Unfortunately the diagram is not perfect because it is printed on a two-dimensional sheet of paper. Will you make it perfect? Then cut out the diagram and stick its end to its beginning so that UCO becomes the upper world above the lower world ICO within the ordinal manner of Being. You see: the Being is "round". If this is true a lot of further relationships might be derivable.

    8) You said: "If, as you now state, you claim that your four manners of being and four evolutionary levels are not separate substances (or states).....,"
    I never have claimed that, and I have not used the word "substance" (or "state") anywhere. These words are terms of the primitive monistic/dualistic world views.

    9) You continued by asking: "...what is it that separates them from one another as one would, for example, separate a chicken from an egg?"
    Obviously, you still continue in not having understood anything.
    First, chicken and eggs are - according to the ETB - two different material things within the one material manner of Being. Thus they are absolutely unsuited for an example of any relationship between two (or more) different manners of Being or even between manners of Being and evolutionary levels. Your example is one of a monist who does not know anything else than matter.
    Second, the chicken-eggs example exhibits a polar (material-biological) relationship: the egg is a product of the chicken, and the chicken is a "product" of the egg.
    Third, the ETB defines the relationships between the relevant entities as listed in No.6. Everyone can recognize in which respect and to what exent an entity is "separated" from any other entity, or in which respect and to what extent it is connected with any other entity. There is no need to any further explanation.

    10) At the end of your comment, Bill, you said: "From what I have read of your book, concepts that link your abstract metaphysical postulates (levels, manners) to observable phenomena are lacking, so that the theory is "under determined" by the facts you adduce in support of it (this is a common failing of much scientific endeavor, though).
    This is not true, and you must know it, since I already have recommended you to read the statement of the German theorist of science, W. Stegmüller, as cited in the ETVG book before the Contents (
    All visual "observables" are to be found in the ETVG, not any in the ETB. The ETB is full of "abstract theoretical concepts", parts of them being also in the ETVG. (See also above No. 6)

  17. I would like to make two points in reply to your comments Lothar. I see now that you are trying to refer to the "psychic functions." It would help to give an example of one that is not reducable to something that can be accomplished by a computer or a brain; otherwise I see no need to postulate a third realm of existence here.
    My second point involves your claim that phenomenal visual experience is not comparable with such things as retinal images or photographs. I disagree in that I hold that they are both spatially extended, and thus can be compared with respect to topologic and metric properties. I am not a panpsychic and thus do not hold that the material has a psychic aspect to it, and thus I do not hold that the two realms can be compared in all respects. However I,and I believe also John, hold that the phenomenal realm is spatially extended, and thus that its spatial properties can be compared with such physical structures as retinal images and various types of photographs.

  18. I agree with Bob that an example here might be most helpful, Lothar, to illustrate why this rather fanciful system you describe is necessary to understand phenomena. Perhaps it will seem more necessary if we can see evidence of its explanatory power for perception.

    In response to Bob's point above, I would reiterate what I said when he initially posted his posting on visual distortions: Whereas one can see retinal images or photographs as objects in the visual world, one cannot similarly regard the visual world itself as an object, short of assuming an Archimedean point outside it, much as one might like to contemplate the universe in the same way. The observer is, in some sense, inside the system, not outside it--at least, so it appears. There is no other comparable relationship in space in which the observer seems to be part of the space itself.

    Therefore the metrizing of visual space is, in some sense, something that is done within the system, because it depends upon comparing different observation points. There is no observer-less visual space--nor, perhaps, any observer-less physical space, for that matter.

  19. I will give you some examples, Robert and Bill, the first one is given in following situation: imagine you have the three images A, B and C.
    Image A is a physical thing of the outside world , a black square, painted on a white paper, for example.
    Image B is the retinal image of A, if you are viewing A.
    Image C is the image you are visually experiencing when B is the retinal image of A.

    As you recognize, at first, all three images are spacially structured. The space of both A and B is a physical space whereas the space of C is a phenomenal space. The difference between both kinds of space is the following: The physical space is measurable, in millimeters, for example. The phenomenal space is not measurable, it can only be estimated.

    Second, you further must recognize that image B differs from A. This difference is ubiquitous because due to the fact that image B is an optical projection of A on the retina. However, the light rays have to pass a great number of nerve cells before reaching the retina. Thus the retinal image B of the square A is not a beautiful square as it has not at all the same square form as a photographic image of A. Its contours are not sharp but blurred, they are not built of straight lines rather bent and crooked, the contours do not connect exactly rectangularly, show even rounded edges and enclose a field which is inhomogene, all this against the "correct" form of the thing A.

    Third, you recognize that image C differs from B but - at the same time - C has the same form as A , from which B, on the other hand, differs. This first example is related to "normal" everyday perception, i.e. when you see this black square A under "normal" lighting and at a minimum time of about 200 msec. In this case, C has the same form as A although it deviates from retinal image B, and B deviates from A. Early scientists who knew only few of the retinal image as the basis of visual experience did not have any problem with subjectively seeing the thing's form A when this thing objectively has the form A. Today we call this world view "naive realism" because we know that our visual experiences (C) are "caused" more immediately by the retinal image (B) than by the thing (A) of the outside world.

    Every theory of visual perception has to answer the general question: How can the structure of phenomenal visual space (C) be accounted for in comparison with the structure of the retinal image's physical space (B)?

  20. Now I am giving you a number of further examples. See at first the nine drawings in the upper row of Figure 6-4 in "1.Wohlfahrts discovery" ( ). In these examples, there is one and the same thing A (="target") from which one and the same retinal image B is built. But this retinal image B does not lead to only one experience C as in the first example, but it leads to nine Cs (C1 to C9), and only the ninth C shows the same form as thing A. All other C-images (C1 to C8) differ not only from the always same retinal image B (in any way) but also from the always same target (A). The nine Cs form an eight-step sequence of visual percepts of increasing complexity up to the target's form A of the "end-percept" C9.

    Every theory of visual perception has to account for these experimental results as well. Thus it has to account for the fact that the very small target is experiened as a circlelike blurred spot and that the same but somewhat enlarged target is to see as depicted in No 2 (=C2), and why a further enlargement leads to the image C3 and so on up to the "veridical" image C9.

    Figure 6-5 in shows an actualgenetic sequence as a theoretical combination of Wohlfahrt's series with Butzmann's procedere. While Wohlfahrt began with a very small figure which he enlarged step by step, Butzmann first presented his figures far out in the periphery of the visual field, and then moved them toward the focus. While Wohlfahrt showed how the contour becomes complexer (Figure 6-4), Butzmann showed also how the infield becomes complexer.

    If considering all former studies of that time, one can "predict" the possible actualgenetic development of the "thing" X's visual images toward greater complexity as to see in Figure 6-1 of

    Since these examples stem from Part 6 of the ETVG, and the "gestalt factors" governing the experience have already been introduced into the previous Parts, you scarcely can understand the text. But now you have a certain idea of how perception works, though.

  21. Bill has recommended to read your "nutshell"-posting, John. This seems to be an abridged version of your monistic/dualistic world view. If at all, I would prefer to read the original version. Would you please call me where I can find it?

    You have called this my (third) posting referring to four kinds of world views to be "very interesting". It would be helpful to know in which respect you find it interesting although my world view differs from your own one to a great extent.

    You seem to be the only one who has read my (first) posting on the "Evolutionary Theory of Being" (ETB). You have found a passage of my text that prompted you to a criticism. But I could explain it to be a misunderstanding´caused by an unclear formulation of my text. Since you did not criticize anything else I was inclined to believe that you would accept all my other statements. However, if I read the "nutshell"...... Thus I would be very interested in getting to know what your are thinking about the ETB

    I have been successless since half a century in searching a theory of visual perception which is able to explain visual (phenomenal) space as the ETVG and its predecessors are able to do. Thus I have asked both Bill and Robert to call me such a theory besides the ETVG (to which my second posting has been referred), but none of them has answered my question. Perhaps you can call me such a theory with which I could compare the ETVG? Such a comparison would be possible far from all discussion on the general world view that might lay behind a special theory.

  22. Thanks very much, Lothar, for taking the time to provide these useful illustrations and explanation, and for the link to the relevant corresponding text in your book (which I had scanned previously with much interest).

    As I see it, the problem is with the reality status of "A" above, for reasons that I have given here before: It would seem to entail what I have been calling "third person naive realism," because the *comparison* between percepts that results in the claim of veridicality is something that itself takes place *between percepts* and thus *within* the visual world, not between it and the physical world. What is being called the "physical" or "objective" black square is, in fact, itself a percept (if, though, a percept shared by observers).

    So whether there really is something physical that possesses any of the characteristics of "C" is quite debatable IMO, given quantum mechanics. In other words, I would say that "A," "B," and "C" are all different percepts, if from different vantage points.

    The idea of a "retinal image" has itself been called into question, because the only retinal image as such is something that itself can be *seen,* as in the first optogram observed by Wilhelm Friedrich Kühne in 1878 on a rabbit retina. To assume that something like it is going to the brain is naive realism, because *one has to be able to perceive that image in order to call it such,* thus begging the question of the nature of perception all over again.

    It is for these reasons that I have said that naive realism does not apply to the perceptual world, only to the (putative) relationship between it and the physical world, and that what are really epistemological problems are sometimes misconstrued as ontological ones. Does that makes sense?

  23. David, my guess is that the "cure" for too much philosophy in the days of Leibniz (ergo, before Wittgenstein) would be laudanum--and/or brandy.

  24. Lothar, I agree with you (and, I guess against Bill), that your images A and B are physical and possess an independent existence apart from anyone's perceptions. I am a physical realist, and you might want to take a look at David and my website for how I try to handle the various paradoxes for physical realism that are sometimes cited from quantum mechanics. I also agree that image C is a reconstruction from B (the retinal image) and not immediately at least from A. I agree with both you and Bill that the concept of a retinal image is a bit messy, but still everything going on there is physical. Also, since I think that visual space has a holistic spherical structure, if image C is made to cover most of our visual space (i. e., if image A is very large or we view a smaller square close up) I think that it does possess some of the same structure as image B (e. g., that the angles of the square are obtuse and that the sides correspond to great circles of a sphere).One thing that I fail to see though is why anything that you mention here requires a third realm of existence (your realm of psychic functions) since the brain (which presumably works on information from B to construct the phenomenal image C) is,as far as I can tell, completely physical.

  25. Sometimes I despair about this blog, because no one seems willing to question their believes, which is something that I see as being an integral part of our purpose here.

    Bob has now restated his belief in physical realism, in spite of overwhelming evidence from quantum mechanics that a "picture" anything like the one we perceive cannot be attributed to physical reality, that visual space is spherical (in spite of weak or quite ambiguous evidence supporting that contention), and insists that the retinal image and the square patch on the wall are, after all, physical things. Just how is their "physicality" established except by a belief in physical realism, Bob?

    I can only repeat my main point above: What anyone is calling "veridical" perception is still perception. Just what that veridical percept corresponds to outside the perceptual world is a big unknown--even to physics. What you are describing above, Lothar, are fundamentally relations between percepts, not between physical things.

  26. The relationship to which I am referring especially is that between "A" and "B," which according to my analysis are also known only through perception. A scientist *sees* the retinal image on the rabbit retina, and *sees* the square black patch on the wall. One has no direct access to anything other than their perceptions of those things, unless one believes in naive realism.

  27. I actually sympathize with what you say concerning lack of progress in the blog Bill, but I suspect that this goes with the territory when people have strong commitments to their positions, as I think both you and I do. Regarding physical realism, this is not just an assumption of mine, but I hold it because of what I think is its extremely strong explanatory value. It is tied to empiricism, but by means of the hypothetico-deductive method of the physical science, via which theoretical entities are posulated, and then tested against predictions which have empirical consequences.Certainty is never gained here, since there might always be other theories with the same empirical consequences.
    Regarding quantum mechanics, you are right about the predominant (i. e. Copenhagen interpretation) but there are also minority positions out there, including mine, which are realist. If we are going to get into that subject though I suggest at least a new section to this blog, if not entirely new blog.

  28. What you have not stated, Bob, is whether your commitment to physical realism precedes or was occasioned by studying Q.M.? Perhaps at this point, either here or as a new posting, you could explain just how you define "reality" especially with reference to perception?

    The word "veridical" as it is used in the study of perception, and as Lothar is using it, seems to presuppose some form of realism. But what form? That is, for something to *be* veridical entails a commitment to some form of realism, does it not?

  29. I think that I first became committed to physical realism around the 7th grade when I realized how different physical color was from perceived color. Until then I think that I was a naive realist. I only learned about quantum mechanics in college, and I think that I have ever since been puzzled as to how squaring a psi function results in a probability and what the status of these probabilities are. So, no my commitment to physical realism was not occasioned by studying quantum mechanics, but I have been trying hard to interpret quantum mechanics in a manner that is consistent with physical realism.
    I use "reality" to refer to the existence of something. Since I hold a representational account of perception I am both committed to the reality of phenomenal percepts and to the physical objects which I hold indirectly cause them and which they in some sense represent.

  30. What is "physical color," Bob?

    Of course, Einstein has often been paraphrased about God playing a dice game with the universe with respect to his own disbelief in the Copenhagen interpretation of Q.M.

    But the question remains, Bob, *what* reality is it that you are committed to in saying that you are a "physical realist"?

    Some months ago now both Ray Tallis and I argued (much as William Gooddy did back in the 1950s) that the notion of "representation" assumed in representationalism won't fly. Did you not buy those objections to the idea(I don't recall your countering them)?

  31. I am afraid that I was not looking at what Tallis had to say at the time, but I will try to take a look at it.
    Regarding the concept of physical color, I think that the situation is something like the physical reconstructions of other concepts for secondary qualities such as heat and sound. A word is taken over from ordinary language and a rational reconstruction is made from it concerning properties of physical stimuli. In the case of color several distinct rational reconstructions are possible, which makes the subject a bit messy and ambiguous. For example a dispositional sense can be given in terms of dispositions for physical objects to absorb and reflect various wavelengths of light (in which case objects are colored in the dark) or it can be given in terms of what wavelengths actually are being absorbed and reflected at a given time (in which case objects are not colored in the dark). Sometimes light itself is characterized as possessing a color (determined by its wavelength) which is a distinct sense, and sometimes the physical process involves refraction or even diffraction and not reflection.
    With respect to your second question at a minimum I would say that a physical realist is committed to the existence of atoms apart from perception. I don't know as there is that widespread agreement among physical realists about what set of more elementary physical particles they hold exist, but I think that a commitment to the existence of atoms is a minimum.

  32. Bob, are you familiar with the Land effect (the so-called Retinex theory)?

  33. I think that I've heard of this Bill, although I certainly don't claim any particular expertise on color perception. If your point is that any correlations between perceived color and physical color are pretty messy, and that to some extent they involve what other colors are being perceived at the same time, then I completely agree.

  34. There is no such thing as physical color, Bob, that is the whole point of Land's research.

  35. I must be missing something here Bill. Perhaps it would help if you said something about how you are using the term "physical color."

  36. I am assuming that under the rubric of "physical color" you are including the physical correlates of what we ordinarily (perceptually) call "color," right? Is it not then the case that at best, given the Land effect and color constancy in general, that color cannot be considered an attribute of physical objects (however so defined)? Or are you suggesting by the term "physical color" some sort of analogical relationship between reflectance and (perceived) color?

  37. The problem is one of ascription and physical reductionism, I think. For so long students in physics were taught that there was no color in objects or light, just different wavelengths, etc. I don't think isolating reflectance as a parameter has really dealt with the ontological question, but only brushed it away by eliminating it (a la Churchland).

  38. Returning to the question of representation as well, I wonder how it figures (or doesn't figure) in Lothar's scheme? I, for one, would ask, what is a dream is a representation of? What is a hallucination a representation of?

  39. Bill, you are right: all believes are questionable. To avoid any "despair" for the future, I suggest, first, to limit the truth of all our believes and statements to be valid "for the time being". Thus we have the opportunity to change them later (with explaining the change, of course). In this sense, I am limiting all my former believes and statements in both the ETB and the ETVG.
    By the way, Bill, have you ever thought about applying your belief on principally questioning of all believes to your belief on principally questioning of all believes?

    After I have questioned all my believes mentioned in the ETB and ETVG, I know now that all my statements might be either true or false. If they are false they cannot explain the structure of visual space. Thus I simply decided to assume (for the time being) that they are true. This assumption has already enabled me to develop the ETVG. So I fully agree with Robert's scientific position when he emphasizes both the "extremely strong explanatory value" of his scientific thoughts and the "hypothetico-deductive method of the physical science, via which theoretical entities are postulated, and then tested against predictions which have empirical consequences." Exactly this has been the procedere when I developed the ETVG.

    I suggest, second, to end all unnecessary philosophical discussions, e.g. about ontology/epistemology, or monistic-dualistic-trialistic-quadrialistic, or naive / representative realism. Such a discussion is - at least at the present time - unnecessary as all these topics are not directly related to visual perception. Only after a theory has been developed it might be senseful to say, it is a dualistic or trialistic one and so on. But if we begin thinking on the ground of a certain belief we should be conscious that our thinking possibly leads to a wrong direction and we possibly do not find the right ideas to solve the problems.

    Science should begin with facts. Let us therefore focus on concrete visual facts und attempt to find relevant relations between them. Let us also search, if necessary, for new scientic terms that suggest as little as possible any misleading sense.

    Robert, I agree (for the time being) with you when you say in respect to the retinal image (B): "Everything going on there is physical". I agree (for the time being) if you say, that "the brain (which presumely works on information from B to construct the phenomenal image C) is ....completely physical". I accept that you do not understand why a non-physical (non-material) and non-conscious realm should ly between matter and consciousness. At the moment there is neither need nor any possibility to understand it as you do not know enough the ETVG. Moreover, you will be even able to understand the most important aspects of visual perception without knowing something of that questionable "third realm". (I trust you will understand it better after having got to know the ETVG better.)

  40. Since the ETVG is the only and even highly elaborated theory of visual perception which is available I suggest to focus our discussion on this theory. I do not expect that you read the entire theory at the beginning but as a member of the "Structure of Visual Space Group" I expect the other group members to be at least interested in the structure of visual space which is the main topic also of the ETVG. Thus I am waiting for their responses to "The old problem" ( ) and to "The new way to solve the problem" ( If questions arise, ask the author!

  41. Robert, you claimed, "that visual space has a holistic spherical structure, if image C is made to cover most of our visual space (i. e., if image A is very large or we view a smaller square close up)". My example of images A, B and C was valid "for the time being". Now the time has come to change it so that you do not need to limit image C to covering "most" of our visual space. According to the ETVG, image C covers our total visual space as it does not only consist of the dark square figure but also of this figure's bright surroundings. According to the ETVG this square is called a "figure" consisting of both a "contour" and an "infield" which is enclosed by the contour. For all perception scientists in the world including the gestalt psychologists only such "figures" are thought to be real "percepts" which they are experimentally and theoretically dealing with, if any. According to the ETVG, however, not only the figure itself but also the "outfield" round about the figure belongs to the percept. Thus a visual percept is thought to be an "infield-contour-outfield-system"("ico-system"), and this both theoretically and experimentally. Some authors mention that field round about the figure, but without assigning any theoretical or experimental relevance to it.

    According to the ETVG, infield and outfield are polarly related to each other as is realized in some "gestalt laws". One of them is expressed by:
    "The smaller the outfield the larger the infield." or vice versa.
    The first part of such a law refers to the objective (physical) size measurement, the second part refers to the súbjective (phenomenal) size estimation. This gestalt law is realized in the so called "moon illusion", for example: The full moon at the zenith appears in a certain size. The same moon of the same objective size but "lying" near the horizon appears clearly larger. What is the reason? When the moon is at the zenith, it is surrounded by a very large (sky-) outfield, but the outfield of the horizon-moon is only half as large, due to its being bounded on one side by the silhouette of the landscape, the "horizon". According to the law mentioned, when the moon's outfield is smaller the moon's infield appears larger.

    Instead to say "the field appears larger/smaller" you can say : "the spatial extensions within the field appear larger/smaller". This interpretation is suitable for applying to another illusion which follows another gestalt law:
    "The smaller the infield the smaller the infield".
    This law is realized in the Müller-Lyer-illusion The wing-in form has a smaller infield than the wing-out form. Thus all spatial extensions (e.g. line lengths) within the infield appear smaller in the wing-in form than in the wing-out form.

  42. The whole conception of the "moon illusion" is irrelevant to how the moon is perceived in the perceptual world, because it quite simply *is* bigger *in the perceptual world.* The moon illusion only refers to relations between percepts and a putative physical object (the "physical" moon) that, it is claimed, does not change size. So probably the whole conception of so-called illusions of this type is a bit "screwy" as it stands, because it presupposes naive realism, i.e., that one is directly seeing the moon in the sense of being directly in contact with the physical object.

    Therefore, to restate my point, Lothar, when you are referring to relations between A, B, C, I am claiming that you are talking about relations between percepts, not between physical things and phenomenal things. As I said, there is no retinal image without someone seeing it (.e.g, a scientist), nor is there sensory neurophysiology that is not also seen (if indirectly through imaging technology), and the only thing we have direct access to is our perceptual (phenomenal) world, which does not, in turn, then see itself--paradoxical as that sounds. The "subject of cognizance" (cf. Schroedinger, whom I quoted months ago) is never really removed from scientific or "physical" observations, even if such an "observation" consists solely of reading a numerical output from a scientific instrument or computer. As Schroedinger noted, such data is of no use to science unless the reading is made sooner or later by a scientist.

  43. I am in sympathy with Bill Rosar's position at this point, even though I don't fully understand it. Is it a kind of agnostic phenomenalism? Relations among perceptions are only relations among perceptions and signify no more? Okay, I get that. Assuming a causal reality "behind" perceptions is epistemologically unwarranted, it seems to me, without first making explicit several other foundational, pretheoretic assumptions.

    But then I wonder about Bill's phenomenalism, why would someone who does not take relations among perceptions as evidence for a mind-independent ontology, be perplexed by the structure of visual space? The problem would seem to be simply descriptive. The structure is exactly what it appears to be. If it appears to a fixed gaze that visual space is a half sphere wrapped around the head, then so be it. There should be no consternation about Euclidean space, which clearly does not conform to the direct experience of perception and therefore describes some abstraction other than the perceptual world.

    Is the problem actually not about the structure of visual space, but about what assumptions we must make in order to have a conversation with some sense that we are talking about roughly the same things?

    Bill Adams (Psychology, former student of James Gibson, but no longer a believer).

  44. Welcome back, Bill Adams! And I welcome your questions, all of them good ones. I am not so much advocating phenomenalism as describing the state of affairs relative to some version of the causal theory of perception--and this in the context of what Lothar has been describing from experimental data. What I am claiming is that what is being described are relations among percepts, one of which is established as the standard to which others are preliminary or not fully actualized versions, rather than what seems claimed, which is that the "veridical" version is somehow representing something more real or closer to some physical reality that the others. That's my only point in saying that Lothar is really talking about relations between percepts, whether between a scientist looking at an image on a retina, or seeing a black square on a wall, or talking about the latter in the conceptual framework of visual space--they're still only percepts. I am making no claims about their physical counterparts as such.

    In creating the notion of physical space it has been my impression that certain characteristics of perceptual space have been omitted--not the least of which are qualities such as color, which in visual space is the carrier of spatial differences, not the product of them.

    In addition to that, I have come to doubt claims that visual space is non-Euclidean in any strict sense, and that claims to the contrary are not based on perception alone, but by trying to fit to the "shape" of visual space forms of curvature (sphere, hyperbola) which, nonetheless, are things we mainly know only by seeing them.

    In other words, what I have been trying to show is visual) perception seems to be recursive in its characteristics: As we try to somehow get beyond it, we may really just be going around in circles in the sense that the qualities we are ascribing to it are themselves derived from from it (ergo, circular reasoning--no pun intended), not from something physical (I'm not sure how good a job I have done of articulating all this just now--please feel free to kick me if you like!)

  45. Thank you for that clarification, Bill. I agree that "veridicality" entails some deep and murky assumptions, so I understand your "stance" of phenomenal relativism on that point.

    I have not yet had time to read the source papers that Lothar points to, but from the thread's context, I think it is clear that complex assumptions are being made by all discussants about the nature of scientific empiricism, perhaps ones that not everyone shares with equal enthusiasm.

    I would like to tease out just two points for consideration, on what constitutes the standard of a straight line.

    One issue is what we believe about scientific realism and its perception. Scientific observation is not "naive" in the sense of "naive realism," but it is what Husserl called "natural attitude" observation, meaning it is contained by a context of unexamined, or possibly, examined and accepted beliefs.

    The carpenter's chalk line, under this idea, is assumed to be the directly observed outcome of a mind-independent physical operation. It is repeatable on demand, involves minimal language-based conceptualization, and enjoys good consensus among concurrent observers. It is therefore a reasonable standard for a veridical perception of straightness.

    The critical factor about this operational definition is that biological and cultural similarity among observers allows us each to presuppose the "sameness" of our (introspectively apprehended) percept and our judgment about it. Thus we each can confirm the mind-independent straightness of the line. (The 20,000 Frenchmen can't be wrong argument).

    This (usually tacit) basis for the ostensive definition cannot literally be correct, since each observer is embodied uniquely in time and space and cannot possibly experience "the same" percept. We know that. However, we gloss those differences in the face of extremely low variance among reports to assume and then reify a phenomenon of mind-independent straightness. It is an illegitimate, but necessary falsehood at the very foundation of empiricism that makes science possible.

    Jerry Fodor has called this maneuver "methodological solipsism," recognizing that all perception is, of necessity, private, even solipsistic. Yet public consensus (and even conversation) is still possible when inter- and intra- personal reports of the perceptual phenomena are very high. That's the only reason Fechner's Law is a "law."

    This is all acceptable to me, all, that is, except the very final step of presuming the mind-independent reality of the straight line. I stop short of that and say it is simply a consensus judgment, no more.

    Highly reliable consensus about perceptual reports is the foundation of science. If the scientists want to believe they are "directly observing what is really out there," then bless their little Kantian hearts. It amounts to the same thing, practically, for the purpose of scientific definition of "facts" whether or not we assume realism and a causal theory of perception. Consensus realism is as real as real ever gets, and that's good enough for me.

    This idea has probably been covered more properly in the philosophy of science literature. My point here is just to suggest that Lothar's assumptions about the meaning of veridicality and Bill R.'s are not incommensurable. For purposes of natural attitude science, they are compatible. I hope that makes some kind of sense.

    I am going to come back in another post to make my second point about the straightness of a line.

  46. Here is my second comment about the criteria for the straightness of a line, and it is more of a question than a comment, really, and I don't have a good grip on what I am trying to say.

    But basically, the question is, "What the heck is a line, anyway?"

    My proposal is that a line is purely an intellectual abstraction from perceptual experience, and that lines occur neither in nature nor among natural perceptual phenomena.

    This idea derives from a discussion I will never forget, with J.J. Gibson and another student (Phillip Kaushall, who possibly worked with Ramachandran for a while. The three of us sat up almost the whole winter night in front of my fireplace wrestling with a similar question, and finally came to the conclusion that there were no edges: Edges do not occur in nature. It was exhilarating, but when I considered this conclusion in the cold dawn, I felt like William James discovering (after a session of nitrous oxide) that "Higgamus, hoggamus, men are monogamous."

    Ah, those were the days!

    Seriously though, the point was that edges, and lines, are intellectual abstractions, possibly even culturally acquired and constructed, based on unexamined experience of pictures, not ecologically valid environments and the failure to distinguish between those two contexts.

    Gibson struggled for years with the paradoxes of pictorial perception. He came up with a few ideas that I'm not sure he was completely committed to , but he did not, to my knowledge, ever arrive at a theory of pictures. He couldn't even arrive at a definition of what a "picture" is, nor even an "image." (and that included the so-called "retinal image.")

    But I think we agreed, or at least, I can say that I understood, and now believe, that a "line" is a phenomenon resident in the world of pictures, not in the world of ecological perception where animals appreciate the behavioral affordances of their environments, not pictorial abstractions of them.

    In such discussions, Gibson would inevitably revert to talking about "animals" to de-privilege the linguistically socialized intellect and emphasize pre-conceptual perceptual experience. (in which lines and edges do not occur).

    Of course there are neurophysiological definitions of lines and edges, as we know, and knew then, from e.g., the work of Hubel and Weisel. But Gibson would have none of that. Questions about the structure of visual experience had to be addressed, in his thinking, on the basis of direct phenomenology.

    But anyway, this is not supposed to be an exigesis of Gibson's thinking, even if that were possible. I am only trying to suggest, for this thread, that the question of the straightness of a line, may be a question about pictorial space, not natural perceptual experience OR real-world "physical" phenomena. And until we have a consensus theory of pictures, we are going to have trouble disentangling discussions about linear vs curvilinear worlds.

  47. One point about discussions of the retina which have been occurring in this post, is that I think that it would help a lot to distinguish between viewing a retinal image (as Descartes did by looking through the eyeball of an ox) where the retinal image is itself the object of perception, and talking about a retinal image as part of a causal process linking a spatially distant object of perception with our visual experience of that distant object. I interpreted Lothar as referring to the retinal image as a physical process in this latter sense, whereas I think Bill may be talking about the first sense.

  48. I was wondering when Bob was going to bring up that distinction, because it highlights a problem that has come up here again and again, and that is what I would call the illegitimate conceptual transference of non-dispositional properties to disposal ones, as in Bob's reference to "physical color" and in this case ascribing something perceptual (an image) to a physical process (physiological optics). This was nicely summarized by Robert Yost in his paper (which I have quoted from previously) "Some Philosophical Problems of Perception" (in the 1st volume of the "Handbook of Perception," 1974) with reference to "Dispositional properties, that is, powers, capacities, susceptibilities, and the like," namely, that "it is logically impossible for [a person] to observe that a thing has a dispositional property; yet many people claim to observe the dispositional properties of things." So to hypostacize part of the physical process above Bob describes above as an "image" is an example of this common enough mistake, and is attributable no doubt by the fact that images on the retina can indeed be seen. But seeing them is a result of the process of perception itself and therefore cannot also then be put back towards the beginning of that causal sequence. This is a further example of what I am calling "third person naive realism" because it stems from the spurious conclusion that one is seeing part of the causal process of perception--if on a cow's (or rabbit's) retina.

  49. Perhaps we need a separate post on the subject of dispostional properties, since there is a lot to cover there. If the properties are just analyzed in terms of conditionals, such as what normal observers would observe in normal conditions (such as when viewed under sunlight), then I agree that there may be problems.I am no expert on the literature here, but I have seen attempts to try to ground dispositions in physical properties; e. g., for physical color into absorption and emission spectra of molecules, and the causes of these spectra grounded in terms of molecular electron orbitals. Also, in ordinary language, it at least seems to me that we do at least sometimes use a dispositional sense of physical color, such as in talking about the green paint in a can still being green paint when it is not being illuminated by light. I think that there are other uses of physical color as well, for example in the case of someone in physical optics talking about "green light" from a laser, which can be grounded out in terms of the wavelength of the light. Clearly more needs to be said on this subject if we are going to pursue it though, and I don't think that I am the right person to do it, since my knowledge of the topic is quite limited.

  50. Commenting on Bill Adams' points, calling the scientific view a "natural attitude" as he says Husserl does strikes me as very ironic, because I cannot imagine anything less natural than the scientific view. I wonder what Husserl means then by "natural" in this context? If anything the scientific *attitude* is quite artificial, especially as exemplified by the role of observation in the so-called "scientific method" (or "hypothetico-deductive" model), which admits only a certain class of observations, namely, those that are repeatable. Need I say that many things in everyday life are not repeatable but unique.

    Of course the notion of "public consensus" only begs the question--the question of solipsism. If our perception is unique then surely consensus is also solipsistic (I quoted Wittgenstein on this very point here not too long ago)? "Public consensus" implies that we can, after all, somehow get outside our perceptual world and know a truth than transcends our experience. So I don't think Fodor goes far enough (or, in other cases, goes the wrong direction).

    Similarly we are reifying "biology" and "culture" as existing in some immutable way independently of ours senses, thus falling into the same trap, thinking that the "consensus" as to what constitutes them transcends individual experience and individual consciousness. How can that ultimately be the case?

    Relativity seems to have been Einstein's way of dealing with this problem, taking into account all possible observations (or points of view) in achieving (or so he thought) a relativity-invariant universe by which, I think, he was smuggling the old Archimedian point in through the back door.

  51. Bill Adams asks, "What the heck is a line, anyway?" A good question. But I'm not sure the answer Bill offers in terms of pictorial representation is the most relevant context or analysis.

    Let's consider the origin of the word "line" itself for starters. I find that word origins often proves helpful in understanding fundamental concepts--as long as we do not slip into the etymological fallacy of reducing other senses of a word to the original one(s). For all intents and purposes "line" originally meant a fibre or cord, seemingly made of flax. Thus a straight line would be a taught one or one made straight as in a plumb line, both used as measures of straightness and, by extension, shortest distance.

    So apparently rather than deriving from something pictorial as Gibson supposed, a line was something used for measuring in the (visual) world. The chalk line created by a taught string then is merely a means of transferring the straightness of it to a flat surface for a variety of practical purposes (cutting, building, etc.). It follows that the *appearance* of such a taught cord is very close to what we mean by a "straight line." It categorically looks different from other lines, because we can say with the "naked" eye that a line "looks" almost straight, if not straight. At what point and in which culture straightness achieved in this manner was discovered who can say, but surely it can be observed in nature in the creation of straight edges as a result of geological cleavage, for example, thus a "straight edge" as seen in rocks and crystals.

    Why Gibson would not have taken these things into account I cannot say, but straightness is hardly anything arbitrary, nor intrinsically cultural, because it can be seen in the natural world (i.e., the visual world). How then does it "not exist"?

    So I would counter that rather than being derived/abstracted from pictures, the notion of both lines and edges (and thus straightness) derives from our perception of nature itself.

  52. Hi Bill,

    I probably shouldn't have invoked Husserl, as I am no expert on his thought. However, my understanding of his technical term, "natural attitude" is that it refers to a context of pretheoretic beliefs and assumptions in which an observation is embedded.

    In the phenomenological attitude, we are supposed to examine, understand, but hold in abeyance, our commitment to to that context.

    So for example, in the phenomenological attitude, we easily discern the difference between perception of a cup and memory of a cup, because those two mental percepts occur in different contexts. But we are not necessarily committed to that distinction and must consider and discover whether the mental phenomenon is perceptual or mnemonic (or both). (And that involves noetic analysis, which is a different can of worms).

    All I meant by saying that that scientific observation is not "naive," but "natural attitude," is that it it typically does NOT sufficiently question the context of its observations, in which realism is assumed and the subjectivity of the observer is suppressed, controlled, or overlooked.

    And as you rightly point out, most everyday observations do not qualify as scientific observations for multiple reasons.

    My conclusion is that appeal to scientific observation is not a good argument for the veridicality of a percept, since scientific observation has only a limited domain of applicability, and even within its defined domain, is limited by its own "natural attitude" assumptions and presuppositions.

    Bill Adams

  53. Bill,
    Here is a reply to your resistance to the notion of a consensus-based definition of realism and perceptual veridicality (over the correspondence theory).

    You rightly raise the concern of solipsism, since, if each perception is necessarily unique to a spatiotemporally unique individual, then surely consensus can only be likewise a solipsistic construction. That would be true if our monads really had no windows.

    However, I think there is sufficient evidence now to suppose that we can, and do, and must get outside our own skulls, in a way that makes communication and consensus about perception possible. That magic is called intersubjectivity.

    I'm afraid Husserl is again "the man" on this topic, but rather than go down that rabbit hole, let me just say that ultimately, he simply accepts intersubjectivity as a phenomenological given. As far as I can tell, he offers no explanation of it. Other philosophers have done the same, such as Levinas and Buber.

    There is now also a fairly solid body of evidence from cognitive psychology that also affirms the reality and robustness of intersubjectivity (e.g., see Bråten, S.(Ed.). (2007). On Being Moved: From Mirror Neurons to Empathy. Philadelphia: John Benjamins North America. If you are interested, cut and paste this monster URL to see my review of that volume:

    Consensus, and even language and civilization itself, depend on intersubjectivity. While it is physically mediated between individuals, it is not exclusively a perceptual phenomenon nor a cognitive inference. It allows us to wiggle out of our monadic bubble and knock on a neighbor's window.

    Bill Adams

  54. I swear this is my last post today!

    Concerning Gibson's suggestion that lines originate conceptually from pictorial origins and not from the natural environment:

    The language does not facilitate this discussion because our appreciation of pictures is so completely overlearned that it may be impossible to discuss it coherently.

    You said, Bill, that 'The chalk line created by a taught string then is merely a means of transferring the straightness of it to a flat surface.'

    But is that an adequate description of what happened? Was it really "straightness?" that was transferred, or was it chalk? The straightness of the taut cord and of the chalk are perceptual judgments, not a physical phenomenon that can literally be transferred from one physical medium to another. So this begs the question of straightness.

    It might be true that "originally," as far as the OED is concerned, a "line" was defined as a taut cord. Gibson acknowledged that in the world of pictures, it could also be "seen as" an edge, a crack, or a wire (this was in a Leonardo article -- I could dig up the reference if you need it). But the point was that the viewer was interpreting the pictorial phenomenon "as" a representation of the ecological natural one.

    It seems certain that our skill in using pictorial representations as idealizations of natural phenomena pre-dates the English language (e.g., the cave pictures at Lascaux).

    Eleanor ("Jackie") Gibson addressed this argument with some admittedly old evidence in her book, Principles of Perceptual Learning and Development, New York: Appleton Century Crofts, 1969. See, for example experiments by Hudson with perception of pictures by pre-industrialized people in Saharan Africa. Richard Gregory cited similar evidence concerning non-susceptibility of preindustrial people living in a built environment with few right angles, to the Muller-Lyer illusion. I don't think it would take much Googling to find current evidence to support the idea that most, if not all pictorial perception is conventional and learned.

    If that is so, then my proposal is that when we talk about "a line," we are inadvertently transferring our cognitive, socially learned understanding of pictorial space into interpretation of natural perceptual space, and that is, at least, a confusion.

    This proposal is also the basis for my analysis of the illusion of linear perspective in "real life," which you seemed to accept a few months back (see )

    Did we misunderstand each other even then?

    Bill Adams

  55. I am hoping that Lothar is reading this exchange and hasn't given up on us in despair thinking that we are not listening to him, don't understand his ideas, won't read his book, etc., because I, for one, find what he is saying quite interesting, even if I am seeming to respond to some of his points with a somewhat jaundiced eye.

    My point about "consensus reality" is that there is no means of checking the consensus except by perception. Even science seems to know that much with the whole rationale behind replicability of experiments, i.e., that anyone should obtain the same result under the same experimental conditions (etc.)--at least that's the claim, because what we don't hear about is that it doesn't always work that way in actual practice.

    Nothing personal, Bill, but I've never been able to stomach the curious locution "intersubjectivity," whoever it is that foisted it upon the world (Husserl, if recollection serves me right, though), because for the reasons above it strikes me as being an oxymoron: Either something is subjective or it isn't in my view. For me, the solution to the dilemma is to show that solipsism is false, but the question is how to do that. Perhaps all we need to say is that we--humans--most of the time seem to understand one another and seem to be living in the same world? I'm not sure what that buys us, though.

    I have already commented previously here before about the problem of "introjection," and how through faulty analysis we have enlarged the notion of subjectivity because of that far beyond what any ordinary sense of the word would entail. Through the "elimination of introjection," as Avenarius argued, we may get closer to reality, or what we mean by reality--and thus subjectivity.

    It follows that if we can speak of "objectivity" within the perceptual world, than we merely need to know what we mean by that, be clear about it, and leave it at that, what?

  56. Because I am fairly comfortable with Wittgenstein's idea of the "picture theory of language," i.e., that ordinary language contains something like a "picture" of the world (viz: perceptual world) and is adequate for forming logical propositions for that reason, I would respond that both are the case in the context of Wittgenstein's "aspect seeing," and that we can either see the chalk line as chalk, or we can see it as marking a straight line. The line quite simply is the straightness (even if that sounds superficially like an operational definition, rather it is what Hans Reichenbach called a "co-ordinative definition").

    Ultimately the buck has to stop somewhere as we probe the origins of words and through them the concepts behind them which, in terms, so frequently are based in perception. Clearly straightness is not an arbitrary concept but refers to something we see. I don't think we need to "learn" to see straightness at all, it is just there in the visual world, as I intimated with the *appearance* of the taught cord or chalk line. Straight things don't look curved. There's the difference. Do we really need to make the matter more complicated than that and, if so, why?

    So I do not see these conditions as being "perceptual judgments," because the perception itself is the standard which is being judged, not something external to perception. One could say that all one is doing is relating one perception of a straight thing to the memory of another straight thing. It is a purely denotative, associative process. The judgment just denotes the percept, and there is really no way of decomposing it into something more primitive, or any need to explain the *seeing* as learning, except in connecting what is contained in the concept with the perceptual thing (e.g., a class of things all of which look straight--surely this must be a priori any ideas about geometry or pictures).

    When J.J. Gibson refers to the "ecological" or "natural" thing, he is just referring to a perception in my opinion, because what he offered was a theory of perception within the perceptual world, rather than a theory of perception between the perceptual world and the physical one. Somehow he didn't quite get that that was what he was doing, though I think people tried to tell him without success.

    The problem with theories of enculturation (the famously unanalyzed and unscientific concept of "cultural conditioning") to explain perceptual phenomena is that they ultimately become question-begging as to the nature of culture--which goes unexplained, and is just taken for granted. Surely there is nothing in any human beings perceptual system except as caused by congenital defects that would prevent them from seeing a straight thing as being straight, even if such a perceptual discrimination is not made in a given culture.

    The problem with both Gibsons (and I admired them both very much) is that they did not really come to grips with the causal theory of perception, and for that reason, tended to lapse into the common version of naive realism (as all of us do) which I am calling "third person naive realism," something that greatly afflicted the behaviorists who eschewed introspection (or, the form of observation they erroneously chose to call introspection).

  57. Hi Bill,
    Thanks for your replies.
    You say, "Either something is subjective or it isn't..."

    But I have proposed just the opposite, with the concept of intersubjectivity. The only evidence, reason, or logic you adduce for your assertion (beyond the condition of your stomach) is that consensus can only be ascertained through perception.

    That argument is well-addressed in the literature. It's true that intersubjectivity is perceptually mediated, but it supervenes on perception as an innate, intrinsic "layer" if you will, the meaning of the perception. Thus, while sensation, at least, is necessarily solipsistic due to biological individuality, perceptual meaning is not. I cited scientific evidence to support that hypothesis.

    But if somebody has a gut level reaction to an idea, you can't make that horse drink. I understand that.

    You prefer the correspondence theory of perception, apparently rejecting other approaches out of hand, but that would be a personal preference not an argument. You do cite the authority of Wittgenstein, however, as I'm sure you know, Wittgenstein repudiated the picture theory of the Tractatus in the Investigations.

    Personally, I find that the correspondence theory has so many practical and philosophical problems that it is untenable.

    If the discussion comes down to personal preferences, then the good news is, that greatly shortens the length of the discussion!

    Bill Adams

  58. No, Bill, I didn't reject the notion of intersubjectivity out of hand at all, and gave my reason for the "mental cramp" I feel with it, believing it to be an oxymoron, and that the facts adduced in its support need to be formulated in a different way, that's all. Whether intersubjectivity is a valid concept is not an empirical proposition, so empirical evidence cannot validate it. It is a question of logic. If one is going to posit a notion of something being "intersubjective," then why not "interobjective" as well? Perhaps you see my point.

    Wittgenstein most certainly did not recant the picture theory of language at all, as it is still apparent in his last writings, posthumously published as "On Certainty."

  59. Bill, Wittgenstein's picture theory of language is considered an early correspondence theory; thus far I have not weighed in on correspondence theories. I have simply rejected the logically impossible concept of intersubjectivity which is not a logical requirement of a correspondence theory.


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