Treatise on Basic Philosophy vol. 5 – Parte 3


All animals endowed with a central nervous system, from ant to primate, seem able to communicate, i.e. to send a receive signal carrying some information (112) 

Communication, then, is a powerful tool of biological adaptation and social organization (113) 

Human languages … are conventional because there is no law of nature commanding to name things in any one way, or placing noun and adjective in one order than other (115) 

Learning to name the object by the symbol consists in connecting the two psychones or in establishing a third psychon for both… as for new sentences, they may result from the sequential activations of psychons for learnes wors, or from the spontaneous activity of psychones of new types (116) 

It seems that language and substantive knowledge are functons of different brain systems…furthermore, it is possible that syntax and semantics are in chrge of different psychons (118) 

The very existence of nonverbal or nonsymbolic thougt refutes the view, rater popular amog philosophers from Plato to Quine, that all thought is symbolic or verbal, so that (methodological consequence) the study of language exhaust that of thought. Once more, empirical reserch has killed philosophical speculation (118) <ej de tomar un cafe> 

Thought and language are then different. Butthey a coupled: learning to speak goes in hand with learning to perceive and to think, and each aids the other. (119) 

In general all cogitive abilities- and language is one of them- are linked, and linguistic dexteriry helps acquire and perfect other cognitiv skills (119) 

Both the neural universals and the cultural universals determine the ways we learn (120) 

Language, thought and reality 

There is no speech understanding without ideation, and ideation is in turn greatly facilitated by language (120) 

the set of all such connections can be summarized into a code that pairs thoughts (and images, feelings, etc.) with sound sequences or visual images (121) 

the acquisition of language folows that of knowledge: in the child perception, imagination and ideation precede verbal expression… What is true is that (a) once a language has been acquired it can greatly facilitate the learning of new ideas expressed or expressible in the language; (b) whereas sometimes thought appears to come in the wake of language, usually it is facilitated by the latter, which onoccasion replaces it; (c) no language con be learned except with the help of perception, feeling, imagination, and ideation. (121) 

<linguistic idealism strong sapir-whorf> that language is a world view imposing upon the speakers a particular way of looking at the world and therefore of perceiving and understanding it. (121) happens to be false. 

The language of every society is part of its culture and is determined by its overall level of advancement, in particular its fund of knowledge. A language is not a point of view, let alone a world view: it is a subject-matter and ideologically neutral- so much so that one and the same language can serve to express mutually incompatible world views (122) 

<first wittgensteins theory: language mirrors the world> A first objection to this thesis is that theories enriched with data, not languages, are supposed to represent the world… A second objection to te picture view of language is that it ignores thought. Actually we have to do with three different sets of objects: facts in te external world, thoughts (brain processes), and linguistic processes (122) 

language is both a brain tool and a social tool: it is a means for acquiring or creating knowledge as well as for transmitting it. To be sure not all knowledge is suitably communicatd by word: thus motr skills…is best learned by imitation. On the other hand all conceptual knowledge is communicabe and thus socializable (123) 

language must not be mistaken for knowledge (125) 


Chapter 4 – Perceiving 

Perception is the basic mode of cognition… higher vertebrades also attain conceptual knowledge, wich enriches, corrects, and guides perception as well as action (129) 

<casual theory> according to it all our perceptions are caused by external events and more or less mirror the latter. This view…is partially true. First, it ignores hallucination and illusion. Second, it ignores inhibition, which now obliterates, now enhances the effect of sensory stimulation. Third, it ignores that our expectations, values and hypothesis condition our perceptions. (129) 

cognitive success lies then not in reducing conception to perception (radical empirism) or in discarding the latter (radical rationalism) but in the alternation and confrontation of perception and conception. (130) 



Both the filtering out of stimuli and the enhacement of contrasts are results of inhibition. Thus when looking at a thing our success in seeing it depends not only upon the illumination of the external object but also upon the inhibition of the neurons in the visual cortex surrounding those that have been activated (130) 

We cannot distinguish without confusion more than about six different stimuli (131) 

The vertebrate nervous system is not so much an information processor as a sink. When impinging on the central nervous system some stimulation gets lost in the following ways: (a) all sense organs are highly selectiv filters…, (b) the excitation reaching a point in the nervous system is not propagated but circumscribed (lateral inhibition); (c) excitations are usually dampened; (d) the various internal and external stimuli often cancel each other (compensation). All this shows that the nervous system is not at the mercy of its external or even internal environment. (131) 

The subject, far from being a virgin film, has certain schemata… that allow her to perceive certain things rather than others, as well as to explore her environment searching for certain stimuli… in preference to others… In sum, the animal detects (some) environmental changes impinging upon it (i.e. senses stimuli) and perceives (“interpretes”) some of them (132) 

The neurosensors supply the raw material of our knowledge of the external and internal worlds (133) 



Difference between sensing (or recording) and perception (or elaboration of sensation)… Whereas sensation is localized in the neurosensors, perception is distributed throughout large regions of the brain. (133) 

We have no direct knowledge of the external world, for what is sensed is some event at the tip of a sensory nerve. The attribution of this event to an environmental item is a brain construction- either a perception or a hypothesis. (134) 

Perception integrates sensation, is acompanied by behavior (e.g. eye movement during scanning), and is guided or misguided by conception (134) 

The way we perceive depends on the way we behave and conversely… likewise what we perceive depends not only upon the stimulus object but also upon our knowledge and expectations. (134) 

Normally “concrete” words, such as ‘run’, trigger images, whereas “abstract” words, such as ‘commutativity’, trigger concepts or symbolic diagrams representing concepts. And when hearing or reading a new word either we form neither image nor concept, or we guess the correct image or concept from the function the word discharges in the sentence: i.e. we conjeture its meaning from certain contextual clues. In short, speech peception and reading are highly constructive processes involving sensing, perceiving, imagining, remembering, conjecturing, and expecting (134 / 5) 

The senses, far from giving us a picture of the world, give us only signs of it, which signs must be “interpreted” by the brain to become cognitive items. In short, we do not just copy or reflect but construct. However, this does not endorse idealism: we do not construct the world but only map it. (136) 


Mapping reality 

Perceptions, whether spontaneous or sought, do not pile up haphazardly but tend to get organized into systems. Such systems of perceptions are called cognitive maps or internal representations… these maps are continually updated, they summarize our perceptual knowledge of our surroundings and of ourselves. (146 / 7) 

In order to map or model its surroundings, an animal must possess a nervous system capable of (a) analyzing or breaking down into distinct units whatever it perceives; (b) recognizing types or kinds into which sut units can be grouped, and; (c) organizing what it perceives into a whole, i.e. synthesize or integrate the products of analysis and type recogniton (147) 

A cognitive map is a pattern of neural activity in perceptual and motor centers (147) 



Appearance and reality 

At birth we have only our perceptions to go by, so presumably we are born phenomenalists: only reflection upon our experience, together with education, turns us gradually into realists (150) 

We never see the world exactly as it is (150) 

The perceived or apparent intensity of a sensory stimulus is a power function of te physical or objective stimulus…. the Thouless index relates the real and the perceived (apparent) sizes of a visual stimulus object, as well as the projection of the latter on the retina. In sum, pure (sensory-motor) experience yields appearance not reality. If we wish to attain reality we must go beyond perception, into conception and action. (150) 

The perception of a fact is called a phenomenon or appearance. (150) 

Phenomena are facts of a special kind, namely fact occuring in nervous systems. So, phenomena are real. Consequently there is no opposition between appareance and reality…only the former is a perceptual, hence subjective, fact, whereas the latter are objective physical facts. (151) 

There is no way of gaining some deep knowledge about reality except by combining phenomena with hypothesis and processing both by reasoning…for perception is fallible and has a very restricted scope. Phenomena are central to knowledge for different and various reasons. First because they pose problem… second, because phenomena, when under control, test factual hypothesis. (153) 

“what science means by ‘verification’ is no more than this, that no object of conception shall be believe which sooner or later has not some permanent and vivid object of sensation for its term … Sensible objects are thus either our realities or the test of our realities. Conceived objects must show sensible effects or else be disbelieved … Strange mutual dependence this, in which the appearance need the reality in order to exist, but the reality needs the appearance in order to be know!” (James) (153) 

x exists only if…:* there are processes in x that produce, directly, or indirectly… some perceptible effect y* this effect is observed by any competent observer in similar circumstances* the link between x and y can be rationally justified (preferably in terms of law statements)(154) 

experience is no solid ground for knowledge but it is (metaphorically speaking) one of the two inputs to our cognitive apparatus- the other being reason. (strictly speaking all experience is either past or future, hence hardly a solid basis for anything) (155) 

we produce our own perceptions which are colored by our preconceptions, expectations, and social circumstances. All knowledge, whether perceptual or conceptual, is constructed- though not always deliberately (158) 

our perceptual limitations drive us not to constructing reality but to conceptualizing it (158)


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