Monday, April 20, 2015

Question on KQED forum - Philosopher John Searle on 'Seeing Things As They Are'

I sent this question on KQED forum today - Philosopher John Searle on 'Seeing Things As They Are'.

Can John comment on the separation of subject and object of perception and the truth about respective things. I always find that people confuse between the two and think of truth of the subject is same as the truth of the object. For example:

  • When a person reports a spiritual experience there are two parts - the perception in their brain (subject) which in IMO is different from the object - the thing they experience i.e. spirit (say!). I think no one will/can deny that the truth of the persons inner experience but that does not mean the spirit is true.
  • Or when a person perceives the red pigment... (perception of) the color is really the property of brain of the person experiencing the red color. The emission or reflection of a particular frequency of light is the property of the pigment. So IMO when people like Dan Dennett claim that the Colors are real (in "what is real?" debates etc)...what they really mean is that the distinct perception of a particular frequency which the person has learned to call red is real. Not the color red itself.
It is easy to see how the exact same perception (for scenarios above) inside brains can be induced using other mechanism and it happens all the time...drugs or pressing on the eyeball - sometime you see red color.

Part of the question was read by Michael Krasny but unfortunately not the whole question. Granted that the question is long. But then John changed it to his own notions of "subjective visual perception" describing "objective visual perception" and so on and did not comment on my central point about separation of subject and object component of an experience.

I sent this email to Michael Krasny:

Kudos on great program. As always :)

Thanks for asking my question during the program. But it came across as opposite of what I was saying/asking because John answered it by saying something like (paraphrasing) "...when one describes the subjective visual field, one ends up describing objective visual field..." (or some such). However I was suggesting something exactly opposite. In certain cases the description is really the description of subjective perception and is different from the objective reality out there.

This is my pet objection to reports like this in the Newsweek. Just because the doctor had a Afterlife experience (perception in his brain) does not mean Afterlife exists. It most likely was caused by traumatic state of his brain.And of course the fact that a doctor had that experience does not mean it is somehow MORE true. Sometimes this strategy is used to imply truth of something just because some person of good repute - say Einstein said it - well some times even Einstein has been wrong.

Awaiting his response.

The above has been my pet objection to articles like this.

You can hear the question followed by answer directly by matching the thumb with this red one: