Terrapin Station wrote:What we know isn't identical to how we know it. What you're wondering there isn't any different than saying something like, "Since we can only observe distant galaxies via telescopes, doesn't it follow that distant galaxies are telescopes?" And the answer, of course, would be that no--it doesn't follow that distant galaxies are telescopes in that case. Telescopes are the means by which we observe distant galaxies, but that doesn't imply that they're the same thing.
So yes, our knowing is subjective, but what we know is not. That's just like saying, "The telescope was made by Meade, but what I'm observing via the telescope was not made by Meade."
The analogy would be more that what we see through our telescopes is light on the visible spectrum. Yet we don't think distant galaxies are nothing but 'light on the visible spectrum'. I would argue (like Popper) that it isn't the case that we see the light then deduce that it comes from distant suns. Rather that we first form the theory that our sun is not unique and then look for empirical evidence.
(After all, there are many possible theories which could explain perfectly well why there are little lights in the night sky. That they are distant galaxies is just one.)
Me: I understood that by 'perception' you meant data from the environment prior to it being processed by our brains
No--why in the world would I mean that by perception? "Perception" isn't some controversial term. It conventionally refers to our mental processing of information that arrived at our brains via our sensory organs. There's no tradition of using "perception" to mean anything different than that. Sure, someone could be using "perception" in some highly unusual way, but you'd expect them to be aware of that and to announce that they're using it in some completely unusual way.
So, since we're talking about something that's ultimately a conscious brain phenomenon, it's subjective (per my definition of subjective, which isn't actually an unusual definition of that term).
As I've pointed out time and time again, NO ONE in philosophy of perception debates is arguing that we're not talking about perception. That is, no one is arguing that we're not talking about the mental processing of information that arrived at our brains via our sensory organs (or if they are, then they're extremely confused, because they're not actually talking about perception in any conventional sense of that term, despite claiming to be doing philosophy of perception). What's at issue, then, is what the relationship is between the information as a mental phenomenon and what casused that information in the first place.
OK, I misunderstood you. I would suggest that the conventional understanding of 'perception' is of a mental action that we understand as involving an outside agency; that when I say I 'perceive' a tree I am distinguishing it from 'imagining' a tree (even though the resulting images in my mind may be identical). That our ideas 'represent' external objects. The trouble is that this begs the question of the similarity between the idea and the (posited) object, which is what we are discussing here.
Why not go the next step with Berkeley? If the mental phenomenon is a representation of the object, why posit an object at all? If you allow any gap, then you open the door to solipsism. Why not eliminate the gap by ceasing to refer to the object at all and simply call the perception (meaning the representation) the reality? Or go with Kant and say (put crudely); maybe there is an object, but it doesn't matter because we can never know it.
So we take in the data in its raw form, the photon is translated into a signal along the optic nerve. This signal is registered in our brain, but not yet interpreted, this moment still falling under what you term 'perception'?
Yes, and completely uncontroversially. That's what "perception" conventionally refers to.
I do not agree. I think 'perception' would usually be understood as conscious brain activity, meaning that to say 'I perceive a tree'
I would have gone a step further and have the image 'a tree' in my mind. I have to perceive something.
(And you say above that it is 'ultimately a conscious brain phenomenon'.) However, the important thing here is not what the conventional usage is, but what we mean in this dialogue.
In philosophy, perception talk often extends to conceptual application, too, although whether it should is an issue of controversy. My view on that is that I'd rather that perception talk didn't extend to that (Kantian stuff), at least not without slightly different terminology, because it tends to blur two different ideas.
Re Kant, again, I don't at all agree with his views. So I don't agree with his take re time/space etc. being concepts that are "necessary prior conditions" etc.
So how would you deal with his points? For example, our brains receive a string electrical signals through our nerves. Suppose we were unable to put them in any sort of time order? How can we interpret them into ideas of three dimensional objects, unless we already had an idea of three dimensional space? Neither of those ideas are contained in the nervous twitches that convey the raw sense data.
I don't think it is about considering 'space' and 'time' as abstract concepts. It is at the level of: 'Only when I looked out of the window I saw the tree, so the tree is in that direction relative to me'.
Unless I can order things in time (first I didn't see it, then I did) and extension (the tree has a location relative to my own location) I could not process visual information even to that extent. (Nor, of course, could I recognise it as a tree, because that requires me to think of that shape as having some sort of continuity from moment to moment).
No, it doesn't. "Brains functioning" includes every single thing that brains do, including non-mental things. Hence why I specify "in mental ways"--otherwise that phrase would be redundant. Mentality doesn't imply interpretation, however. Mere consciousness/awareness is sufficient for mentality.
I'm only trying to understand your terminology, not lay down a rule.
You write: 'Brains functioning" includes every single thing that brains do, including non-mental things
'. You can see why it is difficult to understand what it is that brains do that is non-mental. We can take the brain to pieces and say things like; 'that event is only a chemical reaction which is non-mental'.
But if we did that, then we could go through the whole brain, and be left with the strange conclusion that our entire brain was 'non-mental'!
But if we come from the other direction and examine 'consciousness', then there is no 'non-mental' bit that we can identify with 'consciousness'. That nerve isn't conscious, that chemical isn't conscious, and so on. So now our description of consciousness would exclude the brain altogether, which seems equally odd.
I think this is the basic problem of perception emerging in another form. We are always trying to find the words to designate a point on the line between what is 'in here' and 'out there', the subjective and objective, the mental and physical, the perceiver and the perceived. But these dualities are not separate areas on the same line, rather (like the brain/consciousness) they are identical things described from different standpoints.