NEW333H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 8: Solitary Confinement, Skillz, Causal Structure
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NEW333 November 1, 2013
Perspectival Knowing: Every argument that John is making is a further move to deepen and refine our
understanding of meaning. This perspectival knowing is inherently bi-directional, being projected onto
the world but also interjected back onto myself. The world is imported into me via the very relevance
realization I have projected onto it; this is why it is transjective in nature. The notion of perspective is
inherently bi-directional in nature.
John is going to pick up a cup. He needs to have facts about it, knowing how this person in this place
here and now can pick up this cup. So he has to make predictions about both the cup and himself,
preparing, simultaneously modeling the cup, his self, and his hand (in an integrative fashion). So
knowing-how facts, and the instantiation of the cup-seeking John, coupled to the environment in this
moment are all coupled together such that he can pick up the cup. This is how perspectival knowing
plays into this. [Sorry for the awkward wording. I was tired]
What if we know that a hit man has been hired, and will kill someone this afternoon? What if we find
out this target is the evil Juensung? Suddenly, the prediction of the hit man striking is much more
relevant to Juensung! A good term for perspective is anticipation. It affords you being able to prepare
yourself for what is happening in the world. So, when you are in an anticipatory mode in this sense, you
are involved in perspectival knowing.
So, what are the dimensions to this predictive/anticipatory relationship with the world? One of the
things that we do is we project a salience landscape. Recall self-organizing recursive relevance
realization, and how it gives you a much textured view of items deserving of your attention and
orientation. Your salience landscape is a dynamically changing textured topography of what grabs your
attention and orients you in a predictive fashion. John, for example, is pretty salient right now, since he
is talking. My notes are backgrounded to him, but still in my attention, and I am anticipating what he
will say next. The salience landscape is basically grabbing your attention, and priming you to orient to
the world in a predictive fashion.
But it doesn’t just stop here! Perspectival knowing is also about coupling you to the world in a way
such that successful anticipation can occur. When you are coupled to the world in a successful fashion,
this is what psychologists such as Gibson, and Thompson term “affordances”. “Afford” is a particular
kind of making possible. It is the corresponding system of relevance realization that goes with your
ability to anticipate the world. John can bring together predictions about the cup with preparations
within his body. The action of grasping is something that we take for granted (ever seen a robot do it?).
The depth of how complex this is is clouded by the fact that actions such as grasping seem trivially,
So, there are a whole bunch of affordances that are being integrated together. John is not just taking a
single stance toward the grasping of the cup, he is taking a multi-apt stance; setting himself up in a way
such that he can pick up the cup, drink from it, put things in it, maybe wear it as a hat, but he cannot
perch on it, since he is not a bird. So, once we orient on things because of their salience, we start doing
all kinds of anticipatory affordance disclosure. We aren’t taking a single stance toward the salient item,
we are setting up ourselves in a way such that we can do these multi-dimensional affordances.
Presence Landscape: The set of affordances coupled to my stance is how the salient item presents
itself to me. Things are presenting themselves to you as they “pop” out of the salience landscape. The
presence landscape and salience landscape are deeply interpenetrating with each other. This is not a
cause-and-effect relation, but rather an ongoing, interdependent relationship. The salience landscape
is the more primordial, and once you are oriented to salient items, you can anticipate the world in the
way those salient items collapse into presences.
But, we aren’t just interested in anticipating the world, we also want to interact with it, and this involves
tracking the causal patterns of the world. So salience grabs our attention and arouses us to some
degree, and presence allows for anticipation. But we need some assurance that we are actually in
touch with, and tracking the world! Without falling into phenomenological jargon, we have to deal with
the fact that there is potential bias in how we are doing this. We need to be able to distinguish
between causal patterns and correlational patterns. Correlational patterns are dangerous because
they can cause us to falsely trigger our anticipatory machinery, but ultimately misleads it as we are
really anticipating based on noise rather than signal.
We need to be sure that we aren’t being misled by appearances, but actually picking up on reality. So
we need some functional way of tracking the appearance/reality distinction. We need to track the
causal chains of events, and also how the context of conditions is constraining the courses of these
events. So we are actually talking about power; the ability to causally change things, such that we can
change them with our seeking behaviour.
The way we do this (it seems) is through a very basic kind of machine. Peterson says that everything
above lobsters can do this crazy cool thing called transitive inference. We have two ways of doing this:
Containment inferences (A is inside B, B is inside C, what is A inside of?). We also have causal
inferences, such as A BC, so that A causes C. We like to think of the world based on containment
and causal inferences, but quantum mechanics is really hard for us to understand because it doesn’t
follow either of these mechanisms. Heisenberg actually considered proposing the return of Aristotle’s
notion of prime matter, since the quantum world is kind of like Plotinus’ pure potential matter, which is,
unfortunately, totally evil. Perhaps this is why quantum physicists didn’t pick up on this, since they don’t
want to be seen as studying EVIL.
So we have these two kinds of transitivity we can do with our minds: containment and sequence.
Language unfolds sequentially, and we tend to treat it as a container (cf. “My words are full of
meaning”). We are also trying to track particular causal patterns. We like certain trajectories. We like
to trace all the symptoms, to a common cause, such that we can intervene and treat the sick person, for
example. How do we intervene in the best way? Well, the trajectories have to be plausible, of course!
We are trying to get to what’s deep (in the metaphorical sense). These deep places are where we can
most successfully be empowered to intervene. We try to use our transitivity skills to track in (avoiding
bias) and track out (to confirm that we are tracking a causal pattern and not a correlational one).
Whitehead: Says that we have an inappropriate, unilateral notion of power, since we are culturally
organized in social hierarchies. Unilateral power is like heat, in a sense. Contrast this with what
Whitehead called reciprocal power. Reciprocal power means that we have a tremendous capacity to
intervene in a thing and interact with it; we have considerable access. One sense of realness (depth) is
in this ability to access, alter and confirm. But there is another sense of realness in that it resists us,
surprising us, and worries us that we can deceive ourselves if things just keep going as they were.