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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

« Mammals are Active Critters | Main | Symbol Simplicity »

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Giorgio Marchetti

Bolles highlights here a very interesting problem. Perception is a way of knowing, and is more basic (both in an ontogenetic sense and in a phylogenetic one) than other forms of knowledge (logic, for instance).

Bolles’ observations are very good examples of how we human beings understand things (ideas included) better when we can perceive them.

Why is it so? According to Bernard Baars (“A cognitive theory of consciousness”), this is due to the fact that the language of consciousness is preeminently based on a perceptive, imaginal, spatio-temporal lingua franca.

I do not think that Baars’ theory is completely correct. We can have conscious experiences of meanings, notwithstanding that such experiences do not have the qualitative and phenomenal properties belonging to images and perceptions originated by our sense-organs (the fact that we have conscious experiences of meaning is testified by many facts: think, for example of all the occurrences in which a tip-of-the-tongue state is experienced. Suppose we try to recall a forgotten name, or have an intention to-say-so-and-so but we do not find the right word. We are fully aware of what we want to say, of its meaning, even if we do not remember the corresponding word or words).

Anyway, it is undeniable that perception plays a fundamental, basic role.

As my colleague Giulio Benedetti observes, perception is a prerequisite for building abstract mental categories (see his “Semantica Operativa” at http://www.mind-consciousness-language.com/articles%20benedetti1.htm). A child could not even learn abstract ideas (nor “meanings”) if he/she had not the capacity to perceive the sounds and images expressing them.

The first kind of communication between a mother and her child is a perceptual one. Initially, a mother pilots her child’s attention, directing the child’s senses, movements and organs. Only in the subsequent years can a child abstract away from those original perceptual material to capture the pure attentional operations involved in each specific activity, image, idea, concept, meaning, etc.

Giorgio Marchetti

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