Sunday, January 24, 2021

Rainer Mausfeld, ‘Truth’ has no role in explanatory accounts of perception. Student Guide.

Prof. Dr. Rainer Mausfeld writes:  ¶24.  “Needless to say, in certain contexts of ordinary discourse, the general question that seems to motivate Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash’s (HSP) endeavour, namely whether perception mirrors the ‘true structure of the objective world,’ can be a meaningful and sensible one. 

©2019 Peter Miesler - Arizona homestead

Such a question, however, will hardly survive the transition into a natural science context. It rather seems that no question remains that can be posed in a coherent and intelligible way. 

Hence, the appropriate response to such a question is not to evaluate specific proposals but rather to dispel the delusion that an intelligible question has been raised. …”

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While researching the book “Case Against Reality” I came to recognize the name “Rainer Mausfeld” because he was referenced in various articles.  However, it wasn’t until working on the paper “Objects of Consciousness,” that I sat down to read his critique of Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash’s Psychonomic Review and Bulletin 2015 paper and it felt like a cosmic giggle.


“Notions such as ‘truth’ or ‘correspondence to the objective world’ play no role in explanatory accounts of perception”  Rainer Mausfeld - 

Psychonomic Bulletin & Review (v22, p1535–1540. Sep 18, 2015) 


I’m glad my discovery waited for the end of this journey.  Had I read it a half year ago, I might not have engaged in this effort to begin with and that would have been a shame.  Not that it’s been fun, but because it has been well worth the effort.  My payoff has been a deeper appreciation for the scientific and philosophical mind/body debate, along with helping me better define my own curious perspective.  At least that’s my impression.  My next essays will put the conceit to the test.  You’ll get to decide for yourselves.


In any event, for a lifelong student of such things, it’s gratifying to see my homegrown naïve understanding echoing a genuine expert’s learned appraisal.  


I received an okay from Springer to reproduce 800 words worth of highlights from the 4,700 word long paper, all it was going to cost me was $360.  If I were earning money with any of this, I’d have a budget for such expenses, but alas, no can do.


After much consideration, including reading through H.G. Zaharoff’s ‘Guide to Fair Use’ (You can find more on that at the end of this post.), I’m declaring Fair Use and am going ahead and sharing interesting quotes from Mausfeld’s work as a teaser, an invitation to serious students.  


For all who are searching for a deeper realistic appreciation of the mind, physical reality divide, you don’t want to miss reading Mausfeld's complete 7400 words.  Don’t be intimidated, Mausfeld writes about these arcane details with refreshing clarity.  Meaning his writing is accessible to intelligent curious non-academics.  Check it out for yourself:

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Notions such as “truth” or “correspondence to the objective world” play no role in explanatory accounts of perception” 

Prof. Dr. Rainer Mausfeld, University of Kiel 

Publications available online at Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Psychonomic Bulletin & Review - Springer, DOI: 10.3758/s13423-014-0763-6

volume 22, pages1535–1540(2015) - September 18, 2015


¶01.  Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash (Psychonomic Review and Bulletin, 2015, in press) intend to show that perceptions are evolutionarily tuned to fitness rather than to truth. 

I argue, partly in accordance with their objective, that issues of ‘truth’ or ‘veridicality’ have no place in explanatory accounts of perception theory, and rather belong to either ordinary discourse or to philosophy. 

I regard, however, their general presumption that the evolutionary development of core achievements of the human perceptual system would be primarily determined by aspects of fitness and adaption as unwarranted in light of the evidence available.

¶02.  …

{we’re biologically endowed to accept what Mausfeld refers to as a “naïve realism” - namely, an innate recognition of physicalism: “namely, being in direct touch with a mind-independent world.”}

¶03.  Hoffman, Singh and Prakash (HSP) set out to mount a new attack on widely held convictions in perceptual psychology according to which perception somehow mirrored structural aspects of the ‘objective world.’ …According to HSP, the “key insight from these evolutionary games” is that “natural selection tunes perception to payoffs, not to truth.”

¶04.  In this comment, I will focus on two issues: (1) I will try to locate HSP’s endeavor within the intellectual landscape of the history of perception theory. (2) I will deal with the specific premises, in particular regarding ‘truth’ and ‘objective world’, which they employ as starting points for their mathematical analyses, and bring into question, for the explanatory purposes of perception theory, both these premises and the types of mathematical idealizations associated with them.

¶05.  Perception theory, with its history of about 2,500 years, belongs to the oldest fields of psychology and in fact science. …

{Please note the profound distinction between psychology and fact science.}

Although our theoretical understanding of the principles on which the achievements of the perceptual system are based still barely scratches the surface, important theoretical insights have been achieved in the course of these enquiries that no contemporary explanatory account should ignore. 

All the same, current orthodoxy in perceptual psychology has profoundly fallen back behind theoretical insights previously achieved. These regressions in theoretical understanding seem to be predominantly due to the detrimental influences of tacit commonsense conceptions with respect to perception (cf. Mausfeld, 2011) as well as with respect to core methodological principles of the natural sciences (cf. Mausfeld, 2012). 

HSP provide ample evidence from the perception literature for such theoretical distortions due to commonsense intuitions, at the core of which is the idea that the ‘objective world’ is somehow mirrored in perception.

¶06.  

{Mausfeld does a quick summary of the philosophical underpinnings, from Greek philosophy and the notion that senses could not discover truths about the physical world.  From there to 13th century Aquinas, Scotus.  Then, Ockham asserting our perception of reality was inevitably inaccurate.  On to, Galilean revolution and development of the fact based natural science framework. Early 19th century Müller’s Law of Specific Nerve Energy (fyi). 

¶08.  … Hence, the type of primitives underlying ‘perceptions’ – including core ones such as ‘Gestalt’ or ‘perceptual object’ – cannot be derived, by whatever kind of inductive mathematical machinery, from the sensory input, or, more generally, from experience (cf. Mausfeld, 2010a, 2013).

¶09.  A second important theoretical insight was achieved during the ‘first cognitive revolution.’ If we investigate, within a natural science perspective, modes of operations of our mind, we have to take into account that we are dealing with a compound system that is organized in the form of an entire orchestra of subsystems, each of which has its proprietary primitives and modes of operation. 

Hence, when we are theoretically dealing with perception, we have to overcome our ordinary conviction that the appropriate unit of analysis is that of a ‘person.’ Rather, we have to think in terms of a mental architecture (for medieval insights into this problem, see, e.g., King, 2008), and distinguish, for instance, systems that deal with perception from, say, interpretive, linguistic, or motorial systems that take advantage of the output of the perceptual system. 

By taking into account the functional architecture into which the perceptual system is embedded, it came to be understood that notions such as ‘error’, ‘veridicality’, or ‘illusion’ have no place in explanatory accounts of the perceptual system because they cannot be ascribed to the perceptual system proper, but rather pertain to a different unit of analysis, namely that of a person. …

Arnauld and Nicole… Port-Royal Logic of 1642 …

Kant… Anthropology

Helmholtz, Hering, Koffka, or Köhler (see Mausfeld, 2002, 2010a, b, 2011, for references to the works cited). 

“The senses cannot deceive us, they work according to their established immutable laws and cannot do otherwise. It is us who are mistaken in our apprehension of the sensory perception.” 

Similar insights have been expressed by, for example, Hering, Koffka, or Köhler (see Mausfeld, 2002, 2010a, b, 2011, for references to the works cited).  …

¶10.  In the natural sciences, we would succumb to an unjustifiable “methodological dualism” (Chomsky, 2000)  …

¶11.  … Hence, there is (or at least should be) no target left for the main thrust of HSP’s arguments. But sadly enough, the actual state of affairs in perceptual psychology testifies to the contrary. This is due to the disregard or even disdain that current orthodoxy in perceptual psychology seems to show for previously achieved theoretical insights.  …

¶12.  Given the present state of the field, one might consider it reasonable to develop new kinds of arguments by which perceptual psychologists could be convinced that, for the explanatory goals of perception theory, their intuitions about ‘correspondences to the objective world’ or about ‘veridicality’ are profoundly inappropriate. This is what HSP intend to show by approaching the issue from a new direction. Whether their approach is a suitable one for achieving their objective depends above all on whether the specific premises on which their mathematical analyses rest are sufficiently clear and coherent. I will very briefly critically discuss these premises, first from within their own framework, then from a more general perspective.

¶13.  HSP base their analysis on a notion of ‘objective world,’ whose meaning they apparently presume to be self-evident and a matter of course. …

¶14.  The force of their arguments and the validity of their conclusions naturally rest on the presupposition that we have a clear understanding of what precisely W and X are. {which remains opaque}.

(click on images for better viewing)

¶13, ¶14, ¶15

¶16, ¶18

¶19.  In philosophy, on the other hand, we can find any number of metaphysical conceptions of what ‘objective reality’ is presumed to be. The same observation holds for the philosophy of physics. To mention just a few examples:  …

Poincaré (1907, p. 14) held that …

Russell, …

The astrophysicist A.S. Eddington, in his The Nature of the Physical World,

¶20.  Helmholtz (1883, p. 656) …

Among the points of view developed in the philosophy of science, the arguably most defensible forms of a scientific realism were instigated by ideas of Poincaré and Russell, and led to varieties of what is called ‘structural realism.’  …

Corresponding positions basically claim that all we can know about the ‘objective world’ is the structure of the relations between things and not the things themselves, or, in more radical variants, that there are no ‘things’ and that structure is all there is. … 

For reasons indicated above, issues of structural realism have no bearing on perception theory, which deals with the identification of the internal principles of a specific biological system.

¶21.  The theoretical clarifications achieved during the last centuries have clearly revealed that the notion of ‘objective world’ is of no relevance for the explanatory purposes of perception theory, and, in fact, borders on the inapprehensible, once we go beyond the context of ordinary discourse. 

This also applies to another fundamental notion of HSP’s approach, namely ‘truth,’ whose meaning HSP likewise take to be self-evident. 

However, ‘truth’ is a notion that either belongs to ordinary discourse, with multifarious meanings that can vary with intentions and concerns, or belongs to metaphysical and philosophical discourse, where its meaning is notoriously elusive. As Horwich (1992, p. 510) noted: …

¶22.  … (cf., for example, Lewontin, 1972; Lynch, 2007). Evolutionary biology has, in more recent years, accumulated pervasive evidence that suggests that the vast majority of evolutionary change has rather little to do with natural selection. 

Accordingly, Lynch (2007, p. 368) …Rather, ‘truth’ is a notion that, for principled reasons, cannot be expected to play a role in explanatory frameworks of evolutionary biology.

¶23.  The value of simulation studies and formal analyses in the natural sciences crucially depends on the degree to which the underlying premises are empirically warranted, … Watamull and Hauser (2014) remind us … Rather, they would carry the risk of distracting us from the serious and deep theoretical questions with which we have to grapple in perception theory.

¶24.  Needless to say, in certain contexts of ordinary discourse, the general question that seems to motivate HSP’s endeavour, namely whether perception mirrors the ‘true structure of the objective world,’ can be a meaningful and sensible one. 

Such a question, however, will hardly survive the transition into a natural science context. It rather seems that no question remains that can be posed in a coherent and intelligible way. 

Hence, the appropriate response to such a question is not to evaluate specific proposals but rather to dispel the delusion that an intelligible question has been raised.

¶25.  Just like other domains of the natural sciences, perception theory has to disentangle itself from metaphysical issues, such as those pertaining to ‘truth’ or ‘correspondence to the objective world,’ and, more generally, has to divest its theoretical notions of the distorting residues of commonsense intuitions. …

… In biology, it is regarded as a matter of course that relevant phenomena can and have to be investigated on separate levels of analysis, such as function, physical basis, and evolutionary development. 

When we go beyond perception theory proper, we may ask all sorts of questions concerning different levels of analysis, pertaining to, for example, 

how the perceptual system is embedded into the internal functional architecture of the mind/ brain; 

how its achievements are tied to specific aspects of its environment; 

or what constitutes the physical basis of its computational apparatus (e.g., questions concerning the role of proteins as computational devices). 

Whatever aspect we are interested in, there is no reason to expect that notions such as ‘truth’ or ‘correspondence to the objective world’ play an explanatory role in a scientific context.  (Link for pdf)

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A Writer's Guide to Fair Use


By: Howard G. Zaharoff - www.morse.law


FAIR USE ANALYSIS

Section 107 of the Copyright Act states that “the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies…, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching …, scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.” It also states that in determining whether a use is fair, at least 4 factors must be considered. …


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Cc’s Students’ Guide, a work in progress.


Donald Hoffman Playing Basketball in Zero-Gravity, a critical review of, The Case Against Reality:  Why Evolution Hid The Truth From Our Eyes, by Donald Hoffman, ©2019, W.W.Norton Company


The Prelude, Prof Donald Hoffman Playing Basketball In Zero-Gravity

Chapter 10a, Community: The Network of Conscious Agents (1/3)

Chapter 10b, Community: The Network of Conscious Agents (2/3)

Chapter 10c, Community: Network of Hoffmanian Conscious Agents (3/3)

Chapter 1, Mystery: The Scalpel That Split Consciousness

Chapter 2, Beauty: Siren of the Gene

Chapter 3, Reality: Capers of the Unseen Sun

Chapter 4, Sensory: Fitness beats Truth

Chapter 5, Illusory: The Bluff of the Desktop

Chapter 6, Gravity: Spacetime is Doomed

Chapter 7, Virtuality: Inflating a Holoworld

Chapter 8, Polychromy: Mutations of an Interface

Chapter 9, Scrutiny: You Get What You Need, in Both Life and Business

Appendix,  Precisely: The Right to Be (Foolish)


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Hoffman/Prakash’s Objects of ConsciousnessObjections and Replies

Frontiers in Psychology - June 17, 2014


4/4_Hoffman, Objects of Consciousness,  (conclusion)

1/4_Hoffman, Objects of Consciousness, questions + replies (1-12)

2/4_Hoffman, Objects of Consciousness, questions + replies (13-17)

3/4_Hoffman, Objects of Consciousness, questions + replies (18-21)



Student Resources - Background:


Barton Anderson, Where does fitness fit in theories of perception?

Rainer Mausfeld: ‘Truth’ has no role in explanatory accounts of perception.

Paul Mealing considers Hoffman's "Objects of Consciousness.”

The Case For Reality: Because Apparently Someone Needs to Make One

Sabine Hossenfelder in Defense of Scientific Realism and Physical Reality

Physical Origins of Mind - Dr. Siegel, Allen Institute Brain Science, Tononi, Koch

"Emergence" - A Handy Student Summary and Resources.

Are Frontiers in Psychology research papers trustworthy?  Students' Resource

Diary - But, wait!  There's more.  Hoffman's responses. 



More to come . . .


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