Artificial Sight

Glen M. Sizemore gmsizemore at triad.rr.com
Sun Jul 22 14:02:08 EST 2001

>The eye does not "send messages" and the brain
does not "interpret
> anything."

MJ: Speak for yourself.

-MY- eye sends messages, and -MY- brain
interprets them just fine.

If this didn't happen, I wouldn't be able to see.
What's the
alternative way of thinking about it? Magic?

GS: The fact that you can ask this question in this
way shows how pernicious is the philosophy that
stimuli are transferred into the body (as "messages"
no less! - how quaint!) where they are seen or heard
or "interpreted." In my opinion (and, admittedly, the
minority opinion) this philosophy is the worst thing
that ever happened to psychology, philosophy,
behavioral neurobiology, and many other fields
concerned with behavior. It never fails to amaze me
that people are so willing, when they are discussing
the reduction of behavior to neurobiological
processes, to describe the brain in the same terms as
is used to describe the behavior of the whole
organism. It is a lot like saying that mercury is
silvery and slippery because mercury atoms are
silvery and slippery.

The alternative view is that seeing and hearing etc. is
behavior, or at least, it is part of what will eventually
be measured as behavior. It is part of it, but it does
not follow that it is a precursor of the response in
the same sense that the occurrence of a stimulus is a
precursor. One way to look at it is this: everything
that happens after stimuli make contact with an
organism is a RESPONSE of the organism. The
stimulus does not enter the organism where it is later
seen or heard (or interpreted).

The three questions that behavioral neurobiology
should be asking are 1.) How do the consequences
of behavior sequence and "blend together"
spontaneous movements? 2.) How does
reinforcement make it such that stimuli come to
control the probability of what was spontaneous
behavior. 3.) How do the phenomena associated
with discrimination come about?

This is the holy grail of neurobiology. And it is also
about what it means to "see."

And, no, this is not, for the most part, what
behavioral neurobiology already does, but this is a
difficult issue.


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