Mittwoch, 11. Februar 2015
As humans, of course, we think before we act. We are not simple stimulus-response organisms, with our behaviors triggered by simple sensory signals. Moreover, our perceptual thoughts are genuinely intentional. Which is in itself only partly bound to a egocentric position. Because when we examine a sensory system, then, we are looking at an evolved solution to a specific informational problem. Even if the signal needs to be easily processed.
The system "captures" the structure of the domain of external properties just because it defines that domain without exaggeration or omission. The response of a sensory system will carry information about its causes. A bell-shaped response curve for sensory receptors is more the norm. There exists a computable function. Even if a narcissistic response is given, this kind of information is extracted. The appropriate calculations are made and the true state of the world is inferred. So can sensation be seen as an indicator by means of intentional thoughts. The organism's relative interests. Since we detect for some properties. Of course there is no general claim made towards what the system is doing.
Patricia Churchland once said, in the course of defending an early theory of representational content called correlational content. "I take it as obvious that if there were no systematic relations between the external world and states of the brain, the animals could not survive or if they did it would be a miracle in the strict sense of the word." Even parasites are seen to recognize optimal and suboptimal egg-laying sites, to detect the shortening of the days, and the end of breeding season. An animal's behavior must be directed towards certain salient objects or properties of its environment. Objects (and their properties) are important to the survival of all creatures.
The theory of aboutness is defined by relation to the subject's interests (relational properties). Sensory mechanisms define properties of the world's large disjunctive sets of objective properties. Our perceptions qua intentional representations of the world. However our sensory systems work, we are creatures who represent a world of objects, properties, and events. At our sensory and motor peripheries, our systems have although narcissistic properties.
But neural systems anchor us to the world. Simple perceptual systems must have states that have, at least in a limited sense, aboutness. This is why even simple systems must represent the objects and properties of the world. Our ability to represent the external world as containing objects, properties, and events constitutes a distinct different capacity of an organism. What exactly is this capacity and for what reasons did it come about is a serious question. Of course these stabilities and uniformities actually exist. This could be called the ontological project. Perhaps in combination with a sensory-motor project. But for this moment we don't know exactly what aboutness is. Interesting books are Dreske's Knowledge and the Flow of Information and Paul Churchland's Scientific Realism and Plasticity of Mind. Also the quality of representation could be questioned.