• Manuel
    1.6k
    There's this curious phenomenon which is brought up by several philosophers, though I like Thomas Reid's formulation of the problem . What's the problem?

    The issue is that of resemblances. Reid points out that if you are walking down a street and hear the sound of a horse pulling a wagon and then you turn around and look at it, the sound produced does not resemble the objects producing it.

    Likewise, the pain in my finger looks not at all like the tip of a sword which caused it.

    We can further imagine many other instances: the smell of wet grass does not resemble grass, the sensation of a surface of a wall does not resemble the wall which produces the sensation.

    We can do this for almost all of our senses, with the apparent exception of sight. It makes no sense to say (for example) that the red sensation I get from this apple does not resemble red. And so on.

    I think such thought experiments show what the rationalists have argued for, namely, that objects induce in us the capacity to be affected in a certain manner. If we are deaf, no problem of resemblance can arise for hearing: such persons just lack the innate capacity to hear.

    There are many ways to tackle this problem: from philosophy of language, to eliminitavism, to metaphysics and simple common sense.

    But that's for you to decide. How do you think about this topic?
  • frank
    8.8k


    I think Isaac would tell us that the sound of a fan becomes bound up with a model that causes anticipation of a fan.

    Does that just push the problem down stream?
  • Manuel
    1.6k


    One would have to explain how the fan induces the model to work in the first place. If that can be established somehow, then progress could be made.

    At the outset, it looks as if someone is taking one set of terms "sound" from a "fan", to another set of terms, "models" in the "brain". The problem has been re-phrased, in this case. With more detail, maybe I could understand what they're getting at.

    I'm not suggesting this problem has a solution. I'm looking to see how people think about this, is all.
  • frank
    8.8k


    I don't think neuroscience is too far past speculation about how perception works, but that's how I would think about it: 'ask a scientist.'
  • Bitter Crank
    9.8k
    I saw a black dog on the sidewalk, lying down but trying to move get up. It was disturbing. On closer examination it turned out to be a black plastic back being moved by a breeze. It was a strong resemblance until once examined, it was not.

    The strong scent of some flowers, lily of the valley and lilac in particular, have a semblance (to my nose) of solvent. The semblance fades with dilution.

    The scent of limburger cheese (a soft smelly variety) has a strong semblance (to my nose) of the pleasant (to my nose) fragrance of a dairy barn. Silage (which is quite smelly), ground grain (very pleasant) and the earthy smell of the cows. On reflection, the scent of the cheese still resembles the smell of a dairy barn.

    Semblances add to the interesting features of experience.
  • Joshs
    2k
    think such thought experiments show what the rationalists have argued for, namely, that objects induce in us the capacity to be affected in a certain manner. IManuel

    They made a good starting point, but reified the issue in terms of objective causation. The phenomenologists made much ore headway here , which is why their analyses have been taken up in cognitive science.

    Let’s take Reid’s example below.

    if you are walking down a street and hear the sound of a horse pulling a wagon and then you turn around and look at it, the sound produced does not resemble the objects producing it.Manuel

    Phenomenology begins far back from
    constituted objects like wagons , to the conditions of possibility of objects in general. Something as simple as spatial object is the product of a complex process of constitution beginning with constantly changing visual phenomena with no unity and then proceeds by our perceiving correlated patterns that we eventually idealize as ‘this object’. Along the way , we not only have to correlate input form sense modalities other than the visual, but more crucially, we have to link the movement of our body, eyes , head with changes in the perspective of the object. How will the object change when we move our head to the left, for instance. The final achievement of object recognition consists of a seamlessly fused concatenation of memory, anticipation and actual expereince. Most of what we see is not there in front of us but filled in by us. Resemblance plays a crucial
    role all along the way here. What is closely similar becomes unified for us.
  • Joshs
    2k
    Semblances add to the interesting features of experience.Bitter Crank

    I would argue that semblances account for ALL of what we take as objective nature. Without the work of semblance there would be no natural world of recognizable objects, only a chaotic flux.
  • T Clark
    6.6k
    The issue is that of resemblances. Reid points out that if you are walking down a street and hear the sound of a horse pulling a wagon and then you turn around and look at it, the sound produced does not resemble the objects producing it.Manuel

    What would it mean for the sound of a horse pulling a wagon to resemble a horse pulling a wagon?

    We can do this for almost all of our senses, with the apparent exception of sight. It makes no sense to say (for example) that the red sensation I get from this apple does not resemble red. And so on.Manuel

    You've run a bait and switch. It's not a question of the red sensation resembling red. It's a question of the sight of an apple resembling an apple. In what sense does the sight of an apple resemble an apple that is different from the sound of a horse pulling a wagon resembling a horse pulling a wagon.

    Answer - none.
  • Manuel
    1.6k
    I saw a black dog on the sidewalk, lying down but trying to move get up. It was disturbing. On closer examination it turned out to be a black plastic back being moved by a breeze. It was a strong resemblance until once examined, it was not.Bitter Crank

    These types of phenomena are rather eerie. But on hindsight, really highlight how wonderful our minds can be. How could it be possible for a plastic bag to resemble a dog or pavement on hot day resemble water? It's pretty cool.

    Semblances add to the interesting features of experience.Bitter Crank

    Absolutely.

    They made a good starting point, but reified the issue in terms of objective causation. The phenomenologists made much ore headway hereJoshs

    Sure. I mean, starting off is often the hardest thing to do. We just take it as a given that fans produce such a sound or rocks feel such a way. Until you reflect that, it's me that is creating the effects off of relatively poor stimulus. In this respect, the classical figures of the 17th and 18th centuries were geniuses.

    Most of what we see is not there in front of us but filled in by us. Resemblance plays a crucial
    role all along the way here. What is closely similar becomes unified for us
    Joshs

    I agree. Also that the phenomenologists do plenty. And there's a lot more to analyze.
  • Manuel
    1.6k
    What would it mean for the sound of a horse pulling a wagon to resemble a horse pulling a wagon?T Clark

    That it would be the kind of object of which one would expect that specific sound it produces. If we have not heard something sufficiently well, we won't know what object caused that sound. We take it for granted that horses pulling a wagon sound like they do, or fans, etc.

    You've run a bait and switch. It's not a question of the red sensation resembling red. It's a question of the sight of an apple resembling an apple. In what sense does the sight of an apple resemble an apple that is different from the sound of a horse pulling a wagon resembling a horse pulling a wagon.T Clark

    Good. This is the part which confuses me, so I'm trying to work this out, no bait and switch is intended.

    I am trying to point out sensations, the way ice feels to our fingers, the way thunder sound to our ears, etc. A horse pulling a carriage produces a sound which I would not initially associate with such objects, that these objects could sound this way. They could sound completely different from what they appear to me.

    But when I experience a colour of any kind, I personally don't expect an object to produce any other colour effects than the one it currently has. Of course, apples can be yellow or green.

    But it could be my personal quirk.
  • T Clark
    6.6k
    I am trying to point out sensations, the way ice feels to our fingers, the way thunder sound to our ears, etc. A horse pulling a carriage produces a sound which I would not initially associate with such objects, that these objects could sound this way. They could sound completely different from what they appear to me.Manuel

    You recognize the way ice feels on your fingers because you've felt ice with your fingers before. You recognize thunder because you've heard thunder before. I've mistaken thunder in the distance for a truck going over a bump. I live on a busy street. I've heard a horse pulling a wagon before, so I'd probably recognize the sound for what it was.

    I still don't know what you mean when you say "sound completely different from what they appear." What does a sound appear like?
  • Hanover
    7k
    saw a black dog on the sidewalk, lying down but trying to move get up. It was disturbing. On closer examination it turned out to be a black plastic back being moved by a breeze. It was a strong resemblance until once examined, it was not.Bitter Crank

    I saw a dog beside a child outside a store and asked if his dog would bite. He said he wouldn't.

    I pet the dog and he bit me.

    "You said your dog wouldn't bite!"

    "He's not my dog. "

    Sometimes you hear things and they're not what you thought you heard.
  • Manuel
    1.6k
    I still don't know what you mean when you say "sound completely different from what they appear." What does a sound appear like?T Clark

    Suppose you hear a particular sound, perhaps one reminding you of a glass jar breaking. You've heard glass break before, so you associate a particular sound to this phenomena. One of two things can happen here:

    You check the source of the sound and find out that indeed, it was a glass jar that broke because the window was open and the breeze toppled it over.

    You check the source, but find out that the sound was produced by a metal wind chime. Apparently wind chimes can sound like glass breaking in certain circumstances.

    Or the very example you used, you associated a sound with thunder. Only that it wasn't thunder, it was a truck. The sound appeared to you as belonging to thunder. Sounds appear or are represented (if you prefer this word) by us as belonging to certain objects automatically, but they need not produce these specific effects in us.
  • T Clark
    6.6k
    Or the very example you used, you associated a sound with thunder. Only that it wasn't thunder, it was a truck. The sound appeared to you as belonging to thunder. Sounds appear or are represented (if you prefer this word) by us as belonging to certain objects automatically, but they need not produce these specific effects in us.Manuel

    So, since I have heard the sound of a horse pulling a wagon before, the sound of a horse pulling a wagon would resemble a horse pulling a wagon to me. If that's what you mean, I'm ok with it.
  • Manuel
    1.6k


    Yep. Pretty much.

    That's why we say "it sounds like X, Y or Z".
  • Srap Tasmaner
    3.1k
    Sounds appear or are represented (if you prefer this word) by us as belonging to certain objects automatically, but they need not produce these specific effects in us.Manuel

    I'm still confused. Is it the association of a given sound with the object we think of as making the sound that is puzzling?
  • Manuel
    1.6k


    I tend to favor a type of rationalism in the philosophy of mind, which includes sensation as a important factor. I believe I can "think away" all properties of objects, except solidity. I may lack all senses, but objects will still be solid.

    But when Reid (and others) point out that the pain in my finger does not resemble, does not look like, the tip of the sword that caused it. Then extension is also a quality the mind is induced to create given certain stimulus. What object would resemble the pain in my finger, assuming a cut? Something that itself is painful, maybe red, etc. But that's not how it works.

    The example of the horse cart rings true. If we are walking in a street and hear a very specific configuration of sound, we are alerted that something is causing this.

    If we had not seen a horse carrying a cart before, I don't think we would associate the sound the object produces in us with the object. It's only once we become habituated to hearing this specific sound, that we say it was caused by a horse carrying a cart.

    The point for me is that such things we take so utterly for granted, are created by us. We take poor stimulus and create rich meanings associated with sounds, etc.
  • TheMadFool
    12.6k
    I don't think you're right. The sensations (smell, sound, sight, touch and taste) produced by objects are functions of the chemical composition, the density, the elasticity, basically the properties of those objects. With experience, one can learn to associate sensations to objects that produce those sensations and we're good to go in a manner of speaking.
  • Manuel
    1.6k


    Yes. But what about chemical composition is it that should lead it to produce the experiences that we do? When I look at a chemical, say a sleeping pill or a hallucinogenic, it isn't obvious to me that these things would cause me to feel the way I end up feeling.

    We find these things natural because we are habituated to them by now.

    It's the difference between the felt quality and configurations of particles which lack any apparent qualities associated with our everyday life.
  • TheMadFool
    12.6k
    Yes. But what about chemical composition is it that should lead it to produce the experiences that we do? When I look at a chemical, say a sleeping pill or a hallucinogenic, it isn't obvious to me that these things would cause me to feel the way I end up feeling.

    We find these things natural because we are habituated to them by now.

    It's the difference between the felt quality and configurations of particles which lack any apparent qualities associated with our everyday life.
    Manuel

    You mean to say, for instance, that the sound of footsteps in a hall should possess some footness and floorness? Why would you think that? By the way it does and that's how burglars and cops do what they do.
  • Manuel
    1.6k


    Not quite, but it's an approximation. Assume that for some reason, you recover all your senses. Before you lacked all of them.

    Before you become habituated to the world, things like the distance of objects, what sound is related to which object, how surfaces feel, would likely be completely foreign. One would have to spend some time to associate the sound of footsteps with people stepping on the floor, as opposed to someone knocking on the door, which sounds kind of similar, depending on certain conditions.

    But you may be right, I may be puzzling over nothing. I just found it interesting, but am not quite able to express it well enough, maybe because I'm wrong.
  • TheMadFool
    12.6k
    Not quite, but it's an approximation. Assume that for some reason, you recover all your senses. Before you lacked all of them.

    Before you become habituated to the world, things like the distance of objects, what sound is related to which object, how surfaces feel, would likely be completely foreign. One would have to spend some time to associate the sound of footsteps with people stepping on the floor, as opposed to someone knocking on the door, which sounds kind of similar, depending on certain conditions.

    But you may be right, I may be puzzling over nothing. I just found it interesting, but am not quite able to express it well enough, maybe because I'm wrong.
    Manuel

    It is interesting! It's a deep question.

    Movie SFX

  • Manuel
    1.6k


    That's an excellent illustration of the general idea. Thanks for sharing.
  • TheMadFool
    12.6k
    That's an excellent illustration of the general idea. Thanks for sharing.Manuel

    Could you kindly elaborate on the point you wish to make?

    Much of our knowledge, what we know, is visual e.g. a horse is horse because it looks a certain way but is there a horseness to the way a horse looks? :chin:
  • Manuel
    1.6k


    I'm not too confident on this topic. It hit a nerve when I read it. I could be relying too much on visuals, because as I mentioned, if I look at a fire hydrant the issue doesn't arise, it produces a "red" sensation in me, which doesn't make me question how this object induces this sensation in me.

    The natural objection is, what sound do you expect a horse cart to make or what smell would you suppose grass (not marijuana, which actually is an interesting illustration) smells like? Fair point.

    When we speak of resemblances, we already have sophisticated association in mind. If I ask you, what resembles water? You can point to all kinds of liquids, including fruit juices, milkshakes and even blood, though this latter case is further removed.

    But if you ask the question, what resembles the sound of a horse carrying a cart? I'd have to think quite a bit, because, not many things produce that sound. Maybe a rusty wheel or a donkey sound like a cart and a horse respectively.

    My puzzle is that, based on my experience with horses carrying carts, it isn't obvious to me what sound they'd make. It's only when I become more familiarized with these things, that I can say " that is probably the sound of a horse carrying a cart". Why? Because that's what I've heard before most of the times I hear this noise.

    But it isn't evident prior to being habituated. Same with smells. It's strange to me that wet grass smells like it does, it doesn't seem like grass could smell like that.

    Well what would it smell like? Obviously the smell we end having. It involves some chemistry I'm not familiar with.

    tl,dr: It isn't obvious to me, visual sensations aside, that any object would produce the effects in us that we end up feeling.
  • TheMadFool
    12.6k
    I'm going to respond to your grass example. How do horses and cattle come to know that grass is food, something to eat? Smell or sight? Does the odor of grass have a grassiness to it? I'm just freewheeling here; let's see where this goes.
  • Manuel
    1.6k


    Sure, the point of this specific thread is just for that, whatever one wants to make of it.

    I think its innate, it's something they are born with, they have the disposition to recognize grass as a type of food. Similarly, baby turtles race to the ocean as soon as they hatch. There's no other explanation that an innate mechanism that makes them go to the ocean.

    It probably took several deaths for creatures to sharpen whatever they do as habit.

    Say you lack the sense of smell and look at grass. They could say it smells fresh or earthy and you may form a mental image these words. But obviously no smell.

    Some modern technology comes along and fixes your sense of smell. Now you smell wet grass. It's quite a peculiar smell. Would you've imagined grass would possibly smell that way?

    Blind people have said that they are aware that "being in the red", means losing money. Or "feeling blue" means feeling down or depressed. If they could see, would the sensation of seeing an apple or seeing the ocean resemble anything associated with the word?

    I suspect not, or maybe in some cases they would not be totally shocked by the association. But don't know, obviously.
  • TheMadFool
    12.6k
    Sure, the point of this specific thread is just for that, whatever one wants to make of it.Manuel

    An open-ended question. :ok:

    I think its innate, it's something they are born with, they have the disposition to recognize grass as a type of food. Similarly, baby turtles race to the ocean as soon as they hatch. There's no other explanation that an innate mechanism that makes them go to the ocean.Manuel

    The key word here is "recognition" which implies that there's a grassiness to the odor of grass - that's how herbivores identify/recognize grass (as food, edible and nutritious).

    The intriguing bit is why should grass smell the way it does? It seems arbitrary, lacking a rationale and this I suppose is what bothers you. Is it that the matter is more about rationality (expecting reasons, good ones I guess, for why things are the way they are) than about reality?

    Blind people have said that they are aware that "being in the red", means losing money. Or "feeling blue" means feeling down or depressed. If they could see, would the sensation of seeing an apple or seeing the ocean resemble anything associated with the word? I suspect not. But don't know, obviously.Manuel

    You seem to flip-flop between discussing things and how their properties aren't necessary to those things and properties themselves. What's up with that?
  • Srap Tasmaner
    3.1k
    If we had not seen a horse carrying a cart before, I don't think we would associate the sound the object produces in us with the object. It's only once we become habituated to hearing this specific sound, that we say it was caused by a horse carrying a cart.Manuel

    Okay, I thought that might be it. A little like Hume and the billiard balls.

    Let's say something like this: we can take an object, look at it, touch it, smell it, get it to produce a certain sound by the way we manipulate it or bring it into contact with another object; we know all of these sensory impressions are produced by the one object (or, for many sounds, by a pair of objects), so even though we recognize that our senses respond to particular aspects of the object -- I would like to say "separately" but this is known to be false, for instance, when it comes to taste and smell -- we think there ought to be some analogy, or even homology, between the different impressions. That is, the look of cut grass should be to vision as the scent of cut grass is to smell as the texture of cut grass is to feel, something like that.

    We may come to associate the scent of a lawn that's just been cut with the look of such a lawn, but I don't think anyone would really claim that how the lawn looks to us is what its scent would be if it were a visual impression rather than olfactory. Nor the other way around. We know the connection can be explained, grass being what it is means it looks a certain way and smells a certain way when it's just been cut, and we can associate those impressions, but that association can't help but seem somewhat arbitrary.

    The question really is why it should seem arbitrary, why would we expect our sense impressions to be nearly homologous like this? It's almost as if we aren't supposed to notice that we have these largely independent subsystems -- vision, hearing, and so on. Over here on our side, there's supposed to be a unified person, a self, that experiences objects in its environment; and over there, those objects are also individual entities. The look and feel and taste of that object to this person are supposed to be abstractions, in a sense, aspects of an interaction between that single object and this single subject. But it doesn't feel like that; it feels like a particular look arbitrarily associated with a particular texture and a particular scent, and so on.

    The point for me is that such things we take so utterly for granted, are created by us. We take poor stimulus and create rich meanings associated with sounds, etc.Manuel

    Should we infer that everything about the interaction of that object and this subject is assembled somehow, maybe that the object is just a sort of bundle of impressions, a bundle we assemble? Maybe we also conclude that we are such a bundle. That's Hume's word, I guess, but I'm not trying to insist that there is no structure here, only that there is some assembly required to get a subject and an object.

    But maybe we don't have to do that. Maybe there's just something odd here in how we think about what our senses are and how we think about having more than one of them. Most people, I'd guess, will think there's something terribly foolish about expecting any kind of similarity between the "reports" of our various senses, but I'd much rather ask this very strange question and get an actual answer for why we shouldn't expect it.
  • Manuel
    1.6k
    It seems arbitrary, lacking a rationale and this I suppose is what bothers you. Is it that the matter is more about rationality (expecting reasons, good ones I guess, for why things are the way they are) than about reality?TheMadFool

    Yes, I think you raised an important point, the arbitrary aspect. What would be rational to expect of something to smell like? We begin (almost) already in it, we grow up to an age in which we just assume meat smells this way and no some other way, and that flowers smell like this.

    But as to what they should smell like, based on how they appear, is a good question which I don't have an answer for.

    You seem to flip-flop between discussing things and how their properties aren't necessary to those things and properties themselves. What's up with that?TheMadFool

    Working my way through my confusion. I mean, sure, objects don't need too many properties by necessity. If you are blind and deaf and lack a sense of tactile sensations, there aren't many properties to uncover.

    Properties being, properties for us: induced by objects so that we feel that way we do when we encounter them.

    But to expect a property-less object is perhaps going too far.
  • Manuel
    1.6k
    I would like to say "separately" but this is known to be false, for instance, when it comes to taste and smell -- we think there ought to be some analogy, or even homology, between the different impressions. That is, the look of cut grass should be to vision as the scent of cut grass is to smell as the texture of cut grass is to feel, something like that.Srap Tasmaner

    YES. Reid was reacting to Locke - I think - and replying to Locke that primary qualities do not resemble anything in the object. We feel the effects of the object, but not in a resemblance manner.

    It feels as if there should be a consistency between our separate impressions, but there isn't.

    Reid actually wrote much of his works as an attack on Hume, he was Hume's fiercest critic at the time. But they got along well, no bad blood between them.

    We know the connection can be explained, grass being what it is means it looks a certain way and smells a certain way when it's just been cut, and we can associate those impressions, but that association can't help but seem somewhat arbitrary.Srap Tasmaner

    Again yes. Great. It doesn't seem arbitrary, but in some sense they are.

    The look and feel and taste of that object to this person are supposed to be abstractions, in a sense, aspects of an interaction between that single object and this single subject. But it doesn't feel like that; it feels like a particular look arbitrarily associated with a particular texture and a particular scent, and so on.Srap Tasmaner

    You explain this better than me. We imbue object with permanence that they don't need to have. One minute we see a lawn, we close our eyes for a second, and we say it's the same lawn. But it isn't actually, things are changing all the time. So this uniformity is quite interesting.

    But perhaps our notion of "single object" is extremely misleading, which seems to be the case.

    Should we infer that everything about the interaction of that object and this subject is assembled somehow, maybe that the object is just a sort of bundle of impressions, a bundle we assemble? Maybe we also conclude that we are such a bundle. That's Hume's word, I guess, but I'm not trying to insist that there is no structure here, only that there is some assembly required to get a subject and an object.Srap Tasmaner

    It's a good question. I think that an object just is an instantiation of properties, but I also believe that something in nature holds these properties together. We do that to objects too. But it would be really weird if nothing but us binded objects together. I mean, what's to stop us from thinking a river dry?

    As for us, it's much harder to say. In a sense yes, we are instantiations of properties, but without an innate structure we could not be able to discern anything. So I suspect there is a rigid inner nature that orders ourselves and parts of the world.

    Most people, I'd guess, will think there's something terribly foolish about expecting any kind of similarity between the "reports" of our various senses, but I'd much rather ask this very strange question and get an actual answer for why we shouldn't expect it.Srap Tasmaner

    Sure. This is quite speculative stuff.

    The only reason I can offer off the top of my head, is that we tend to like patterns and ordering stuff, we do this all the time, practically involuntarily. But once we begin to isolate what seems to be a coherent picture, obvious things become problematic. Our common sense picture of the world turns out to be an extremely elaborate construction, which we take for granted.

    You understand the problem rather well and it's puzzling for some.
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