Does thinking of the mind as a phenomenon of purely physiological origin have consequences for the way we interact with the world?
What brought the question to mind was a thought last night – that in my youth colours seemed more vivid and that many more of them were apparent then as well. Turning then to a painting on the wall I found that the colour had returned much as my clothing or hair become perceptible as soon as I consciously address them. From there it took me to the Huxley’s ‘Doors of Perception’ (which I haven’t picked up for several years) and the concept of the mind as a funnel or filter, rather than an entity constructing my reality from pieces of information gathered from the world. The problem boils down to this; does my mind seek out the world to piece together some comprehension of it, or does the world essentially force itself on my mind?
This concept seems useful when I consider all the stimulus I regularly exclude and which can interfere with decision making. Similar structures must also be present in other organisms (including non-humans, think of an insect’s compound eye and all they see in a glimpse). I suppose then, to take things away from the depths of philosophy, it is really a matter of attention. I will come down of the side of Huxley.
Sensation is greater than perception. Not only is there more in the world than I consciously perceive, but there is also much more that I sense than I consciously perceive. Looking at the keyboard (an admittedly horrible typist), I am ignorant of the scene surrounding it. My elbows rest on the desk, my dry winter skin is tight across my nose, the ventilation runs noisily in this public building. All this sensation is unnecessary to the task at hand (this writing), and in excess will quickly become detrimental to it. The foreground becomes my focal point and the background essentially fades away.
Yet this also assumes that attention is not only quantifiable, but limited. A professor today, taking a mild diversion from class, explained the ways in which to juggle two sets of objects in two hands, while doing so and cycling seamlessly through the different methods. For a learned task attention becomes much different. Is there a limit to learning beyond the number of hours in a day?
Having toyed with the rudiments of cognition, I’ll leave further details to the more adept. If the mind is an antenna then for me it turns to the signals, against a constant background of noise. The means which it uses to distinguish ever newer and more complex signals are as of yet a mystery to me.
Regarding the title; the mind takes sensation, which is capable of becoming true perception, but destroys this potential within it by ignoring it until it has left recent memory. Once gone from memory, that unique event ceases to exist as a possibility of experience.Thank you to Jeremy Burman for helping me to clarify some early ideas