Our great protean reality

Reality is structured as if it could be bargained with.

 2 minutes read in mind andMedium
Our great protean reality

Our world we recognize today as a world in making and ourselves as a part of it likewise in the course of making. Our present is not only not static, its very motion is a motion which will tomorrow not repeat today. Our planetary islet is unfinished even as those island universes which the astronomer tells us are at various stages of becoming. . . .Living things are all the time busy becoming something other than what they are. And this, our mind with the rest. It is being made along with the planet’s making. We do not know that it will ever be finished. Man on his Nature, by Sir Charles Sherrington (The Gifford Lectures, 1937-8) New York The Macmillan Co, and Cambridge University Press, England

Your brain does not care if your internal representations do not bear more than a fleeting resemblance to reality1. In a number of studies conducted in the 1920s and 30s, Sir Fredrick Bartlett demonstrated that memory works in creative and constructive ways, distorting, omitting, and even deleting our perceptual experiences. In fact, we seem to be able to selectively access one and perhaps no more than two of our sensory channels of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell in any given perceptual experience. So all perception is only a hypothesis, which is based on a very limited number of these elementary sensations, which are further “edited” and completed by competing and interfering information in memories past. Furthermore, the quality of the memory tucked away in the recesses of the brain is subject to many factors such as the environment of the original experience, the location and shape of the memory in the brain, and the present stimulus that invokes the memory. Memories themselves are complex and are linked to understanding—that is the way we formulate experience as a “comprehensible reality”. It involves our entire being: our bodily attributes, capacities and characteristics; our values, moods, attitudes, cultural beliefs, faiths, fears, anticipations, instincts, superstitions; and our thoughts and feelings about the experience itself. The memory, once encoded, is dispersed in various parts of the brain.

The human brain has trouble separating fantasy from fact, seeing things that are not there and not seeing things that are there. Such “neural ambiguity allows us to imagine and create a world filled with utopian, utilitarian and sometimes useless things” like a walking sleeping bag or breast cushion. Since the logic and reasoning are the processes of the frontal lobe, when we conceive of an action, however trivial, this part of the brain forms an objective opinion of the the probability of the desired outcome, but also of the sequence of events, involved in the action, taking place. It calculates this probability by weighing all the factors for and against the factors that would produce it and those that would prevent it. Thus a factor that is supported by a desire to take place is evoked in the mind simultaneously with a reciprocal but opposite factor that is supported by the fear that it will fail. The dominant factor acts as an antagonistic reducer 2 to its opposing counterpart.

The conflict between extreme optimists and pessimists as to the imminent or remote consequences of the same social events which are unfolded before their eyes, is due t their respective excessive affectivities, each taking into consideration only a part of the relevant factors. Eugenio Rignano, The Psychology of Reasoning (1920)

The Scottish psychiatrist observed, “what we fail to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds”, and unless we start to notice the profound significance of what we have failed to notice, or range of thought and action will forever be limited. Our conscious life is engendered by

  1. Bartlett F. C. (1932) Remembering: a study in experimental and social psychology. Macmillan, New York. 

  2. Hyppolite Taine, De L’Intelligence (1871) 

Tagged: selfinner lifescience.

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