Joined: Oct. 2006
Some responses to Louis. Apologies: this is way too long.
|I'm rather surprised. I have been using the word "reason" in its clear philosophical, epistemological sense (openly stated) since the word go, and NOW the definition is in question?|
Actually, I don't see that the definition of "reason" is at issue here at all, and am unsure of the source of your surprise. What I said was "I ultimately associate 'reasoning' with 'justification or warrant' for holding a conclusion or engaging in a behavior." That, obviously, is essentially identical to the first dictionary definition of reason you've reproduced above: "1. a basis or cause, as for some belief, action, fact, event, etc." This also seems right at home within the context of the theme of this entire thread, and specifically your argument with Skeptic: You have repeatedly asked him to provide explicit warrant for his conclusions in the form of evidence and explicitly articulated reasoning over that evidence, and repeatedly expressed exasperation over his unwillingness to do so. Instead, he has tended to restate his assertions, asserting the warrant to do so on "faith." Further, central to the thread has been your argument regarding the power and value of explicit reasoning over states of affairs (evidence) as a means to justify conclusions, relative to statements asserted from faith.
|Oh well, my own fault I suppose. I checked back and I haven't seen me say that the ball toss was "reasoned" but that it was a process that is based on the use of reason.|
Vis the very specific form "reasoned" I was recalling your PM to me. There you said "...It's an operation of your brain based on interaction between your CNS and its environment, it is the very essence of a reasoned process based on observation and interaction."
I do take note of the fact that you've also, in the above definitions, favored a related definition of "reason" that carries a somewhat different emphasis: "Philosophy. a. the faculty or power of acquiring intellectual knowledge, either by direct understanding of first principles or by argument." Then, you provided a supportive definition of "knowledge," with this emphasis: "something that is or may be known; information: He sought knowledge of her activities...the body of truths or facts accumulated in the course of time" I don't dispute any of these definitions, and accept the emphasis that you've preferred above (although I would say that a definition of knowledge as "something that is or may be known" is pretty close to tautological and therefore not very helpful).
So. We agree on the definition of "reason," yet I still find your application of "reason" to an exquisite motor act such as catching a ball somewhat inappropriate. Given our agreement on definition, it is likely that we are differing on applicability. For me this difference flows,
1) from elements implicit within the definition of "reasoning" reported above (namely its propositional nature), and
2) from the actual neural basis of such acts, which is not propositional, or even representational.
The short version is that "reason" and "reasoning" are inherently representational and often propositional in nature, while the visual networks that guide motor actions are not.
I have repeatedly emphasized "propositional" versus "non-propositional" insights in discussing meditation. A proposition entails a representation of a possible state of affairs in the world ("there are a lot of cats in the neighborhood") and may be factual or counterfactual. Propositions may be articulated as first principles or stated as assertions about states of affairs that may be affirmed by public observation (e.g. evidence). As one reasons, one then operates logically over those propositions to attain conclusions that are also expressed propositionally. Hence reasoning, as I construe it, is inherently propositional/representational in nature. Similarly, "knowledge" as you define it, and incorporate to your preferred definition of "reason," is inherently propositional: inherent to any notion of "truths" (as in "the body of truths") is propositional content; truths are that subset of propositions we know to be factual rather than counterfactual. It may be that reasoning in this sense can be accomplished unconsciously, but I think it inherent in the definition that, on demand, the evidence, propositions, operations across those propositions, and resulting assertions can be explicitly articulated. I don't think you'd be impressed if Skeptic claimed "My conclusions ARE based on reasoning - only this is unconscious reasoning that I can't articulate. But I know it is reason, and that my conclusions are reasonable." You would ask that he make his reasoning explicit, or request that he cease characterizing his process as "reason."
Given the above: I don't believe that the mechanisms that underlie skills such as catching a ball are necessarily propositional or even representational. In fact, the contrary appears to be true: rapid visual-motor coordination and actions are guided by an unconscious stream of visual processing that is NOT representational - and hence is not propositional (because all propositions are representations, athough the reverse is not true). Nor is this non-concious process amenable to explicit articulation in terms of propositional reasoning, even upon demand. The following draws upon Milner and Goodale's 1996 book The Visual Brain in Action:
From an evolutionary perspective, the original function of vision was to enable organisms to perform skilled actions. It was only in mammalian evolution, particularly with the evolution of the primates, that the ability to build and store manipulable perceptual representations of the visual world appeared, representations that are the basis of visual "observation." In the primate brain these functions are accomplished by two relatively independent streams of neural processing which progress from back to front of the brain along independent ventral and dorsal pathways. The output of the ventral stream is perception; the output of the dorsal stream is action.
Persons who suffer lesions that interrupt then ventral "what" stream suffer various “form agnosias” that render them unable to recognize or discriminate common objects, simple geometric shapes, and faces. The ventral stream’s sole source of input is the primary visual cortex (V1); hence complete disruption or disconnection of V1 results in “cortical blindness.” Persons suffering such brain damage report no visual experience.
The dorsal "where/how" stream of visual information processing is, in contrast, responsible for the guidance of immediate motor actions, such as reaching one’s arm, posturing one’s hand and opening one’s fingers to grasp an object - and catching a ball. The dorsal stream receives a variety of subcortical inputs, particularly from the superior colliculus, at points beyond area V1, and hence continues to receive some input even when V1 has been destroyed and cortical blindness is present. Moreover, the motor guidance accomplished by the dorsal stream appears to occur entirely outside awareness, and does not directly contribute to direct perceptual experience at all, including the perception of space and objects within it. These computations must be constantly and rapidly updated “online” in a real-time fashion - hence this action-based stream of visual processing has very little memory, does not create or utilize stored representations, and does not directly contribute to conscious perception.
In short, many rapid visual-motor actions are accomplished by means of visual processing that does NOT contribute to the construction of the visual scene, and hence to anything resembling observation.
Persons who have suffered damage to the “what” pathway and hence suffer various visual agnosias often remain capable of performing visually guided manual tasks with considerable precision, even as they remain utterly incapable of reporting, on the basis of vision alone, the size, shape, orientation, identity or function of the objects they successfully manipulate. For example, one exhaustively studied patient (D. F.), who suffered damage to the ventral pathway (secondary to carbon monoxide poisoning), is completely unable to recognize forms or objects (her perception of color and texture remain quite vivid, however). However, D. F. is capable of orienting her hand to post a card into a slot oriented at various angles with adeptness equal to controls, while remaining utterly unable to report or describe either verbally or by gesture the orientation of the slot at a level above chance. She is similarly able to reach and grasp objects of various sizes with normal precision, opening her fingers in preparation for a grasp in a normal fashion and grasping the objects across physically efficient axes, yet remains completely unable to identify, describe or discriminate these objects on the basis of size or form. Damage to the ventral pathway has completely disrupted her ability to recognize or describe visual forms, yet she continues to be guided in her motor actions by dorsal visual processing to which she has no conscious access and that results in no visual experience.
In contrast, persons who suffer dorsal stream damage remain largely perceptually intact while exhibiting severe impairment of visually guided behavior. They have comparatively little difficulty giving accurate verbal reports of the orientation and location of objects, and are capable of making various discriminations. Nevertheless, they exhibit a narrowing of attention, fixed gaze, difficulty executing saccadic eye movements, and difficulty reaching their arms and forming their hands to complete a grasp of target objects. In short, they are able to contemplate the perceptual scene constructed by the ventral pathway, yet have difficulty utilizing that information to guide motor actions. This is not a deficit of the motor system, as demonstrated by the fact that these persons remain capable of adeptly guiding motor actions using other sensory modalities such as touch.
In short, the vision-action neural nets that guide rapid and precise motor actions such as catching a ball are NOT representational in nature, are not at all propositional, and do not result in observations, unconscious or otherwise. Yes, they adapt us beautifully to circumstances in the external world, but they do not represent "reasoning" over experience in any of the senses defined above, because they do not entail representations. Something other than reasoning, even unconscious reasoning, is going on when this dorsal stream of processing guides one's hand as one catches a ball.
[very minor edits for clarity]
Myth: Something that never was true, and always will be.
"The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you."
- David Foster Wallace
"Hereâ€™s a clue. Snarky banalities are not a substitute for saying something intelligent. Write that down."
- Barry Arrington