Understanding Regularities 7: Organized Organisms

Organisms are both physical as well as experiential beings and it always useful to be accurate about when we are talking about one or the other. For example, it is well known that we have a blind spot in our visual field, where the optic nerve meets the retina. As far as the physical being goes, the blind spot is an area where there are no photoreceptors. However, the experiential being does not experience the blind spot as a hole in its visual field. It is not as if we walk around with a little black circle in front of us where we cannot see anything.

More generally, consider this difference between us and computers (among many other differences): while a computer will occasionally tell you that it cannot open a file or give some other error message, our sensory and conceptual systems do not give us error messages. We experience illusions but we do not experience errors. As the famous Indian philosophical example shows, sometimes we mistakenly identify ropes as snakes. But we never experience ropes as holes in the visual field. Even lesion patients do not experience the world that way; they might have hemispatial neglect and not see anything in the left hand side of their visual field, but they do not experience the visual world as half complete.

In other words, an exceptionally strong regularity in our engagement with the world is the active organization of the world into a coherent whole, in which we are coherent individual selves. One can think of the organization of the world as a “ground regularity,” which makes “figural regularities” such as stereoscopic depth possible. Even when we are unable to perceive the figural regularity we are still operating under the influence of the ground regularity. In fact, one could go as far as to say that the ground regularity, of which the coherent body is an important part, is the precondition for any perception or cognition of the world.

Leave a Comment