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Consciousness and the Paranormal — Part 12

Merchandise that’s just out of this world!

Constance

Paranormal Adept
@Soupie, would love to hear your responses to this paper whenever you have a chance to read it.

Mirror Neurons, Prediction and Hemispheric Coordination: The Prioritizing of Intersubjectivity Over ‘Intrasubjectivity’

  • Richard Shillcock
    Email author
  • James Thomas
  • Rachael Bailes

1. School of Philosophy Psychology and Language Sciences, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Open Access
Original Paper
First Online: 24 November 2018

Mirror Neurons, Prediction and Hemispheric Coordination: The Prioritizing of Intersubjectivity Over ‘Intrasubjectivity’
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
". . . What will be the next big thing in AI?

Deep learning, as it is now, has made huge progress in perception, but it hasn’t delivered yet on systems that can discover high-level representations — the kind of concepts we use in language. Humans are able to use those high-level concepts to generalize in powerful ways. That’s something that even babies can do, but machine learning is very bad at.

We have this ability to reason about things that don’t actually happen in the data. We’ve made some progress with generative adversarial networks [a technique that sets a generative network in competition with an image-recognition network, to help both to improve their performance], for example. But humans are much better than machines, and my guess is that one of the important ingredients is the understanding of cause and effect."

AI pioneer: ‘The dangers of abuse are very real’
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
Farther down the rabbit hole we've explored at some length in the past . . .

Physics Is Pointing Inexorably to Mind
by Bernardo Kastrup on March 25, 2019

"In his 2014 book, Our Mathematical Universe, physicist Max Tegmark boldly claims that “protons, atoms, molecules, cells and stars” are all redundant “baggage.” Only the mathematical apparatus used to describe the behavior of matter is supposedly real, not matter itself. For Tegmark, the universe is a “set of abstract entities with relations between them,” which “can be described in a baggage-independent way”—i.e., without matter. He attributes existence solely to descriptions, while incongruously denying the very thing that is described in the first place. Matter is done away with and only information itself is taken to be ultimately real.

This abstract notion, called information realism is philosophical in character, but it has been associated with physics from its very inception. Most famously, information realism is a popular philosophical underpinning for digital physics. The motivation for this association is not hard to fathom.

Indeed, according to the Greek atomists, if we kept on dividing things into ever-smaller bits, at the end there would remain solid, indivisible particles called atoms, imagined to be so concrete as to have even particular shapes. Yet, as our understanding of physics progressed, we’ve realized that atoms themselves can be further divided into smaller bits, and those into yet smaller ones, and so on, until what is left lacks shape and solidity altogether. At the bottom of the chain of physical reduction there are only elusive, phantasmal entities we label as “energy” and “fields”—abstract conceptual tools for describing nature, which themselves seem to lack any real, concrete essence.

To some physicists, this indicates that what we call “matter,” with its solidity and concreteness—is an illusion; that only the mathematical apparatus they devise in their theories is truly real, not the perceived world the apparatus was created to describe in the first place. From their point of view, such a counterintuitive conclusion is an implication of theory, not a conspicuously narcissistic and self-defeating proposition.
Indeed, according to information realists, matter arises from information processing, not the other way around. Even mind—psyche, soul—is supposedly a derivative phenomenon of purely abstract information manipulation. But in such a case, what exactly is meant by the word “information,” since there is no physical or mental substrate to ground it?

You see, it is one thing to state in language that information is primary and can, therefore, exist independently of mind and matter. But it is another thing entirely to explicitly and coherently conceive of what—if anything—this may mean. By way of analogy, it is possible to write—as Lewis Carroll did—that the Cheshire Cat’s grin remains after the cat disappears, but it is another thing entirely to conceive explicitly and coherently of what this means.

Our intuitive understanding of the concept of information—as cogently captured by Claude Shannon in 1948—is that it is merely a measure of the number of possible states of an independently existing system. As such, information is a property of an underlying substrate associated with the substrate’s possible configurations—not an entity unto itself.

To say that information exists in and of itself is akin to speaking of spin without the top, of ripples without water, of a dance without the dancer, or of the Cheshire Cat’s grin without the cat. It is a grammatically valid statement devoid of sense; a word game less meaningful than fantasy, for internally consistent fantasy can at least be explicitly and coherently conceived of as such.

One assumes that serious proponents of information realism are well aware of this line of criticism. How do they then reconcile their position with it? A passage by Luciano Floridi may provide a clue. In a section titled “The nature of information,” he states:

“Information is notoriously a polymorphic phenomenon and a polysemantic concept so, as an explicandum, it can be associated with several explanations, depending on the level of abstraction adopted and the cluster of requirements and desiderata orientating a theory.... Information remains an elusive concept.” (Emphasis added.)

Such obscure ambiguity lends information realism a conceptual fluidity that makes it unfalsifiable. After all, if the choice of primitive is given by “an elusive concept,” how can one definitely establish that it is wrong? In admitting the possibility that information may be “a network of logically interdependent but mutually irreducible concepts,” Floridi seems to suggest even that such elusiveness is inherent and unresolvable.

Whereas vagueness may be defensible in regard to natural entities conceivably beyond the human ability to apprehend, it is difficult to justify when it comes to a human concept, such as information. We invented the concept, so we either specify clearly what we mean by it or our conceptualization remains too vague to be meaningful. In the latter case, there is literally no sense in attributing primary existence to information.
The untenability of information realism, however, does not erase the problem that motivated it to begin with: the realization that, at bottom, what we call “matter” becomes pure abstraction, a phantasm. How can the felt concreteness and solidity of the perceived world evaporate out of existence when we look closely at matter?

To make sense of this conundrum, we don’t need the word games of information realism. Instead, we must stick to what is most immediately present to us: solidity and concreteness are qualities of our experience. The world measured, modeled and ultimately predicted by physics is the world of perceptions, a category of mentation. The phantasms and abstractions reside merely in our descriptions of the behavior of that world, not in the world itself.

Where we get lost and confused is in imagining that what we are describing is a non-mental reality underlying our perceptions, as opposed to the perceptions themselves. We then try to find the solidity and concreteness of the perceived world in that postulated underlying reality. However, a non-mental world is inevitably abstract. And since solidity and concreteness are felt qualities of experience—what else?—we cannot find them there. The problem we face is thus merely an artifact of thought, something we conjure up out of thin air because of our theoretical habits and prejudices.

Tegmark is correct in considering matter—defined as something outside and independent of mind—to be unnecessary baggage. But the implication of this fine and indeed brave conclusion is that the universe is a mental construct displayed on the screen of perception. Tegmark’s “mathematical universe” is inherently a mental one, for where does mathematics—numbers, sets, equations—exist if not in mentation?

As I elaborate extensively in my new book, The Idea of the World, none of this implies solipsism. The mental universe exists in mind but not in your personal mind alone. Instead, it is a transpersonal field of mentation that presents itself to us as physicality—with its concreteness, solidity and definiteness—once our personal mental processes interact with it through observation. This mental universe is what physics is leading us to, not the hand-waving word games of information realism."​


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bernardo Kastrup has a Ph.D. in computer engineering from Eindhoven University of Technology and specializations in artificial intelligence and reconfigurable computing. He has worked as a scientist in some of the world's foremost research laboratories, including the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Philips Research Laboratories. Bernardo has authored many academic papers and books on philosophy and science. His most recent book is "The Idea of the World: A multi-disciplinary argument for the mental nature of reality," based on rigorous analytic argument and empirical evidence. For more information, freely downloadable papers, videos, etc., please visit www.bernardokastrup.com.
Recent Articles


Physics Is Pointing Inexorably to Mind
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
Could Multiple Personality Disorder Explain Life, the Universe and Everything?

A new paper argues the condition now known as “dissociative identity disorder” might help us understand the fundamental nature of reality

By Bernardo Kastrup, Adam Crabtree, Edward F. Kelly on June 18, 2018

"In 2015, doctors in Germany reported the extraordinary case of a woman who suffered from what has traditionally been called “multiple personality disorder” and today is known as “dissociative identity disorder” (DID). The woman exhibited a variety of dissociated personalities (“alters”), some of which claimed to be blind. Using EEGs, the doctors were able to ascertain that the brain activity normally associated with sight wasn’t present while a blind alter was in control of the woman’s body, even though her eyes were open. Remarkably, when a sighted alter assumed control, the usual brain activity returned.

This was a compelling demonstration of the literally blinding power of extreme forms of dissociation, a condition in which the psyche gives rise to multiple, operationally separate centers of consciousness, each with its own private inner life.

Modern neuroimaging techniques have demonstrated that DID is real: in a 2014 study, doctors performed functional brain scans on both DID patients and actors simulating DID. The scans of the actual patients displayed clear differences when compared to those of the actors, showing that dissociation has an identifiable neural activity fingerprint. In other words, there is something rather particular that dissociative processes look like in the brain.

There is also compelling clinical data showing that different alters can be concurrently conscious and see themselves as distinct identities. One of us has written an extensive treatment of evidence for this distinctness of identity and the complex forms of interactive memory that accompany it, particularly in those extreme cases of DID that are usually referred to as multiple personality disorder.

The history of this condition dates back to the early 19th century, with a flurry of cases in the 1880s through the 1920s, and again from the 1960s to the late 1990s. The massive literature on the subject confirms the consistent and uncompromising sense of separateness experienced by the alter personalities. It also displays compelling evidence that the human psyche is constantly active in producing personal units of perception and action that might be needed to deal with the challenges of life.

Although we may be at a loss to explain precisely how this creative process occurs (because it unfolds almost totally beyond the reach of self-reflective introspection) the clinical evidence nevertheless forces us to acknowledge something is happening that has important implications for our views about what is and is not possible in nature.

Now, a newly published paper by one of us posits that dissociation can offer a solution to a critical problem in our current understanding of the nature of reality. This requires some background, so bear with us.
According to the mainstream metaphysical view of physicalism, reality is fundamentally constituted by physical stuff outside and independent of mind. Mental states, in turn, should be explainable in terms of the parameters of physical processes in the brain.

A key problem of physicalism, however, is its inability to make sense of how our subjective experience of qualities—what it is like to feel the warmth of fire, the redness of an apple, the bitterness of disappointment and so on—could arise from mere arrangements of physical stuff.

Physical entities such as subatomic particles possess abstract relational properties, such as mass, spin, momentum and charge. But there is nothing about these properties, or in the way particles are arranged in a brain, in terms of which one could deduce what the warmth of fire, the redness of an apple or the bitterness of disappointment feel like. This is known as the hard problem of consciousness.

To circumvent this problem, some philosophers have proposed an alternative: that experience is inherent to every fundamental physical entity in nature. Under this view, called “constitutive panpsychism,” matter already has experience from the get-go, not just when it arranges itself in the form of brains. Even subatomic particles possess some very simple form of consciousness. Our own human consciousness is then (allegedly) constituted by a combination of the subjective inner lives of the countless physical particles that make up our nervous system.

However, constitutive panpsychism has a critical problem of its own: there is arguably no coherent, non-magical way in which lower-level subjective points of view—such as those of subatomic particles or neurons in the brain, if they have these points of view—could combine to form higher-level subjective points of view, such as yours and ours. This is called the combination problem and it appears just as insoluble as the hard problem of consciousness.

The obvious way around the combination problem is to posit that, although consciousness is indeed fundamental in nature, it isn’t fragmented like matter. The idea is to extend consciousness to the entire fabric of spacetime, as opposed to limiting it to the boundaries of individual subatomic particles. This view—called “cosmopsychism” in modern philosophy, although our preferred formulation of it boils down to what has classically been called “idealism”—is that there is only one, universal, consciousness. The physical universe as a whole is the extrinsic appearance of universal inner life, just as a living brain and body are the extrinsic appearance of a person’s inner life.

You don’t need to be a philosopher to realize the obvious problem with this idea: people have private, separate fields of experience. We can’t normally read your thoughts and, presumably, neither can you read ours. Moreover, we are not normally aware of what’s going on across the universe and, presumably, neither are you. So, for idealism to be tenable, one must explain—at least in principle—how one universal consciousness gives rise to multiple, private but concurrently conscious centers of cognition, each with a distinct personality and sense of identity.

And here is where dissociation comes in. We know empirically from DID that consciousness can give rise to many operationally distinct centers of concurrent experience, each with its own personality and sense of identity. Therefore, if something analogous to DID happens at a universal level, the one universal consciousness could, as a result, give rise to many alters with private inner lives like yours and ours. As such, we may all be alters—dissociated personalities—of universal consciousness.

Moreover, as we’ve seen earlier, there is something dissociative processes look like in the brain of a patient with DID. So, if some form of universal-level DID happens, the alters of universal consciousness must also have an extrinsic appearance. We posit that this appearance is life itself: metabolizing organisms are simply what universal-level dissociative processes look like.

Idealism is a tantalizing view of the nature of reality, in that it elegantly circumvents two arguably insoluble problems: the hard problem of consciousness and the combination problem. Insofar as dissociation offers a path to explaining how, under idealism, one universal consciousness can become many individual minds, we may now have at our disposal an unprecedentedly coherent and empirically grounded way of making sense of life, the universe and everything.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Bernardo Kastrup
Bernardo Kastrup has a Ph.D. in computer engineering from Eindhoven University of Technology and specializations in artificial intelligence and reconfigurable computing. He has worked as a scientist in some of the world's foremost research laboratories, including the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Philips Research Laboratories. Bernardo has authored many academic papers and books on philosophy and science. His most recent book is The Idea of the World: A multi-disciplinary argument for the mental nature of reality, based on rigorous analytic argument and empirical evidence. For more information, freely downloadable papers, videos, etc., please visit www.bernardokastrup.com.
Recent Articles
Adam Crabtree
Adam Crabtree is on the faculty of the Centre for Training in Psychotherapy, Toronto. He is a clinician who has treated many cases of severe forms of DID overs the past 30 years. He has written extensively about the history of psychodynamic psychotherapy from the time of Franz Anton Mesmer to the present, tracing the development of ideas about dissociation in the West, particularly in his book From Mesmer to Freud: Magnetic Sleep and the Roots of Psychological Healing (1993).

Edward F. Kelly
Edward F. Kelly is a professor in the Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS), a research unit within the Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia Medical School. He served as lead author of Irreducible Mind (2007) and Beyond Physicalism (2015), which systematically explore empirical and theoretical topics related to the primacy of mind in nature. His research interests currently focus on intensive neuroimaging studies of altered states of consciousness in exceptional subjects of various kinds.
Recent Articles
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
A Challenge to Perceptual Theories of Emotion
Concepts in Thought, Action, and Emotion: New Essays (Routledge), 2020
Jan Slaby
Jan Slaby

I develop a critical consideration directed at perceptual theories of emotion. My contention is that these approaches tend to miss a central aspect of emotional experience, namely the particular way that emotions disclose or render manifest the emoter’s self. Accordingly, I will show that emotions not only possess world-directed intentionality but also display a specific form of self-awareness. In the second part of the chapter, I build on this to sketch the broad contours of an argument in favor of the conceptuality of human emotions. Coarsely stated, my consideration goes as follows: Given that emotions are beholden to a lived self-understanding, and that a reflective self-understanding in the relevant sense requires concepts, emotions likewise must be a conceptual affair.
Publication Date: 2020
Publication Name: Concepts in Thought, Action, and Emotion: New Essays (Routledge)


Open access to this chapter/paper is available at this academia.edu link:

A Challenge to Perceptual Theories of Emotion
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
How culture works with evolution to produce human cognition – Cecilia Heyes | Aeon Essays

Cognitive gadgets
Our thinking devices – imitation, mind-reading, language and others – are neither hard-wired nor designed by genetic evolution

Cecilia Heyes


Extract -- ". . . Even language, once the king of cognitive instincts, appears increasingly rickety. No one doubts that the specifics of a particular language – for example, the words and idiosyncratic conventions of Urdu – are learned. However, following Noam Chomsky’s idea of ‘universal grammar’, many evolutionary psychologists believe that learning the specifics is guided by innate knowledge of fundamental grammatical rules. This view of language has been bolstered by developmental, neural and genetic findings that are now being overturned. For example, ‘specific language impairment’, a developmental disorder once thought to affect language acquisition alone, turns out not to be specific to language. Children diagnosed with the condition struggle to learn sequences of lights and objects, not just the order of words. And there doesn’t appear to be a ‘language centre’ in the brain. Broca’s area in the left hemisphere has long been regarded as the seat of language, but recent research by the neuroscientists Michael Anderson and Russell Poldrack suggests that language is scattered throughout the cortex. Broca’s area is in fact more likely to be busy when people are performing tasks that don’t involve language than when they’re reading, listening to and producing words. Similarly, FOXP2, once vaunted as a ‘language gene’, has been implicated in sequence learning more generally. Transgenic mice implanted with the human version of FOXP2 are better than their siblings at finding their way around a maze.

The loss of props such as Broca’s area and FOXP2 has not made the whole tent of the language instinct fall down. But now we know that computers can learn grammatical rules without any inbuilt grammatical knowledge, the rain is coming in through the flaps, and the whole structure looks more and more lopsided and insecure.

The evidence for cognitive instincts is now so weak that we need a whole new way of capturing what’s distinctive about the human mind. The founders of evolutionary psychology were right when they said that the secret of our success is computational mechanisms – thinking machines – specialised for particular tasks. But these devices, including imitation, mind-reading, language and many others, are not hard-wired. Nor were they designed by genetic evolution. Rather, humans’ thinking machines are built in childhood through social interaction, and were fashioned by cultural, not genetic, evolution. What makes our minds unique are not cognitive instincts but cognitive gadgets. . . ."
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
Very helpful clarifications of Merleau-Ponty's thought and of the deeper significance of mirror neurons:

Shaun Gallagher, The shadow of the transcendental: social cognition in Merleau-Ponty and cognitive science
[Published in K. Novotny (ed.), Corporeity and Affectivity]


"If anything can make plausible Merleau-Ponty's seemingly paradoxical thesis that human understanding necessarily tends to misunderstand itself, it is, surely, those two particularly rampant forms of logocentric objectivism that today go under the heading of Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence.… In their search for the universal algorithm, they represent a kind of innate, genetically programmed disease of the human mind, or, at least, of modernist, Western logocentric consciousness."

The author of this statement, Gary Madison, was quite familiar with Hubert Dreyfus’s (1972) use of phenomenology in his critique of “good old fashioned artificial intelligence” (GOFAI) -- and of Merleau-Ponty’s role in this. One can see some of the thinking behind this kind of critique in Merleau-Ponty’s The Structure of Behavior.

"When one attempts, as I have in The Structure of Behavior, to trace out, on the basis of modern psychology and physiology, the relationships which obtain between the perceiving organism and its milieu one clearly finds that they are not those of an automatic machine which needs an outside agent to set off its pre-established mechanisms” (Merleau-Ponty 1967, 4).

Up until 1991, this had been the only game in town that had anything explicit to say about phenomenology and cognitive science. In 1991 two books changed that. The first, Dennett’s Consciousness Explained was diametrically opposite to the position that Madison defends, and outlined a quick dismissal of the relevance of phenomenology. The second, however, by Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch, The Embodied Mind, was also diametrically opposite to Madison, but in the opposite direction to Dennett, in showing the relevance of Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological notion of embodiment for cognitive science. Dennett’s book was capitalizing on a new interest in consciousness that was emerging in cognitive science -- ironically, the very idea that motivated phenomenology, but that many “Continental philosophers” were then deconstructing and running away from as fast as possible. In Continental philosophy, phenomenology and the interest in consciousness was in decline at this time, except among a handful of staunch (or reactionary) defenders like Madison, who, in truth (as one might say), were more concerned to react against poststructuralism than to even consider cognitive science. Madison’s pronouncement was not the result of a large analysis, but only a passing comment.

While Dennett was revitalizing GOFAI with injections of neurotransmitters, and placing his bets on distributed brain processes rather than phenomenology, Varela et al. had already bought into Dreyfus’s critique, and were looking beyond the brain to a new incarnation of cognitive science where Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology would find an important place. In 1991, for a perspective that orients itself to Merleau-Ponty, things were not so simple as either Madison or Dennett thought. . . ."

http://www.ummoss.org/gallagher09shadow.pdf 1
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
Additional extract from this Gallagher paper:

". . . Back in Paris in 1960, Merleau-Ponty pressed Ryle about the importance of understanding how we understand others. What Ryle says about this in The Concept of Mind (1949) can be interpreted in simple behavioristic terms, or in terms that are quite similar to a long-standing phenomenological insight. Ryle rejects the Cartesian official doctrine: the minds of others are hidden away and inaccessible to us. We do not make "untestable inferences to any ghostly processes occurring in streams of consciousness which we are debarred from visiting" (1949, p. 51). That is, Ryle rejects what we today call "theory theory" (TT). He points out that if we had to depend on making inferences from a knowledge of psychological laws we would be led to the paradox that if someone actually knew these laws, they could never explain them to anyone else who also didn't already know them. Ryle also rejects what today is called simulation theory (ST), on much the same grounds as phenomenologists like Scheler and Merleau-Ponty rejected the argument from (inference by) analogy, showing that it would involve a fallacious inference: "the observed appearances and actions of people differ very markedly, so the imputation to them of inner processes closely matching [one's own or] one another would be actually contrary to the evidence" (1949, p. 54). Perhaps Ryle’s position on social cognition is one of the things that MerleauPonty thought was not so strange or distant from the phenomenologists, since he would also reject TT and ST – both of these approaches share assumptions that Merleau-Ponty would reject, namely:

1. The “problem of other minds” is framed in terms of the lack of access that we have to the other person’s mental states – inference is necessary.

2. Our normal everyday stance toward the other person is a third-person, observational stance.

3. These mentalizing processes constitute our primary and pervasive way of understanding others.

Phenomenology rejects the Cartesian idea that other minds are hidden away and inaccessible; rather, we directly perceive the other person’s intentions, emotions, and dispositions in their embodied behavior. No inference is necessary in most cases. Our normal everyday stance toward the other person is not third-person, detached observation; it is second-person interaction. We are not primarily spectators or observers of other people’s actions; for the most part we are interacting with them on some project, or in some pre-defined relation. Our primary and pervasive way of understanding others does not involve mentalizing or mindreading; in fact, these are rare and specialized abilities that we develop only on the basis of a more embodied approach (see Gallagher 2005).

For Merleau-Ponty, our perception of others is interactional rather than observational -- the actions of others elicit the activation of our own motor systems. At a very basic level, in my perception of you, my motor system resonates with your actions. This view, of course, resonates very well with the contemporary neuroscience of mirror systems, but what is at stake here is precisely what Merleau-Ponty calls intercorporeity (1969, p. 141) – which (contra many neuroscientists) is not something that can be characterized as simulation. “The mirror arises upon the open circuit [that goes] from seeing body to visible body…. My own body’s ‘invisibility’ can invest the other bodies I see” (Merleau-Ponty 1967, p. 168) There are explicit arguments to be made against implicit versions of ST (Gallagher 2007), and there are alternative interpretations of mirror neuron studies that are perfectly consistent with Merleau-Ponty’s view. All of this falls under the heading of social cognition -- it’s the problem of how we come to understand others -- and there are currently large debates among TT, ST, and the more phenomenonlogically inspired work on interaction theory (IT), etc. . . ."
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
GIBSON, JAMES J., New Reasons for Realism , Synthese, 17:2 (1967:juni) p.162

Abstract: "Both the psychology of perception and the philosophy of perception seem to show a new face when the process is considered at its own level, distinct from that of sensation. Unfamiliar conceptions in physics, anatomy, physiology, psychology, and phenomenology are required to clarify the separation and make it plausible. But there have been so many dead ends in the effort to solve the theoretical problems of perception that radical proposals may now be acceptable. Scientists are often more conservative than philosophers of science. I end, therefore, as I began, with a plea for help."

http://apophenia.wdfiles.com/local--files/start/Gibson-NewReasonsForRealism.pdf
 

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