In the above diagram, the nature of light is examined from a semiotic perspective. As with Piercian sign trichotomies, and semiotics in general the theme of interpretation is deconstructed as it pertains to meanings, interpreters, and objects. In this case the object or sign is “Optics”. This would be the classical, macroscopic appearance of light as beams or rays which can be focused and projected, Color wheels and primary colors are among the tools we use to orient our own human experience of vision with the universal nature of material illumination.
On the other side of bottom of the triangle is “Vision”. This is the component which gives vision a visual quality. The arrows leading to and from vision denote the incoming receptivity from optics and the outgoing engagement toward “Light”. When we see, our awareness is informed from the bottom up and the top down. Seeing rides on top of the low level interactions of our cells, while looking is our way of projecting our will as attention to the visual field.
While optics dictate measurable relationships among physical properties of light on the macroscopic scale, ‘light’ is the hypothetical third partner in the sensory triad. Light is both the microphysical functions of quantum electrodynamics and the absolute frame of perceptual relativity from which various perceptual inertial frames emerge. The span between light and optics is marked by the polar graph and label “Image” to describe the role of resemblance and relativity. Image is a fusion of the cosmological truth of all that can be seen and illuminated (light), with the localization to a particular inertial frame (optics-in-space), and recapitulation by a particular interpreter – who is a time-feeler of private experience.
This triangle schema is not limited to light. Any sense can be used with varying degrees of success:
The overall picture can be generalized as well:
Note that the afferent and efferent sided of the triangle have a push-pull orientation, while the quanta side is an expanding graph. This is due to the difference between participation within spacetime, which is proprietary feeling, and the measured positions between participants on multiple scales or frames of participation. Sense is the totality of experience from which subjective extractions are derived. The physical mode describes the relation between each subjective experience and between other frames of subjective experience as representational tokens: bodies or forms. It’s all a kind of trail of breadcrumbs which lead back to the source, which is originality itself.
From a worthwhile thread on Quora.
“Below are two shapes. One of them is called Kiki and the other is called Bouba.
Almost all respondents when asked say that the jagged one is kiki and the rounded one is bouba. This can be observed across cultures. This is an innate ability of our brain by which one mode of sensation can cross over into another.”
This is a useful little nugget for MSR. A computer would have to be programmed specifically to correlate the names with the shapes, and such a correlation would be arbitrary from a programmatic perspective. By contrast, our cross-modal, cross-cultural preferences cohere intrinsically, by feel. Feeling is not a collision of objects, it is an aesthetic presence – it is our own participation in a discernment of subjects. The anthropological universality of certain linguistic-phonetic qualities and their association with other kinds of qualities (hard sounds, hard angles, sharp edges, etc) are rooted in deeper universals of sense – deeper than evolution, deeper than matter even. If it didn’t run that deep, (to the absolute bottom/top), then there would be no sense in sense at all. We would be like a computer, linking syntactic fragments together arbitrarily by statistical relevance rather than experiential content.
“Thanks for always writing such great responses to my questions.
I was wondering if you could, either as a response here or in a post, comment on sensation itself, that is to say on the sensory modalities we experience as humans. It strikes me that one of the great unasked metaphysical questions is whether the 5 senses that we know exhaust the kinds of sense available to being. Some see a deep truth in this, as 5 is a number closely associated with phi and the Fibonacci sequence (we also have 5 digits on our appendages). Even the existence of the 5 platonic solids makes one wonder if our senses somehow represent a phenomenological analog to this geometric truth. And what does each of the senses make sense of? What sense do the senses make?
Much has been made of echolocation as a possibly alien form of sense (and the basis of serious anti-reductionist arguments in philosophy of mind, as with Nagel’s classic essay) but it’s just as easy to imagine, perhaps easier, that echolocation is simply the bat’s way of generating visual sense, or perhaps some synesthesian fusion of visual and auditory modalities.
Synesthesia itself presents phenomenological conundrums that are worth teasing apart. If synesthesia is possible why have we evolved with such separation to our senses? Does a person with synesthesia loose as much as he gains? And, could a total, radical, singular sysesthesic unitary SENSE be imagined?
Finally, there is the complicated relation of sensory experience to thought. Though the two are generally conceptually separated (could there be anything seemingly less “sensory” than abstract thinking) I bet the real story is far more complicated. My intuition is that all thought is sensory through and through though the way thoughts, and, in particular, language, represent (experience?) sensation is mind-boggingly subtle. (Is this Hume’s distinction between ideas and impressions again?)
Love to hear your thoughts on the senses. Seems important for MR.”
Thanks for the topic and the interest. Starting with the five senses, I’m not sure that the number is particularly significant. The difference between olfactory and gustatory sense seems to me like a difference in degree rather than a difference in kind. There is a lot of overlap between flavors and smells although you could argue that there are some tastes that you cannot smell. Can something smell salty? Something can smell sour or bitter but not ‘upside down’ or ‘high pitched’.
There are also categories of sensation which do not fall easily into the five. Vestibular-kinesthetic sense and proprioception can maybe be considered forms of tactile ‘feeling’, but your skin can’t feel dizzy and the relation between your body and the world can’t really itch or hurt. Then there’s more metaphorical kinds of sense, but are they really metaphorical or are they just deeper within the context of personal experience? Sense of humor, moral sense, sense of gratitude, intuition, business sense…these are arguably irreducible to general awareness or some other sense modality.
If I were to apply an alchemical read of the senses, I would go with more of a tetragrammaton view with the masculine elements corresponding to aural and tactile sense and the feminine corresponding to visual and olfactory-gustatory sense. This four-way symmetry provides a rich vein of fun associations to ponder…the stereotypical masculine preference for fast vehicles and loud noises vs the feminine stereotype ‘candy and flowers’ offering give a hint. A five point comparison has more of a person-hood connotation – like the five digits on our hands or the five appendages radiating from our torso, the emphasis is on the utility of sense as they pertain to our agency in the world. In MR I am dealing not so much with human sense modalities in particular but the underlying phenomena of sensory presentation. I can see how the number five would have interesting numerological and mathematical properties, although all of the other integers do as well. Five is the recapitulation of one, the middle number, associated with qualities of growth and constraint. Five suggests ratios and leverage in a way that the first four integers do not. The thumb rules over the fingers as the head rules over the limbs, etc. Perhaps it characterizes the relation of the conscious self to the more mechanistic (four-like) subconscious.
“If synesthesia is possible why have we evolved with such separation to our senses? Does a person with synesthesia loose as much as he gains? And, could a total, radical, singular sysesthesic unitary SENSE be imagined?”
Synesthesia is very interesting to me because it really deflates the assumption that the aesthetic presentation of our subjective experience is simply a package deal which emerges from the characteristics of data. We see that indeed sounds can be smelled, numbers and days of the week can have colors, but also that syneasthetes do not share the same bundlings of sense. This suggests to me that aesthetics are not in fact generated by the brain, but rather appreciated through the brain, body, and the body’s environment, as well as subjective experience augmenting itself over time. Congenitally blind people do not see visual phenomena when their visual cortex is stimulated, they feel tactile stimulation instead. This debunks the assumption that sensory modalities simply correspond to brain region.
As for what a synesthete gains or loses, I can only guess. From the accounts I have read it seems like it is mostly benign, occasionally spectacular (one case gave a man the ability compose music visually…a head injury I think). Some seem to feel a bit insecure about it. Being a person is strange enough as it is without seeing or tasting things that nobody else does.
As far as a unitary sense, I suspect that just as the human body corresponds to a particular palette of sense capacities, a human stem cell might correspond to a more undifferentiated palette. That could be explored experimentally with the right technology. My hypothesis is that the unitary sense is a continuum between tight-stress-high frequency, loose-relaxed, low frequency oscillation.
“My intuition is that all thought is sensory through and through”
I agree. My working model is that thought is cognitive quality sensation, and that it is essentially a feeling in which other feelings are represented. As algebraic variables are to actual values, thoughts are transparent containers for reflected icons of hypothetical experiences. An understanding of audio sense in comparison to sight is revealing I think, given that our thoughts typically persist as interior verbal presentations. Sound waves, unlike light, require matter to propagate from node to node, so there is an inference that I make about acoustics being a body-to-body interaction. The cochlea and the dual role of the inner ear for hearing and balance seems particularly three dimensional – a sense of volumes of matter. Musical instruments are sculptural and tangible, and acoustic sensation pierces the ear the high end and engulfs the body on the low end. Thought is similarly about encapsulation, it is a semiotic pre-packaging which is formulated for public distribution. It paradoxically frees subjectivity from the subject while encoding the subject’s intention as an independent form. Maybe this is why William S. Burroughs and others have described language in alien terms, as viruses and memes.
I hope that made enough sense to be worthwhile. Thanks again.