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Darwin-L Message Log 1:121 (September 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<1:121>From huh@u.washington.edu  Tue Sep 14 16:49:45 1993

Date: Tue, 14 Sep 1993 13:24:51 -0700 (PDT)
From: Mark Rushing <huh@u.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: A reply to Ramsden
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu

On Mon, 13 Sep 1993, Morris Simon wrote:

> On Wed, 8 Sep 1993, Peter Ramsden wrote:
>
> > I guess you missed the point.  I didn't want to know how you test a
> > taxonomy - I want to know how test your proposition that some taxonomy is
> > independent of human perception.  You may also want to be a bit more
> > careful about confusing the concept of perception with the concept of
> > will.  Just because I create a perception of something doesn't mean that I
> > "will into existence" the phenomenon I'm perceiving, does it?  A bit more
> > care in throwing around labels like 'science' and 'theology' wouldn't be
> > out of place either
>
> I think it would useful at this point in the thread to distinguish
> "perception" from "cognition". As most cognitive theorists as well as
> physiological psychologists use the term, "perception" is relatively
> cultureless until linguistic tags begin to segment and order physical
> phenomena. A perceiver never "creates" a perception, but the perceiver's
> cortex might modify the perception in order to force it into a learned
> category. "Will" is such a higher order process of mentation than either
> perception or cognitive processing that I find it difficult to use in this
> context. Perhaps theology and/or psychology would be a good place to leave
> such notions as 'willing phenomena into existence.'
>
> But then again, cognitive models such as the ubiquitous phylogenetic tree
> predispose analysts to interpret evolutionary continuity in terms of
> discontinuous 'branches,' 'clades' and 'species.' "Willingly?" 8*}
>
> Morris Simon <msimon7@ua1ix.ua.edu>
> Stillman College

sorry to have quoted two entire messages, but they seem to exemplify the
difficulties faced when communicating ideas across Disciplines.  whereas
peter's message is rooted (or not rooted) in a philosophical "flavour"
which is skeptical of, perhaps, the self-defining Terms of a scientific
Method for Understanding -- morris's message portrays a viewpoint which
has a deeply-rooted Belief in the Systematics of Science.

it is possible to nit-pick over Epistomology indefinately.  to dismiss a
viewpoint because it appears "Theological" since its foundation exists
outside of your personal Framework is, perhaps, somewhat hasty.  i believe
the question asked by peter is extremely valid for our time, and
especially in an interdisciplinary setting.  to say that a scientific
System exists independently of human perception or construction is to
almost have a belief in God.  to believe that we take part in a somewhat
defined System of perception and categorization focused in very specific areas
is, i believe, closer to understanding what Science is.

so, to peter's question -- is "some taxonomy...independent of human
perception"?  only if Something other than humanity created it, which does
not seem Reason-able at this time.  it seems to me that our only
verifyable premise is that we, as an Individual, sense what we sense.
anything more is a Construction in air, outside our sensual sphere which
is, perhaps, perceivable by Others, but certainly biased by the
Individuals sensory matrix, for lack of a better term.

unless you are willing to 'take a leap of Faith' into believing in
Absolute Constructs, we remain rooted in subjectivity, no matter how nicely
you might have your scientific Categories and logical Pathways arranged.
to quote morris:

	A perceiver never "creates" a perception, but the
	perceiver's cortex might modify the perception in order
	to force it into a learned category.  "Will" is such a
	higher order process of mentation than either perception
	or cognitive processing that I find it difficult to use
	in this context.

if i might presume to comment upon this well-plummed diagram -- a perceiver
perceives a perception.  that much i am certain we can agree upon, well,
more certain than i usually am...  the cortex might modify the perception
and force it into a learned category?  what?  this sounds as much a "higher
order process" as the term "Will" which was singled out in morris's
polite attack.  is it a mechanical process?  where do the "categories"
exist?  are they created by external stimuli, therefore learned?  or are
they shaped by the Individual who perceives?  is it out of the Perceiver's
control?

sorry to get ridiculous there, but i believe it is important in this
dicussion (a very fascinating one!) that we understand the inadequacies of
any one Systemic approach when dealing with concepts which, perhaps,
transcend any single Discipline.  it will require a tolerance of new
ideas, and a willingness to look beyond our own notions of This Is The Way
It Is.  what intriguing possibilities await us here!  (if we are willing
to throw down the gauntlets, permanently).  or is it that the strong do,
indeed, survive.

                  mark

           mark rushing
          post office box 85267
        seattle, washington  98145-1267

           206.329.8070
         huh@u.washington.edu
         rushing@battelle.org

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