Sunday, November 27, 2005

Notes on What Qualitative Perceptual Concepts Are

In the last post, I wrote a few notes on 'simplicity' as a 'qualitative perceptual concept'. Here I want to write a few more notes on what I mean by a qualitative perceptual concept.

These are very rough notes, and no doubt not very intelligible to anyone else.

We perceive things in terms of concepts. Our perceptual/cognitive systems perceive items in terms of concepts. These concepts are not there directly in terms of the items, but are part of a 'model' of the nature of things in the world. In terms of interactions, there is a task and there is how it realises it, and there are properties of this.

A perceptual concept is really a specific set of concepts and properties with certain values. It's like a template. When a particular item matches this template, we say that the item has this perceptual concept.

What this means is that a perceptual concept like simplicity is something we know through its effects. We don't necessarily know exactly why something is 'simple' and what 'simple' means. It is qualitative because we do not have conscious access to the details of the template.

'Simple' is a perceptual concept that really has to do with how we stand in realtion to the item; it's not an intrinsic property of the item. Whether we would call an item simple depends on our percpetual and cognitive properties.

There are other percpetual concepts that do actually have to do with the item itself. For example, something that is intelligent is not something to do with the perceiver (of course, different perceivers may dispute whether something is intelligent or not, but this doesn't mean that actual intelligence of something is related to the perceiver). For such concepts, our perception can notice that there's there's this property there in the item, but knowing the effects, as we do with perceptual concepts, is quite different to actually knowing what in the item causes it to have that property. That is, we don't know what intelligence actually is.

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