Towards aerography, or how space is shaped to comply with the perceptions of the homunculus

In the previous post

The Cartesian Theater: philosophy of mind versus aerography

I explained why the Cartesian Theater is not well describing the appearance of the homunculus.

A “Cartesian theater”, Dennett proposes, is any theory about what happens in one’s mind which can be reduced to the model of a “tiny theater in the brain where a homunculus … performs the task of observing all the sensory data projected on a screen at a particular instant, making the decisions and sending out commands.”

This leads to infinite regression, therefore any such theory is flawed. One has to avoid the appearance of the homunculus in one’s theory, as a consequence.

The homunculus itself may appear from apparently innocuous assumptions, such as the introduction of any limen (or threshold), like supposing that (from Consciousness Explained (1991), p. 107)

“…there is a crucial finish line or boundary somewhere in the brain, marking a place where the order of arrival equals the order of “presentation” in experience because what happens there is what you are conscious of.”

By consequence such assumptions are flawed. There is no limen, boundary inside the brain (strangely, any assumption which supposes a boundary which separates the individual from the environment is not disturbing anybody excepting Varela, Maturana, or the second order cybernetics).

In the previous post I argued, based on my understanding of the excellent paper of Kenneth R Olwig

“All that is landscape is melted into air: the `aerography’ of ethereal space”, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2011, volume 29, pages 519 – 532,

that the “Cartesian theater” model is misleading because it neglects to notice that what happens on stage is as artificial as the homunculus spectator, while, in the same time, the theater itself (a theater in a box) is designed for perception.

Therefore, while everybody (?) accepts that there is no homunculus in the brain, in the same time nobody seems to be bothered that always the perception data are modeled as if they come from the stage of the Cartesian theater.

For example, few would disagree that we see a 3-dimensional, euclidean world. But this is obviously not what we see and the proof is that we can be easily tricked by stereoscopy. These are the visual data (together with other, more subtle, auditory, posture and whatnot) which the brain uses to reconstruct the world as seen by a homunculus, created by our illusory image that there is a boundary between us (me, you) and the environment.

You would say: nobody in the right mind denies that the world is 3d, at least our familiar everyday world, not quantum or black holes or other inventions of physicists. I don’t deny it, just notice, like in this previous post, that the space is perceived as it is based on prior knowledge, that is because prior “controlled hallucinations” led consistently to coherent interpretations.

The idea is that in fact there are two things to avoid: one is the homunculus and the other one is the scenic space.

The “scenic space” is itself a model of the real space (does this exists?) and it leads itself to infinite regression. We “learn space” by relating to it and modeling it in our brains. I suppose that all (inside and outside of the brain) complies with the same physical laws and that the rational explanation for the success of the “3d scenic space” (which is consistent with our educated perception, but also with physical phenomena in our world, at least at human scale and range) should come from this understanding that brain processes are as physical as a falling apple and as mathematical as perspective is.


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