Objectivity and Error In The Forms of Awareness

 

By Jonathan Awesome

 

No one would say that natural selection can err. It is an unconscious, non-volitional and automatic causal mechanism. It is a simple action/reaction relationship. The same things are true of the senses and of the parts of the brain involved in perception.

 

An animal, a non-conceptual, non-volitional organism on the perceptual level of awareness acts; as its nature dictates, as it must, as natural selection has programed it to. It simply interacts with some stimuli and automatically responds. An action may fail to result in its goal (e.g. it may not result in a benefit to the organism which caused it to be naturally selected as characteristic of the organism) but this is not an error. To take an example from Dr. Binswanger (as I recall it), a duck landing on a road as if it were water is not the duck thinking the road is water, the duck does not think. It simply reacts to certain stimuli as programmed. It has not ‘mis-perceived’ one thing as another. It reacted to signals from some source other than the usual one with different results and thus acted inappropriately but not erroneously, as there was no mistake involved.

 

Error becomes possible when volition is introduced. This means also when conceptual integration becomes a factor. When conceptual integration, thinking, judgment takes place choice is involved. This is now the realm of the non-automatic and optional. We can choose one over others and we can now be wrong. It is only to a human being, by virtue of and by means of our unique faculties, that error is possible. Those faculties and processes which we share with other animals are independent of this. When can choose to focus on or think about what we perceive. But beyond actively blocking out certain stimuli we cannot choose what or how we perceive.

 

This, fallibility, is also where and why the subjective/objective distinction becomes possible and necessary. Because error and distortion are possible to the mental faculties involving volition and conceptual integration we need to differentiate things which are depend on them apart from reality from things based on reality. The subjective is the mind dependent (which does not mean brain dependent) where mind refers to the part of the brain which can judge and thus can err (the conscious and consciously programmed subconscious). The objective is that which is based on reality apart from judgment which are not thus based themselves. Were the distinction otherwise it would be useless. We condemn a statement as subjective because what is mind dependent does not necessarily reflect reality, because someones judgments may be wrong. An opinion can be wrong because it is based on subjective judgment and not reality. For this reason we distinguish opinion from fact.

 

The fallibility of our rational capacity is also what makes the application of principles based on observation (logic) necessary to our thinking for us to have our thought reflect reality, for them to be objective. The infallible nature of perception (as pre-volitional and pre-conceptual) and our ability to reduce our thoughts to it via implication and inference is what makes objective reasoning possible.

 

So as the sense organs, perception and even the parts of the mind involved in perception are all mere causal mechanisms and devoid of influence from nonobjective judgments and thus the possibility of error they are all then objective and necessarily reflect reality. And even though the possibility of error is still present, even judgment (thanks to logic and reduction to perception) can be objective.

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