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Why math?

August 30, 2012

1. I of It

2. The method of mathematics

3. Positive Language

4. Just DO

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  1. Rafi Malach, 12/11/08, to me

    Dear Rayudu,

    I read your ms with great interest. It is beautifully phrased and I was particularly pleased with your attempt to avoid technical jargon which makes most papers of this sort so difficult to follow for the non-professional. As to the content- I fully sympathize with two themes that recur in your manuscript- first, the “Proustian” notion of perception which realizes the possibility, even the necessity, for vivid perception to emerge in the complete unification between the “me” (whatever that is) and the percept. I interpret such mental states as a clear illustration that conscious sensory perception does not depend on some higher level contemplative process- and under particularly intense situations it actually depends on the elimination of such processes. It seems that you imply something similar in your text, but frankly, here it was not so clear cut and the reading became a bit obscure.

    The second theme with which I agree is the fact that perception is not some kind of imperfect “mirror” of reality – I strongly believe that there is a fundamental, qualitative and deep distinction between perception and the “objective reality” whatever that might be- your analogy with math was very elegant and appropriate here.

    Finally, a place where we seem to disagree is your conception of “lost self”- you seem to consider such a state as a very special and extra-ordinary incidence, while I will include in this category all those psychological states in which we are fully absorbed in our percept- and the Proustian taste of Madeleine is a beautiful example, precisely for such “lost self” situation- ie the phenomena which can be called “absorption” and which imply losing self-awareness- this could of course be considered a mere issue of semantics except that we now have a tantalizing neuroscientific evidence that seems to unite all such “lost-self” experiences with a corresponding inhibition of cortical networks that appear to be dealing with all sorts of inward and self-related orientation.

    So to summarize, this is a thought provoking and beautifully written text- my suggestion for improvement is if you could focus better your main thesis- some of your claims I did not manage to follow very well. An abstract preceding the text summarizing your main points in a clear cut manner will be helpful.

    If you have further thoughts/ comments I will be happy to discuss these,

  2. Max Velmans, 3/3/09, to me

    Dear Posina

    I don’t usually have enough time to respond to unpublished manuscripts, but I can see that you have put some deep thought into this and so have found a few moments to go through it. I have attached the paper with my comments – which pick up problems (at least as far as I can see) – in the way that I usually do when I edit papers. Hopefully these will give you things to think about and if you want to try to take it all further, possible ways of clarifying and improving things.

    I don’t know if you have read Understanding Consciousness (the new edition should be out in around a month). But if you do, you will see that I have a somewhat different take on all the issues that you address – although on some issues, we start in the same place.

    With best wishes

    Max Velmans
    Professor Max Velmans
    Department of Psychology
    Goldsmiths, University of London
    New Cross, London SE14 6NW

  3. Subject: Re: perception, Date: 2 Mar 2008, From: Richard Conn Henry, To:

    I read your essay (quickly!) an hour ago. I enjoyed it greatly!

    I very much like the very fundamental point you (and your co-author) make, which I had been aware of, but not so distinctly: the blurriness of the distinction of me and it.

    Your emphasis on the absence of any objective distinctions in this arena is important. The distinction between you and it is clearly totally artificial, and not present in physics.



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