Mechanism and theoretical knowledge (pt. I)

Cognitive powers have both a practical and a theoretical use, e.g. we not only use sight to avoid obstacles but also simply because we enjoy seeing; we taste things not only to see if they are rotten but also because we enjoy the taste. The comparison of our cognitive powers to machines is very apt to describe their practical use but it is inadequate and even ridiculous as an explanation of their theoretical use. As practical, the eye can be meaningfully compared to a camera – it takes in signals and then outputs information that is useful to the direction of the body; but as theoretical, we have to consider the camera as ceasing to have any output mechanism. It neither has a digital read-out nor records the experience to film, since ex hypothesi, the whole value of the input is the fact of input itself. Likewise, the brain can be meaningfully compared to a computer so far as it processes information that is useful for action, but the comparison becomes very strained as an account of contemplative action. So taken, we have to visualize a computer with no screen or outputs – which is certainly an odd contraption that has no clear motive for ever being built.

2 Comments

  1. June 19, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    Yes, and this is why sophists like George Lakoff and Rich Rorty deny the existence of theory and contemplation. Everything is for utility and survival. The existence of a desire for and a capacity for knowledge in itself would lead to the obviousness of God, which is what they abhor.

    • June 20, 2013 at 7:20 am

      George Lakoff and Rich Rorty deny the existence of theory and contemplation. Everything is for utility and survival.

      Theoretical accounts of how there are no theories. Comic gold.


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