Sunday, January 28, 2007

What it's like to Echolocate

Eric Schwitzgebel has been posting about human echolocation (here and here). I'm not sure I agree with his conclusions, but it's a fascinating topic.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:03 PM.


Anonymous Yusef A. said...

I thought it interesting that Eric doesn't question the use of analogy, analogous thinking, as the means to understand what something different is like. It appears to me that he believes that if we can establish the existence of some sensory analogy between some forms of human hearing/feeling and bat echolocation, then we show what it is like to be a bat, but I don't think that's correct. The form of analogous thinking contains within it presuppositions of sameness already, and when it is applied, it just affirms these very presuppositions.

January 30, 2007 9:44 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Hi, Yusef. From his comments on the first post I gather Eric's critique of Nagel was inteneded to be rather narrow, and he wasn't intending to engage the essential question of how we can know what it's like to be different. The way some people use the word "homology" might be useful here. I would say, pace Nagel, that human echolocation and bat echolocation are homologous. That's kind of fascinating in itself. I also found it interesting how people described their ability to echolocate as "facial vision."

On the question of analogy, I see your point. I also agree with Lyotard (see The Body as Analogon for Thought) that the essential quality of analogy is that thinking is imbricated in its givens, so in a good and proper analogy something more is accomplished than a mere affirmation of presuppositions.

January 30, 2007 3:13 PM  
Anonymous Yusef A. said...

"In any serious discussion of analogy it's this experience that is meant, this blur, this uncertainty, this faith in the inexhaustibility of the perceivable, and not just a mode of transfer of the data onto an inscription-surface not originally its own....Real 'analogy' requires a thinking or representing machine to be in its data just as the eye is in the visual field or writing is in language (in the broad sense)."

Guess I've never had a serious discussion of analogy then, because I've never in my deepest delirium thought of analogy in any way resembling this description of it.

I'm pretty sure I don't have the slightest faith in the inexhaustibility of the perceivable, either.

What the heck is he talking about?

January 30, 2007 11:03 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Lyotard's "this" refers to this:

"A field of perception has limits, but these limits are always beyond reach. While a visual object is presenting one side to the eye, there are always other sides, still unseen. A direct, focused vision is always surrounded by a curved area where visibility is held in reserve yet isn't absent. This disjunction is inclusive. And I'm not speaking of a memory brought into play by even the simplest sight. Continuing vision preserves along with it what was seen an instant before from another angle. It anticipates what will be seen shortly. These syntheses result in identifications of objects, identifications that never are completed, syntheses that a subsequent sighting can always unsettle or undo. And the eye, in this experience, is indeed always in search of a recognition, as the mind is of a complete description of an object it is trying to think of; without, however, a viewer ever being able to say he recognizes an object perfectly since the field of presentation is absolutely unique every time, and since when vision actually sees, it can't ever forget that there's always more to be seen once the object is 'identified'. perceptual 'recognition' never satisfies the logical demand for complete description."

Apparently "in any serious discussion" is hyperbolic. Let me ask you, though, Yusef, have you ever thought of analogy as a praxis, or a kind of practical reasoning? How would you describe the difference between analogy as praxis and analogy as some other kind of reasoning?

January 31, 2007 11:51 AM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

I've tended to think of analogy as being the form of thinking which had its heydey in the time of the medieval theologians, and as such, being a form of thinking which leads to or would like to foster a disengagement with worldly concerns and politics.

A lot of what I think on this matter comes right from this paragraph:

" First, it has been maintained that 'Being' is the 'most universal' concept [...] An understanding of Being is already included in conceiving anything which one apprehends in entities.'But the 'universality' of 'Being' is not that of a class or genus. The term 'Being' does not define that realm of entities which is uppermost when these are Articulate conceptually according to genus and species[...] The 'universality' of Being 'transcends' any universality of genus. In medieval ontology 'Being' is designated as a 'transcendens'. Aristotle himself knew the unity of this transcendental 'universal' as a unity of analogy in contrast to the multiplicity of the highest generic concepts applicable to things. [etc, but I can't type all of this in here.]"- from Being and Time, MHeidegger, page 3.

If you have another way of thinking of analogy, and it appears to be that you do, I am all ears.

January 31, 2007 3:45 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

How about an example then. If I say "echolocation is to bats as seeing is to humans" does that sound like an analogy to you?

January 31, 2007 4:37 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Well, I've been thinking about this analogy overnight so I'll go ahead and run with it.

In the first place, the analogy "echolation is to bats as seeing is to humans" is part of a larger project of thinking. It could be for instance part of an attempt to weigh the pros and cons of analogy, perhaps with respect to a philosophical problem like the problem of other minds; however to see the pros and cons, we'll also have to imagine that some other project of thinking is at stake, for example, an attempt to understand the world of the bat, or the world of senses, or what it means to be human--for Lyotard is correct in that the the identifications involved are incomplete, and rather than simply mapping the known onto the unknown, the analogy opens up other aspects of what was given. What, after all, does seeing mean to humans? What does it mean to have a dominant sense? Or a developed sense? How developed is the human sense of vision really? What are its limitations, its strengths? And what does it mean for existence to be given a faculty like vision? Such questions follow from the use of the analogy "echolocation is to bats as seeing is to humans."

The analogy only goes so far. It will break down as more is learned about the terms and their relations, and as new terms and relations are introduced. This is not really a weakness of analogy, though it may be a problem if one tries to make analogy mean more than it does. There's no reason to assume that analogy offers the final word on a project of thinking. It is far more at home as a preliminary to deeper inquiry. Once it has served its purpose, it may be safely discarded.

February 01, 2007 12:19 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

Thanks again, Fido the Yak. I want to think about this much more carefully before I respond ( but I realized that I need to respond in some way or another now because you have no other way of knowing that I've looked at it.)

I think this link does a pretty good job of briefly summarizing the peculiar background I share with the author on the matters of homology/analogy...

February 06, 2007 2:34 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

That's a useful link. I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on analogy.

February 07, 2007 9:59 AM  

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