The Primary Modes of Perception
My operating hypothesis is that conscious events constitute the fundamental stuff of reality. This is of course just a hypothesis. Perhaps we are just an idea. Or an illusion. Or A bunch of billiard balls. Or just numbers. The advantage of my hypothesis is that it is far more empirical than any other that I know of. Normal everyday awareness, is awareness of myself as a consciousness embedded in events. I know myself most fundamentally as being one aspect of a complex sequence of events.
Where can we go from here, staying as close as possible to our experience of ourselves as conscious events? What immediately becomes obvious is that we can take a variety of perspectives with regard to these events. Let us return then to the event that we witnessed yesterday in the real zombies video. Of course we must begin with the event of watching the video. This immediately brings into focus the fact that events – uman events, at least – are divided into observer and observed aspects. We watch the video. Subject – object. When I shift my focus to the event that I’m watching in the video, I see the same split. The narrator and photographer that I am watching, is, in his turn, watching spiders, worms, wasps and the like. I’ll use the terms “inner” and “outer” to describe this aspect of events. The inner is the perspective of the one doing the perceiving, and the outer is the perceived aspects of the event. In our taxonomy of events, then, we must begin with the subject/object dichotomy that is familiar to everybody.
Next as we watch the video unfold, we become aware that events present themselves in a continuum of scale. The event of the wasp larva controlling the behavior of the spider can be viewed from a micro perspective. That is, one could study the various chemicals, viruses and the like through a microscope. Apparently viruses, for example, are sometimes involved in the control activities of parasites. Or we can view the same event from a much larger perspective – the perspective of biological evolution. We can call this the macro perception of events. Most commonly our stance with regard to the events that constitute our lives is something in between, which we could call the meso perspective. Macro – meso – micro perspectives. Always we begin with the meso – the ordinary human sized perspective, and move from there by means of speculations, techniques and instruments to the micro and the macro.
Another mode of perception as to do with time. When we find ourselves immersed in events that are unfolding, we are in the present. When we think about events that have already transpired, we are in the past. And of course when we anticipate events that may or may not come to pass, we are in the future mode of perception.
The moment then let’s just say that we’ve identified three ways of categorizing events, which are one, the subject object dichotomy, to at least three dimensions of scale, and for, events perceived from different points of view with regard to time.
I’ll return to these various modes of perceiving events as I go along, but at this moment I want to focus for a moment on the subject/object perspective. In many ways I’m trying to do what Descartes tried to do. Even though it seemed to have led into a dead end, he made a laudable and worthwhile effort. He began with Socrates' understanding that we know nothing, and then asked where he might go from there. His famous answer, “I think, therefore I am,” was in my opinion slightly off the mark. My primary, unexamined and unabstracted, experience of myself, which is the only certainty that I have, is a simple certainty of my existence as a consciousness – not a certainty about my existence as a thinking being. If I’m sitting around spacing out on a nice piece of music with the aid of a bit of port, without a thought in my head, I am nevertheless on a precognitive level aware of my existence. Descartes took his questionable starting point and immediately began to abstracts from there. Very quickly he found himself with a reality that was divided into the infamous Res brothers Extensa and Cogitans. After these brothers, like Humpty Dumpty, fell off the wall, nobody’s been able to put it back together again. So I will avoid that direction, if possible. The Res brothers are not part of my list of characters. But I do take something from Descartes. Each time I begin thinking I want to begin anew, with an immediate experience of my reality as if I had never noticed it before. Not with abstractions. Then will ask again and again, what can I say about events. This is not entirely unlike Husserl, except that I begin with a hypothesis that already grounds me in an ontology. Events, I am hypothesizing, are the stuff of Existence.
I believe that my approach may sidestep the impossible ontological dichotomy that Descartes fell into. I can think of no reason to assume that events that I perceive as not-self, or as objects of my perceiving, are ontologically different than myself as a perceiving entity. We’re talking about a duality of perspectives – the inner perspective of an event that is the observer, and an outer perspective which is what the observer observes. Two perspectives. Not to modes of being.
I have suggested that there are at least three primary modes of perception. Subject/Object, Scale, and Time. I am not suggesting that this is a comprehensive list. Why shut any doors on what future observations might disclose. At this point I am simply trying to bring into language what I became aware of while watching the video.