Polarity in Nature

There was a lecture given by George Adams entitled, “The Lost Tapes – Potentization & Peripheral Forces” which is read in this video.

This lecture was given to the British Homeopathic Congress in London in 1961. It begins on the theme of homeopathy, but this is just one narrow area of the subject matter of the lecture. He discusses projective geometry in general and how it applies to the natural world.

He talks about the rise of projective geometry:

At the time while physicists and astronomers were busily applying the ancient geometry of Euclid to their problems modified by the newer analytical methods of Descartes, Leibniz and Newton. While this was going on a new form of geometry was arising among the pure mathematicians. A new form of geometry which while including the Euclidian among its other aspects. A new form of geometry was arising which is far more comprehensive than the Euclidian, far more beautiful and far more profound. I refer to that school of geometry which is known variously as projective geometry, modern synthetic geometry or the geometry of position. In the seventeenth century the truths of this new synthetic geometry were beginning to be apprehended by the astronomer Kepler, also by the mystical philosopher Pascal, also by Pascal’s teacher Girard Desargues, a less known but a very important historical figure.

He explains how in Euclidian geometry, figures such as circles, ellipses and parabolas are represented as distinct forms whereas in projective geometry the conic section is treated as primal and the above figures are derivatives of this dynamic form in much the same way as all plant forms are derived from Goethe’s archetypal plant.

Projective geometry therefore naturally deals not only with tangible and finite forms but it deals with the infinite distance of space represented as these are by the vanishing lines and the vanishing points of perspective. And so in the new geometry the infinitely distant is treated realistically in a way which was foreign to the classical geometry of Euclid and the Greeks. A bold step was taken when there was added to the finite space distance elements the infinitely distant elements referred to as the ideated elements of space. This was a bold step in thought. This bold step in thought was rewarded by a twofold insight which was most important for the understanding of a science of living things. In the first place attention was focused no longer on the rigid forms such as the square or the circle. But attention was focused on mobile types of form changing into one another in the diverse aspects of perspective, or in other kinds of geometrical transformation. In Euclid for instance we take our start from the rigid form of the circle, sharply distinguished from the ellipse, and the ellipse is sharply distinguished from the parabola, and the parabola is sharply distinguished from the hyperbola. Now in projective geometry it is the conic section in general of which the pure idea arises in the mind, and of which various constructions are envisaged. Now as in real life the circular opening of a lamp shade will appear in many forms of ellipse while you move about a room. The opening of a bicycle lamp projects onto the road in front sundry hyperbolic forms. In a similar way in pure thought we can follow the transformations from one form of conic section to another form of conic section. Now strictly speaking the conic section of projective geometry is neither a circle nor an ellipse nor a parabola nor a hyperbola. The conic section of projective geometry is a purely ideal form out of which all these arise, out of which the conic section of the circle the ellipse the parabola the hyperbola can arise, as much as in Goethe’s botany the archetypal leaf is not identical with any particular variety or metamorphosis of leaf but underlies all these metamorphoses.

In projective geometry there is a fundamental duality between the point at infinity and the plane at infinity. And neither is more fundamental than the other.

Projective geometry recognises as the deepest law of spacial structure, it recognises an underlying polarity which to begin with in simple and imaginative language can be called a polarity of expansion and contraction. And this being used in a qualitative and very mobile sense…

Speaking qualitatively the point is the quintessence of contraction, the plane is the quintessence of expansion. From the point of view of the new geometry three dimensional space can equally well be formed from the plane inward, or you can form the three dimensional plane from the point outward. One approach is no more basic than the other.

Because it pays little regard to the peripheral planar forces present day atomism and materialism are one-sided and incomplete.

Even a plastic surface or a curve in space consists of an infinite and continuous sequence not only of points but of canted lines and tangent or oscillating planes. The mutual balance of these aspects namely point-wise and planar with a line-wise aspect intermediating. The mutual balance of these aspects gives us a deeper insight into the essence of plasticity than the old-fashioned one-sided point-wise treatment. Part of this is this, that whatever geometrical form or law we can conceive there will always be a sister form. A sister law equally valid in which the roles of point and plane are interchanged… This principle is a master key among the truths of projective geometry. It can be known as the principle of duality or the principle of polarity. This principle of polarity in its cosmic aspect is one of the essential keys to the manifold polarity of nature. And when you recognise that you can lead to a form of scientific thinking which can transcend one-sided atomism and can transcend the materialistic bias.

Science of today with its one-sided emphasis on point-wise forces is quite suitable for inorganic physics and chemistry, but the biological sciences, by borrowing from these sciences are hindered in their attempt to understand the organic realm.

We have to invert our customary ideas of centre and periphery to get the right notion. A physical force emanating from a centre needs the surrounding space in which to ray out. The infinite periphery has to be there to receive it. Likewise an etherial or peripheral force needs the living centre towards which it works. it springs from the periphery from the vast expanse and tends towards the living centre. Just as a physical force springs from a centre, from a plane of concentration works outward…If there were only rigid and finished forms then the old Euclidian geometry might be sufficient for us. But to understand the genesis and the metamorphosis of living forms we need a more mobile thinking, we need a thinking that reveals the balance between the centric and the peripheral, between the architectural aspect and the plastic aspect. Yet even the most rigid of nature’s forms, that is the crystal, this is understood in a far deeper way when we perceive how the crystal lattice derives from an archetypal pattern in the infinitely distant plane. The infinite periphery of universal space. Now in the realm of living form when once the new geometrical idea had been awakened in the mind then morphology and embryology confirm what is known to us by simple everyday experience from the world of the plants, namely how life on earth is sustained by the forces flowing inwardly from the surrounding heavens. Up ’till now biology has been trying to understand these things with concepts, derived from the inorganic world where centric forces predominate. It has been a hindrance to biological thinking to have to borrow its basic concepts from the non-biological sciences of physics and physical chemistry. Ideas no less scientifically exact should be derivable directly from the study of living phenomena just as the ideas of mechanics and electro-magnetics have been derived from the study of non-living things. To an open minded contemplation nature reveals on every hand the forms and the signature of active forces. nature reveals not only centric forces but peripheral planar forces…

If I’m right in the main thesis I put before you a new chapter will be opened out tending to bring our science nearer to life, nearer above all to human life.

Adams also wrote the following book with Olive Whicher, which deals with the same subject:
The Plant Between Sun and Earth, and the Science of Physical and Ethereal Spaces
The fundamental hypothesis of this book ‘is to attribute to the idea of Polarity a universal significance for the spatial structure of the world, not only in pure thought but in the real structures of Nature.’

From the book:

In their instinctive way, people in times past were well aware that the plant draws not only from the Earth and from its physical surroundings but in its ordered rhythms of life receives from the universe of Sun and stars; they husbanded their land accordingly. Along the lines here suggested this too may become scientific knowledge, giving much-needed guidance to those who feel the need to treat both plant and soil in the way a living entity deserves. Experience has shown that disappointing and even destructive results may be obtained when the powerful methods of modern chemistry are applied directly to the living world. Greater and greater care is being exercised in this respect. Arising out of such experience, the need is felt for a more integral approach. The molecular pictures of chemistry are too remote from what is seen and known in the immediate contact with nature.

The tentative idea here put forward concerning the substantial function of the life of plants will, if confirmed, shed a new light on questions of nutrition, for all earthly creatures. Not only the archetype of form is of a cosmic nature; but the very substance by which the creature lives is renewed and regenerated, inward from the periphery, from the celestial universe.

While these initial suggestions may need to be greatly modified, this much is certain. When the polarities of the spacial universe – expressed in the geometrical Principle of Polarity (Duality) – have duly penetrated into the thoughts and imaginations of science, a cosmic outlook will arise, which will also lead to a new sense of responsibility towards the life of the Earth-planet.

I presume this was written when this was first published in 1952.

70 Replies to “Polarity in Nature”

  1. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    DNA_Jock:
    I think CharlieM is imagining a cone with a base. Thus the intersection of a horizontal plane with this “base” is a filled circle, rather than an open circle. Make the cone’s base big enough, and he thus thinks you get a plane, rather than a big circle…
    There’s a failure to understand what a ‘section’ is, and what a ‘cone’ is.

    I am more interested in the response i get to my questions than discussing what I am imagining

  2. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    dazz:
    You insist on making zero sense with “planes at infinity” Also I would say only axioms are “fundamental” in mathematics.

    Physicists often talk about fundamental particles. Why are fundamental planes not equally valid?

    Your new found infatuation with cones doesn’t make them fundamental

    I haven’t said that cones are fundamental. I said that the conic section in general is more fundamental than the specific examples of conic sections.

  3. John Harshman John Harshman
    Ignored
    says:

    Neil Rickert: As John says, a point is a conic section.

    This is high-school level coordinate geometry. How is Charlie unfamiliar? A point and a line are both degenerate conic sections. But now I realize that Charlie will be unfamiliar with the usage of “degenerate” here.

  4. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    From the book Man or Matter, by Ernst Lehrs:

    Conceived dynamically, as projective geometry requires, Point and Plane represent a pair of opposites, the Point standing for utmost contraction, the Plane for utmost expansion. As such, they form a polarity of the first order. Both together constitute Space. Which sort of space this is, depends on the relationship in which they are envisaged. By positing the point as the unit from which to start, and deriving our conception of the plane from the point, we constitute Euclidean space. By starting in the manner described above, with the plane as the unit, and conceiving the point from it, we constitute polar-Euclidean space.

    The realization of the reversibility of the relationship between Point and Plane leads to a conception of Space still free from any specific character. By G. Adams this space has been appositely called archetypal space, or ur-space. Both Euclidean and polar-Euclideanspace are particular manifestations of it, their mutual relationship being one of metamorphosis in the Goethean sense.

    Through conceiving Euclidean and polar-Euclidean space in this manner it becomes clear that they are nothing else than the geometrical expression of the relationship between gravity and levity. For gravity, through its field spreading outward from an inner centre, establishes a point-to-point relation between all things under its sway; whereas levity draws all things within its domain into common plane-relations by establishing field-conditions wherein action takes place from the periphery towards the centre. What distinguishes in both cases the plane at infinity from all other planes may be best described by calling it the all-embracing plane; correspondingly the point at infinity may be best described as the all-relating point.

    In nature the all-embracing plane is as much the ‘centre’ of the earth’s field of levity as the all-relating point is the centre of her field of gravity. All actions of dynamic entities, such as that of the ur-plant and its subordinate types, start from this plane. Seeds, eye-formations, etc., are nothing but individual all-relating points in respect of this plane. All that springs from such points does so because of the point’s relation to the all-embracing plane.

    This view takes account of the polarity ignored by the current, standard biology taught today.

    To take a specific example, anyone who looks carefully at mitosis will see that this process involves the interaction of these polar forces, the forces acting outwardly from the centre and the peripheral forces working inwardly.

  5. John Harshman John Harshman
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM: To take a specific example, anyone who looks carefully at mitosis will see that this process involves the interaction of these polar forces, the forces acting outwardly from the centre and the peripheral forces working inwardly.

    It’s now possible to look up how mitosis really works, as it would not have been possible on Goethe’s day. There are no “polar forces” involved, just mechanical forces, chemical bonds, and such. You could google it.

  6. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    John Harshman: It’s now possible to look up how mitosis really works, as it would not have been possible on Goethe’s day. There are no “polar forces” involved, just mechanical forces, chemical bonds, and such. You could google it.

    What you know are the mechanical workings of mitosis, in other words “the alphabet”. What you are unwilling to consider is “the script”. the way that the organism determines and instigates mitosis. Googling the English alphabet will tell me nothing relevant about the novels on the shelves of my local bookshop.

    Please explain how mitosis works without involving fields of influence coming from the surrounding cell membrane, organism, atmosphere and sun.

    As we speak there will be a multitude of people in gyms around the world instigating mitosis in various muscles through acts of will. Telling us about the mechanical forces involved is great when describing inorganic processes but it gives us a very incomplete picture of the reality of living beings. The Goethean approach goes much deeper into life than modern physics as applied to biology.

  7. John Harshman John Harshman
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM: Please explain how mitosis works without involving fields of influence coming from the surrounding cell membrane, organism, atmosphere and sun.

    “Fields of influence”?? And I see that you have changed the subject from how mitosis works to what causes mitosis to begin. Good trick.

    CharlieM: As we speak there will be a multitude of people in gyms around the world instigating mitosis in various muscles through acts of will.

    You mean acts of will like lifting weights? Wow, you have a different meaning for every word or phrase. Hard to keep up.

  8. Rumraket Rumraket
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM: What you know are the mechanical workings of mitosis, in other words “the alphabet”. What you are unwilling to consider is “the script”. the way that the organism determines and instigates mitosis. Googling the English alphabet will tell me nothing relevant about the novels on the shelves of my local bookshop.

    This analogy makes absolutely zero logical sense to me. I don’t see the connection of the English alphabet+books, with how the physical and chemical interactions between the atoms and molecules that make up a cell and it’s environment explains the process of mitosis. There is no connection there. Your analogy is completely opaque to rational analysis.

  9. graham2
    Ignored
    says:

    I had another quick look at ‘that video’.
    Im vaguely curious that a presentation of a geometric topic would not show a single diagram. Just endless (and lovely) pictures of nature.

  10. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    graham2: Im vaguely curious that a presentation of a geometric topic would not show a single diagram.

    Then it provided a homeopathic collection of diagrams.

  11. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    John Harshman: November 16, 2018 at 6:00 pm
    CharlieM: Please explain how mitosis works without involving fields of influence coming from the surrounding cell membrane, organism, atmosphere and sun.

    “Fields of influence”?? And I see that you have changed the subject from how mitosis works to what causes mitosis to begin. Good trick.

    And here we can see how we are coming to the question of mitosis from our differing points of view. I want to look at mitosis in relation to the environment of the cell, the organism and beyond, the processes leading up to mitosis and occurring after mitosis. How mitosis plays its part in the whole organism. You would prefer to study it in isolation. And this is justified as long as its limitations are recognised.

    When we study life, looking at cause and effect in the same way that we study inanimate objects might tell us about the mechanisms which living systems employ, but this only helps us to understand the mechanisms it does not help us to understand the organisms as living beings. I am talking about a different level of understanding.

    As Henri Bortoft put it in The Wholeness of Nature, Goethe’s Way of Science

    p319
    But when we succeed in finding a mechanism it does not mean that we understand the phenomenon. We can then manipulate and control the phenomenon but we do not know what it is. Eventually under the influence of our success with the principle of mechanical causality, we begin to think that the question of what the phenomenon is has no meaning – whereas it is we who have lost sight of the possibility of knowing this. We will come to feel that if we know the causal mechanism of the phenomenon, then we do know what it is.

    I will continue this quote from where it left off in my next reply to Rumraket.

  12. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket:

    CharlieM: What you know are the mechanical workings of mitosis, in other words “the alphabet”. What you are unwilling to consider is “the script”. the way that the organism determines and instigates mitosis. Googling the English alphabet will tell me nothing relevant about the novels on the shelves of my local bookshop.

    This analogy makes absolutely zero logical sense to me. I don’t see the connection of the English alphabet+books, with how the physical and chemical interactions between the atoms and molecules that make up a cell and it’s environment explains the process of mitosis. There is no connection there. Your analogy is completely opaque to rational analysis.

    Bortoft continues inThe Wholeness of Nature, Goethe’s Way of Science

    The quest for explanation in terms of causal mechanisms eventually leads to the notion of a field of force. This is a subtler notion than mechanism, but not fundamentally different in kind. the field concept is one which has found widespread application, and there is sometimes a tendency to try to explain everything in terms of the notion of a field, without it being noticed that a field is a physical cause and therefore does not introduce anything fundamentally new. Thus, if we are considering the wholeness of nature, there will be those who want to conceive of this as if it were some kind of field – which it is not. Goethe commented that we like to think mechanistically about things which are of a higher order because it is easier. The wholeness of nature is not to be understood as some kind of field, which would reduce it to a causal agent, but as being akin to meaning in language. Thus language becomes the model instead of a mechanism. This entails a fundamentally different ontology of nature: the onlology of the twofold. This is the true radical step which Goethe took in science. He introduced a fundamentally new ontology of nature, and we cannot understand Goethe’s way of science unless we recognize this and can begin to take this step for ourselves. Understanding nature as language forms the foundation of Goethe’s way of science, as metaphysics forms the basis for the mainstream scientific enterprise. But whereas the latter is now well developed, Goethe’s way of science is by comparison as yet not much more than a possibility – just as mainstream science itself was once.

    If you only wish to understand the mechanisms of the natural world then you are perfectly entitled to carry on doing so. But the Goethean method allows us to gain a fuller understanding because it recognizes the legitimacy of orthodox research but adds on to this another level of understanding which is equally legitimate.

  13. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    graham2:
    I had another quick look at ‘that video’.
    Im vaguely curious that a presentation of a geometric topic would not show a single diagram. Just endless (and lovely) pictures of nature.

    As far as I can tell the purpose of the video was to provide an an audio reading of a lecture given over half a century ago by the late George Adams. The accompanying video is just a bonus.

  14. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM: If you only wish to understand the mechanisms of the natural world then you are perfectly entitled to carry on doing so. But the Goethean method allows us to gain a fuller understanding because it recognizes the legitimacy of orthodox research but adds on to this another level of understanding which is equally legitimate.

    It would take someone who actually understands empirical modeling of causal mechanisms to justify this assertion. One would need to have an adequate grasp of science to be entitled to the claim that “the Goethean method” adds anything important.

    Apart from that, it’s just not true that the success or failure of reductive or non-reductive explanations has anything to do with whether or not there are cognitive capacities that allow us to perceive non-empirical or non-sensory aspects of reality. The first is an epistemological issue; the second is a metaphysical issue. Any conflation of them will lead to nothing but nonsense.

  15. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: If you only wish to understand the mechanisms of the natural world then you are perfectly entitled to carry on doing so. But the Goethean method allows us to gain a fuller understanding because it recognizes the legitimacy of orthodox research but adds on to this another level of understanding which is equally legitimate.

    It would take someone who actually understands empirical modeling of causal mechanisms to justify this assertion. One would need to have an adequate grasp of science to be entitled to the claim that “the Goethean method” adds anything important.

    Luckily we do not need to know all the ins and outs of scientific procedures to understand the scientific method in general. And with present day technology and the use of the internet it isn’t difficult to find examples of the work of scientists which we can study.

    A specific example is a study of molecular “machines” by Ron Vale in three videos, here, here and here

    The first thing to notice is how these entities are described. Use of words and phrases such as ‘mechanism’, ‘cargo’,, ‘motor’, ‘building blocks’, ‘mechanical element’, and so forth. These descriptive words are more suited to physics and human engineering than to biology. And the problem with the kind of teaching is that it gives students the impression that they are actually examining tiny machines performing purely mechanical processes. At one point the dynein ‘motor’ is compared to an automobile engine.

    IMO they do not lay enough emphasis on the fact that they are dealing with living beings. Instead of calling these entities ‘nano-machines’ why not call them ‘nano-beings’ or ‘nano-creatures’? I would say that dynein complexes have more in common with ants than a motor vehicle.

    It is also interesting how Vale brings the subject of evolution into the talk. Talking about kinesin and myosin, he says:

    In fact, these molecular motors, even though one works on microtubules and the other works on actin, they must have evolved from a common ancestor at some point during evolution.

    He bases this assertion of common ancestry on structural similarity and not on sequence similarity which has virtually no identity.

    He also says:

    This protein has learned to walk in a coordinated manner where the two motor domains are moving in a leap frog manner along the microtubule. Now evolution also has learned to develop different kinds of mechanical elements even within a super-family, for different purposes.

    Evolution learns things for a purpose?

    These are very interesting and informative videos, but the language used displays some of the dogmas found in current evolutionary thinking. These ‘nano-creatures’ should be studied in the context of the connection with the whole organism. In treating them in isolation we are in danger of forgetting that they are living and of losing sight of the importance of their connection to the whole.

    This is where Goethean thinking compliments the current analytical thinking demonstrated in these videos.

  16. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist:

    CharlieM: If you only wish to understand the mechanisms of the natural world then you are perfectly entitled to carry on doing so. But the Goethean method allows us to gain a fuller understanding because it recognizes the legitimacy of orthodox research but adds on to this another level of understanding which is equally legitimate.

    Apart from that, it’s just not true that the success or failure of reductive or non-reductive explanations has anything to do with whether or not there are cognitive capacities that allow us to perceive non-empirical or non-sensory aspects of reality. The first is an epistemological issue; the second is a metaphysical issue. Any conflation of them will lead to nothing but nonsense.

    Well for a start I would say that everything we recognize through perception is empirical. And for any rational thinking being the sensory aspect is just one part of cognition. Understanding must (and does) go beyond the senses. This is easily seen by looking at babies and toddlers. They have the same visual composition as adults but they ‘see’ external reality in a different way. As a toddler I can remember being on a bus and being fascinated by the fact that the moon was travelling along with us as we moved down the street. My view of reality changed, not with any change in my visual composition but with my developing understanding of perspective.

    Goethe was entirely against adding that which he did not experience, or adding something which conflicted with what his senses were telling him. He was against unnecessary speculation hence he did not like the idea of thinking about thinking. He wished to remain within nature and did not want to add anything that he might mistakenly attribute to nature from his own biased outlook.

  17. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM: These are very interesting and informative videos, but the language used displays some of the dogmas found in current evolutionary thinking. These ‘nano-creatures’ should be studied in the context of the connection with the whole organism. In treating them in isolation we are in danger of forgetting that they are living and of losing sight of the importance of their connection to the whole.

    This is where Goethean thinking compliments the current analytical thinking demonstrated in these videos.

    Maybe the lesson is that you shouldn’t assume you understand “some of the dogmas found in current evolutionary thinking” just because you watched a few videos.

  18. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: Maybe the lesson is that you shouldn’t assume you understand “some of the dogmas found in current evolutionary thinking” just because you watched a few videos.

    I began studying the natural world and the science of biology decades before there was any internet and the videos therein.

  19. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
    Ignored
    says:

    CharlieM: Well for a start I would say that everything we recognize through perception is empirical. And for any rational thinking being the sensory aspect is just one part of cognition. Understanding must (and does) go beyond the senses. This is easily seen by looking at babies and toddlers. They have the same visual composition as adults but they ‘see’ external reality in a different way. As a toddler I can remember being on a bus and being fascinated by the fact that the moon was travelling along with us as we moved down the street. My view of reality changed, not with any change in my visual composition but with my developing understanding of perspective.

    Here’s a different way of understanding perception.

    We can begin with the familiar Kantian idea that sensory stimulation and conceptual understanding are individually necessary and jointly sufficient for perceptual knowledge: neither sensory stimulation nor conceptual understanding on their own are sufficient for perceptual knowledge. To know that one is looking at a red vase, one needs to have the concepts of “red” and “vase” brought into work within consciousness in response to sensory stimulation.

    Next, consider that both sensory stimulation and conceptual understanding have histories — these are both at the level of the individual organism and in terms of evolutionary history.

    I would suggest that what changed between you-as-toddler and you-as-adult is not only that your conceptual understanding of the world became more sophisticated, but also that your sensory awareness of the world became more sophisticated because you learned how to perceive distant objects as stationary relative to movement. This learning process involves (among other things) knowing how to see while moving, and it involves learning how to discriminate between one’s own voluntary bodily movement and how one’s body is physically moved (e.g. on a bus, boat, car, plane, etc.). Toddlers do not have great control over their bodies; that’s one of the main things they need to learn!

    So while babies and toddlers have the same basically functioning sensory organs as adults have, their relative lack of bodily competence means that they haven’t had their sensory bombardments sculpted into perceptual experiences of the kind that we have. (Consider how every sensation feels novel to a baby, because they have no models of the world with which to structure their expectations!)

    The other component of perceptual knowledge — conceptual understanding — develops largely (in human beings) through the acquisition of language, though I don’t doubt that there are non-linguistic concepts in human beings as they are in non-human animals.

  20. CharlieM CharlieM
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: Here’s a different way of understanding perception.

    We can begin with the familiar Kantian idea that sensory stimulation and conceptual understanding are individually necessary and jointly sufficient for perceptual knowledge: neither sensory stimulation nor conceptual understanding on their own are sufficient for perceptual knowledge. To know that one is looking at a red vase, one needs to have the concepts of “red” and “vase” brought into work within consciousness in response to sensory stimulation.

    Next, consider that both sensory stimulation and conceptual understanding have histories — these are both at the level of the individual organism and in terms of evolutionary history.

    I don’t disagree with this

    I would suggest that what changed between you-as-toddler and you-as-adult is not only that your conceptual understanding of the world became more sophisticated, but also that your sensory awareness of the world became more sophisticated because you learned how to perceive distant objects as stationary relative to movement. This learning process involves (among other things) knowing how to see while moving, and it involves learning how to discriminate between one’s own voluntary bodily movement and how one’s body is physically moved (e.g. on a bus, boat, car, plane, etc.). Toddlers do not have great control over their bodies; that’s one of the main things they need to learn!

    So while babies and toddlers have the same basically functioning sensory organs as adults have, their relative lack of bodily competence means that they haven’t had their sensory bombardments sculpted into perceptual experiences of the kind that we have. (Consider how every sensation feels novel to a baby, because they have no models of the world with which to structure their expectations!)

    The Goethean approach is an attempt to move beyond models to the actual perception of reality, Which IMO is achievable. As Arthur Zajonc put it:

    In Goethe’s scientific approach, one sets aside models and systematically investigates the phenomena themselves through three stages – what he called the first stage of empirical phenomena, the second stage of scientific phenomena, and the third stage of pure, archetypal phenomena. Throughout these three stages, one moves from initial observations of empirical phenomena to a more systematic exploration achieved by changing the conditions of appearance, so that you can distinguish the essential from the unessential factors. That’s the scientific domain. Then, after having made that whole journey, you come to a point when you stand before the archetypal phenomenon itself – where only the essential conditions of appearance are present in the simplest and most eloquent instance of the law, one you can see. That is, you’re not writing the law down mathematically but actually perceiving it.

    Henri Bortoft talks about perception here.

    In the beginning of the video he demonstrates that certain images can be viewed as either a meaningless arrangement of marks or as a recognizable form. There is no change in the image nor in the viewers visual apparatus. What does change is the interpretation in the viewers mind. This is not like the gradual understanding in the passage from toddler to adult. It is an immediate transformation from, ‘I can’t see anything’, to ‘I see’.

    The other component of perceptual knowledge — conceptual understanding — develops largely (in human beings) through the acquisition of language, though I don’t doubt that there are non-linguistic concepts in human beings as they are in non-human animals.

    I do not think that there is a straight causal relationship between language and conceptual understanding. They are both features that have accompanied human evolution. IMO there is no straightforward causal relationship between physical brain development, manual dexterity, language skills and conceptual understanding. They all develop together as part of the same process of evolution none can be said to be the cause of any of the others..

    To try to keep this relevant to the subject of the thread I will add that our evolution is a process in which there is a pole of unconscious bodily wisdom and on top of this a pole of a conscious human understanding is given the opportunity to unfold..The former is sufficient for the evolution of bodily nature, which is prevalent in animals, the latter is necessary for spiritual evolution, which is prevalent in humans.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.