The Ontogenesis of the Gurwitschian Perceptual Structure Part III

Date: Sat 09 Aug 2003 - 01:41:59 GMT

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    Constructivism has had as its major focus of study the development of the mind/world interrelation. The eminent philosopher Henri Bergson (1903) distinguished two ways in which things may be investigated. One may study them perspectivally and externally, by means of symbols, or nonperspectivally and internally, without symbolic mediation. The first method results in relative knowledge, and the second in absolute knowledge. he goes on to state that the only possible object of study by the second method is the enduring self. I agree with Bergson that there are these two ways, but disagree that only the self may be studied via the second method. Perhaps the world
    (including other people) can only be studied perspectivally, and one's own mind can only be studied introspectively (although with biofeedback tis, too, is in doubt). Bergson state that the results of such an introspection are inexpressible symbolically, in any event. However, I propose that the mind may also be indirectly investigated, by means of an exploration of the structures of the mind/world interrelation, and a deduction of what the discovered parameters of this interrealtion's structures might entail concerning the structure of the mind.The structures of the mind/world interrelation are assumed to be dependent upon the structures of the poles - mind and world - of the system. From this we may infer that the structure of this interrelation may serve as a semiologic, informing us as to the characters of the relata so mediated. These structures may be investigated from both the internal perspective, by means of the structures of perception, and externally, by means of the structures of action, including communication (although there is an interpaly at work here, since every action involves a change in one's perceptual gestalt and every perception involves an action to fix one's focus within or alter one's focus between perceptual modalities). The first way is the way of phenomenology, the way of Gurwitsch, and the second is the way of genetic epistemology, the way of Piaget. Neither way offers absolute knowledge of its object, in the sense of complete, nor do they together; the first offers knowledge of an apodictic, or self-evident, anture, the second offers data of a statistical neture, from which may be deduced likely consequences. Nevertheless, taken together, they provide more evidence than either can alone. For instance, phenomenology cannot offer apodictic knowledge concerning the genesis and evolution of mind's reflection on the structures of the mind/world interrelation, for it is by means of this reflection that phenomenology proceeds. It may begin only when one may reflect upon the structures of perception, extract invariants, and represent them to some extent in a common symbol system. In other words, the phenomenologist must be at the Piagetian level of formal or abstract operations in order to philosophize (notice that our proposed experiments offer a THAT, but not a WHAT; they indicate the presence of recognition, but can offer nothing as to its character as experienced by the child). Genetic epistemology, on the other hand, can offer us likelihoods concerning this genesis and evolution, but nowhere can it offer the apodictic certainty which phenomenology can in the cases of reflective descriptions of self, soma, world and society. The contributions of these two investigative methods demonstrate a kind of complementarity; phenomenology is a synchronic and symbolic description of the invariant structures preceptible to the reflective mind, and genetic epistemology is a diachronic extrapolation, from observed action, of the evolution of mind to reflective and symbolic capacity. Phenomenology has discovered many structures whose ontogeneses have yet to be explored. Genetic epistemology is well suited for this exploration, especially when (as in the proposed experiments) it is sharpened by semiotics. Semiotics is not a method, but a doctrine. It is composed of a set of principles concerning the nature of symbolic apprehension and behavior and the structure of signification itself. For instance, one principle is that the relations between signs within a sign system and the relations of signs to their respective referents impose mutual constraints. Although its adherents tend to resemble carnivores, attempting to consume every other discipline as a semiotic branch, I view semiotics more as the mistletoe which can grow on any methodological tree, helping each discipline by sharpening its awareness of its own practices, options, and directional choices, much as the mistletoe logic helps methodological disciplines sharpen procedural precision, concision, evidentiary soundness, validity, and closure. All these disciplines and doctrines can do, however, is to draw the wide parameters of the possible, and suggest questions to ask of the organ itself, the answers to which may narrow the parameters asymptotically closer and closer to singularity. The bundles and connections to which these questions must be addressed are the purview of cognitive science. Surely many nonexistent designs might have served as substrates for human function, and many nonexistent functions might have utilized the cerebral design. But there is only one actual spectrum of match - structure to function - and that rainbow needle is hiding in a quickly shrinking haystack of alternatives. I believe that the usage of the disciplines of phenomenology and genetic epistemology and the doctrine of semiotics can assist cognitive psychology in speeding its winnowing along.

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