Sunday, September 27, 2015

How footprints came to have knowledge about feet


Brain/minds of adult humans are shaped by nature and experience to fit well into the world. Their models, representations, and response patterns do things unlike any object before. But this does not mean we need to posit that there is a world of knowledge and a world of objects.

It is like looking at a footprint and wondering how the footprint knows the shape of the foot that it represents. This is of course an idiotic way of looking at footprints. We are comfortable with the idea that a footprint was structured by the foot that previously landed in it. Such a foot left endless information traces on the dirt, ones that are relational to the foot itself. We should understand that brains are the same way. With our internal models and representations, our brains reflect many useful facts or facets of the world. They relate to the world in useful ways, and in ways that allow them to do remarkable things. But the story about brains and what they know, our epistemology if we must, should be seen similar to the epistemology of the footprint. They have been impressed by endless informational and relational structures about the world. This happens in neuronal assemblies similarly to the foot's physical indentations of the dirt.

We were fooled into thinking our epistemology was some category different from ontology because our first thoughts on the subject happened during fallow times. The story of human knowledge is merely the story of imprinting, whether through evolution or learning. As we deflate epistemology, we deflate knowledge. We take a mixture of pragmatic, eliminativist, deflationary, and realist accounting of the relationship between our knowledge and the world. By knowledge here we include both the structures within a brain and also our science and general beliefs. The real here may eventually come in where we are truly footprints of sand. Of course, it is questionable that our beliefs about knowledge were meant to be seen merely as such [see Rorty for much of this].

Our brains are limited however. They were not well designed to accurately reflect a large score of complex information about the world. The foot of universal knowledge was not meant to form a useful footprint on the brain. Our brains were designed to be flexible enough to take in enough information for surviving and thriving within our ancestors environment. That is (one reason) they cannot be imprinted with endless facts like Watson. It is why we imagine more easily particle behavior instead of wave behavior. If we were aware electron-bodies, we may be just as easily to be impressed by information about waves (given underlying evolutionary need for recognizing such behavior as atomic creatures). 

In the end, we are the only significantly aware object in the world. We have great impressions of worldly information, and we have it in a more usable and more self-reimpressing manner than any object we have seen elsewhere, including the robots we are now making. Our status, however mighty, does not pass mere impression. 

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