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Re: meaning / Gibson
This sounds like the mind/matter split.
Wouldn't Gibson have said that, in the example you give, the various sets of
meanings were nevertheless external to individual percipients in that the
affordances for the wide variety of interpretations were nevertheless all
resident in the set of events itself?
In other words, in a simple example, a 'pebble' may simultaneously have the
potential to be a weapon, a building material, a gift, and so on. All these
potential 'affordances' are, in part, intrinsic to the thing itself (the
pebble). Perhaps Gibson would have said wholly intrinsic.
Like John Neuhoff, I don't think there is as much distance between the
cognitive approach and the ecological approach as may have been assumed; or
between these and the behaviourist approach, for that matter. Or, between RL
Gregory's 'perception-as-hypothesis-testing', and Gibson's thinking- (in
spite of their opinions to the contrary!).
I know Gibson was set against Kantian a priori knowledge, but surely in
describing us as having evolved types of perception in the ongoing presence
of certain physical regularities, he's describing something very similar?
----- Original Message -----
From: "Al Bregman" <BREGMAN@HEBB.PSYCH.MCGILL.CA>
Sent: 02 March 2001 06:25
Subject: Re: meaning / Gibson
> Paul Treffner wrote:
> > Meaning? Meaning is *not* in the head!! How could it be?!
> Simple argument:
> > The meaning is perceived when the information is detected.
> Since the
> > information specifies an event in the world, the "meaning"
> > implications, etc) is at least in the dynamical interaction of
> speaker and
> > listener. But certainly they are not in representations inside
> > the listener's head alone.
> Surely the mental schemas (in Piaget's sense), linguistic or
> otherwise, in terms of which we assimilate any perceptual input,
> or by means of which we guide the actions that deal with the
> input, are the "meaning" of that input. Different people can
> have different meanings for the same event, because they
> assimilate it to different schemas. For example, a young woman
> is looking attentively at a boastful young man, Adam. An
> onlooker, Brad, sees her intent gaze as admiration. Another guy,
> Charles, realizes that she thinks Adam's a jerk, but that she
> should be polite and pay attention to what he's saying. The
> "dynamical interaction" for Brad and Charles is the same, if it
> refers to the world of observable action, but the meanings are
> very different. Another example: a poet reading a magazine
> article on quarks doesn't get the same meaning from it as a
> science graduate.
> How can meaning be *anything but* in the head -- even though it
> may often control interactions with the world. A meaning (or
> schema) is a control system, located in the brain (which,
> according to my physiologist friends, is in the head). Its
> location in the head doesn't prevent its guiding interactions
> with the world. No brain, no meanings. Different brains,
> different meanings.
> Can you have meanings without sensory inputs? Try dreams. Can
> you have meanings without brains? Ask a brick.
> Of course "meaning" is part of a dyadic relation involving (1) a
> temporarily assembled structure of meanings (or schemas), for
> dealing with a certain thing or situation, and (2) the thing or
> situation itself -- which, according to Kant, we can never know
> *directly*, but only through the meanings we use in interpreting
> it. Sometimes the second term (the thing or situation itself) is
> something in the external world, and sometimes not, as when I
> reflect on my own thought processes.
> Some time ago, I published a lengthy paper that described mental
> schemas as
> generators of underlying patterns that interacted to control
> perception, cognition,
> and action. It may be of interest as an alternative to the
> theory of direct
> perception. I debated the issue with Jimmy Gibson, but we
> couldn't convince
> one another.
> Bregman, A.S. Perception and behavior as compositions of
> Cognitive Psychology, 1977, 9, 250-292.
> - Al
> Albert S. Bregman, Emeritus Professor
> Dept of Psychology, McGill University
> 1205 Docteur Penfield Avenue
> Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 1B1
> Phone: +1 (514) 398-6103
> Fax: +1 (514) 398-4896
> Phone & Fax: +1 (514) 484-2592