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Re: Gibson

Dear Peter,

> So behavoural flexibility is still built on the assumption that
> the world will make sense (or can be made sense of).
> This in turn rests on an innate assumption that patterns
> represent 'potential information'.

Let me add a specification. If somebody is going to sell you a book,
telling you it contains lots of information, you would as a matter of
course ask: "About what?" Information requires compulsorily the
SPECIFICATION "TO YYY". You wouldn't ask, because it would be clear that
the seller meant "to you". So let me add to your above sentence 'about
my environment, TO ME'.

> What are we to call this potential information? is the word
> 'pattern' appropriate? If information is entirely epiphenomenal,
> does this account for the similarities AND the differences in
> correspondence with said patterns?

I think it is not justified to call information an epiphenomenon. "Epi"
is Greek and means "aside, incidental". My German dictionary specifies
epiphenomena as inconsiderable, meaningless. It would not make sense to
say that information (or meaning) is meaningless. "Epi" could as well
mean "above" (but probably purely locally). In the common understanding
of Greek prefixes it would be fine to use "meta" (between, _beyond_) to
express a later stage. Information as metaphenomenon? I would agree.

I don't think there are a lot of similarities between patterns and
information. It is hard (probably impossible) to compare a phenomenon
and the corresponding metaphenomenon. Silly example: I can compare an
apple and a pear, but not an apple and a fruit. And there need not be
any "similarity" between our internal "representation" (if any) of the
world and the outside world (if any :-). The only requirement is that it
makes us act favorable with regard to our survival.

> In other words, to say that the similarities between the 'external
> patterns' and the 'internal' information is entirely due to a close
> matching between patterns and information, such that the percipient
> has perceived something close to 'objective reality',

I don't think this is what happens. Again, I doubt the similarity.

Ha, once more I can offer a German citation: Heinrich Hertz, a
physicist!, in his book "Die Prinzipien der Mechanik" (1893):

 Wir machen uns innere Scheinbilder oder Symbole der aeusseren
 Gegenstaende, und zwar machen wir sie von solcher Art, dass die
 denknotwendigen Folgen der Bilder stets wieder die Bilder seien
 von den naturnotwendigen Folgen der abgebildeten Gegenstaende.
 Damit diese Forderung ueberhaupt erfuellbar sei, muessen gewisse
 Uebereinstimmungen vorhanden sein zwischen der Natur und unserem
 Geiste. Die Erfahrung lehrt uns, dass die Forderung erfuellbar ist
 und dass also solche Uebereinstimmungen in der Tat bestehen. ...
 Die Bilder ... haben mit den Dingen die eine wesentliche
 Uebereinstimmung, welche in der Erfuellung der genannten Forderung
 liegt, aber es ist fuer ihren Zweck nicht noetig, dass sie irgend
 eine weitere Uebereinstimmung mit den Dingen haben. In der Tat
 wissen wir nicht und haben auch kein Mittel zu erfahren, ob unsere
 Vorstellung von den Dingen mit jenen in irgend etwas anderem
 uebereinstimmen, als allein in eben jener einen fundamentalen

Once more a filthy translation: ("The Principles of Mechanics",
translated as early as 1899, but I have no volume here so I have to do
it myself)
 We make up inner mock images or symbols of outer things, and this is
 done such that the sequel images as prescribed by our reasoning are
 always images of sequel states of the depicted things as prescribed
 by nature. For this requirement to be grantable there must exist
 certain analogies [CK: not similarities!] between nature and our
 mind. We know from experience that the requirement can be complied
 with, and that such analogies exist in fact. ... The only and
 essential analogy between images ... and objects is the above
 mentioned requirement. It is not necessary for their purpose that
 images should have any further analogy with objects. In fact we
 don't know and hove no means to get to know whether our imagination
 of the objects has any further analogy with them as alone this one
 essential relation.
Let me add that I personally have no curiosity to learn whether there is
any further analogy, because I don't think it makes sense to compare an
apple and a fruit.

> and to simultaneously say that differences are entirely due to
> internal factors within the percipient ('subjective reality)

Not entirely. Information is not inside the head. It is not outside. It
is the interaction.

Kind regards,

Dr. Christian Kaernbach
Institut fuer Allgemeine Psychologie
Universitaet Leipzig
Seeburgstr. 14-20     Tel.: +49 341 97-35968
04 103 Leipzig        Fax:  +49 341 97-35969
Germany               http://www.kaernbach.de/