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3928RE: [steiner] PoF study: mental pictures

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  • Durward Starman
    Nov 19 12:23 PM
      >From: "Lee Noonan" <leeanoonan@...>
      >Reply-To: steiner@yahoogroups.com
      >To: <steiner@yahoogroups.com>
      >Subject: RE: [steiner] PoF study: mental pictures
      >Date: Sat, 18 Nov 2006 23:57:48 -0000
      >Hi Dr Starman
      >Very interesting this discussion. I haven't closed ( or opened ?) the
      >on my thinking on this but I need to write down what possibilities are
      >springing to mind.
      >Point 1: how do multiple instances of an object link to my internal
      >general concept of the object.
      >If I have 2 trees in my garden and a several percepts related to each one.
      >Tree1: tree1percept1, tree1percept2, tree1percept3
      >Tree2: tree2percept1, tree2percept2, tree2percept3
      >Now my thinking needs to connect these percepts to internal concepts in a
      >way that I can have separate mental images of tree1 and tree 2.
      >If could represent it like this
      >Mental image 1 = internal-general-concept-of-tree + tree1percept1,
      >tree1percept2, tree1percept3
      >Mental image 2 = internal-general-concept-of-tree + tree2percept1,
      >tree2percept2, tree2percept3
      >But that wouldn't be right because the percepts should be referenced from
      >the concept and there should only be one internal-general-concept-of-tree
      >So we could have a internal conceptual system with all the references to
      >percepts added in.
      >Internal-general-concept-of-tree: reference-to-tree1percept1,
      >reference-to-tree1percept2, reference-to-tree1percept3 ,
      >reference-to-tree2percept1, reference-to-tree2percept2,
      >but then when in thinking I traverse my internal conceptual system and
      >arrive at my internal-general-concept-of-tree then I would see again the
      >stored percepts of both trees.
      >If I wanted to focus on the mental image of just one of the trees how it
      >that represented in my internal conceptual system.
      >Do I create a sub concept for each instance of tree that I have percepts
      >for? eg
      >internal-general-concept-of-tree: sub-concept-tree1, sub-concept-tree2
      >and the sub-concepts contain the references to the stored percepts eg
      >sub-concept-tree1: tree1percept1, tree1percept2, tree1percept3
      >sub-concept-tree2: tree2percept1, tree2percept2, tree2percept3
      >This last model makes sense to me if I try and remember specific trees and
      >the percepts that are related to them.
      >And then the question arises: were these subconcepts of tree 1 and tree 2
      >received by intuition from the universal conceptual world?

      ******* I find it's more helpful to take a less abstract approach at first.
      When you learn music, you first learn to sing particular songs, or play a
      particular musical instrument, usually for quite some time before you reach
      the point of being able to think about the "interval of the fifth" or"
      melodic line" or "syncopated rhythm" in the abstract. So it is with other

      Take something that's more like what you actually did in learning to
      identify things as you were growing up. As Steiner pointed out, the baby
      grasps for the moon because it can't tell that what it sees isn't close. As
      small children, we experience pure perception -- -- -- colors, forms, things
      larger and smaller, hot and cold, and so forth. It's only by experience that
      we connect the perception of "red" and the experience of touching something
      hard, and organize our perceptions of a red table into the mental picture
      "table". We wouldn't be able to do it at all without the concept of the
      table. ( By the way, I'll just mention here that this is a problem that has
      been tackled by legions of philosophers, what's usually called the " problem
      of universals": out of my experience of a multitude of trees, where do I get
      the concept "tree"? Many philosophers, like the nominalists, concluded that
      it's just a general name for a bunch of similar things we observe with the
      senses, that has no reality apart from our minds. The problem is that, the
      oak trees we see today disappear in time, but the reality " oak tree"
      persists forever, so it has a higher degree of reality.)

      So there is no percept "tree". If you are looking at it close up, you
      might perceive green, a flat leaf surface of a certain shape, or many such
      surfaces connected to a line shaped branch which is not green, a hard, woody
      trunk which is a still darker color, and you would only be able to perceive
      the very beginning of the roots. At first a small child would not even be
      able to connect all the percept together and realize they were a single
      object. What enables us to do so? That we can draw from the universal world
      of concepts the various concepts connected with the plant kingdom.
      "Tree" is a subset of all those concepts of the plant world, which include
      shrubs, plants, mushrooms and so on. A young child might call a mushroom a
      small tree. In the case of a bonsai tree, he'd be right. A botanist would
      know the entire conceptual world of the plant kingdom and be able to tell
      you if you are calling a thing by the right name, because often our use of
      the names are in error -- -- -- as we call everything in the sea a fish:
      e.g., Starfish, jellyfish, etc., when actually they are not truly "fish".

      So we could approximate the forming of the mental image "tree" by saying
      that we gradually decide that any object with an upright trunk and branches
      and leaves we will call by that name we know as a part of the plant kingdom.
      Thus, there really is not a percept "tree". It is a mental image embracing
      several percepts, different ones for the trunk, the leaves, etc.

      So in your first example of two trees in the garden, you have three
      percepts connected together into one tree, and three other percepts
      connected into another tree. Let's be more specific and say what the
      percepts are. Let's say tree number-one is a deciduous tree like an oak: the
      specific percepts would be the peculiar look of the trunk, the immediately
      recognizable shape of the leaves, the fact that right now (if you were here
      in the northern hemisphere) the leaves are changing from green to red and
      brown and it will have no leaves all winter. Let's say the second tree is a
      pine tree, a coniferous tree or "evergreen", and the specific percepts would
      be its very different trunk, its large, waxy green leaves with quite a
      different shape from the oak and which are not changing color, and the large
      pine cones all about the branches filled with resin.

      So you have two very different mental images of these trees, although you
      know they both are a tree. "Tree" is the concept, and you have connected it
      to two very different sets of percepts because you have learned they both
      fit under this concept even though to perception they are very different.

      I hope this is a little help. It's an area that is just as difficult to
      think about as it is important. It's very easy to make mistakes, just as so
      many philosophers have done. For instance, you started by asking how you
      relate a concept to multiple instances of an "object". Well, "object" is
      already a concept, and before we start thinking conceptually we don't
      experience anything as objects. We don't separate a tree from the ground
      that it grows out of. Piaget in his child psychology research demonstrates
      that we as small children have no " object concept", no idea that things
      continue to exist when we no longer perceive them. This is why small
      children cry for Mommy when she leaves the room, because they have no idea
      she still exists anywhere. So it's a blind alley to start from the idea of
      objects. We begin with no such idea. We have pure perception, and we
      gradually organize our perceptions and group one set of them into those
      which match one concept or another. That is our mental life of
      "vorstellung", representations or mental pictures.

      Your first diagram would therefore be correct:

      >>>I could represent it like this
      >Mental image 1 = internal-general-concept-of-tree + tree1percept1,
      >tree1percept2, tree1percept3
      >Mental image 2 = internal-general-concept-of-tree + tree2percept1,
      >tree2percept2, tree2percept3

      *******You rejected this by saying the following:
      >But that wouldn't be right because the percepts should be referenced from
      >the concept and there should only be one internal-general-concept-of-tree

      ******* I'm not sure what objection you're making. There IS only one general
      concept "tree". It is what is used in both cases. The mental image of an oak
      tree is made by connecting the specific series of percepts to the concept
      tree, and the mental image of a pine tree is made by connecting a different
      series of percepts to the same concept "tree". Yes, you could call
      "deciduous tree" or " coniferous tree" sub-concepts of the general concept
      "tree" , of course, and oak tree or pine tree as examples of that category.
      More accurately, "tree" is itself a concept for a specific section of the
      plant kingdom and deciduous and coniferous trees are subsections of that.

      The key thing to remember, I think, is that when we begin thinking we
      have no mental pictures. The mental picture is a pure concept -- which we
      can have without reference to any sense content -- RELATED TO a particular
      percept or group of percepts. Our mental activity early in life consists
      almost wholly into creating of mental images or pictures (representations or
      "vorstellungen"), which we create when we relate concepts to percepts.

      Later in life, our mental life may be almost entirely just relating one
      mental picture we've already created to another and therefore learning
      nothing new----- or looking at everything we experience and labeling it with
      a concept we already have, which does the same thing. We don't actually
      perceive an oak tree anymore, we just think "Oh, that's a tree, I know what
      that is." Steiner called this the "tyranny of the concept." Instead, in the
      Philosophy of Freedom, he tries to lead us back to experiencing what we
      actually do in thinking, namely making mental pictures by relating pure
      conception to pure perception.


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