Back Goldfinch looking backwards

Endnote on illusions re Mind-Matter Argument 1

Leo Kim, in Healing the Rift, thinks the following case of illusion demonstrates that “what we see is not reality.”

To illustrate our brains' attempts to make sense of what is out there, William Tiller and Walter Dibble, material scientists from Stanford University, described experiments in which individuals put on "upside-down glasses" that made everything appear upturned. This inverted world was what they saw until about two weeks later, when their brains turned the images right side up again, even though the subjects were still wearing the glasses. Tiller and Dibble reported that, when the subjects removed the glasses, they saw an upside-down world for about two weeks before the images returned to normal.

This is a clear demonstration that what we see is not reality. Vision is an attempt by our brains to make sense of what is seen even if it turns the world upside down. But what about all the other times when upside-down glasses aren't being worn? What do we see? (Kindle location 847 of 2277 or 38%)

I’m thinking it only confirms that our conscious perceptions are responsive to the environment (producing representations of reality), and then that there exists some agent, perhaps brain or perhaps mind, that can reverse those perceptions usefully, as in this experiment. That consciousness is usually determined in some or all parts by brain processes is not in question. The hypothesis alternate to the generally accepted one is that the brain works at least sometimes as the mediator rather than always as the sole producer of consciousness. (Compare Edwin Land’s retinex theories and discoveries. Link. Link. The process, whatever it is, that leads to a consciousness with the upside-down world of the glasses turned back right side up seems to me to be like whatever it is that takes a mix of pink and gray or even of two yellows and turns that deficient chromatic world into a complete one.)


Confabulation in split-brain patients implies that one mind within us, the one manifesting out of the language-dominant hemisphere, is quite ready and able to invent and express explanations for events and actions deriving from the mind manifesting in the other hemisphere in response to stimuli known only to that hemisphere mind. Thus when a nervous laugh is evoked in the subject immediately following exposure to, say, a sexually stimulating image seen only by the non-linguistic hemisphere, the language-dominant mind explains the laugh in terms of some entirely invented possibility, such as the tie worn by the experimenter. (Verbal communication from Virginia Lea Conner, 10-2012; see many examples under confabulation in this website.)

Notice that this confabulation due to hemisphere lateralization is normal in children but becomes less common with age. Nevertheless, it is widely supposed that normal adults are not infrequently confronted with similar inner and unknown conflicts of perception and response. I think of cognitive dissonance as similar in nature.

But even recognizing that by definition we will never know when we are resolving a cognitive dissonance (or perhaps even a hemispheric lateralization) by some kind of rationalization, confabulation or denial, we still find that consciousness comes first. There is no way to shift responsibility off ourselves in thinking.

I am cheerfully taking a dualist position — that both consciousness and environment (whatever is outside of that: matter, other consciousnesses, and whatever more may be) do exist. See Bergson on this. Of course, like Middle Path Buddhism, I also affirm the doctrine of the two truths or emptiness.

In all of that, though, when it comes to thinking and figuring out the best we can what is and isn’t or may be or not, we cannot avoid beginning with consciousness. That is the way to understand Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am.” (Concurring authority: )

We do not know if mind depends on matter, because everything we know about matter is itself a mental creation. In that sense, Descartes was right: the one undeniable fact is our consciousness.

McGilchrist, Iain (2010-08-16). The Master and His Emissary. Yale University Press. Kindle Edition. At 4%.