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Author Topic: Insight and Intuitive Inference  (Read 27080 times)

Richard Moodey

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Re: Insight and Intuitive Inference
« Reply #30 on: May 05, 2013, 12:19:31 PM »
Hi Catherine et alia:

Without in any way taking issue with points that have been made, I want to explain the language I use to get at something at least similar to what I believe Lonergan to have meant when he wrote about the results of insight passing into the texture of ones mind. 

I find the term "disposition" very useful.  I mentioned this in an earlier post as a social psychological analogue to what in neuroscience might be called a pattern of strengthened synaptic connections.  In his classic article on "Attitudes and other Acquired Behavioral Dispositions" (Psychology: The Study of a Science), Donald Campbell notes that he conceives of dispositions as having both representational and programmatic functions.  A simple illustration is that the inner disposition that corresponds to the visible/audible word "chair" includes both the mental image by which I recognize some objects to be chairs and my habit of sitting on these kinds of objects.

So I describe my state of mind at time one as the totality of my acquired dispositions at time one.  I have said that I believe that we each learn from every experience.  The state of my dispositions at time one is modified, however slightly, by my experience -- either active or passive -- at time two.  Consequently, the state of my dispositions at time three differs from their previous state at time one. 

So it is not only insights that modify the state of my dispositions (enter into the texture of my mind), but all of my experiences, passive as well as active.   

I also like to use the language of dispositions in thinking and writing about Lonergan's notion of the polymorphism of the conscious subject.  My interests shift throughout the day, resulting in different patterns of experience.  These recurring interests are cycles in which one disposition, for a time, has a higher priority than other dispositions.  These shifts in dominance of dispositions generate shifts in the tension of inquiry.  In a dramatic pattern of experience, for example, I become more interested in what Goffmann calls "the presentation of self."  In an intellectual pattern of experience, my interest in self-presentation to others declines in favor of my interest in knowing the truth.  So also with biological, aesthetic, moral, religious, and practical patterns of experience.

I use "disposition" to refer to a theoretical construct.  It is not a visible object, like a chair or a neuron, nor is it an operation of which I can be conscious, like an insight, judgment, or decision.  But, I would argue, "the texture of my mind" is also a theoretical construct, neither an observable object nor a conscious act or operation.

Best regards,

Dick
“Think, live, be: next try to express scrupulously what you are thinking, what you are living, what you are.”
Henri de Lubac

Catherine B. King

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    • Finding the Mind: . . .Verifying Cognitional Theory
Re: Insight and Intuitive Inference
« Reply #31 on: May 06, 2013, 11:24:29 AM »
Hello Dick:

If I understand you correctly (I have not read your referenced text to D. Campbell on this), disposition is probably a good term to correspond to what Lonergan is referring to in that passage on the texture of one's mind, at least partially.  And by partially I refer to your note about Campbell where you say he:


". . . conceives of dispositions as having both representational and programmatic functions.  A simple illustration is that the inner disposition that corresponds to the visible/audible word "chair" includes both the mental image by which I recognize some objects to be chairs and my habit of sitting on these kinds of objects."


Then you talk about different times (moments of occurrence?) followed later by: 

"So it is not only insights that modify the state of my dispositions (enter into the texture of my mind), but all of my experiences, passive as well as active."


In relating Lonergan's work to the above, I think it may be helpful to distinguish between (a) what you are overtly talking about in your note and (b) HOW you are talking about it.  That is, (a) you overtly refer to the visible/audible word "chair" that includes both (a) your mental image and (b) your habit of sitting on this kinds of objects (or your ongoing daily experiences). However, (b) you also speak of RECOGNIZING some objects to be chairs.

But if you recognize chairs either/both as sensible objects and/or as images, how does that recognition happen? Doesn't that recognition imply some other activity of mind and, if so, what activity(ies) is that?  I think this is where Lonergan's work on insight can help fill in a notion of disposition and its relationship to the mind''s texture that (if Campbell doesn't advert to other aspects of the mind's operations) gives us a fuller understanding of the intentional mind, its operations and activities, and how those relate to its "texture" as the insights occur and then pass into that texture. Also, the experience of mind (not yet the knowing of it) always has content, but is not separate from having questions and insights about that content. Rather, wondering and having insights are integral parts of that experience (as a broader/encompassing term, like the term mind is).

Briefly, to recognize is also a minded, mindful event--it's of consciousness. That is, in a highly contextual moment, we first wonder where to sit. In this case, we already have wondered about and insighted, a long time ago, the general meaning of "chair," our past experiences with chairs and sitting, and we have developed images of them. All have already passed into that texture of mind and are now at-the-ready for me to spontaneously bring them forward to inform our new now-questions (where should I sit?) and their new insights: Aha! here are some chairs. Which one? decision: this one will do, whereupon I sit down. 

Emphasis:   highly contextual moment with lots of prior wonderings, questions, insights, images, feelings, and thoughts as a part of that at-the-ready texture upon which we draw, and re-imagine/rethink (recognize), as we go through our here-and-now experiences.  Further, insights do not happen in a vacuum but are always a response to (active or passive) wondering.  Consciousness is many-faceted, but central to it is the experience of wondering, e.g., where to sit.

Also, you say:


"I use 'disposition' to refer to a theoretical construct.  It is not a visible object, like a chair or a neuron, nor is it an operation of which I can be conscious, like an insight, judgment, or decision.  But, I would argue, 'the texture of my mind' is also a theoretical construct, neither an observable object nor a conscious act or operation."


Hmmm....we can understand either disposition or the texture of my mind as a theoretical construct, for sure, though the texture of my mind is more of a common descriptive metaphor used, at that early point in the text (of Insight, ) to imply but not yet to give full theoretical treatment to, that aspect of cognitional theory.  It's helpful, however.

We can go further than theoretical construction.  That is, for not only constructing but also for verifying cognitional theory, in this specific case of theory development (cognitional), happily, we ARE able to consult the evidence of our own minds' activities to personally make that confirmation. So YES, it's a theoretical construct, but that's not all--NO it's not beyond observation--where observation means not only seeing/sensing, but also asking the incisive questions of the data under consideration--of what we see and otherwise sense. 

That is, NO, the mind is not directly sensible. However, what is sensible is what we ask about. We do not understand anything real by merely sensing. And YES--the mind's activities are heartily manifest in the sensible world. Neuroscientists are finding that when we think in certain definable ways, those ways manifest in the observable physics of the brain--and neuroscientists are doing much more than merely sensing. For instance, they are understanding that different thoughts and kinds of thoughts are manifest in different parts of the brain. For the more fully-human sciences however (much more than brain), those mind-activities manifest in a plethora of ways, e.g., recognizing ever-so-quickly a chair as a chair, and choosing to sit in this particular one without further ado. 

Furthermore, and beyond mere construction of a theory, in the application of most if not all physical theories the relationship between theory and concrete needs to "jog" when we return from the clarity and uniformity of the theory to the messy field of its concrete applications.

Not so for a qualified cognitional theory. For instance, when I ask a question with specific content, for instance, "What is that light coming from the cave?"  I have manifestly asked a "What is it?"-type question.  As manifest in the concrete field of applications, that general type-question shares its identity (it's identical) with the specific question about the light in the cave--no jog occurs between the construct of theory and the manifestation of it for its concrete verification.

The deeper problem, of course, is how we view the real. Do neuroscientists merely sense the brain, or do they ask intelligent questions of the intelligibility of what they sense?  Is it merely the sensing of the question at hand (what is that light?, its letters, or sounds), or is it that, as intelligent beings working on an intelligible universe (in this case the question about our own minds), we are involved with the same complex series of concretely manifest activities.

Finally, the texture of one's mind is implied in our memories and in our spontaneous ability to instantly recall what a chair is so that we can sit in it--in the vast complex of so many other ordered and disordered con-textual meanings.  The memories we recall may be partial or full, true or untrue, right or wrong; however, that we have memories and that we spontaneously bring forward contextual meaning to inform the here-and-now is a fact of our existence.

Again, too long; but we certainly can agree that nothing about philosophy or cognitional theory is overly simple.

Catherine


Richard Moodey

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Re: Insight and Intuitive Inference
« Reply #32 on: May 06, 2013, 02:45:51 PM »
On Recognizing Chairs and Faces

Part of the habitual texture of my mind is my ability to distinguish chairs from tables, and another part is my ability to recognize the face of my daughter, Claire, even when she is surrounded by many other faces in a crowded place (an airport or train station).  I find "disposition" to be a useful term, even if very general, for referring to one aspect of my memory of the very general image of chair as well as to an aspect of my memory of the much more specific image of my daughter.  My memory of what she looks like has much more content than does my memory of what a human face looks like.  So I can recognize something that resembles a generalized "human face" in a cloud formation or in the pattern of light and shade on the moon, but I have never seen Claire's face in the clouds or on the moon. 

I believe that recognizing either a chair or Claire requires an insight, a grasp of the connections between a remembered image and a visual act of perception.  I distinguish between the dispositions -- aspects of which are the remembered images -- and the insights that grasp the correspondences between the images and the sense perceptions.

Non-humans also grasp these kinds of connections.  A nice example is that of the imprinting of the shape of a human on a gaggle of goslings, the members of which then treat that person as if he were mother goose.

Best regards,

Dick 
“Think, live, be: next try to express scrupulously what you are thinking, what you are living, what you are.”
Henri de Lubac