[FRIAM] Peirce, Buddhism, Monism, Behaviorism, oh my!

Steve Smith sasmyth at swcp.com
Fri Jun 3 03:51:06 EDT 2022

Jochen wrote:
> A rainbow in the clouds or a movie in the cinema could be confirmed by 
> other observers, but only for a short time and not subsequently in the 
> time that follows.
I particularly like this example because in fact in the sense that "one 
cannot step in the same river twice" no two observers see the same 
rainbow.   The light entering our eyes or the lens of a camera or a 
spectroradiometer is precisely unique to all the other eyes,  cameras, 
radiometers possible.  On careful inspection, any given water droplet 
spreads the light spectrum entering it (conventionally a distribution of 
"white" light from the sun) at a given angle through multiple internal 
reflections before exiting *in all directions within a solid angle 
defined by the wavelength* with different intensities and different 
wavelengths.   The light entering any given aperture arranged at any 
location surrounding the water droplet (for best rainbow effect, the sun 
should be coming from behind your shoulder) the wavelength and intensity 
of the light will be different for each observer.   The collective 
experience of a circular array of light in a band (or several concentric 
bands), conventionally clipped by the  landscape over which it appears 
to hover as a "bow" is a physical as well as psychological aggregation 
effect.   And yet the multiple observers (including re-views of a 
photographic capture) see what feels to be the same rainbow, and in fact 
each observation is of the same combined effect of uniform droplet sizes 
and the illumination sources (sun) angle of incidence.

All sensory experiences begin this way, but few are as strikingly 
ambiguous as a rainbow or a mirage.   Both represent energetic 
interactions between light and matter that a physicist can respect and 
explain, and in some sense the reflection of light off of the surface of 
any object or set of objects is the same thing.   No two observers see 
the same image, yet impute the reflecting surface to be of one object.   
Stereo vision and now advanced complex multi-camera/position 
structure-from-motion photogrammetry and 3D reconstruction depend on 
this, and generally have to ignore all incidents of refraction or 
diffraction and observe only reflection (and emission as in the case of 
a fire or other light source).

Sound illusions are yet more common but most of us "read past" them and 
ignore that the sound we thought we heard in front of us was from behind 
us... we are (more) used to being tricked by sound than vision.

The fact that I can even speak in these terms coherently (to myself 
anyway) reflects that I believe in the same kind of physical reality 
Jochen does, even if I argue that such is still entirely contextual (in 
this case POV, wavelength, etc) and only "real" when "limits" and 
"statistical aggregation" are applied. The phenomena we call a rainbow 
is real on one sense and yet not-real in another as Jochen points out.   
I contend that *all* perception falls in this category, yet some are so 
acutely ambiguous (rainbow/tesseract-projection, etc) that we are able 
to notice.

The fact that we seem to be able to communicate a coherent, shared view 
of "reality" is what I find most fascinating. Ethnographers cultural 
anthropologists and psychologists  can say a LOT about the differing 
ways we perceive things based on our own internal configurations and 
those we share with our cultural embedding.   My earliest scholarly 
fascinations were mathematics and physics for their pristine rigor.   
Linguistics also caught my eye later for similar reasons, but yet more 
relevant to the experience of being human.   The longer I live, the more 
I become interested  in the exceptions rather than the rules, and from 
where I sit, it is "exceptions all the way down" in some sense. Someone 
here with better grounding in the branches of philosophy can probably 
name where I sit in their spectrum/tree with that perspective.

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