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Benjamin's picture

Smiling on the "Ambiguous Figure" Out There...

I liked Paul’s coordination/presentation yesterday (Tuesday, 22 September 2009). It was important in the sense that it forces us to break out of thinking in terms of absolutes -- absolutes such as “external reality”, “normatives”, “objects”, and so on. Paul and I, indeed, have discussed this whole theme in another context in a paper we’ve been working on.

I also want to note that I did indeed run the “ambiguous figures” exercise with my graduate class this morning -- a class comprising art education, museum studies, and industrial design students -- and got good results. Lots of discussion followed. One of the most interesting questions was this: “What does all this say about religion?” And that was intriguing, since right after our group’s meeting yesterday, that was exactly something Paul highlighted -- how this all relates to Maimonides and the question of God and religions practice...

But as Paul knows, and as I expressed in our group discussion yesterday, I still think we are left with a problem with this whole topic of “ambiguous figures” and the “out there” as ambiguous generally, and I think that some of the other members’ comments also were inclined to that conclusion. Let me put my perception of the problem this way, and I won’t speak for the group:

(a) The basic model here makes sense (to me): “out there” is noise, coming into not just vision, but all the senses. The unconscious “collapses the wave function” and resolves the noise into one form or another: “it’s a horse” or “it’s a cliff”.

(b) We can also have a feedback loop, wherein the conscious mind can play around with this resolution, and let us actually see the image both ways, flitting back and forth, as we indeed were able to do with those “ambiguous figures” we looked at.

(c) However (and I know that this may madden Paul), we need to address the apparent fact that the unconscious portion of the brain is doing this resolving. Sure, it’s an evolutionary advantage, but then it implies -- and here we drift into Greek philosophy -- an actual underlying order beyond all that noise out there. That is, something made that unconscious develop this process, but more exactly in a true world of pure noise, there can be no process, period.

This gets into the larger idea of whether emergence of form, pattern, and process (especially) can actually happen from pure chaos or noise. This is something Paul and I have debated, but might be an interesting topic for the whole group.

Next session, I am going to talk about the Chinese book known as the “I Ching”, in a session which at first I thought would not relate to Paul’s session. Now I am thinking that may not be the case... But you all can decide...


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