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David F's picture

Filling-in and implications of subject/objectivity

I was also intrigued by the question of how the brain would fill in a blindspot surrounded by variable patterns. Would individual differences determine what aspects of the surroundings translated into the blindspot? In the case where the blindspot area was surrounded by dots of various colors, could "color priming" affect the perceived dot, if any, in the blindspot (e.g., after seeing several instances of green dots, would a participant more likely perceive a green dot in her blindspot)? Or could the colors merge, forming something like a vague, brown dot?

Regarding the more general discussion of objectivity, I would also be interested to hear what practical implications people saw of this new conception of what is truly "out there." Preliminarily, I can think of at least three. The first concerns the nobility of the pursuit of science. It sometimes feels like scientists often believe that their studies bring them closer to some profound truth, that there exists some point at which "everything" can be objectively known (a point which might be accompanied by a bright flash of light, or something). But if the conception of objectivity developed today is correct, then this is a useless hope: for every new construct we discover, there will be another construct we will have to develop to explain that one (think: every "smallest particle" we think we've discovered can be divided in two). From this follows a second implication regarding *what* we research. If wavelengths are just as subjective as colors themselves, why have we fallen into the reductionist perspective of truth, where the "most true" description of a thing involves elucidating its smallest components? What is the ultimate aim of researching the miniscule details, other than to make life more fun or for giggles, both of which are strongly subjective aims (and no different than the least "scientific" pursuits, like literature)? Finally, as Sara Berman's provocative example of epilepsy illustrated, doesn't a subjective notion of objectivity alter the way we regard radically different forms of science (the discussion of what constitutes a "mental disorder" aside)? If numbers are all subjective, and thus relative, too, then what's the big deal with statistics? Should we accept the validity of the healing properties of dances and rituals, and in what sense?


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