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aliss's picture

Class reflections

Monday’s class discussion brought up some interesting points.  One word that really stuck out for me was the description of the brain as a constructor.  The use of the word constructor, as opposed to inventor or creator, seems especially significant.  Our discussion centered mostly on the question of reality.  What is real?  How do we know what we perceive is what actually exists?  We saw, using the chessboard and other optical illusions that our brain constructs a large portion of our reality.  However, most of the class, including myself, seemed fundamentally opposed to the idea that what we perceive as reality is not “real.”  However, after further reflection, it seems as though our knowledge of the brain and our instincts are not necessarily contradictory.

The brain may construct our reality, but does it really create our reality?  When the brain constructs a reality, it uses inputs from the “real world.”  Reality is the interpreted electrical impulses that reach our brain from our sensory organs, and our sensory organs get their input directly from reality.  These signals are certainly modified in the brain (like in the chessboard optical illusion), but they are nevertheless a representation of reality.  Our success as a species and as individuals depends on a correct interpretation of reality: if we actually saw the light and dark pieces of the chessboard as the same color instead of interpreting them differently because of shadowing and line segments, we would not be perceiving reality in a way that is useful to us.  Our experience has taught us that chessboards have alternating squares of light and dark, and our brains are using that knowledge to provide us with the most useful information possible.  Our brains may be constructing reality when we see that image, but we are also drawing upon our experience of reality.

Additionally, I’d like to add my thoughts on The Spirit Catches You When You Fall Down.  While I have never read the book, I feel that there is a distinction between differences in cultural perceptions and actual brain functioning.  While we started off in the differences our brain perceives “reality” from direct sensory inputs, this book seems to deal with the way different cultures perceive the same stimuli.  While this does apply to the idea of “shared subjectivity” that we discussed, I feel that the idea of interpreting events in different ways is separate from the way our brains construct realities from given stimuli.



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