The Three Perceptions: Math, Qualia and Imagination

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Robert Arvay
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Joined: Thu Jan 14, 2021 6:37 pm

The Three Perceptions: Math, Qualia and Imagination

Post by Robert Arvay »

Idealists aver that all of reality is perception. We perceive colors, not as mathematical properties of optics, but rather, as ineffable qualities that cannot be described objectively.

Physicalists tend to focus on the mathematics of optics, and to dismiss the qualitative aspects as subjective, and therefore, irrelevant to the scientific description of reality.

Both the perception and the mathematics are necessary to describing reality, whether reality is purely physical, purely mental, or some combination of the two.

There is, however, a third component that is often overlooked, yet which is just as vital as the other two. For the moment, let us call that component, imagination, although it is more complex than that word suggests.

At its simplest, we might use the analogy involving a tree. One can see a tree and perceive its color, its shape and beauty. The botanist might perceive it taxonomically, describing it in terms of photosynthesis, etc. In addition to those two is something you might already be doing at the moment, which is to imagine a tree.

How, you may ask, is imagination a real descriptor of reality? It has been said that in actual reality, there is no such thing as a tree, but rather, only specific entities, each of which is classified as a tree. We hold in our minds, the general concept of a tree, but that concept is not always precise. Is a shrub a tree?

The term, imagination, is itself amorphous. We can imagine things that really do exist (physically or perceptually), but we can also imagine things that do not exist, be they physical objects, or such things as events. We can imagine being young, beautiful and wealthy. We can imagine meeting that special someone, whether or not that someone is a real person. We can imagine travel to a distant island, or even a distant planet.

Imagination is a term that is used here, however, to encompass more than just make believe. It can also be referred to as spiritual vision, an actual perception of reality, a reality that is not constrained to our qualia, or our mathematics.

Visionaries describe having seen a seven-headed dragon, while explaining that the dragon is not a physical creature. They see it with a sense that most of us do not possess, or at least, have not developed to a high degree. They see reality, the reality that is not constrained to time, a reality that is not imagined. They struggle to interpret the vision, for example as a portent of events yet to happen, or perhaps, of factors presently at work, such as motivations for good or ill. It is a mistake, however, to try to interpret visions in the way that we interpret poetry, or surreal paintings. Spiritual visions are not subject to our opinions. They are difficult for the visionary to describe, because he struggles to describe them in terms that we can understand and find useful. The difficulty is with us.

Some people claim to have used this sense while on drugs such as hallucinogens. Not having been subjected to those experiences myself, I can only seek to find some cause for credibility, some useful contribution that drug users make. Until I find them, I remain skeptical. I reject the notion that visionary prophets relied on drugs, or other physical conditions, although fasting might have removed obstructions to their vision. I have heard many arguments promoting the use of hallucinogens, and never been convinced. Quite the opposite is the case.

Qualia and our physical senses tell us much about reality, but our imaginational component also has much to offer. Indeed, imagination might be a force that coordinates the other two.