The Carbon Child Describes the Color Red

Some things are light, while others are dark. If we put a hand in a bucket of water, that water might feel cold to the touch. If we then put our hand in a bucket of iced water, and submerge again that hand in the original bucket, our first water now feels warm to the touch. Terms for color invite mistake and disappointment. A single hue of green cloth might be labelled pea green, sea green, olive green, grass green, sage green, evergreen, verdigris, lime green, chromium green, viridian. We refer to toys and clothes of baby blue, peacock blue, Nile blue, lemon yellow, straw yellow, rose pink, heliotrope, magenta, plum. We have no syntax for color, only vague nouns and imprecise adjectives. If music resembled a lark, canary, crow, cat, dog, wolf, whale, nightingale, would we refer to corresponding musical tones as larky, canary-like, wolf-pitched, nightingalish, or speak of a crow-like chorus with roughed grouse percussive tympani?

The carbon child sees a hat of faded red, and desires this hat. He is never content to merely call it red, for he knows that it has no resemblance to his brightly painted red truck, or the red of his mother’s adornments, or the red of the running fox. He understands that a lot of red is different from a little bit of red. He gropes for a means to define this particular red, and finding none, retreats in sullen silence, unable to attain his object of attraction. He is cramped by the poverty of language to describe. His sister is no better equipped, even though she speaks of tone, timbre, shade, tincture, shadow, trace and vestige. When she acclaims a color “painted in a minor key” she further confuses her brother and mother, reducing our three-dimensional model of perception to vague metonym. A sphere can be used to unite our dimensions, but she sees only a flat plane, encircled by the vague boundary of imprecise cognition.

–from A Color Notation, A.H. Munsell, 1910

Micron Maps
Goat Eye The fastest movement available to the human body is the saccade, the eye in rapid motion. We perceive the world through constant vibrations, ceaselessly pulsing tiny muscles of the eye. These ocular oscillations construct the light-write micron-map of the world, sending imperceptible signals to rods and cones that are only able to register states of change. This constant movement allows us to consider a static image, without which fixity resolves itself in blankness. At the resolution of the micron-map, we either are in constant motion or are immersed in nothingness.
Platonic Memory Model: Lost Wax

Shitty Wax

Dear John,

As a philosopher, I think that you can help me with a conundrum. You mentioned that the “wax model” attributed to Plato is erroneous, and that he (Socrates) did not subscribe to such a model. However, I keep coming across it in my research regarding memory and oblivion. I’d be grateful for any clarification you might offer!



+++++++++++++++++ a prompt reply ++++++++++++++++

Hi Lane,

I wouldn’t worry about it, since what you’re suggesting about Plato is fine for your purposes. Plato does indeed consider a model of memory as a wax tablet in the mind, blank at birth, on which the senses plant impressions. He does this in the dialogue _The Theatetus_ in the course of trying to figure out what knowledge is. But he criticizes and rejects this model, and replaces it by the model of the aviary, which he also criticizes and rejects. He finally offers a third account of knowledge, but finally rejects it too, and the dialogue ends without arriving at a conclusion. His actual view of knowledge and the mind, from the dialogue _The Meno_ on, is that genuine knowledge is of the Forms, and is present in the mind at birth, but has to be retrieved by a process of recollection–the so-called docrine of recollection. Much later Locke does adopt the model of the mind that Plato considers and rejects, of the mind as a “tabula rasa” or blank slate at birth, on which the senses inscribe ideas (this blank slate is usually taken to be wax in Locke too). But as I say, I don’t think it makes any difference for your purposes, since even though he rejects it in the end, Plato does indeed describe and consider the blank wax slate model.

Hope this is of some use.


Locus of Cognition

The locus of cognition is still shifting: the “owners of meaning” are not easy to locate. Some questions are posed:

1.) What is happening? 2.) Who are the persons? 3.) What has led up to this situation? 4.) What has happened in the past? 5.) What is being thought? 6.) Is action possible? 7.) How do we know what we know? 8.) Should a group find consensus? 9.) How does the test affect the subjects? 10.) How does time work to enhance or undermine the results?

An experiment was conducted to determine whether increasing the number of questions would ultimately lead to a more clear understanding of the nature of the world. If questions lead to answers, it is proposed by the authors that more questions lead to more answers, and that greater knowledge can be harvested from increasing data densities. Undergraduate students (N=80) participated in the study. Half of the subjects studied selected unanswerable questions. The other half studied material to prepare for a test that they would take, regarding answerable questions. A selected number of the first group engaged in actual tutoring sessions. Results indicated that, on some types of tasks, the tutor achieved cognitive gains. The students in group one, however, could still not adequately answer the unanswerable questions, even with tutoring. The second (control) group was tested, and was scored according to standard deviational practice. Results indicated a shift in the Locus of Cognition.

More work needs to be done in the area to further develop the hypothesis regarding density-response matrices, and their use in knowledge construction.

Cognition Detail