Phenomenal Worlds and Nervous System Activity

Abstract

The epistemological situation of a single cell is considered. In chemotaxis, the relation between perception and action is found to be lawful and bidirectional. Consideration of the perception/action relation allows a characterization of the phenomenal world of the cell. This phenomenal world is grounded in perceptual distinctions that are relevant to the sustained viability of the cell. Moving up the phylogenetic chain, this lawfulness, and its relation to the phenomenal world of experience, is found to be essentially unchanged in multicellular organisms. Nervous systems add some innovation, in allowing distal responses and the non-linear combination of information, but from cell to human, the differentiation of the phenomenal world is found to arise from the lawfulness of the perception/action relation, which in turn reflects the biological constitution of the organism, and not a pre-given objective world. This recognition suggests that rather than looking within the nervous system for representations of pre-given, external, entities, one might do better to explore the fit between the function of the nervous system and the phenomenal, meaningful, world encountered by the organism in experience.


Back to Friday Papers