Wednesday, November 21, 2012

New philosophy – 3

(I wrote these three posts on Monday. Much of what I have to say has been anticipated in Comments.)

How to explain the (at least partial) comprehensibility of the universe? Must we throw up our hands and declare with Einstein that comprehensibility is incomprehensible?

Maybe not. Humans may not have been created in the image of God, but we were created in the image of the universe.

Our senses, our nervous systems, and our brains were shaped by billions of years of natural selection to cope with the world as we find it. It has been a long time since I did the reading -- Jean Piaget and T. G. R. Bower, for example -- about the conceptual world of human infants, but we apparently come hard-wired with a remarkable repertoire of instinctive understandings of space, time, causality, and so on.

I remember an article in Scientific American back in the 1960s about infants and "the visual cliff." The experimenters placed infants on a glass table. Directly under half of the glass was a solid checkerboard pattern. The checkerboard pattern was well below the other half of the glass, creating the visual perception of a "cliff," even though one did not actually exist. Infants were able to perceive the risk of going over the "cliff" as soon as they were able to move about. Kittens too.

That is to say, spatial concepts are part of the way we are wired.

I don't want to make too much of this, but we were made by the world to comprehend the world. That's why we're here.

Why the world is what it is remains, of course, a profound mystery.