Perception: More than all the facts

“The world is the totality of facts,
not of things." 1

Ludwig Wittgenstein, "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus"

The Logical Positivists made a great distinction between what they called “relations of ideas” and “matters of facts” 2 . The difference was that the a priori ruled over the former, and the empirical the latter. In point of fact, I believe that even the empirical are a priori 3 at least in part. They are, to a great extent, defined the same way that the idea of a wooden triangle can be defined as a triangle of wood instead of a piece of wood shaped into a triangle. The triangle although an analytic idea, has now emerged as a thing, or matter of fact. This illusory ambiguity is produced because all reality is created in the mind; in fact, even the previously mentioned “matters of fact” are purely mental ideas or constructs abstracted (we think) from something we can never really know anything about firsthand, and of which we can only hypothesize about some kind of existence. What we perceive is more than the facts!

The trouble is that facts don’t change! Change can only occur through the process of perception. Facts describe the now of a part of the continuum 4 . That “now of a part of the continuum” can and never does change. But we are able to describe how that “now of a part of the continuum” can change by translating it into the symbolic language of mathematics. Mathematics describes change, but, and this is a very big but, only within the resolution of the original “now” assumed. In describing change it actually “predicts” it, by creating “future nows” from the now it has been fed. These “future nows” are a result of two things: the original now, and the functions 5 used to “change” that now into future nows.

What I am getting at here, is that time is a defined concept. We define time in order to describe change. Change is the ultimate bottleneck. Perception begins by making a willful distinction, which entails a change 6 . We cannot even approach change unless we have a way of describing it, or, better yet, measuring it; that way is called time.

Very simply stated, change is perception itself. Without change, perception ends. That is essentially what death is… the absence of perception, or the absence of change for that perceiver. By using repetitive change we can measure change; and that is exactly what time is: repetitive change used to measure all other change… time!

You see, here, at the most basic level, we have already begun to define even our most essential elements of the perceptual framework in terms of the fundamental element of perception … change. And on the back of this comes our next most essential element, necessity or causation. If repetitive change occurs then predictability exists, and therefore necessity holds. Yet necessity holds for, and between objects. And these objects we define through the act of perception.

But none of this even approaches the gestalt or “now” that perception continually presents to a perceiver. For one thing a very important element is missing: perspective. A gestalt always includes a perspective, while facts are always free of perspective. They are what we call, in computerese, “a shallow copy”. A copy without depth; in other words, something is missing.

In fact, all concepts are just that, shallow copies of existents. Copies that we define very imprecisely because their description can never be complete. Each perceiver “finishes” the definition for itself, in its own mind. Somewhere in the statement of the perceiver’s natural language, there is the “accepted” version shared by perceivers who use that language; but all perceivers add to that a final definition they create within their own mind. The world that springs from our bodies, in the language of sensations, is dealt with in the symbolic world of our minds, by interpreting the gestalt which the perceptual apparatus has constructed. Every perceiver lives in this symbolic world in order to interact with the real world that lives on the other side of its sensory apparatus (of course, in mentioning that real world, I’m stating here a convenient hypothesis). The problem is that the perceptual apparatus adds an entity to this gestalt called the “self”, “identity” or “personality”. This actually creates the non-sharable part of the gestalt against which the whole gestalt is interpreted.

Why is this relativity so important? The answer is, very simply, because it is a relativity of definition. The gestalt relies on this relativity to define how the gestalt is put together, and to what resolution change resides within it. It actually defines the causality of the gestalt, and the causality imbedded within the relations of the objects of the continuum of the gestalt.

There is a part of the gestalt that is inexpressible in the symbolic representation of facts and the logical system of propositions. This part of the gestalt is the causality imbedded in the relations of objects. Facts or propositions can symbolize them but cannot further describe them since they are not concrete facts but actions of change. These relations are mutually understood in the causality of the shared perceptual apparatus of humanity, but they are individually defined within the self in relation to which perception functions.

Like time and space, causality functions to actually create the objects of the gestalt by forming their predictability of action. These relations buried in the objects themselves are what guides the will to actually create these objects, and their classes. But the definition of these relations is built up as a working definition that is very personal to the self-part of the gestalt. For instance, a definition can never describe all the changes a human can create, or all the actions a human can do, except very generally. The actual definition of a human, as an object, or concept, lies in each self which defines it mostly through personal experiences and working out an open ended definition, that is continually built up. This self-viewpoint defines what is emphasized and what is not; it defines the details that often make a difference in how perceptions are valued and gauged; it defines all the steps in the process of the relation, not just its beginning and end. It provides a resolution for the definition and a placement for it within the universe of that perceiver. Of course none of this can be translated into language by a statement of facts, but is assumed to be understood.

Even further, facts or propositions can never represent the “connectivity” that is part, and also all of the gestalt. Objects and their classes exist not only in definition, but as a part of the world of all other objects, and as such are connected to the world in countless relations that define them with relation to these other parts of the world as defined within the viewpoint of the self of the perceiver. Language in defining verbs as separate action words with definitions unconnected to anything else leaves out all the specific ways these words relate specifically and uniquely to situations between certain sets of different objects; all of this is understood in the “context” which is defined by the self in its understanding of the above mentioned connectivity. Unlike what Wittgenstein stated in “Tractatus” 7 : “The world is the totality of facts, not of things”, the world is more than the facts; that more is what the self adds to each world it creates.

The History of that hypothesized world that the ancients and most philosophers, even today, feel underlie the many individual worlds I mention, is still determined, if it exists, through the interactions of these many mental worlds; because our actions toward it, and toward each other depend on our needs, motives and purposes which are in turn determined by our own definitions, and the purposes formed from them.

But unlike the ancients who believed this hypothetical world to be the perfect one, I believe that it is our minds that create the perfect or near perfect world of forms that makes that mortal (unknowable) 8 world of the senses manageable. Perception is all we can ever really know; it is therefore the first cause, and it is the unexplainable will itself; it is the “One” in the many, and it determines the many worlds, and, at the same time, the one world they all share. Love is the viewpoint of that One 9 ; in order for the many wills of the many worlds to come to harmony they must finally adopt the viewpoint of the One.


To return to note's origin click the footnote number at left

1 “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus”, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Routledge & Kegan Paul LTD, London, 1922.

2 See “Language Truth & Logic” by Alfred Jules Ayer, 1952, Dover Publications, New York.

3 The a priori is that which is free of experience (the empirical), or does not rest on experience.

4 I define Continuum as: All existents in the mortal world that can be known to the perceiver. See “The Philosophy of the GOOD”, “Formal Statement” essay.

5 All functions deal with concepts or classes indirectly through the agency of numbers, and the ability to map numbers as quantities to the properties of the objects of these classes. Thus “states” can be described as collections of numbers that represent the different properties of the objects representing the classes involved. The relations between objects are the functions that change the original properties into the predicted properties. Can all the varied objects of perception and all the their attributes be translated into numbers? It seems that the answer is yes, in all areas except where the “self” of the gestalt is concerned. Also mathematics always assumes a resolution within which it acts. That is why mathematics is never really precise since it must always be an abstraction that leaves certain data out to be able to handle the situation. The self brings in with it another resolution against which all the rest of the gestalt is measured.

6 Distinctions are produced by, and thereby the presence of existents signaled to, the will through recognizing the changes that existents produce either through interactions with other existents or the gestalt; or the changes inherent in the gestalt itself, which signal the presence of an existent. Further what I have described above shows us that there are two types of “change” that signal a distinction to the Dasein of the perceiver. The former, changes that existents produce either through interactions with other existents or the gestalt, does exist in time, and results in causality; but the latter, changes inherent in the gestalt itself, which we might term “out of time” change, exists in matter. This latter “change” is not really change, since it is static in time, and is an attribute of the matter of its existent. It is not so much a change, but a “difference” from everything else, inherent in that particular existent within which it lies. Therefore, I will not include this type of “change” in what I call change, since it is more the resultant or determiner of the existent's change than the action of change itself. This distinction in “change” shows very clearly the subtle ambiguities that natural language holds through the “working definition” way in which it is built up.

7 “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus”, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Routledge & Kegan Paul LTD, London, 1922.

8 This unknowable world may not truly exist at all; but as Bishop Berkeley proposed, it may only be the projection of the Id-Ego or God. Even so, we are still the ultimate determiners of our fates, through our actions, and the harmony we create between our many worlds.

9 See in “A Series of Essays on Love”, the essay, “The Message of the Philosophy of the GOOD”



Originally Published:

January 27, 2010


July 3, 2014