Posted by & filed under Epistemology, Mind Brain Dichotomy, Science, Science and Religion, What does it mean "to know"?.


Suppose we see, and thus become aware of, a tree.

This statement seems simple enough, but this is one of those precarious occasions where we casually speak of something spectacularly ineffable as if we knew what it meant. When we say we “become aware” of a tree, what are we talking about? What does this mean?
Let’s consider this carefully. We say we “see the tree”: that is, we perceive it by means of the eye. We can scientifically analyze this event quite substantially as follows:
A ray of light bounces off the tree and enters the eye. The light traverses the lens, which, due to the laws of optics, flips the light ray upside down and focuses it on the back wall of the eye chamber. This inner wall is lined with tiny nerve endings called rods and cones. The rods and cones are stimulated by the energy of the light, and they respond by sending electrical transmissions down the Optic Nerve. This nerve reaches its endpoint deep within the brain in a section we call the ‘visual area’. The multitude of brain cells that comprise the ‘visual area’ now receive the electrical stimulation transported to them by the optic nerve, and they respond with a great flurry of electrical activity of their own. We can then analyze this activity at the profound level of the atoms and particles that comprise these brain cells, and we discover that these protons, neutrons and electrons react to the incoming electrical impulse by changing their positions and rates of vibration. And then we see the tree.

Huh? And then we see the tree? When? How? When our atoms start to vibrate differently? But we do not see vibrating atoms. We see an object ‘out there’. What does the cognitive experience of envisioning a tree have to do with vibrating atomic particles in the back of the skull? Where is the link between these two utterly disparate things? Our description of physiological phenomena deep within the tissues of the brain has only gotten us further away from the tree.

We have learned about many physiological and electrochemical processes that occur concurrently when we see something, but in no way does this explain what ‘seeing’ is. There remains a huge and critical gap between (1) our knowledge of vibrating particles, and (2) our ‘awareness’ of a tree.
This inscrutable gap lies between Matter (which includes the tree, the sense organs, and the vibrating atoms in the Brain), and Consciousness (an invisible ‘experience of awareness’ occurring within the Mind). Objective scientific analysis can provide no logical connection between the two – once we speak of invisible subjective experience, we are completely outside its realm. Neither can Reason explain it away.

We find ourselves between worlds, between the Mind and the Senses, between the unmanifest realm of Spirit and the manifest realm of Matter.

So here is the million dollar question:

How does a ‘Sense Perception’ cross over into ‘Mind’? How does an impression pass beyond the senses and the vibrating atoms, traverse the mysterious ‘gap’, and sink into the awareness of our consciousness? 
What are your thoughts?

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