Prejudice, judgement and purpose in academic editorship: Alan Sokal revisited

The point of this paper is to provide example of the issues, prejudices and overall disposition typically encountered in academic judgement of work. I summarise the key points in the notes below.

I leave you to judge, and to assess for yourself if prejudice and lack of purpose are evident in this piece, and then to decide if the ethics and actual ‘business processes’ (in the sense of peer review) need reviewed and revised, with much more stringent rules and guidelines as to judgement, and to what constitutes useful contribution and what not.
Graham Little
April 2004


The phenomenological analysis of the nature and structure of perception
© November 2003, Graham R. Little

Perception is frequently approached from a psychological point of view. This paper approaches it from a phenomenological point of view, locating the observer in the environment and analysing the nature and structure of the necessary processes and mechanisms whereby the observer interacts with the environment.

The analysis leads directly to a definition of an event and show how ideas are created from the classification of events according to their properties. Furthermore this is a universal hypothesis, essential for all species that exhibit the type of conceptual understanding of the environment and universe exhibited by humans. In short, there can be no other way whereby understanding of the environment comes to be.

The paper then summarises key issues that follow namely: definitions of events and ideas, the necessarily intellectual and conceptual nature of knowledge of the environment, and summarises the general theory of cause that necessarily follows.

Understanding the “ground” of a general theory of perception
Strategic thinking is an under-rated issue in philosophy social science. To ensure meaningful contributions of intellectual substance the topic in question must be related to the conceptual landscape, the “ground”, within which the topic is merely a detail. Failing to make these links results in work of little or no value 1.

The central issue of perception is to locate it within the overall system: in this case, the system is the person in their environment, with perception then being a crucial aspect of the relationship between the two.

It seems almost trite to state that without photons there is no sight perception. Similar comments able to be made for other perceptual processes, for example hearing and sound/pressure waves, smell/taste and chemicals entering the nostrils and mouth. Consider hearing, it is tempting to imagine we said something that transmitted to the other person, wherein fact we merely made sound/pressure waves that impacted their hearing mechanisms and physiology which then proceeded to interpret the physical events, and they ‘heard what we said’. From the discussion we begin to understand at least three interlinked aspect to the problems of perception as follows.

  1. How events in the environment affect, impact and otherwise result in perturbations in our sensory receptors.
  2. How our physiology mechanisms process the physical perturbations to which our sensory perceptual systems have been subjected.
  3. How our psychology interprets the physical events in our physiology

It follows that it is not possible to understand perception without establishing the manner of the interaction of the environment with perceptual receptors of the species. Therefore it is not enough to merely look at our psychology, nor our physiology, it is necessary to first analysis the very nature of the environment, and to establish the nature and structure of that environment in such a way it makes clear how perception is occurring. Second, it is also not possible to understand perception and build a theory of, without understanding of our physiology. Finally, a full and complete understanding of perception is not possible in the absence of a theory of psychology that provides the backdrop to the causal and epistemological circumstances necessarily implicated in the final steps of any perceptual process involving interpretation, judgment, and action.

The affect of the physical environment
The first question2 turns out to be extremely significant because it is this question that leads on to a clear definition of an idea, and lays the foundation for understanding of cause, knowledge and to the construction of a general theory of the person. This result was not understood prior to the analysis, upon reflection it could have been understood, since if we see ourselves as a species as not only existing in the environment, but having developed as a part of that environment, then full and thorough analysis of how the environment can and is and did impact us as a species would obviously open up insight into the way we are as species.
The steps and analysis of the affect of the environment on a species is summarised below3.

  1. The first step is to see and understand every species in a process involving several steps, first, there is the generation of the perceptual field, then the impact of that field on the perceptual physiology of the observing species, then the processing of that perturbation by the physiology of the species and finally the interpretation of the events by the specific observer.

    1.1 To enable discussion the terminology adopted is as follows: Reality is the state of the environment behind the perceptual field; perceptual field is the set of physical circumstances able to interact with the perceptual physiology of the observer; finally the interpretative elements in the observer, for a person, their psychology4.
    1.2 Perceptual fields are typically generated by Reality; however, modern virtual reality is testimony to the fact that a perceptual field is not always an image of Reality. Similarly, clear air white out is not an image of Reality.

  2. Studying perception in ‘normal’ circumstances is to study it at its most complex, so a simpler situation is sought.

    2.1. Clear air white out circumstances represent a state of the environment where perception just fails. In fact, perception does not ‘fail’ at all, for clear air white out5 is not loss of perception, rather it is the absence of depth perception.
    2.2. This is a not merely ‘blind spot’ phenomenon, since the occurrence occupies the whole perceptual field. This is typically the forward perceptual field, so by turning away from the forward field, the person may “see” with full depth perception, and so not be
    aware of depth restrictions in the forward visual field.
    2.3. Second, the occurrences can be studied and have been in the laboratory, and are called Ganzfeld effects.

  3. The research established that for perception to be possible then the perceptual field must not6 be constant with respect to the perceptual mechanisms of the observing species.
    3.1.1. This situation, that is, of a constant input into a system having he same result as zero input, is fully explicable under systems dynamics, and underlines that fundamental physical nature of all perception7. Looking to the side in clear air white out the person may ‘see’ normally. At some point in turning back to the front, the perceptual field becomes uniform with respect to the perceptual systems of the observer, and at that point there is loss of all depth perception. This is not a psychological mistake, nor is it a function of our physiology, such as blind spots, it is solely a function of the field being uniform with respect to the perceptual modality, and in the absence of experience, and the person will be fully deceived by the events.

    3.2. If perception fails when the perceptual field is uniform, then it follows for perception to be possible the perceptual field must be differentiated with respect to the perceiving modality of the species.

  4. We can now ask: in what way can the perceptual field be differentiated8?
    4.1. The technique is to imagine a scene, say a summer beach scene, then visualize two small squares, well separated in the scene, and each uniform; in what way can these squares be different? There are three ways in which the squares are differentiated.
    4.2. The squares are in separate parts of the scene they are spatially differentiated.
    4.3. The squares may differ in colour, or texture, or density, I have called this aesthetic differentiation.
    4.4. Finally, one of the squares may change; I refer to this as dynamic differentiation.
    4.5. I can think of no other manner in which the squares can differ, with all forms of differentiation able to be catalogued under this scheme.
    4.6. It is possible to further subdivide aesthetic differentiation into many subsets, however, this does not alter any argument, and I see little or no point for sake of this discussion. Note that all forms of scientific property, other than change and location, are grouped under this category, but again I stress, this has no bearing on subsequent argument.
    4.7. Spatial differentiation describes location in space, and dynamic differentiation describes change and movement9 .
    4.8. Without movement, the environment in which we live would be as a painting. It is dynamic differentiation that gives rise to a changing world.

This effectively completes the analysis of the impact of the environment on our perception. More aptly, it must be said that our perception and these circumstances exist in an evolutionary interaction, with these circumstances driving the development of our perceptual systems enabling our survival as a species.

As I will show, it is these circumstances that leads to definition of an event, and also to the definition of an idea, and it is ideas resulting in our ability to predict events in the environment that provides the most profound opportunity for emergence of homo sapiens as a the dominant species.

The model of the brain and nervous system 10
The neurological assumptions that underpin the model are well within the bounds of that already known of the brain and central nervous system11 . In no small part, this reinforces the view that the unravelling of the detail of the operation of the brain will afford no further insight into our psychology, and will only be elucidation of the mechanism whereby our psychology is manifest.

A consequence of this model is that some parts of the neural system can act as input to other parts, and yet other parts can be observing the events12 . This leads to what I call the “scratch pad” model of consciousness, whereby consciousness is intimately tied to the “content” of our brains, with the scratch pad being the internal system enabling ideas to be developed and tested prior to enacting actual behaviours. The neurological system provides the platform of our existence, and given good neural health, our psychology determined more by the content of our brain rather than the mechanisms of our brain.

Immediate perception
The crucial aspect of perception is that it is first, and most conclusively a physical process the above analysis establishing the nature of that process, and the phenomenological events the basis of the process. It is only secondly a psychological phenomenon involving the content of our brains and the interpretation of the physical events.

There is little moderation of this understanding required, for example, the flight or flee response represents species learning, that under certain circumstances all examples of the species show a physical reaction to types of sudden event in the environment. This is readily explained by genetically distributed neural sequences such that under certain conditions of the environment, these sequences are triggered resulting in preparation of the individual for a response to danger. Within individuals this process may occur during early development, so sensitised neurons may be triggered under certain circumstances in later life resulting in certain reactions, this in part called the personality of the person. This is processing at the neural level, without intervention of thought or consciousness or choice. It is a physical response the person may have to wrestle with to contain or to moderate. Such response can be genetic (flight or flee), or result from individual development and experience13 .

The model of perception is as below14.

In order to establish a framework of terminology that is not self-referring, I have adopted the ideas of Popper, calling the physical system of perception, ‘World 115 ’; with all contained in World 1 being the physical universe as discussed and defined by Popper.

The model gives rise to other issues of terminology, with the system within World 1 being all physical, and related to and often intertwined with and interactive with other psychological interpretative elements as shown. To accommodate this situation I have adopted the terminology ‘immediate perception’ to refer to the events of World 1; and the term perception to refer to the whole system involving World 1 events and the psychological interpretation. The result of this terminology is that we do not always perceive that which we immediately perceive, with no contradiction in terms.

The unconscious
The full theory of psychology describes the structure of the operational elements that are able to exist within the content of our brain. In short, there is no aspect of human psychology not able to be analysed into one or other of the elements of the model. Some of these elements operate without us being aware of the nature of their structure, or where they came from or the manner of their influence on us. Psychodynamics is then the process of exploring nature of our responses and effectively identifying and cataloguing the structure, where it came from and its influence on us. The crucial point is that the operational elements as they do exist are merely aspects of the brain in operation, and while psychodynamics in practice remains, the theoretical rationale of the process is changed in a major way16.

The theory proposes the following equation: Unconscious=Brain and central nervous system operations. The brain and CNS can and do function in the absence of conscious awareness, in addition there are many elements of our psychological structure that produce affects within the whole of our thinking and feeling, but of which we have little or no knowledge, or understanding. Where this occurs, then it can be said that ‘unconscious’ elements are affecting us, but it involves no structures beyond those of the theory, it is solely that we are only aware of the affect, not the structures whereby the affect is manifest, and if the affect is part of an overall affect, the contribution of this part, whether it large or small, is an unconscious factor in our lives.

Unconscious perception
There has been discussion of unconscious perception17 , however within the model the fact of unconscious perception is neither surprising nor exceptional. The central question can be phrased as follows: do we receive meaningful information when we have no awareness of perceiving?

The answer within the model as developed here is that the brain does not require awareness for it to function. Therefore it can receive inputs while we are asleep or unconscious. For example, waking fully alert from a deep sleep knowing something is not right.

A dramatic example from personal experience arose when I had a serious heart attack some twelve years ago. I was unconscious in intensive care at Auckland Hospital for some 30 hours. It was estimated that my brain had had extremely limited oxygen for lengthy periods while I had CPR and shock treatment in the ambulance. There was considerable concern over whether I had suffered brain damage. The doctors were greatly encouraged because when my then wife, who sat with me while unconscious, spoke, all my vital signs showed major changes and a lift. The analysis was that I was ‘hearing’ and ‘recognising’ her voice despite the fact I was unconscious. The explanation is the operation of the brain receiving the sound input, this input encountering sensitised neurons and producing the response. Had I been brain damaged to any significant degree there was a less chance of these systems remaining intact. In describing these events, I use the first person, since my body is as much ‘I’ as my sense of self and consciousness. As a business consultant I have learned to listen to my instincts, my body tell me things, and if in doubt I will determine in favour of those instincts as opposed to my reasoning, which I have found can often lead me astray. My body/unconsciousness/brain knows more, has noted more, and is often more aware than my analytical/conscious mind. I suggest this is an everyday, practical example of unconscious perception, but it takes practice and skill, an ability to create a very still mind for these insights/instincts to come to the fore.

Blindsight is having an awareness of say an object, without knowing we are so aware. Within the model developed, where Unconscious=Brain and central nervous system operations, then the issue of blindsight becomes the question of whether or not the operation of the perceptual systems in the brain and CNS require consciousness or attention in order to operate. The model states that our brain generates our psyche, and or consciousness and our attention, but that it also does much, much more. Hence blindsight is merely another form of unconscious perception that is the operation of the brain and CNS without our being aware of that operation; as such it is neither particularly remarkable nor exceptional. Of greatest interest from a research point of view is not the existence of such features of our physiology, but how it can be best used to benefit our life and success and enjoyment of both.

Structure and definition of an event and an idea
We have now reached the point in the discussion where we must consider what is occurring within the observer. First, and crucially, we do not perceive generalities, in fact no perceiving of any event can or is able to be identical, the reason being that for us to have a second perceiving of some event requires at very least there was a duration between the two events, and given the manner and definition of the differentiation of the universe essential for perception to be possible, then follows the events we separate, singular, although similar, at least, similar as to their affect on the observer or observers. (The terminology of discussing time, as ‘duration between events’ is cumbersome, so I will use ‘time’ as the shorthand for this.)

It follows that all perception is of unique, particular events defined by their properties: aesthetic, and location in space and time.

The neurological system summarised above is able to record and remember events and their properties, and equally, to develop sensitised neurons in relation to certain events, so that certain response occur under circumstances of those events.
One of the issues now is determining a suitable definition of an event. There are four possibilities.

  1. Changes in Reality alone.
  2. Changes in Reality accompanied by changes in the perceptual field.
  3. Changes in Reality, perceptual field and changes in the perceptual systems of the observer.
  4. Changes in Reality, perceptual field, perceptual systems plus an interpretation by the observer

The problem with the first two definitions is that we do not discuss events in any abstract way, say a wedding, for example. We tend to use terms that already carry some degree of ‘borrowed knowledge’18 . The problem with the last is that it has gone too far, and has already included all interpretation, and leaves no room for unconscious perception. I suggest that three is the most satisfactory, that is an event is defined as the change in the perceptual field combined with the immediate perception in the observer.

The consequences are as follows.

The analysis leads immediately to the definition of an idea as the classification of events according to their properties.
In everyday life, this remains a loose framework, for example, we may sit on a table and refer to it as a chair, and for everyone to know exactly what we mean. The analysis explains this as the table having some of the properties of the chair such that referring to it as a chair is accepted and common. Referring to a short, sharp sword, point up, stuck firmly in the ground, as a chair is not acceptable and inappropriate since the sword in that circumstance does not share enough of the properties of a chair.

For science, such loose definitions are not acceptable, and for the development of science more effective and tighter definitions of variables is needed, but is beyond this discussion19.

Summary of implications
Perception is a process whereby an observer in the environment reacts with it, immediate perception, enabling an interpretation the core of which is based on prior experiences. The understanding acquired from experience and bought forward to the new circumstances is called ‘borrowed knowledge’, after Ashby. That is, it is knowledge that is not implicit or integral to the current situation but borrowed from previous situations and experiences.

Within this process, such things as photons, for example, do not carry information, they merely have properties, and it is the observer, and the evolution of the observer that has acquired the capacity to interact, note, and remember the properties resulting in an ability to interpret and so predict the environment within which the observer moves and lives. Crucially, due this interactive/evolutionary process, the nature of the environment as noted by the observer is partly determined by the perceptual systems of the observer, this being specifically accounted for by defining an event as the fundamental interaction between observer and environment.

The capacity of the observer to interact, note and remember can take several forms: first, it can be genetic learning giving rise to species wide reactions to certain environmental phenomenon. Second, it can be habituated, individual specific reactions, responses not significantly mediated by any cognition. Third, it can be reactions mediated by cognitions, with the overall analysis showing how ideas can and will arise as the classification of events via their properties and then the use of the classifications to interpret new events. For humankind, it is at this point where culture is introduced, the significance of socialised systems of thought providing the over-arching system of ideas whereby the individual interprets their environment and their place in it.

General and particular
Ideas are defined as classifications of events according to their properties they are generalities. Given a dynamical differentiated environment each and every event is necessarily unique. We do not perceive generalities, and can only perceive unique instances of any and all generalities. The necessary relationship between the general and the particular is then defined by the essential definitions of ideas, events and the nature of a differentiated universe (I use this term to emphasis that it is a general proposition).

Conceptual level
An observer has evolved a given set of perceptual systems by which they observe the environment. This level of perceptual system gives rise to the natural level of perception of the observer then interpreted by way of ideas. So, it is accurate to say we do not see a horse, we see an example of horse, and that white horse is not a horse. All of which are merely playing on the necessary distinctions between general and particular, ideas and unique events as examples of ideas, all from arising and well defined in the model above.

No observer can perceive beyond his or her natural perceptual systems. So for any observer to perceive beyond this level requires machines that take perturbations in perceptual fields not able to be noted by the observer and convert them into perturbations that can.

Generally, perceptual processes do not differentiate between events at the natural level of perception rather it is the intellectual processes that afford differentiation. For example, we perceive a tree, and by research we come to understand it roots and growth rings, and other fundamental aspects of its development. Perception does not, cannot distinguish between these elements, it does not nor cannot place them in any sensible order or sequence. Perception is what it is.

Conceptual processes can afford differences, we can intellectually come to understand the flow of nutrients from roots into the tree, and come to understand the relationships of the tree foliage, to roots and cells and sun light. Intellectual we are then able to differentiate the tree, from mechanisms whereby the tree lives and grows. Such processes gives rise to conceptual hierarchies, called conceptual level, whereby intellectual effort complements perceptual systems providing understanding of the environment based on the knowledge (ideas) of it.

The general theory of cause arising from the model

1. Defining an event: the base of the theory of cause is events.
1.1. Events are defined as the factors of immediate perception that is a change the perceptual field resulting in change in the perceptual mechanisms of the observer.
1.2. So defining an event necessarily defines the observer.
2. Classes of events.
2.1. Being immediate perception, any event is not necessarily interpreted by the observer, but could be so interpreted if noted by the observer.
2.2. Single unique and unrepeated events are of little interest, they do add to knowledge, but do not advance understanding.
2.3. Repeated events of similar nature become grouped by the properties of the event and are so classified.
2.4. Classes of events are ideas. Ideas are used to interpret the world, with the idea (generality) being used to classify the particulars of the world, so, to paraphrase Eastern philosophers, a white horse is not a horse; it is an example of ‘horse’.
3. Constant conjunctions.
3.1. After Hume, it is understood that events that occur regularly together are constant conjunctions and give rise to causal expectations.
3.2. Causal expectation is not cause, and is not reason to assume cause.
4. Types of constant conjunction.
4.1. After W Ross Ashby, constant conjunctions can be classified into those whereby the effect of any perturbation is immediate, and those whereby the effect of any perturbation is an ultimate conjunction known to go via other, immediate conjunctions.
4.2. Ashby’s ultimate and immediate effects model the structure of constant conjunctions.
5. Classes of relation.
5.1. Given two types of constant conjunction, then there are two classes of relation between events. First, classes of immediate effects, second, classes of ultimate effects.
5.2. It then follows that there can be a relation between these classes of relation.
6. Definition of cause: follows as a relation between classes of relation between classes of events.
6.1. That is, when we ‘see’ an event, say the sun rising, we label it according to previous experiences either personal or social so it is called ‘sunrise’.
6.2. We know it (the sun) will travel across the sky; we call that ‘day time’, and will eventually set. This is all at a conceptual level, at one set of ‘relations between classes of events’.
6.3. If we now add the understanding of the world and solar system, we get a quite different set of relations, these relations form the underlying mechanisms of the previous set of relations, so we come to see the ‘sunrise/sunset’ classes of relations between events as the ‘ultimate effects’ of the ‘immediate effects described by the mechanism of the solar system, gravity etc’.
6.4. Without understanding the underlying mechanisms, simply accepting the uppermost set of classes of relations, then we have no cause, the sun rises and sets driven by the Gods, or some other notion, there is little or no choice but make such prognostications.
7. Conceptual levels: arise as a consequence of the relation between classes of relation. So events perceived belong to different conceptual levels, and that this is not perceptual, this is intellectual; left solely to perception all events are at the same conceptual level.
8. Natural perception: Every species has a level of ‘natural perception’ that is a natural level whereby changes in a perceptual field are able to produce changes in the perceptual biological structures in the species.
8.1. To note changes in perceptual fields outside this range of natural perception requires the species develop machines for converting changes in a perceptual field that cannot produce changes in the perceptual modalities of the species, into changes that can.
8.2. Any species without such machines will have restricted causal insight and understanding of the universe, bounded by the level of natural perception of that species.
9. The universe contains definite mechanisms: After Little20 the hypothesis is that all constant conjunctions are ultimate effects. This is called the universal mechanistic postulate.
9.1. This means that immediate and ultimate effects (or immediate and ultimate constant conjunctions) are only so in relation one to another, with the conceptual level defining which is immediate and which ultimate. There is no absolute level of constant conjunctions, so there is no absolute level of immediate effects; there is no mechanistic base to the universe.
9.2. The summary and effect of the universal mechanistic postulate is that there is always a mechanism.
9.3. The consequences of always having a mechanism is that such interpretations of modern physics as reflecting the probabilistic nature of the universe is rejected, and quantum electro dynamics is seen as a powerful technology that does not grasp the or reflect the underlying nature of the universe, and does not reflect the mechanisms underlying the events it so accurately predicts, it merely uses powerful mathematical tools to get the right answers; but that in part the mathematical nature of science is not a reflection of the universe, but a reflection of the very nature of our knowledge of it.
9.4. The universal mechanistic postulate also has profound impact on the view and understanding of epistemology, but this brief note is not the place, see the papers and supporting papers for some of these issues to be introduced.

Cause in summary
Two elements are needed to accurately say we know the cause, first we need know the mechanism at play whereby one thing becomes another (and that in the instance under study, we need to know there are not factors outside the mechanism able to alter the mechanism), and second we need to know the starting values of the variables able to influence the system under study. Knowing the start point, and knowing the mechanism and all factors able and likely to influence it, then the result is predictable. That’s cause.

Is cause always proximal?
Can it occur at a distance? Cause revolves about events, defined by the observer; the fact that two objects that affect each other are not apparently able to interact does not mean they do not so interact. It only means that we do not know nor do we perceive the mechanism whereby the two interact, but under the universal mechanistic postulate, we need look very, very hard, because it is most likely there is a mechanism. So, two events on opposite sides of the universe, that occur as constant conjunctions, and our initial instincts suggests they are related, or evidence suggests so, then we have an interesting scientific problem of uncovering the mechanisms whereby the two interact, for the working assumption is that there is always a mechanism. Do all mechanisms of the universe work only at close range? This is too big an assumption, it can and must be concluded that we do not know.

Determinism and freewill
The model of knowledge on which the general theory of cause is based presents a deterministic view of the physical environment. This is counter to much modern philosophy, but is a deductive consequence of the theory, not an assertion prior to the theory. Freewill, human spirit and consciousness are not affected by this deterministic view, since these social and psychological elements are shaped first and foremost by the ideas we hold, and not by the neurological substrate of those ideas. Given good neural health, then our being is shaped by what we think not by the mechanisms of how we think.

Referees comments with response

Referee 1
First, I'm surprised you even sent me this paper. There is no phenomenology in it and the cognitive science is amateurish. It's poorly written and extremely obscure. Really I read the first few paragraphs and that was enough - I skimmed the rest looking for any redeeming points, but found none. So I will just make a quick job of this. I recommend against publication.
Could hardly be said to have penetrated the thinking or logic of the position.

The paper summaries a position that is an essential precursor to phenomenology and pertains to phenomenology itself in defining the nature of an idea and how and where they arise, as well development of depth perception, and of the idea of cause, and how it comes to be and what it means. Not unless the referee is to argue that these issues and the experience of them is not phenomenology.

Referee 2
In regard to style and proper grammar, from the very first sentence, the author seems to pay very little attention to expression - " Strategic thinking is an under-rated issue in philosophy AND (?) social science." There are numerous problems like this - too many for me to list. I'll mention only one more, which is not carelessness so much as a common mistake that should have been straightened out in grade school. This concerns the use of the term 'affect' in the section entitled "The affect of the physical environment" - unless the author is suggesting that the physical environment has emotions, then this should clearly be "The effect of the physical environment." The use of the word affect throughout this section is mistaken.

Take this on chin; but in fairness in original discussions with the senior editor I was seeking some initial comment, which later they explained they unable to supply, but did not make that clear at time. The comments are significant, if superficial.

Returning to the first paragraph, I find it an odd claim since the issue that the author refers to as 'strategic thinking' has been addressed in philosophy at least since Plato's Meno. The first footnote refers to an individual's (the author's?) website rather than to the paper cited - so this isn't a proper citation. The important point, however, is that the author makes a claim that seems strange, given the history of philosophy and logic.

Little evidence in my view, of strategy as discussed, and no evidence of the relating of ideas to their ground as discussed in paper, logic nor Plato quite did this, and to extent anyone has, it is not worked through nor evident in any current efforts of journals. Leads into my claim that knowledge, cause and psychology are all one ‘problem situation’ and cannot be separated, a substantive underpinning of my work.

Going further, logic is not strategy, in fact I know of no clear statement as to what constitutes strategy in social science, at least I have offered that much (relation of ground to the topic), something the referee seems to not have noticed: And this position is neither obvious, nor simple, and if carried through would have a significant impact on every paper written in social science, since any topic would not, could not be seen as something ‘standing alone’. Failure to grasp this complexity I attribute to adherence to the naïve process argued by Descartes in discourse on method. The ‘reductionism’ of method still underlying the thinking though I do not doubt this referee does not, and cannot see it in own work and would claim sophistication not in fact evident.

The author promises a phenomenological approach - but it is not clear that he/she delivers it.

This author refers later to my web site, so does indeed know my name, and gender.

For example, in some cases the author seems to be anti-phenomenological. The author writes: "Consider hearing, it is tempting to imagine we said something that transmitted to the other person, wherein fact we merely made sound/pressure waves that impacted their hearing mechanisms and physiology which then proceeded to interpret the physical events, and they 'heard what we said'. Apart from the grammatical mistakes, this seems to suggest that whatever the phenomenology is, it is the physiology that holds the truth.

Not a reasonable conclusion from the article, and model of perception, where I do stress psychological interpretation. If the person did not understand what was being offered, then say so, but to conclude things clearly not said nor overall implied is unreasonable.

Even given grammar, the sequence implied is clear: pressure waves, physiology, interpretation (which in the model of perception includes psychology). Second, it is also naive to dismiss physiology as providing ‘interpretation’, since the pressure wave is converted by our physiology into an internal event.

The author goes on to list three questions to be investigated - and none of these are phenomenological questions. Moreover, the general claims that the author makes are relatively standard views concerning the relation between organism and environment,

This is contradictory with later comments, where the referee points of original positions, albeit condemning them.
The position is not ‘relatively standard’, I know of no author offering clear definition of the necessary conditions for perception, a position summarised in this paper and developed fully in supporting papers at the web site.

and the physiological basis of perception - the details provided by the author suggest a somewhat atomistic analysis: "first, there is the generation of the perceptual field, then the impact of that field on the perceptual physiology of the observing species, then the processing of that perturbation by the physiology of the species and finally the interpretation of the events by the specific observer." I'm not sure that one can say except in a obscure way, that a perceptual field impacts the "physiology of the species" - I think this phrase is problematic. Any physiology that I've ever heard about belongs to an individual.

Problematic or not, the physiological structures of a rat and snake are quite different from that of humans. It will follow that the perceptual structures interacting with perceptual fields will be quite different for each of these species, hence the use of the term seems to me to be reasonable, if different from what this editor seems to have experienced. The referee seems to be struggling to move beyond their pre-dispositions and pre-existing prejudices, not the least of which is rejection of any form of thinking that does not fit their immediate thought patterns.

The definition of the term 'perceptual field' suggests that it is a subject-independent piece of "reality." This is neither a phenomenological definition nor a standard psychological understanding.

I can see no way where a field of photons in space in any way necessarily involves any species, it is and is only a field of photons, and the use of 'perceptual field' as a generic phrase emphasises the impact on species with appropriate physiological structures. This is an essential separation of the impact of the environment and the species, the term ‘perceptual field’ then specifying aspects of the environment able to interact with the perceptual structures within species, these structures of course evolving in relation to the said perceptual fields, hence evolution is not something separate from perception.

The second point is that the term ‘perceptual field’ also specifies a relationship between the species and that beyond (in sense of not directly involved with, or outside) the species; all species react to, have evolved in relation to, and where suitable intelligence is involved are pro-active in relation to those aspects of the environment I call ‘perceptual fields’, and these stand in certain relation to the environment itself, which I define ‘Reality’ (capital R, with reality, small r, being that ‘interpreted by the species from the perceptual field). All of this implied in the article and made very clear at my site. The ideas ignored by this referee and the first because of pre-existing prejudice, an assumption that what academe is doing is right, when in fact it is so badly on the wrong track as to be beyond these referees judgement. The academic system can take some credit at brain washing, unfortunately things like openness, creativity, serious seeking of accuracy and truth seem to be lost in the process.
It is not standard, yet it is crucial, and so obvious I fail to see why such people as this referee cannot see it themselves, I did not even think it required any great elaboration, so obviously direct is the point. Yet, at other places this referee claims no originality in the paper!

I'm not even sure Gibson would define the perceptual field in this way.

If he does not, then I cannot in any way see how Gibson can claim any science to his analysis. The steps from Reality – see my definitions – through field of (say) photons, to physiology to psychology is unavoidable. Standard definitions are quite inadequate; yet this person claims no originality in the effort, there seems to be serious contradictions, which I argue, suggest issues of attitude, and prejudice.

What is wrong with this paper can be seen most readily in the paragraph (or series of points) labelled " 2. Studying perception in 'normal' circumstances is to study it at its most complex, so a simpler situation is sought." The author makes three points, the third of which he prefaces with the word 'Second' - as if it is the second point. The problem is that the author seems just to make things up.

It seems pedantic, but unfortunately that is the level on which the referees want to play the game, the equation of Einstein of mass and energy equivalence (E equals mxc squared) was ‘made up’. The argument will go that it arose from math, ‘logic’. Unfortunately, they choose to ignore discussions on theory creation, and my discussions of the tools of W.Ross Ashby as in fact third level conceptualisation tools, equivalent to math in the analysis. Such third level conceptualisation tools can and will lead the conceptualisation process.

The comment also underlies the inadequate level of understanding of the nature of science analysed in the supporting papers. Undoubtedly the referees will think it not their field, but this position itself ignores the issues and problems and questions raised in my analysis of strategic thinking in social science, a topic they think they understand, and work of mine they dismiss in such cavalier fashion, then go and commit errors of thinking and offer comment exactly illustrative of all I condemn in academe and its failure to deal with strategy.

The claims are definitional but extremely obscure.

The definitions arise from supporting papers, summarised here, and only obscure to those with extensive pre-dispositions and so unable and unwilling to penetrate (see my paper strategic thinking in academic judgement).

Thus, the first point: "Clear air white out circumstances represent a state of the environment where perception just fails. In fact, perception does not 'fail' at all, for clear air white out is not loss of perception, rather it is the absence of depth perception." The author here offers a definition and then contradicts the definition

I offer no definition, only an observation, clear air white out is defined by Sater as so: “whiteout can occur in a crystal-clear atmosphere under a cloud ceiling, with ample, comfortable light and a visual field filled with trees, telephone poles, Quonset huts, and oil drums and such relatively small objects…. The entire visual continuum is erased by whiteout … all vestiges of depth perception may be lost…and one not know". This is referenced and quoted in my supporting papers.

The point here, which this person studiously avoids, is that we do not loose the feeling of ‘seeing’, when in fact we are not ‘seeing’ at all.

This thing the author terms 'clear air white out' is and is not a failure of perception.

Dismissive of a well-established phenomenological event, unless there is a claim that clear air white out is not phenomenological, I claim I regard as simply ludicrous. Second part dealt with above, I can be criticised for abbreviation, which is about all. Serious unwillingness to penetrate the ideas, that contradict existing thinking obviously, but then we both knew that, politically this paper is not publishable, but this person has failed so far to even come to grips with the thinking: Shades of Alan Sokal.

Further more, this is not a state of the organism, but a state of the environment - and what fails is depth perception. So does this mean that perception is a characteristic of the environment rather than an organism? Literally, the author seems to be saying that depth perception is something that the environment does. I can make no sense out of this.

The position asserted here and evidenced by Sater and Cohen is exactly that depth perception arises solely from the environment, without the necessary differentiation of the environment there is no depth perception. Clearly the referee makes no sense of it, and the first did not even try, I can only leave it to the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.

The author next introduces the notion of the 'forward perceptual field' - but without giving a clear definition of it. I don't know what it means if it is not defined in terms of an organism.

Forward perceptual field pertains to those photons arising from a general frontal position, relative to the organism. This does not imply the perceptual field relates to or necessarily involves the organism. It is the same as saying there is a tree in front of me. There will be a point in turning one’s head where the effect of the undifferentiated field ceases to result in loss of depth perception. I actually think this is reasonably clear for anyone seeking to penetrate the ideas.

Finally, the point of this section seems to be that the environment has to be differentiated in order for perception to be possible. That's it. "This effectively completes the analysis of the impact of the environment on our perception." This conclusion seems to be implicit in Cohen's 1957 article.

It is implicit in Cohen, and only explicit in the quote. And nowhere I know of is the logic then followed up upon. i.e.: you need a differentiated field then I work through what 'differentiated' must be. The extent that ‘that’s it’, is far from obvious, and this referee has totally missed the point of Cohen’s quote and implications, as I hope I have made clear. Things were said in literature in 1957, the implications of the things said totally missed, and in part I am trying to bring those implications to the fore.

For an obvious and simple example, it is also implicit in Cohen’s quote that depth perception depends totally on the state of the environment, but this referee as they themselves state ‘can make no sense of this’. With this attitude little wonder, and little wonder Cohen’s work has not been followed through upon until now, with my work the only work I know of to give it the status it deserves; and his work is phenomenological as far as I am concerned.

In the next section the author offers a set of facts about neurons, and calls this a model. As part of this model the author suggests that part of the neural system "observes" events. This is a common category mistake found in the writings of neurophysiologists.

It is no more than a set of facts, made clear in the article, merely to stress that the neural physiology required is not exceptional, also made clear in article, as is position that these ‘facts’ are not mine but from literature. I did not assert nor suggest neural system observes events, take note of the reference. Amateur I may be, but I do pride myself on my openness to good thinking, and balance of judgement not yet here evident.

Not at all phenomenological.

We have so far reviewed what creates depth perception, formation of events and their interpretation, nature and understanding of cause within human minds, and this is viewed as not phenomenological. I do not agree, it is certainly not the phenomenology this referee and the first are used to, but then I regard the majority of that simply not worth reading usually because of the lack of conceptual complexity and lack of serious integration of topics into the ground in which the topic is inevitably embedded. Unquestioned the typical papers in this journal (Phenomenology and Cognition) fit the forms and norms of academe, written by aficionados of the journal and read by same, every one seeing the work as important contributions to world wisdom, going nowhere, no result nor impact on anything except status among those so reading and writing.

Next we get the "scratch-pad" model of consciousness, which is mentioned but not at all developed.

Fair call, but in some mitigation discussions were held with editor over length, and the original papers were too long. Hence this summary paper to offer the ideas in form able to be accepted in journal and further there was the expectations (clearly naïve on my part), expecting reference to original papers.

The author uses the term 'content' without explaining what this means - given that various theorists use the term content in different ways, it would be important to specify this.

Fair request: Unbiased and seeking clarification. Content in my work describes the values of the variables used in description of any system.

The neurophysiology of fear - fight or flight response - is well known, but why the author wants to link this to personality is not clear.

Cannot find the clear statement where I did. Again, if at all, I can be accused of abbreviation. Second, given the extensive background to the paper in question, where this point is considered, and my position made abundantly clear, any such link as alluded to would be then in context.

The author also states: " I have adopted the terminology 'immediate perception' to refer to the events of World 1; and the term perception to refer to the whole system involving World 1 events and the psychological interpretation. The result of this terminology is that we do not always perceive that which we immediately perceive, with no contradiction in terms." This could also use some clarification.

Without wanting to be rude, ‘immediate perception’ is defined, leaving the term perception to cover all of immediate perceptions and to include psychological interpretation. This is really very clear in the diagram and discussion: Again quite unwilling to come to terms with that offered, closed minds and rigid thinking evident, again.

If the sections that outline the model (and really, there is only an outline of something here)

Indeed, exactly the point, the summary or overview nature of the paper is not perhaps as clear as it could be, despite that being the agreed intent from the outset and in discussion with editor. But, and a mistake on my part, I did assume the background of the original papers would be considered.

were clear and substantive, then the later discussion of events might make some sense, although it seem to me that at that point the author really wants to do metaphysics.

At some point all science was metaphysics, before it was science. There was a transition, I wish to make that very transition for much of what is currently ‘philosophy’, say for example the existence of ideas, or a model of knowledge. This referee ignores the statement made clearly in the paper: That Ashby’s ultimate and immediate effects model constant conjunctions. At this point, constant conjunctions are no longer ‘metaphysics, nor even philosophy, but a concrete model able to be carried further into social science leaving none of current thinking in social science untouched.

To be generous, perhaps thinking of reasonable scope lies beyond such individuals, who prefer the safety of their narrow prescribed comfort zones affording political and intellectual protection.

All of this completely escaped these referees, and from the tone of the comments from the editor, him as well.

As it stands, however, the whole paper seems obscure, and quite unoriginal except in some of the terminology and odd definitions.

The authors discussion of a table used as a chair, and a sword as not so used, misses the entire point about what makes a chair a chair - certainly not just certain properties of the chair - and again this misses the phenomenological dimension.

This simply judgement pushed well past that said, I well understand that properties belong to more than chair alone. But, my position is that the term properties itself and all associated with them carries the necessary definition of the observer, see my definition of an event. It follows that my use of term ‘properties’ related to all aspect of the chair as thought of by the observer; in this case it being quite clear it was a human observer.

This again a point this referee simply ignores, again I suggest quite deliberately in regard to thinking he/she is too preoccupied or too lazy to penetrate.

As a result I can't recommend publication. The paper seems a hodgepodge of ideas and definitions, often what seems to be a dogmatic and somewhat odd combination of ideas

I understand ‘odd’ from the point of view of these referees. I think I have pointed out serious inadequacies in their approach and thinking.

already established or already dismissed.

I reject this entirely. I think I have pointed out serious limitations in the judgement, even serious contradictions. For example, rejection of the idea that the environment generates depth perception, yet acceptance of Cohen’s work without realizing that conclusion arises directly from that work. My ‘originality’ is in reinterpreting and following through on ideas that have lain dormant in the literature for decades, while such as these authors and academics pursued their quite inadequate paths and ideas.

The comments also underscore the quite inadequate notions of science and how it is successfully progressed. Again, see my papers where this issues is explored, and vastly improved models offered, derived from the Cohen original position; the arguments lead to the understanding that science progressed by theory creation – but necessarily using third level conceptualisation tools – and empirical effort to validate/refute, explore etc. My paper on theory creation covers much of this for those willing to penetrate.

Note also my comments in the ‘Strategic judgement paper’ as below:

  1. The hypothesis set up and tested by Sokal can in fact be seen as a derivative of a more general proposition as follows: that the way people think shapes their actions, mood and judgment, and any idea not fitting prior understanding will be deflected, likely rejected. The consequence of this more general proposition is that any ideas not falling within the overall pre-existing sphere of thinking and understanding of editors will not be accepted, with the converse being the Sokal proposition. This idea is then added into an overall social and political structure wherein status and income are derived from the papers published and prestige so garnered. Further to the analysis is the question of any professional body judging itself. I suspect it unquestioned that under appropriate circumstances many of academic editors and authors would be most sceptical of some group of business people judging the rights and wrongs of another businessperson. Suspicions when police adjudicate on police, or lawyers on lawyers are frequent. Yet, an academic sits in judgment of the writing and thoughts of another, and no questions get raised, in fact the act of ‘peer review’ is applauded as something special. Now undoubtedly many will offer a host of counter argument, but for me, I do not see some enormous difference, merely perhaps degrees of variation, insufficient to result in full separation of these situations.
  2. For my own part, I have always held such views, and these underlie my self-publishing efforts. My own judgment of my work, especially when re-read after some months or years, is style is often short, but substance is always long. Frequently I can find no other thinker offering the ideas in the way I do, or rooting the topics in their ground as I do. In this manner I defend my work, and my web site. I understand how the work takes some effort to penetrate, the thinking is different, so existing academics have to think and read with care to penetrate; for this I offer no excuse, any person thinking that issues of mind/body, cause, general theories of psychology and knowledge can be dealt with in two minute scan, which assumes what they are about to read fits with how they now think, and that this pre-existing common set of opinions and information which has thus far failed to achieve results will achieve results, and that this collective view is the only route to success and to the answers are no more than immature dreamers, for which I have little or no time or respect.
    Other original topics presented but not even considered by this referee include the following.
    * Model of an idea and how they arise.
    * General theory of cause.
    * Model of all phenomenology, arising from definition of events, namely that every individual has unique phenomenology determined by the environment and by the processes and framework of ideas they use. That is by the events as interpreted by them. See in particular the paper at the site ‘There is no time’.
    * Clear dealing to question of unconscious perception. Topic academics seem to have grossly over complicated. But one ignored by this referee.
    * The serious effort at relating topics to their ground, this inevitably means a broadening of papers, and effort to integrate work in one area with other, related areas. This makes issues more complex, but does not sit well (see my paper on strategic thinking in academic/editorial judgement, where this issues is explored at length) with existing thinking or effort which remains wedded to the approach of isolate and conquer, an approach I have dealt with at length in my papers, and shown to be seriously flawed unless full isolation is in fact possible, and in all social science, involving humans, with only a single actor, the person or people, this is just not possible.

I will take from this that helpful; I have also learned that things obvious to me are not so to others, they are backward in many respects, frequently not seeing the work of some ancient and outmoded philosopher still underpinning their thinking. I must take more care.

Graham Little
April 2004.


1. Little, G.R., Strategic thinking in academic judgment and editorship,, 2003.
2. Little, G.R., Paper 1: A theory of perception, in Why We Do What We Do: A paradigm for social science, Social Sciences Press: Division of Self Help Guides Limited, Auckland, NZ, 2003.
3. Ibid, Paper 1: A theory of perception
4. Little, G.R. Paper 2: Perception and a general theory of knowledge, in Why We Do What We Do: A paradigm for social science, Social Sciences Press: Division of Self Help Guides Limited, Auckland, NZ, 2003. The term ‘reality’ with lower case ‘r’ refers to the reality perceived by the observer. So for clear air white out, reality is inconsistent with Reality, and that this is not a psychological mistake, nor an act of our neurophysiology (as with blind spots).
5. See, Little, Paper 1: for the references to clear air white out and Ganzfeld effects.
6. Cohen concluded: “It may be conjectured that the perceptual mechanism has evolved to cope with a differentiated field, and, in the absence of differentiation, there is a temporary breakdown of the mechanism". Cohen, W. Spatial and Textural Characteristics of the Ganzfeld. Am.J.Psych., 70, 403-410, 1957.
7. Ashby,W.Ross Design for a Brain, London: Chapman Hall 1960, and Introduction to Cybernetics. New York: John Wiley, 1956.
8. Note: that it must be the perceptual field, since it is this field that influences the perceptual receptors of the observing species.
9. Note that time does not occur; this paper will not review the implications for the philosophy of time, only to state that time emerges as the duration between events, so time as an entity has no place in this universe which does not know the time and only contains its own intrinsic mechanisms. Time is exactly equivalent to distance, a factor of consciousness measuring the distance between two points, with time the factor measuring the duration between events. This does have the result of making both distance and time relative to the observer; neither can be determined or defined without defining the observer. See Little, G.R. Note on time and the interpretation of quantum electro dynamics,, 2000.

10. This section is largely reproduced from Little, G.R., Paper 5: Why we do what we do – the outline of a general theory of psychology, in Why We Do What We Do: A paradigm for social science, Social Sciences Press: Division of Self Help Guides Limited, Auckland, NZ, 2003.
11.Gazzaniga, Michael S. (Editor). The Cognitive Neurosciences. Mass: MIT Press, 1995.
12. Philosophical this could be seen to lead to the problem of the homunculus; this problem is dismissed on basis that it is indeed possible to watch the watcher, and watch the watcher watching, and to watch the watcher that is watching the watcher watching. This is not hierarchical, it is parallel, that is, there is a structure proposed for our psychology that consists of a system of parallel sub-systems, with any sub-systems able to act as observer to any other. So it is possible to have a watcher watching a watcher, if it can be managed, but this implies nothing of a homunculus. Self remains spread among the contributing components as per the theory. See Little, Paper 5.
13. Ibid, Little, Paper 5, note use of term ‘reacting part’ after Ashby: Ashby,W.Ross Design for a Brain, London: Chapman Hall 1960.
14. Ibid, Little, Paper 1: A theory of perception.

15. Popper, Karl. Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach. Oxford: Oxford University Pres, 1972.
Ibid, Little Paper 5,. See also notes on consciousness and the paper Little, G.R., Mapping therapy approaches onto the process model, in Papers in mental health strategy and social policy as arising from the process theory of psychology, Social Sciences Press, division of Self Help guides Limited, Auckland NZ, 2003.
17. Merikle, Philip M., Daneman, Meredyth. Psychological Investigations of Unconscious Perception. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 5, No. 1, 1998, pp 5-18.
18. Ibid, Ashby.
19. Little, G.R., Paper 3: A model of knowledge and tools for theory creation, in Why We Do What We Do: A paradigm for social science, Social Sciences Press: Division of Self Help Guides Limited, Auckland, NZ, 2003.

20. Ibid, Little, Paper 3.