Sunday, February 21, 2021

Philo+Sophia, Love of Wisdom, A Student Resource

We’ll finish my ‘Hoffman's, Case Against Reality, 'Playing Basketball in Zerogravity, review project’ by looking at the serious side of philosophy.  It seems only fair considering some of my wise ass remarks in previous segments.

I’ll admit to having issues with the showboats who demonstrate little respect for honesty, and constructive learning.  As for serious philosophy, that I can relate to on a personal homegrown level.  

That’s why I’m grateful to Lausten over at CFI for sharing a genuinely insightful talk by Richard Carrier, explaining what philosophy was, is and isn’t.  I’ve rerun it a couple times and it keeps improving.  It's a wonderfully fitting closing segment for this review, and I hope Skepticon doesn’t mind me sharing some of Carrier's posters. 

For the complete set see,



Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Critical Thinking Skills - In Defense of Reality - A Student Resource


Considering my Case For Reality project is all about striving to develop a valuable resource for students who want to defend serious fact-based science against frauds using pseudo-science masquerading as fact - a formal consideration of Critical Thinking & Reading Skills is a must.

The way towards success is by studying and learning to recognize the patterns of deceptive rhetoric.  That way you become prepared for those tricks and find yourself ready and poised with effective responses.  

Don't ignore the lies, use those lies to your advantage.  Namely, by intelligently and confidently coming right back and spot-lighting the reality behind the concocted lie, with a compelling counter-story that explains what's actually happening within ourselves, biosphere, climate system, whatever the topic might be.  Also remember, there's always an audience to consider, meaning it's worth the effort to make the malicious lie, a teaching moment.

Solid evidence along with a narrative of the story behind the science, enabling people to form a better understanding.  Easier said than done, but unless we are changing minds we are losing.  

Consider the philosophy of Jiu-Jitsu, which besides being about the mental discipline of a warrior, is a philosophy about winning by yielding to an opponent's force, instead of trying to oppose force with force.  Rather than playing by the contrarian script, why not develop some intelligent rhetorical jiu-jitsu skills.

It starts with sharp Critical Thinking and Reading Skills, and for developing that we have clearly defined strategies.  Below I share from five sources;

Critical Reading and Reading Strategy

The Foundation For Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking

The SQ3R Method of Studying

Francis Pleasant Robinson -

21 Century Middle School Guide Student’s Guide to Study Skills

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Matthew Schlesinger, is hungry for more (HSP) interface theory of perception.

We've come to the last paper mentioned in the list of learned responses Professor Hoffman shared with me via his “Probing the interface theory of perception: Reply to commentaries, (HSP).  

The interface theory of perception leaves me hungry for more: Commentary on Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash, “The interface theory of perception”

Matthew Schlesinger, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

volume 22, pages 1548–1550(2015), September 18, 2015
(full article1400 words)


…  Is the theory convincing? I would have to say “almost”; although it certainly has many elements working in its favor, ultimately, I also found that some important questions were ignored or left unanswered,  … 

Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash (2014) have ventured into dangerous waters by articulating the idea that perceptual experience is not (necessarily) veridical. They provide support for their provocative claim in a variety of ways (some more convincing than others), …

Overall, I found the argument to be a superb opening shot in what may grow to become a rather contentious debate. …

We got phylogeny and ontogeny!

What a delight to discover that the interface theory of perception not only includes the evolutionary timescale, but also makes room for the developmental timescale. … 

At the very least, this feature means that there is a potential continuity across the two timescales, opening the door to a discussion of multitimescale interactions, including exotic subjects such as heterochrony and the Baldwin effect.


opening the door to a discussion of multi-time-scale interactions”  Say what?

I’ve written Professor Schlesinger a couple emails asking if he could explain the concept, and it’s place, in lay terms, but haven’t received a reply, so I’m left guessing.

I don’t recall anything in Hoffman’s book Case Against Reality referring to  ‘multi-time-scale perceptual interactions.’   When I look up the term, there’s all sorts of interesting stuff, such as “entangled time in flocking: multi-time-scale interactions,” among others.  But nothing related to multigenerational perception or Evolution.  

Genetic coding and interactions with changing environments comes to mind, but viewed through the lens of “perceptual interactions over multi-time-scales” seems a non sequitur.  Is it a fancy way of saying the mental processing of varying levels of memory and forethought capabilities?  Could be, but then, why not simply say so?  Who knows?

The thing I do know is that when claims and lofty rhetoric overwhelms my senses and leaves my head spinning, with nothing to build upon.  I pull back to what I do understand and that always takes me back to knowledge attained through Earth sciences and biology.  

The breath and depth of the current scientific understanding within a simple pragmatic physicalist* paradigm is awesome (*before all the over-wrought handwringing takes over).  Heck, it even invites mystical experiences far superior to what can be achieved sitting in a monastic cell.  

Get out into dark skies, sit on the edge of Earth, gazing at a crescent moon, with the sun over the horizon and some planets in view, imagining their orbits, looking beyond into the milky way, thinking about the Voyagers and other manmade spacecraft and all we've learned about those worlds.  The deeper your understanding becomes, the more vivid your mind's eye.

Achieving a momentarily visceral awareness of those objects in time and space, now that get's about as mystical as a human could hope for.  Or the other direction, inward voyages, into your own body that are possible given today's medical understanding and imaging capability.  All it takes is doing your homework and sincere curiosity.

If we're going to spend all day within our mindscapes, why not spend energy on those sorts of constructive down to Earth pursuits?  Thoughts and ideas that can lead to constructive outcomes. At least that's what I'll be arguing for in future installments.


The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life, by David Quammen

Science writer David Quammen explains how recent discoveries in molecular biology can change our understanding of evolution and life’s history, with powerful implications for human health and even our own human nature. … 

The pioneering work of Carl Woese.   (Goodreads)


A New View of Evolution That Can’t Be Represented by a Tree

By Erika Check Hayden, New York Times Book Review, August 13, 2018

… Quammen’s sprawling history of evolutionary genetics ranges widely in its answer to that question. He synthesizes a large quantity of disparate material, circling repeatedly back to one scientist in particular: Carl Woese, whose work both fleshed out Darwin’s tree and laid the foundations for its uprooting. …

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Zygmunt Pizlo, Philosophizing cannot substitute for experimentation: comment on Hoffman, Singh & Prakash (2014)

 Zygmunt Pizlo:  “I am an “expert” on 3D shape perception, so I will confine my comments about veridicality to shape. Unlike Hoffman et al., I do not have the temerity required to discuss veridicality in vision in general, as well as in smell, taste, touch and hearing in such varied species as humans, bees, and spiders.”

“… Any contemporary use of a Motor Theory of Perception, and this includes Hoffman et al.’s explanation of 3D shape perception, can be viewed as a legacy of psychology’s Dark Age called “Radical Behaviorism”. This is precisely what Hoffman et al. are offering us. As for me, “no, thank you very much.”

Zygmunt Pizlo’s paper does a wonderfully concise job of bringing Hoffman’s “veridicality” challenge back down to Earth and our three dimensional world.  This paper was 1200 words long and I whittled to 500 some odd.  Please visit the complete article for all the details. 

Philosophizing cannot substitute for experimentation: comment on Hoffman, Singh & Prakash (2014)

  • Zygmunt Pizlo, September 18, 2015 

Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

volume 22, pages 1546–1547 (2015)


The perception of a 3D shape must be excluded from Hoffman et al.’s “interface theory” primarily because shape is characterized by its symmetries. When these symmetries are used as a priori constraints, 3D shapes are always recovered from 2D retinal images veridically. 

These facts make it clear that 3D shape perception is completely different from, as well as more important than, all other perceptions because the veridicality of our perception of 3D shapes (and 3D scenes) accounts for our successful adaptation to the natural environment.

… when we talk about veridical 3D perception, we are referring to our natural visual space, that is, a space with natural, symmetrical objects residing, as they naturally do, on a common ground because of gravity. 

The concept of an “empty” visual space, used in laboratories, that contains only a few isolated points of light in total darkness, or a few objects floating in the air, no matter how attractive mathematically, is actually empty from an empirical, as well as from a computational, point of view. …

Monday, February 8, 2021

McLaughlin + Green, Are Icons Sense Data? Hoffman's Case Against Reality is a bust.

Brian McLaughlin and E.J. Green: "We contend that, contrary to what Hoffman et al. claim, the perceptual icons posited by interface theory seem best taken to be sense data."

 "The brain, of course, is a complex middle-sized physical object. As such, HSP must hold that it does not exist. But if the brain does not exist, then where are visual computations carried out? HSP offer no answer to this question.”

"… We can’t justifiably appeal to evidence obtained from particle accelerators, for instance, without presupposing that there are particle accelerators."

"... We part company with HSP, however, when they tell us: “the language of space-time and physical objects is the wrong language for describing the true structure of the objective world.”

I’m grateful to Brian P. McLaughlin and E.J. Green for taking a closer look at Hoffman’s “Icons” in a way no one else has.  They’ve done an excellent job of detailing the logical and scientific fallacies within Hoffman's "icons" notion.  

Are icons sense data?

Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, September 18, 2015

volume 22, pages 1541–1545 (2015)

(Original article 4000 words)


We argue that Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash (Psychon Bull Rev, this issue) have not made the case that "the language of space-time and physical objects is the wrong language for describing the true structure of the objective world." 

Further, we contend that, contrary to what Hoffman et al. claim, the perceptual icons posited by interface theory seem best taken to be sense data.

As Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash (2014(hereafter, HSP) point out, Palmer expresses the orthodox view in vision theory when he states:

Evolutionarily speaking, visual perception is useful only if it is reasonably accurate…Indeed, vision is useful precisely because it is so accurate. By and large, what you see is what you get. When this is true, we have what is called veridical perception. (1999, 6)

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Jacob Feldman, Bayesian inference and “truth”: a comment on Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash.


Jacob Feldman:  “On that narrow question, it seems to me that Hoffman et al.’s position cannot be disputed: evolution favors fitness, not truth, beauty, or anything else except insofar as it is correlated with fitness. 

This is literally tautological in the context of Darwinian evolution, as it is essentially a restatement of what is meant by “fitness”—that which is favored by adaptive pressure. …”

Jacob Feldman,  Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Rutgers, focuses on Hoffman's “truth,” and it sure seems like he's agreeing with my layperson assessment that Hoffman's "truth" in ITP is a deception.  I encourage you to see if you agree with my assessment of Feldman's short paper “Bayesian inference and “truth”: a comment on Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash,” the original comes in at 1800 words, and here I’ve trimmed it to 500 words worth of highlights that I hope encourage you to read Professor Heldman's entire paper.

Bayesian inference and “truth”: a comment on Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash

volume 22, pages 1523–1525 (2015),  September 18, 2015


Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash (in press) argue that veridicality is neither required nor achieved by the visual system, and propose a new framework in which the literal truth of perceptual inferences plays no role. In this brief comment, I concur with and advocate their basic position, though I go on to argue that Bayesian inference already embodies a similar epistemological stance.

That “vision usually provides us with a veridical representation of the world” is a cliche so hoary that we vision scientists hardly stop to think about whether it is actually true. 

Hoffman et al. (in press) ask us to consider it a bit more carefully. Could such a truism actually be wrong?

It’s worse than wrong—it’s meaningless.

… Certainly, as Hoffman et al. would agree, the visual system does an exemplary job at resolving the ambiguity. But does it do so by giving us something true, or simply something useful? Or is this a distinction without a difference?

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Shimon Edelman, Varieties of perceptual truth, possible evolutionary roots.

At one point in my critique I mentioned that Hoffman’s “veridicality” arguments were a smoke screen.    

Shimon Edelman promises to lend learned support to my position, but the paper is behind a paywall, and I’m focused on catching up with Hoffman’s list, so I’ll simply give it a mention and move along.  

I’m sure, if a student where interested enough to send him an email and request one, that Professor Edelman would be happy to send you a free reprint.  At least in my experience scientists have been helpful with responses and surprisingly generous with sharing theirs papers that are behind a paywall.  (Let him know Cc sent you.)

Varieties of perceptual truth and their possible evolutionary roots

Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

volume 22, pages 1519–1522(2015).  October 11, 2014


Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash (2014) observe that perception evolves to serve as an interface between the perceiver and the world and proceed to reason that percepts need not, or even cannot, resemble their objects. 

I accept their premise, but argue that there are interesting ways in which perception can be truthful, with regard not to “objects” but to relations, 

and that evolutionary pressure is expected to favor rather than rule out such veridicality.


Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Jan Koenderink, "Esse est percipi - verum factum est" - considering Hoffman's case.

 Defending Physical Reality, because apparently somebody needs to. 

"Esse est percipi & verum factum est"

Philosophy has and will continue to resemble a dog chasing its tail, 

in contrast to science’s hound sniffing out its quarry.

Updated with a learned perspective on philosophy, scroll to bottom for video: 

Dr. Richard Carrier, at Skepticon 6.  It’s titled “Is Philosophy Stupid?

Considering, "Esse est percipi & verum factum est"

(It is perceived to be & It is true)

Jan Koenderink Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

volume 22, pages 1530–1534(2015). September 18, 2015

(original 2800 words)

I've read a little bit about Jan Koenderink, no doubt he's a brilliant man with many impressive accomplishments.  I can't hold a candle to this master of academia.  Nor is my intention to dismiss him.  But, fact remains this particular paper says much worth disputing.  For me, it's another example of what I refer to as getting lost within one's own Mindscape and losing sight of physical reality. 


The following is intended for students who think something is being missed by the masters.  Students curious and motivated to do their own homework, to figure it out for themselves.


I go into the historical roots of the fundamental issues relating to the “interface theory of perception,” concentrating on the sciences rather than on philosophy. …

I am mainly in sympathy with the concepts discussed in the target article. I have often used the “interface paradigm” myself (Koenderink, 2011, 2013) in vain attempts to kick people out of their mainstream slumber. The rare reactions, however, have been negative (e.g., Tyler, 2014). I foresee some frictions in getting the ideas of the authors accepted!

Yet the basic notions are hardly revolutionary. They occur in philosophy—that is, proto-science—from the earliest days, …

I find it interesting how Koenderink injects “Proto-science.” 

Yes, philosophy gave birth to science.  (oops)  

In philosophy, the coin of realm is rhetorical abilities.  

In science, the coin of the realm is honest observations and constructive learning.

Philosophy has no standards of objectivity beyond the writer's imagination and the ability to argue effectively.  


The English word “reality” might be translated into German as either Realität or Wirklichkeit. This German distinction reveals a basic dichotomy. One reality is your awareness here and now, whereas the other reality is sometimes referred to as the physical world.  …

This is where I believe it’s appropriate to step outside our imagined ‘god's eye view’ and recognize our physical reality from the perspective of the creature within us.  

The simple fact of us existing requires that we are a product of an unfathomably ancient evolutionary process.  Nothing else makes rational or emotional sense.

That being the case, there is a physical reality that is ultimate, that simply is, and in some fundamental ways it has nothing to do humans, we just happen to be an incredibly lucky fluke.  Billions of years worth of incredibly advantageous breaks.  Very much like all the other creatures we share Earth with today, but we're the epitome of complexity.

It feels to me like Koenderink and Hoffman and the like have lost sight of that fundament reality we were born into.  I suspect because they are blinded by the brilliance of their own minds.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Chris Fields, Reverse engineering the world: “The interface theory of perception”

Now we come to Chris Fields' paper, Reverse engineering the world: a commentary on Hoffman, Singh, and PrakashHis website makes clear that he is quite an expert in perception questions, I was impressed, though it wasn’t without its red flags.  He writes,

Chris Fields :    "What is time? What is space? What is causation?

 These are traditionally regarded as philosophical questions, but they have practical importance in physics, computer science, biology, cognitive neuroscience and developmental psychology.”

Cc:  Bold, but why?  Practical importance?  Like what?  For what?  What’s the promise?  Where does science crossing over into metaphysical philosophical questions offer any hope in clarifying or simplify general understanding of this physical world we need to navigate day by day?  

Why over complicate things?  Why do I hear echos of Audrey Junior?

Chris Fields :    If we regard our perceived ‘world’ as a virtual machine, computer science tells us that arbitrarily many distinct physical implementations of that world are possible.

Cc: We can regard the Flying Spaghetti Monster as a real thing, but that doesn’t make it real!

Professor Fields paper didn’t resonate.  2500 words, “Reverse engineering the world: a commentary on Hoffman, Singh, and Prakash", 

For all its words and concern about the “interface of perception” we were right back at discussing the computer interface and trying to shoe horn human perception into some digital paradigm.  We’d be better off trying to think about the real world.

For me it was an excellent example of what I mean by getting lost within one’s Mindscape. Super smart brains, big words and notions but at the end of it, are we left with anything useful to think about and work with?  I sure didn’t find anything.  I suspect only a very select fraternity can.

If you’re a regular person and want to learn anything useful about “reality” or the “interface of perception” be it between us and the world, or between any organism and its world, the serious student would be much better served starting with reading or listening to David Quammen’s “The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life.”

I bring it up in this context because, among many other fascinating facts, David Quammen did a superb job of telling the story of how studies into the most primitive cells lead to a simple (if in hindsight quite obvious), biological revelation that we cannot understand an organism without simultaneously understanding the environment it exists within.  

“Interface” is that permeable barrier between the two.

Now that’s something a thinking person can do something with.  It pulls back a curtain, we become aware that this simple truism runs through the flow of evolution and the fabric of creation, whether within Earth’s natural biosphere, or within its human community and our day to days.  It’s a genuine eye opener.