Psychobiology and Neuroscience

Perception deceits and visual image processing, also in relationship with the input coming from biological-dialectic-historical reality forcing us to a "virtual" contact with the world as a cognitive limit

Prof. Roberto Ettore Bertagnolio

While commenting upon M.A.Dispezio's text in 'La Stampa'(Tuttoscienze), Piero Bianucci (1)catches the fundamental dialectic between SIGHT and BRAIN. He states, "it is not the eye that deceives the brain, but it is the brain that interprets the image according to some schemes ingrained to everybody's visual perception, as the result of evolution lasted millions of years". Next he adds (in a dialectic way) "the dilemma is whether sight deceives the brain or the brain deceives sight". Since both can occur, the conclusion will be only one: "reality is given by this dialectic tension". The conclusion appears banal. Yet, declaring this sort of vision of reality on a rationalist ground like science in late Enlightenment, and at the same time admitting dialectic inside it, seems a hard stroke to the positivist taboos. Though science itself has already partly recognized some INDIVIDUALIZED perceptions through certain eye CONGENITAL ANOMALIES - perhaps without giving them the revolutionary importance that these observations deserve on a cognitive ground -, little importance is due to the fear that the whole ruse of EXPERIENTIAL REALITY can collapse, to the absolute certainty apparently obtained by psychology of St. Thomas in defining what is real and what is not. As we know, an exemplary scientist is fundamentalist, as on the other hand all the "religious" are. As philosophers, we must search truth; pragmatist scientists and priests have possessed it for ever.
As far as our matter is concerned, the recurrent dilemma is whether the brain deceives the eye or viceversa, which results in a stiff and non dialectic dualism, it is an old controversy going back to the 1970s. Reality is undoubtedly dialectic, as we have learnt, sometimes uselessly, in a 2500 year- old western Greek thought. Moreover, it cannot be cognitively understood only in its dialectic quality. Hence we learn that the pragmatist and shortsighted neopositivism believing only in useful realities can be fought by supporting the discipline representing this dialectic quality in its essence, namely Philosophy, instead of sending it on a wild-goose chase. We must not be afraid of contaminating it through the scientific experiential reality; science needs to be probated just through dialectic. Moreover, this contamination existed at the beginning and is at the moment the only antibiotic against its supposed uselessness. Suppose pre-Socratics had known neuroscience, molecular biology, quantum theory and more, what would they have arrived at, if we compare them to our small wild-goose chasers? One of the philosopher's tasks is giving back the "Dialectic" category to science, since only in that way we prevent Philosophy from turning into a game for intellectuals and science from being considered only useful to create disposable technology. That is the only way to get rid from the positivist ideology linked to the category of profit and concreteness. I think it is the only way toward a new epistemology, suitable to understand SPECIFICITY which is never individual but always depends on the DIALECTIC-HISTORIC-BIOLOGICAL structure of reality, and is always potentially VIRTUAL REALITY. The conception in the 1970s was bound to an old science, as S. Zeki explains. For instance, on the matter of vision, it used to distinguish perception form comprehension, and to assign each faculty a distinguished cortical centre. The origin of this dualistic doctrine is not really clear, but it can be linked to the conception concerning both faculties of perception and comprehension, introduced by Immanuel Kant, the former being passive and the latter an active one.(2) I agree with Zeki when he states that the visible world is an invention of the cerebral visual system.
I think I have already demonstrated (3) that perhaps SYNCHRONIZATION is partly the beginning of the tridimensional deceit, though a RUPTURE is undoubtedly the input of the deceit, namely the difference between VISION and IMAGINATION, or in other words between PERCEPTION and COMPREHENSION. The RUPTURE must not be seen as a weak quality in a non dialectic approach, but as a force, in a Marxian sense. My THIRD PATH just joins this DIALECTIC SPLIT, it is the path leading to the ORIGINAL ANOMALY (4)and to its dialectic-historical roots. The third path adds the whole structural-biological universe to the classical moments of SYNCHRONIZATION, and necessarily adds the factor of CONCEPT HISTORICIZATION(5), which is the INNOVATIVE ELEMENT given to the western way of thinking by MARX, apart from the communist disasters chargeable to him only by "intellectual dishonesty". I will make use of this element to retrieve the PSYCHOANALYTIC TOPICS, to make them dialectic and to save them, beyond a partly disastrous context, to recover them essentially in a cognitive function. The perception deceits are likely to be identified only through the "dialectic-historical epistemology". The greatest is the TRIDIMENSIONAL deceit, this is probably the biggest damage created by the ORIGINAL ANOMALY (see drawing).

Steven Pinker experimented with the way how MENTAL IMAGES represent the "tridimensional" information. His early experiments consisted in asking some subjects to memorize a "tridimensional scene" formed of a series of toys hanging in a box in different positions(7):

In my opinion, Steven Pinker was planning of adding at all costs the THIRD DIMENSION, that is why he was in dispute with Dawkins, who wanted to abolish it, instead. They both missed the two principles that can change the world:
1) what is called Reality can always and uniquely be meant as virtual Reality.
2) the DIFFERENCE I mentioned above depends on the essential structure of reality, that is the dialectic-historical-biological dimension lying at the basis of the Third path structure, which determines the essential cognitive input.


1) Piero Bianucci, Tuttoscienze, La Stampa, Wednesday 10th March 2004 (L'occhio ingannatore), commentary upon perception of recent books (by Dispezio and others).
2)Semir Zeki, L'elaborazione dell'immagine visiva, Le scienze quaderni n. 101, pages 40-48 or Le scienze n. 291, November 1992. According to Zeki, the dualistic doctrine originates from I. Kant's philosophy, which can be accepted, but some specifications are necessary. To explain great Kant's attitude more clearly, and to be intellectually absolutely honest, I suggest to analyse "Lezioni di epistemologia evolutiva" by Max Delbrück in La materia e la mente, Einaudi, To 1986, partly arranged by his scholars after his death. In particular, Delbrück interestingly deals with the transcendental categories following Lorenz, as seen in the chapter on perception, pages 106-120. Delbrück explains "...the Kantian notion of presumptive knowledge is not indisputable at all. On the contrary, Kant's assertion that time, space and object categories, as well as the notion of causality, have a presumptive characteristic in the quality of trascendental components of cognition, almost hits the target. Actually, these ideas are presumptive in the individual, but they do not appear out of the blue, resulting instead from an evolutive adaptation, whose aim is surviving in the real world". Therefore it is clear that our relationships with the world involve two sorts of learning. At first, it is the phylogenetic learning: in the course of evolution, the man has developed complex mechanisms to perceive a real world and to deduce about it. The abstraction neurophysiological processes acting as preconscious onto the visual input only represent a few examples of such mechanisms, along with the phenomena of perceptive constancy connected with vision, the inter-hemispheric concordance established between the two minds through the corpus callosum, etc. Only considering the transcendental categories in an evolutive sense (K. Lorenz, La dottrina Kantiana dell'apriori e la biologia contemporanea, Mondadori, MI, 1990), the severity of the categories and dualism are avoided at the same time.
3) (VARIE)
4) ibid.
5) Roberto Ettore Bertagnolio, Prolegomeni a una psicoepistemologia storico-dialettica, ed. p, 1980, Vergnasco. Now a
synthesis also in: Alteracultura, magazine founded by philosopher Gianni Vattimo, referring to my work presented at
Pavia University in 1982. The problem is about the dialectic Subject-Object (introduction) and about the
historicization of concepts which, in my opinion, have received full value only in two original intellectual and
fundamental experiences: the dialectic-historical materialism on the one hand, and the unconscious analysis in the
Freudian experience, on the other.
The dialectization of the two moments, lying at the basis of the western thought (Plato -Aristotle), is fundamental for
the historicization of concepts, and I consider it at the same level as the ancient philosophy.
..................I have applied (this approach) to the Freudian "topics", separating them from their biological and
atemporal aspects.
..................(this opened my way to the neuroscientific retrieval of the mechanism "perception-consciousness"[PC].
6) Twist spire.
7) About S. Pinker, in S. Cosslyn, Le immagini nella mente, Giunti, 1989 FI; in particular, Aggiungiamo la terza
dimensione, page 194.