virus: Hegel's Virus

Reed Konsler (
Thu, 1 May 1997 11:14:12 -0400 (EDT)

>From: Lee Daniel Crocker <>
>Date: Wed, 30 Apr 1997 12:29:00 -0700 (PDT)

>> [Richard, in reply to DHR]
>> You are backing yourself into an EXTREMELY narrow definition of "sense."
>> You seem to think there is a sensory layer, the same in everyone, which
>> infallibly receives raw data about the world. It's only the next layer,
>> you seem to be saying, that starts sorting and distorting. Even if that
>> were a useful model, we have no access to that first layer except
>> through the sort-and-distort layer, which is affected by your meme-set.

>Actually, I think both of you miss the mark a bit. Current neurological
>research shows pretty clearly that the first stage of processing of
>sensations into perceptions is hard-wired, and not subject to memetic
>influence. Things like depth-cue interpretation, edge enhancement, face
>recognition, and other processing steps evolved to make our perceptions
>faster and more useful, but it is unlikely that we can influence them.
>Of course, conscious processes can still choose how to interpret the
>perceptions, but those perceptions are handed to us in a far from "raw"
>state, and there's little we can do about that.

Ah, but if I may be so bold, it is you that is "missing the mark".

Hey, that was fun! ;-)

Current neurological research shows that while there are an extremely small
set of heritable "biases" in perception (for instance, a newborns reflexive
grasping, sucking, and orientation towards fields containing two high
contrast spots...not "faces") that things like depth-cue interpretation,
edge enhancement, and true "face" recognition are, in fact, learned in the
from the first few weeks to the first few years of life.

>From the moment of conception we, as organisms, adapt to our environment.
Indeed, were there a significant change in our environment from what is
"assumed" by our genes we would not develop properly or at all. This
includes out brain, mind, qualia, philosophies, tools, language, etc.
Everything we are in an adaption to our environment or an adaptation of our
environment to us.

I believe what Richard was arguing was that David's ideation is following
Kant's description of the brain as the center of two "faculties" which are
seperate and in tension. The "first layer" is, in Kant's terminology the
"faculty of perception" which was the incomming "raw data". The second was
"faculty of conception" which were the categories into which the data was
sorted to give it meaning.

Kant held that the incomming data was itself "meaningless" and in essenece
just the device through which our minds percieved the world. The meaning
was generated within the faculty of perception as this data was orgainzed
into useful categories.

A problem with Kant (other than the fact he's almost impossible to read in
translation) is that he never did a very good job of describing how the
categories actually got there in the first place. A lot of his analogies
describe the categories of the faculty of conception as rigid, almost
crystalline; of neccesitysince in Kant's a conception of strength was
neccesary to impose meaning on all those incomming perceptions.

The image Richard invoked in my mind (setting aside the issue of what he
actually meant ;-) ) was of David describing the mind in Kant's rigid
terms with the further qualification that the best or "perfect" system of
categories...the proper programming of the faculty of
Objectivism. This image seems very accurate to me since David has often
described Objectivism as "immutable" or "absolute" or "perfect"...though he
has backed off and caveated when press on these points the idea of
crystallinity of thought keeps resurfacing in another guise.

In this light is is quite telling that David finds Hegel and his
intellectual heirs such an obvious target of ridicule...since it was Hegel
who, in the conception of most current philosophers, shattered forever
Kant's "fortress of conception" in 1807 with the completion of "The
Phenomenology of Spirit".

Hegel's concept of knowledge as a organic (some might say "emergent" or
"evolving") system bespoke a shift in emphasis from the physical sciences
(as codefied by Newton) towards the biological sciences (as exemplifed by
Darwin, though he published decades later) within the philosophy of mind.

This idea that "truth", "knowledge", and even Kant's very "categories of
conception" were in fact part of a ever developing and expanding system
freed philosophy forever from the neccesity of resolving every last
incosistency of theory while saddling us forever with "the existential

As the followers of Kant's concept of crystalline absolutes attempted to
refute or find some way to dodge around Hegel's critique they became
progressively more desparing as frustrated until the whole line of
reasoning seemingly died as Nietzsche vomited forth "the death of God"
during his short life.

This is of course, just my take on things.

It is also all, how shall I put it? Old news. The existential despair if
the 19th century was a sort of philosophical growing pains. No matter how
many philosophers drunk themselves into a stupor or wasted away from
personal neglect the world invariably moved on. No doubt Nietzsche might
be surprised at how the majority of Westerners live with (though they might
not articulate) the same uneasyness as he.

Matter superceeds Energy
Crystal superceeds Matter Thou
Organism superceeds Crystal <---- art
Culture superceeds Organism here
Information superceeds Culture
Energy superceeds Information


Reed Konsler