Chapter

The Sources of Sensory Similarity

Mohan Matthen

in Seeing, Doing, and Knowing

Published in print February 2005 | ISBN: 9780199268504
Published online April 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602283 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199268509.003.0006
The Sources of Sensory Similarity

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In the Cartesian paradigm, similarity of sensation is explained by the similarity of receptor state; it is shown that this is empirically mistaken. C. R. Gallistel has suggested that sensory similarity reflects topological proximity in a neural feature map; this sort of thesis explains why similarity with respect to a single parameter is invariant (see Ch. 4). The system constructs such maps because it needs to resolve imprecision in neural representations and to determine a precise response to the situations represented. Such internal origins of sensory similarity do not preclude realism. Sense features are physically specifiable; in addition, they serve some purpose in the organism by signalling similarities of functional relevance: thus, it is possible for an organism to be wrong about similarity.

Keywords: Amos Tversky; C. R. Gallistel; Nelson Goodman; neural maps; nominalism; realism; sensory similarity

Chapter.  12146 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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