Betsy Speicher

Issues with the DIM Hypothesis -- #1 Integration or Identification?

105 posts in this topic

Paul, I just want to be sure that I understand your current view. Previously, I quoted Ayn Rand and commented, and you responded:

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After reviewing Lecture 2 of DIM are you now saying that you no longer agree with the above, and that instead you agree with the view of Peikoff in DIM: "Integration as the essence of human cognition..."? I just want to be sure I understand you correctly.

I guess I'm vacillating on this point. In a funamental sense, I would prefer to formulate the issue in the manner Betsy did. I think human cognition identifies reality, and it does so by means of integration and differentiation. Since Betsy recognizes that integration is a form of identification and Peikoff holds that integration is the essence of cognition yet "integration presupposes analysis" it seems to me that Peikoff has modified the principle within the context of his course, which is focused on integration. Perhaps if he could be asked about this issue, it would clear it up. But I don't see sufficient evidence to conclude that Peikoff's formuation is so problematic. Since this course is apparently Peikoff's "state-of-my-thinking" presentation, I'd be willing to wait until he presents his ideas in book form. Do you see some error in what I'm saying?

Perhaps, if Betsy could show how this principle relates to other issues discussed in the course, and whether his formulation creates problems later on, I'd consider revising my opinion.

Also, you added a "But" to your earlier agreement, to which I responded:

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What is your current thinking on that "But"?

What I meant by "But the identification of facts is not the primary manner that knowledge is claimed or held" is in the manner that Rand expressed it in ITOE.

Since man's knowledge is gained and held in conceptual form, the validity of man's knowledge depends on the validity of concepts. (ITOE, Forward)

In Chap.1, she demonstrates how the building blocks of man's knowledge are implicit concepts: existent, entity, identity, unit. She ends the chapter with the statement:

the methods which he has to employ require the most rigorous mathematical precision, the most rigorous compliance with objective rules and facts—if the end product is to be knowledge.
I take this to mean that knowledge is not awareness of facts, but is conceptual formulations using integration (and differentiation) of observed facts in accordance with certain objective rules. Then, one has knowledge. Knowledge results by identifying relationships among perceptual data. I think Rand's definition of knowledge is appropriate here:
a mental grasp of a fact(s) of reality, reached either by perceptual observation or by a process of reason based on perceptual observation) and omitting the particular fact(s) involved.

I think Dr. Peikoff's quote is not problematic within the context of my understanding that I've presented above. He is discussing what makes knowledge objective. Am I misinterpreting what he is stating?

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I guess I'm vacillating on this point.

Well, I'm sure you'll work it out eventually. Personally, I have a very limited interest in detailing any disagreements with DIM and I had only really wanted to emphasize the one point that I made regarding identification.

But, incidentally, since you just went back and re-listened to Lecture 2, did you note that when explaining integration Peikoff made the important point of distinguishing a "whole" from a mere juxtaposition. He emphasizes, quite correctly, that a "whole" is not merely items that have some spatial or temporal relations to each other. For physical wholes he speaks of a bonding or welding via forces of efficient causation, such as gravitational or electromagnetic forces, where, for instance, even though stars are widely spatially-separated individual entities, these forces impose a bonding enabling some stellar structures to act as a whole. As one example of this, Peikoff offers the Big Dipper. :) Does anyone know if he got this from the Harriman Course on Physics? :)

I think Dr. Peikoff's quote is not problematic within the context of my understanding that I've presented above.

I think the Peikoff quote is great, which is why I introduced it. It emphasizes the role of identification: "Knowledge, we have said, is the 'grasp' of an object. To grasp, we must now add, is to identify, i.e., to discover in some form the identity of that which exists." (OPAR, p. 118)

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But, incidentally, since you just went back and re-listened to Lecture 2, did you note that when explaining integration Peikoff made the important point of distinguishing a "whole" from a mere juxtaposition. He emphasizes, quite correctly, that a "whole" is not merely items that have some spatial or temporal relations to each other. For physical wholes he speaks of a bonding or welding via forces of efficient causation, such as gravitational or electromagnetic forces, where, for instance, even though stars are widely spatially-separated individual entities, these forces impose a bonding enabling some stellar structures to act as a whole. As one example of this, Peikoff offers the Big Dipper. :) Does anyone know if he got this from the Harriman Course on Physics? :)

Yes, I noticed that very important point. As far as the Big Dipper issue, I don't know if he got it from the Harriman course. I take it you have a problem with that example? What does keep the Big Dipper "together"?

I think the Peikoff quote is great, which is why I introduced it. It emphasizes the role of identification: "Knowledge, we have said, is the 'grasp' of an object. To grasp, we must now add, is to identify, i.e., to discover in some form the identity of that which exists." (OPAR, p. 118)

I agree, it is an excellent identification!

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Well, I'm sure you'll work it out eventually. Personally, I have a very limited interest in detailing any disagreements with DIM and I had only really wanted to emphasize the one point that I made regarding identification.

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Would you be interested in detailing any disagreements you have with me? Or do you think what I said about "knowledge" is correct?

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But, incidentally, since you just went back and re-listened to Lecture 2, did you note that when explaining integration Peikoff made the important point of distinguishing a "whole" from a mere juxtaposition. He emphasizes, quite correctly, that a "whole" is not merely items that have some spatial or temporal relations to each other. For physical wholes he speaks of a bonding or welding via forces of efficient causation, such as gravitational or electromagnetic forces, where, for instance, even though stars are widely spatially-separated individual entities, these forces impose a bonding enabling some stellar structures to act as a whole. As one example of this, Peikoff offers the Big Dipper. :) Does anyone know if he got this from the Harriman Course on Physics? :)

Yes, I noticed that very important point. As far as the Big Dipper issue, I don't know if he got it from the Harriman course. I take it you have a problem with that example?

Yes, it is a problem. Contrary to Peikoff's identification, his example, the Big Dipper, is the opposite of what he intended; the Big Dipper is not a structure with "some imposed bonding the sum [of which] is capable of action as unit, as a whole.," but rather it is a "mere juxtaposition" of stars. (Lect. 2) In physics, in astronomy, the Big Dipper is known as an asterism, a grouping of stars merely seen from our vantage point on Earth, but not physically related so as to act as a whole. The particular star pattern that we call the Big Dipper identifies some stars that are in the constellation Ursa Major, but there is nothing specially physically related to that pattern of stars (other than observed brightness) than in any of countless patterns of stars that can be labeled in that constellation. The Big Dipper is an example of a mere juxtapostion, not an example of a whole bonded together by forces such that it itself acts as a unit. Not meant to be insulting, but my son learned this in 2nd grade, hence my surprise and wonder about the source of such a mistaken notion.

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Contrary to Peikoff's identification, his example, the Big Dipper, is the opposite of what he intended; the Big Dipper is not a structure with "some imposed bonding the sum [of which] is capable of action as unit, as a whole.," but rather it is a "mere juxtaposition" of stars. (Lect. 2) In physics, in astronomy, the Big Dipper is known as an asterism, a grouping of stars merely seen from our vantage point on Earth, but not physically related so as to act as a whole. The particular star pattern that we call the Big Dipper identifies some stars that are in the constellation Ursa Major, but there is nothing specially physically related to that pattern of stars (other than observed brightness) than in any of countless patterns of stars that can be labeled in that constellation. The Big Dipper is an example of a mere juxtapostion, not an example of a whole bonded together by forces such that it itself acts as a unit. Not meant to be insulting, but my son learned this in 2nd grade, hence my surprise and wonder about the source of such a mistaken notion.

My understanding is that the Big Dipper is actually considered an open cluster of stars--relatively near us or it would not look so large. If that is the case, then wouldn't it be gravitationally tied together? (If not, then you are correct that it would be a bad example for Peikoff to use.)

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My understanding is that the Big Dipper is actually considered an open cluster of stars--relatively near us or it would not look so large. If that is the case, then wouldn't it be gravitationally tied together? (If not, then you are correct that it would be a bad example for Peikoff to use.)

At the risk of being a diletante I wikipedia'ed Big Dipper and apparently the two stars on the ends are not considered part of the cluster--but the other five stars are members of something called the Ursa Major Moving Group, and it is theorized they all had a common origin.

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My understanding is that the Big Dipper is actually considered an open cluster of stars--relatively near us or it would not look so large. If that is the case, then wouldn't it be gravitationally tied together? (If not, then you are correct that it would be a bad example for Peikoff to use.)

I'm afraid that you too are mistaken. (Perhaps this knowledge is not as common in the general population as I supposed.) The Big Dipper star closest to us is some 65 light-years away, and the furthest is separated from us by some 210 light-years. (These are enormous distances: one light-year is almost 10 trillion kilometers,) Within the star locations are other enormous gravitational sources, including entire galaxies, that make the outer star-to-star effect so miniscule as to have no significance (though some of the stars along the main line do share some proper motion). The Big Dipper is most certainly not a gravitationally bound system and, contrary to Peikoff's use of it as an example, it most certainly is not bonded by any forces, gravitational or otherwise, that "unite parts into a whole" and endow it so as to be "capable of action as a unit, as a whole." This is just wrong.

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Not meant to be insulting, but my son learned this in 2nd grade, hence my surprise and wonder about the source of such a mistaken notion.

He must be pretty smart. I never heard or learned of any discussion about that subject. The issue never even occurred to me.

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In physics, in astronomy, the Big Dipper is known as an asterism, a grouping of stars merely seen from our vantage point on Earth, but not physically related so as to act as a whole. ----------

Are all constellations just asterisms? I always thought the Greeks had good imaginations to come up with them.

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Would you be interested in detailing any disagreements you have with me? Or do you think what I said about "knowledge" is correct?

May I suggest that you start a separate thread in "Metaphysics & Epistemology" and, without importing a history of who said what and in what post, just make the main point(s) you want to get across. I think that would lay a better foundation for the ideas that interest you, and it will be separated from DIM and all of the surrounding conflict. I would certainly be interested in reading your ideas, and I'll respond as best I can.

Just a suggestion.

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Are all constellations just asterisms?

Actually, asterisms are those star patterns that we discern but have not officially been designated as a constellation (The whole visible sky is covered by the official constellations, so anything else is an asterism.) But contellations, like asterisms, are just appearances in the sky from our vantage point, and very rarely do they have any meaningful physical connection that makes them into a "whole."

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Not meant to be insulting, but my son learned this in 2nd grade, hence my surprise and wonder about the source of such a mistaken notion.

He must be pretty smart. I never heard or learned of any discussion about that subject. The issue never even occurred to me.

Well, when we went to school it was hard to engrave all that stuff onto those stone tablets. (Just kidding! :) )

Kids are generally quite fascinated with the night sky, and often ask very penetrating questions. There are tons of "sky" books for little kids and "astronomy for kids" for the slightly older crowd, but still in early to mid grade school level. I think most core curriculums have a science unit that covers aspects of what we discussed, if not with the same language. It is a fairly simple and basic concept for kids to grasp, one which, at least with with my own firsthand experience, they delight in. The idea that they are observing three-dimensional distances projected onto a two-dimensional plane, a projection which just gives the appearance of togetherness for things that are really separated by great distances, may seem complex as described, but the notion can be communicated in words and pictures in rather simple ways. Besides, kids always amaze me by how much they can grasp when they are treated a bit more like people (though small ones :) ).

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Within the star locations are other enormous gravitational sources, including entire galaxies, that make the outer star-to-star effect so miniscule as to have no significance (though some of the stars along the main line do share some proper motion).

I assume you mean primarily our milky way galaxy, which all of the stars in the Big Dipper are embedded, when you say entire galaxies? i.e. that the enormous gravitational influence of our galaxy far exceeds the gravitational forces between the individual stars comprising the Big Dipper constellation?

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Within the star locations are other enormous gravitational sources, including entire galaxies, that make the outer star-to-star effect so miniscule as to have no significance (though some of the stars along the main line do share some proper motion).

I assume you mean primarily our milky way galaxy, which all of the stars in the Big Dipper are embedded, when you say entire galaxies? i.e. that the enormous gravitational influence of our galaxy far exceeds the gravitational forces between the individual stars comprising the Big Dipper constellation?

No, I am not referring to our galaxy. I am referring to the galaxies within Ursula Major that cover the distance that the Big Dipper extends. Galaxies like M108 (NGC 3556) and M109 (NGC 3992) on one end, to Galaxy M101 (NGC 5457) on the other end. Even a galaxy like M51 (NGC 5195) in Canes Venatici is dozens of light years closer to Alkaid in the Big Dipper than Alkaid is to the other Big Dipper stars. These galaxies totally swamp any supposed gravitational "bonding" to the Big Dipper "capable of action as a whole." Like I said, it is just appearances in the sky.

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No, I am not referring to our galaxy. I am referring to the galaxies within Ursula Major that cover the distance that the Big Dipper extends. Galaxies like M108 (NGC 3556) and M109 (NGC 3992) on one end, to Galaxy M101 (NGC 5457) on the other end. Even a galaxy like M51 (NGC 5195) in Canes Venatici is dozens of light years closer to Alkaid in the Big Dipper than Alkaid is to the other Big Dipper stars. These galaxies totally swamp any supposed gravitational "bonding" to the Big Dipper "capable of action as a whole." Like I said, it is just appearances in the sky.

But isn't Alkaid and the other big dipper stars orbiting the center (more or less) of our own galaxy, which is the dominant gravitational force on them?

I understand the point about mere visual arrangement in the sky, a projection, not constituting some kind of bound system, that a constellation is simply that (and as with Matt, I knew that as a kid.) The galaxies "within" or "close" to Ursa Major are vast distances away, though visually in the same broad field of view. M51 is (according to this, I assume accurate enough for this discussion) 37 million light years away, with an estimated mass of 160 billion suns. According to this, Alkaid is 110 light years from us. According to this, Mizar, the closest star (double-double system) in Ursa Major to Alkaid, is 78 light years from us and has about 3 solar masses. I don't have a ready number for the actual distance between Alkaid and Mizar, so I'll use a variable 'd' for that.

(I'm taking 37 million light years from Alkaid to M51 as well, since it's so far away and Alkaid is a next door neighbor by comparison).

I'll leave out the actual force units (including G) since this is intended to be a relative comparison of the same units.

In solar-mass and light-year units, the force by classical calculation of the Mizar system on Alkaid should then be: m/d^2 -> 3.0/d^2.

For M51 on Alkaid, it would then be about: m/R^2 -> 160x10^9/(37x10^6)^2 = 1.17x10^-4

Setting 3.0/d^2 = 1.17x10^-4 and solving for positive d equals about 160 light years, the distance where the Mizar system's gravitational force on Alkaid equals than of M51. A lesser d should imply a greater attractive force on Alkaid from Mizar than M51. Given that Alkaid and Mizar are relatively close visually and the difference in their distances from earth are 32 light years, it seems pretty likely that Alkaid and Mizar are significantly closer together than 160 LY.

What say you? :)

(I understand the general idea here that it makes no sense to refer to a constellation as an example of a physically bound system, I just thought it would be interesting to run through the numbers in the scenario you presented.)

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But isn't Alkaid and the other big dipper stars orbiting the center (more or less) of our own galaxy, which is the dominant gravitational force on them?

Yes, thanks for the correction. I too hastily glanced at some old star charts and was way off with galaxies like M51 (which is one of the most beautiful galaxies to observe with a good telescope). I don't know offhand the distance between Alkaid and Mizar, though your calculation shows it is unlikely to equal the effect of Alkaid on Mizar. But if I lived on Mizar the most interesting gravitational effect would probably be orbiting the common center of mass with its main binary companion.

I understand the point about mere visual arrangement in the sky, a projection, not constituting some kind of bound system, that a constellation is simply that (and as with Matt, I knew that as a kid.)

That was the main point I wanted to get across. But, I'm curious. Did you learn this at school or on your own? And, at what age? (I remember this from Mrs. Rosenberg's third-grade class at a public school in Brooklyn, NY.)

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But, I'm curious. Did you learn this at school or on your own? And, at what age? (I remember this from Mrs. Rosenberg's third-grade class at a public school in Brooklyn, NY.)

I don't actually remember the exact time, but I know I knew it as a kid. After I started to read, I had a voracious appetite for reading, especially science books. I remember that when our class went to the library, I always headed for the books intended for higher grade levels, given the boring stuff for my own grade. As well, my parents occasionally got me various science books. I'm sure it was from one of those many books - unfortunately I don't have such a lucid recollection as Mrs. Rosenberg's 3d grade class :)

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What I am getting out of all of this (plus what I read in Wikipedia) is:

The five middle stars of the Big Dipper are about the same age (~500 Ma) and are travelling in about the same direction (the two end stars are moving in different directions, which will alter the shape of the Big Dipper over the next several tens of thousands of years). There are many other stars in our night sky, by no means all in that general direction as seen from here, that could be "lumped into" this group of fellow-travellers. (Our sun is NOT part of this group but is currently crossing through it.) This indicates that they may have been "born" in the same place at the same time. However at present they are not gravitationally bound to each other. The group of stars is apparently slowly dispersing.

The galaxies beyond the Big Dipper stars are so far away as to be irrelevant to the issue. (And yes, M-51 (the Whirlpool galaxy) is a beaut!)

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Does anyone have a 3-D representation of the Bid Dipper. I've been searching and can't find one.

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I'm sure it was from one of those many books - unfortunately I don't have such a lucid recollection as Mrs. Rosenberg's 3d grade class :)

Ha! If you knew Mrs. Rosenberg, you would remember. :D

Incidentally, since you like to calculate, here is one way to determine for yourself the best estimate of the distance between Alkaid and Mizar. The Hipparcos Space Astrometry Mission surveyed something like one million stars, and they put a huge database online. To calculate the distance between Alkaid and Mizar:

1. Go to the Hipparcos search facility. The Hipparcos identifier for Alkaid is 67301 and 65378 for Mizar. Put each number into the "Hipparcos Identifier" near the bottom of the page and click on "Retrieve" for each.

2. The H11 field is the trigometric parallax, and from that you can calculate a precise distance to the star. The distance in parsecs = 1/parallax (in arcsec). The parallax is given in milliarcsec so convert that over and then multiply the parsec results by 3.26 to get the distance in lightyears.

3. Record the H3 and H4 fields for each, which are the RA and Dec, respectively.

4. Now convert everything to spherical coordinates, where r is the distance you calculated in "2." and theta and phi are the RA and Dec, respectively, you recorded from "3." (Note that Hipparcos gives RA in h-m-s form, which needs to be converted to degrees for spherical coordinates. Likewise Dec has to be converted to decimal degrees from the Hipparcos form of d-m-s.

5. Now you can calculate the vector difference to get the distance between Alkaid and Mizar.

Do the calculation correctly and you will have a first-rate answer. Then report back here and collect your kudos. :)

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Then report back here [...]

Thanks very much for the pointers on using Hipparcos. I've seen it before but it wasn't clear to me how to really use the data.

For Alkaid, I get 100.6483 LY distance, with an RA of 206.886 degrees and a Dec. of 49.313 degrees.

For Mizar, it's 78.1213 LY, RA of 200.981 degrees and a Dec. of 54.925 degrees.

I converted to cartesian coordinates (Alkaid: (-68.0703, -34.5131, 65.6153), Mizar: (-59.6956, -22.8923, 44.8923)) and the distance between them I calculate as 25.1917 LY. Unless I messed up somewhere :)

Nice that it's not too far off from my original guesstimate, though it was based on an inaccurate distance to Alkaid.

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Thanks very much for the pointers on using Hipparcos. I've seen it before but it wasn't clear to me how to really use the data.

It's amazing how much data they have made accessible online. There are many different types of ways of accessing the database. Incidentally, I gave you the Hipparcos identifiers for Alkaid and Mizar, but if you want a quick table for the identifiers of some of the other common stars, you can use this one.

For Alkaid, I get 100.6483 LY distance, with an RA of 206.886 degrees and a Dec. of 49.313 degrees.

For Mizar, it's 78.1213 LY, RA of 200.981 degrees and a Dec. of 54.925 degrees.

I converted to cartesian coordinates (Alkaid: (-68.0703, -34.5131, 65.6153), Mizar: (-59.6956, -22.8923, 44.8923)) and the distance between them I calculate as 25.1917 LY. Unless I messed up somewhere :)

That's close enough to collect your kudos. In this case it is probably most appropriate to award two gold stars, one for Alkaid and one for Mizar. :)

BJ51201.gifBJ51201.gif

Congratulations!

Nice that it's not too far off from my original guesstimate, though it was based on an inaccurate distance to Alkaid.

You were off by only 10% from the Hipparcos data, not too much of a difference. I didn't check Hipparcos for any of these previously and was working with what was in my mind as earlier figures. I mentally used 210 light-years for Alkaid, which differs from Hipparcos by a factor of two. This 210 light-year figure can still be seen in a variety of sources; I even noticed it in the Big Dipper model that Paul referenced.

Anyway, I think this was fun and, speaking personally, of more interest to me than DIM. But admittedly I am as guilty as some, if not more so, of hijacking this thread, so, speaking as moderator, let's end this astronomy discussion here and return this thread to DIM for those who are interested.

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Continuing with the issue of the essence of human cognition, my wife purchased Harry Binswanger's 1989 course Consciousness as Identification. Her purchase had nothing to do with this thread and we received the tapes just a few days ago, a rather nice cooincidence. Because of the discussion we've been having here, I was motivated to listen to all six tapes (3 lectures and 3 Q&As) today in one sitting. The first tape was a presentation of what Rand meant by saying "consciousness is identification," and the second and third tape discuss differentiation and integration, respectively. It is very clear from Tape 1 that Rand held that identification is the essential function of consciousness. Consciousness graps the identity of entities.

And what are the methods of identification: differentiation and integration, which are separated by abstration but occur together. Dr. Binswanger points out "consciousness seeks differences." "Differentiation is prior to integration at every level." Perception of just two concretes by themselves just yields two different percepts. Dr. Binswanger makes a very important statement: Two concretes, by themselves, simply appear as different. They can appear as similar only in contrast to a third concrete which serves to define the comparison." So if the only thing in my frame of awareness is two "chairs," all I see are two different objects. It is when a table is placed near the "chairs" that the differences between the chairs are grasped as similarities. In order to differentiate the two chairs, all three objects must have something in common: this is the conceptual common denominator (CCD). "We see similarities by making a bigger contrast swamp the minor differences." The table is so much more different than the differences between the two chairs, that the two chairs look similar in comparison. "Similarity is the way differences look to us when they are swamped by a bigger difference." Similarity involves focussing on only one attribute at a time.

A visual way to see this is a follows (adapted from one of his examples). Imagine that the two letters below were on an empty screen, and you were asked, are they in similar locations?

AB

Clearly, if your frame of awareness only contained the A and B, you'd say, "no, they are in different locations."

Now suppose your frame of awareness was only A, B, and C:

AB........................................................................................................................................ C

Are A and B in similar locations when viewing A, B, and C? Clearly, yes they are in similar locations: A and B are all the way over the the left and C is all the way over to the right. The difference between C and B, and C and A swamp your perception of the differences between the locations of A and B.

Based upon my clearer understanding I would amend my previous view that was inconclusive. The essence of consciousness is identification using the methods of differentiation and integration. To grasp the identity of a thing means to differentiate it from its background and integrate it with those similarites of other observed objects.

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