Experience and Perception. Conversations between books.

I once read that perception is heavily influenced by your believe system. Your believe system is shaped by what you are born into or delegated by your culture. Your perception determines your type of experience. All experience is constructed by culture. I decided to compare two authors that addressed these topics in their own way, Aldous Huxley and John Dewey.


FROM MY READING LIST:
*Dewey, John. “Art as experience.” Perigee. 1980
*Huxley, Aldous, “The Doors of Perception. Heaven and Hell”, Flamingo Modern Classics. 1977.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE PERCEPTION AND EXPERIENCE?

John Dewey: “Perception is an act of the going-out of energy in order to receive, not a withholding of energy. To steep ourselves in a subject-matter we have first to plunge into it. When we are only passive to a scene, it overwhelms us and, for lack of answering activity, we do not perceive that which bears us down. We must summon energy and pitch it at a responsive key in order to take in. (Dewey pp53) Experience like breathing is a rhythm of intakings and outgivings. Their succession is punctuated and made a rhythm by the existence of intervals, periods in which one phase is ceasing and the other is inchoate and preparing.” (Dewey pp56)

Aldous Huxley: “Sensations, feelings and insight, fancies – all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experience, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes. Most island universes are sufficiently like one another to permit of inferential understanding or even of mutual empathy or ‘feeling into”. Thus remembering our own bereavements and humiliations, we can console with others in analogous circumstances, can put ourselves in their places. But in certain cases communication between universes is incomplete or even nonexistent.”(Huxley pp3)

WHERE IS THE MIND WHEN YOU HAVE AN EXPERIENCE?

JD:”..the only real existence is mind, that “the object does not exist unless it is known, that this is not separable from the knowing spirit.”[Croce] In ordinary perception, objects are taken as if they were external to mind. Therefore, awareness of objects of art and of natural beauty is not a case of perception, but of an intuition that knows objects as, themselves, states of mind.”

AH: “At ordinary times the eye concerns itself with such problems as Where?-How far? How situated in relation to what? In the altered experience (mescaline induced) the implied questions to which the eye responds are of another order. Place and distance cease to be of much interest. The mind does its perceiving in terms of intensity of existence, profundity of significance, relationships within a pattern.”(Huxley pp4).The mind was primarily concerned, not with measures and locations, but with being and meaning.”(Huxley pp6)The mind is its own place…”(Huxley pp3)

TOWARDS WHAT HIGHER GOAL DOES EXPERIENCE AND PERCEPTION LEAD US?

JD: “Experience is limited by all causes which interfere with perception of the relations between undergoing and doing. There may be interference because of excess on the side of doing or of excess on the side of receptivity, of undergoing. Unbalance on either side blurs the perception of relations and leaves the experience partial and distorted, with scant or false meaning.(Dewey, pp44). A man does something; he lifts, let us say, a stone. In consequence he undergoes, suffers, something: the weight, the strain, texture of the surface of the thing lifted. The properties thus undergone determine further doing. The stone is too heavy, or too angular… The process continues until a mutual adaptation of the self and the object emerges and that particular experience comes to a close. What is true of this simple instance is true, as to form, of every experience. The creature operating may be a thinker in his study and the environment with which he interacts may consist of ideas instead of a a stone. But interaction of the two constitutes the total experience that is had and the close which complete it is the institution of a felt harmony.” (Dewey, pp44)

AX:..” I have always found,” Blake wrote rather bitterly, “that Angels have the vanity to speak of themselves as the only wise. This they do with a confident insolence sprouting from systematic reasoning.” Systematic reasoning is something we could not as a species or as individuals possibly do without. But neither, if we are to remain same, can we possibly do without direct perception, the more unsystematic the better, of the inner and outer worlds into which we have been born. This given reality is an infinite which passes all understanding and yet admits of being directly and in some sort totally apprehended. It is a transcendence belonging to another order than the human, and yet it may be present to us as a felt immanence, an experience participation. To be enlightened is to be aware, always, of total reality in its immanent otherness – to be aware of it and yet to remain in a condition to survive as an animal, to think and feel as a human being, to resort whenever expedient to systematic reasoning. Our goal is to discover that we have always been where we ought to be.” (Huxley pp23-24)

WHEN DOES EXPERIENCE AND PERCEPTION BECOME VISIONARY FOR THE ARTIST?

JD:”The doing or making is artistic when the perceived result is of such a nature that its qualities as perceived have controlled the question of production. The act of producing that is directed by intent to produce something that is enjoyed in the immediate experience of perceiving has qualities that a spontaneous or uncontrolled activity does not have. The artist embodies in himself the attitude of the perceiver while he works.(Dewey p48)An artist, in comparison with his fellows, is one who is not only especially gifted in powers of execution but in unusual sensitivity to the qualities of things.”(Dewey pp 49)

AX: “..the power to see things with my eyes shut…some require no transformation; they are visionaries all the time. The mental species to which Blake belonged is fairly widely distributed even in the urban-industrial societies of the present day. The poet-artist’s uniqueness does not consist in the fact that  (to quote from his Descriptive Catalogue) he actually saw “those wonderful originals called in the Sacred Scriptures the Cherubim.” It does not consist in the fact that “these wonderful originals seen in my visions were some of them one hundred feet in height…all containing mythological and recondite meaning.” It consists solely in his ability to render, in words or in line and color, some hint at least of a not excessively uncommon experience, The untalented visionary may perceive an inner reality no less tremendous, beautiful and significant that the world behold by Blake; but he lacks altogether the ability to express, in literary or plastic symbols, what he has seen.” (Huxley pp13-14)

2017-05-02T13:04:07+00:00

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