Bistable perception

Necker_cubeBistable perception is a phenomenon caused by a visual stimulus, which generates two different perceptions in the subject who sees it. Bistable perception instances result in particular from:

– The Necker cube

– the Rubin’s vase

– The duck / rabbit illusion

Cases of bistable perception attract the interest because they raise questions about the causes that lead to the bistable phenomenon of perception, but also because there are individual differences in this type of sensitive perception. In particular, the frequency changes or the duration of one of the alternative perceptions vary considerably among individuals. This raises questions about the factors that induce this or that particular response with regard to this phenomenon, in a given individual.

The bistable perception can also be regarded as a special case of multi-stable perception, where only two different views are possible from the same stimulus.

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An instance of one-sideness bias

Let us consider the following (in deductive form) instance of the one-sidedness bias, mentioned by Philippe Boulanger (2000, p. 3)1. Ulam estimates that if a company were to achieve a level of workforce large enough, its performance would be paralysed by the many internal conflicts that would result. Ulam estimates that the number of conflicts between people would increase according to the square of the number n of employees, while the impact on the work that would result would only grow as a function of n. Thus, according to this argument, it is not desirable that the number of employees within a company becomes important. However, it turns out that Ulam’s reasoning is fallacious, as Boulanger points it out, for it focuses exclusively on the conflictual relations between employees. But the n2 relationships among the company employees can well be confrontational, but may include as well collaborative relationships that are quite beneficial for the company. And so there is no reason to favour conflictual relationships with respect to collaborative ones. And when among n2 relationships established between the company employees, some are genuine collaborative relationships, the effect is, instead, of improving business performance. Therefore, we can not legitimately conclude that it is not desirable that the workforce of a company reaches a large size.

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Dual poles

fig2The dual poles can de defined as neutral concepts, which come in pairs, and are such that each of them is defined as the opposite of the other. For example, internal can be defined as the opposite of external and symmetrically, external can be defined as the contrary of internal. In a sense, there is no primitive notion here and neither A nor Ā of the dual poles can be regarded as the primitive notion.

Examples of dual poles are: static, dynamic, internal, external, qualitative, quantitative, absolute, relative, diachronic, synchronic, etc..

The dual poles are neutral concepts, as well as simple qualities. They also differ from vague notions.

The dual poles are neutral concepts, i.e. concepts that present no ameliorative or pejorative nuance. In this sense, external, internal, concrete, abstract, etc.., are dual poles, unlike concepts such as beautiful, ugly, brave, which present either a ameliorative or pejorative shade, and are therefore non-neutral, since beautiful has a positive connotation and ugly has a pejorative connotation.

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Dialectical monism in Aztec philosophy

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It is worth mentioning a form of dialectical monism in the ancient Aztec philosophy and especially in the concept of ” Teotl “, which is at the center of Aztec metaphysics and cosmology. Teotl is the expression of an endless alternation of continuous and cyclical oscillation between opposite poles. Teotl is thus characterized by a dual prominent structure, which results from the union of opposites , themselves characterized by complementarity. The dual pairs involved include : the masculine and the feminine, dark and light, order and disorder, hot and cold, life and death, being and non-being etc. The interdependence and higher union of the principles of life and death in Teotl, for example, was represented by Aztec artists of Tlatilco and Oaxaca in masks where one half is alive while the other half died, revealing the skull bones.

Reference: James Maffie, Aztec Philosophy, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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Dialectical monism in Heraclitus

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In the antique Western world, dialectical monism appears not much widespread. But we notably find an elaborate form of dialectical monism in Heraclitus. Several fragments of the philosophy of Heraclitus reflect the expression of this unity that results from the joint presence of two dual principles. For example, the Eigth fragment:

What opposes unites, and the finest attunement stems from things bearing in opposite directions, and all things come about by strife.

and also the Tenth fragment:

Things grasped together: things whole, things not whole; being brought together, being separated; consonant, dissonant. Out of all things one thing, out of one thing all things.

Here we find the expression of dialectical monism , through the union of opposites . We see how the dialectic proceeds from the union of opposites : the consonant and dissonant . This dialectical approach that underpins the philosophy of Heraclitus is also illustrated in Fragment 51:

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Dualities

dual-largeDualities are pair of neutral concepts which come in pairs, such as each of the two concepts is the opposite of the other.

We can denote a given duality by A/Ā, A and Ā begin the two opposite concepts, which are termed dual poles.

Examples of dualities include: Internal/External, Quantitative/Qualitative, Visible/Invisible, Absolute/Relative Abstract/Concrete, Static/Dynamic, Diachronic/Synchronic, Single/Multiple, Extension/Restriction, Aesthetic/Practical, Precise/Vague, Finite/Infinite, Single/Compound, Individual/Collective, Analytical/Synthetic, Implicit/Explicit, Voluntary/Involuntary

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Dichotomous analysis applied to paradox resolution

dichoThe dichotomous analysis as a methodology that can be used to search for solutions to some paradoxes and philosophical problems, results from the statement of the principle of dialectical indifference. The general idea underlying the dichotomous approach to paradox analysis is that two versions, corresponding to one and the other pole of a given duality, can be untangled within a philosophical paradox. The corresponding approach then is to find a reference class which is associated with the given paradox and the corresponding duality A/Ā, as well as the two resulting variations of the paradox that apply to each pole of this duality.

However, every duality is not well-suited to this approach, as for many dualities, the corresponding version of the paradox remains unchanged, regardless of the pole under consideration. In the dichotomous method, one focuses on finding a reference class and a relevant associated duality, such that the viewpoint of each of its poles actually lead to two structurally different versions of the paradox , or the disappearance of paradox from the point of view of one of the poles. Thus, when considering the paradox in terms of two poles A and Ā, and if it has no effect on the paradox itself, the corresponding duality A/Ā reveals itself therefore, from this point of view, irrelevant.

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Viewpoint of a pole

Fig3Let us define the concept of point of view related to a given pole of an A/Ā duality: we get then, for example (at the level of the extension/restriction duality) the standpoint by extension, as well as the viewpoint by restriction. Similarly, the qualitative viewpoint or perspective results from it, as well as the quantitative point of view, etc.. (at the level of the qualitative/quantitative duality). Thus, when considering a given object o (either a concrete or an abstract object such as a proposition or a reasoning), we may consider it in relation to various dualities, and at the level of the latter, relative to each of its two dual poles.

The underlying idea inherent to the viewpoint relative to a given duality, or to a given pole of a duality, is that each of the two poles of the same duality, all things being equal, deserve an equal legitimacy. In this sense, if we consider an object o in terms of a duality A/Ā, one should not favour one of the poles with respect to the other. To obtain an objective point of view with respect to a given duality A/Ā, one should place oneself in turn from the perspective of the pole A, and then from that of the pole Ā. For an approach that would only address the viewpoint of one of the two poles would prove to be partial and truncated. The fact of considering in turn the perspective of the two poles, in the study of an object o and of its associated reference class allows to avoid a subjective approach and to meet as much as possible the needs of objectivity.

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Principle of dialectical indifference

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(Illustration from Wikimedia commons)

(PRINCIPLE OF DIALECTICAL INDIFFERENCE) When considering a given object o and the reference class E associated with it, from the angle of duality A/Ā, all things being equal, it should be given equal weight to the viewpoint of the A pole and the viewpoint of the Ā pole.

The principle of dialectical indifference can be enunciated as follows: if we consider an object o under the angle of a given A/Ā duality, there is no reason to favour the viewpoint from A with regard to the viewpoint from Ā, and unless otherwise resulting from the context, we must weigh equally the viewpoints A and Ā. A direct consequence of this principle is that if one considers the perspective of the A pole, one also needs to take into consideration the standpoint of the opposite pole Ā (and vice versa). The need to consider both points of view, the one resulting from the A pole and the other associated with the Ā pole, meets the need of analysing the object o and the reference class associated with it from an objective point of view. This goal is achieved, as far as possible, by taking into account the complementary points of view which are those of the poles A and Ā. Each of these viewpoints has indeed, with regard to a given duality A/Ā, an equal relevance. Under such circumstances, when only the A pole or (exclusively) the pole Ā is considered, it consists then of a one-sided perspective. Conversely, the viewpoint which results from the synthesis of the standpoints corresponding to both poles A and Ā is of a two-sided type. Basically, this approach proves to be dialectical in essence. In effect, the step consisting of successively analysing the complementary views relative to a given reference class, is intended to allow, in a subsequent step, a final synthesis, which results from the joint consideration of the viewpoints corresponding to both poles A and Ā. In the present construction, the process of confronting the different perspectives relevant to an A/Ā duality is intended to build cumulatively, a more objective and comprehensive standpoint than the one, necessarily partial, resulting from taking into account those data that stem from only one of the two poles.

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Glossary

Ambiguous images
Conflict resolution
Conflict resolution with matrices of concepts
Conflict types relating to matrices of concepts
Contextualism
Dialectical contextualism
Dialectical monism
Dialectical monism in ancient Aztec philosophy
Dialectical monism in Heraclitus
Dichotomic analysis
Dichotomic analysis applied to paradox resolution
Dualities
Dual poles
Instance of one-sidedness fallacy
Matrices of concepts
Maximisation
Minimisation
Bistable cognition
Bistable perception
Omission of the neutral
One-sidedness bias
Philosophical paradox as conflict
Polar contraries
Principle of dialectical indifference
Reference class
Reference class problem
Reference class problem in philosophical paradoxes
Reference class problem in the Doomsday argument
Reference class problem in Hempel’s paradox
Reference class problem in the Surprise examination paradox
System of taxa
Viewpoint of a duality
Viewpoint of a given pole

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