Friday, January 2, 2009

On Specificity

This is a test for a certain idea that I am working around in my head recently.

We, that is human persons, never exist with specificity.

We never act with specificity either. We are always doing and being something else too. Our full attention is never given specifically to a thing. All the while, our hearts beat, our heads itch, our muscles flex, our minds wander, and our tummies growl.

Regarding perception, we never see something with specificity, we only see a side of it. To see something specifically we would have to be presented the whole thing. This dimensional proviso provides a limit on what we perceive as this or that and reveals that we only perceive in parts, fragments. Computer imaging tries to overcome this limit by presenting a rotational view of a graphic thing (like a car or a house or something), but, still, we can only see one side at a time. And event then, we are affecting and affected by more than just that thing, otherwise we would see nothing -- the room would be dark and so on.

I think I want to extend this idea to everything -- to the world.

What do you think?


brogonzo said...

Hm, interesting, Sam. I'm not sure I know what you mean by "specificity" though, particularly with regard to "existing with specificity."

As far as our ability to observe and perceive goes, though, sure -- we only perceive a rather narrow spectrum of sound and light, which we use to understand the world around us -- and that's not even dealing with sides. Many flowering plants, I've read, have patterns in either infra-red or ultra-violet spectra which are invisible to us, but quite visible to the various insects that rely on them for food (and which the plants in turn rely on for pollenization, in many cases). Dogs and cats (and countless other creatures) can hear sound frequencies much higher than we can, and elephants are known to "communicate" in bellows that feature frequencies far below the range of human auditory capacity.

Filtering out the "unimportant" wavelengths and frequencies is how we're able to keep the universe from being a garbled mess that would overwhelm the senses and make movement, communication, and just about everything else impossible -- our cortexes can only handle so much at once.

I'm sure some old philosopher somewhere has probably referred to this as our ability to detect "emanations" (or "phenomena," I suppose) from a thing (reflected light, for example) instead of perceiving the totality of the thing itself at any given time.

Anyway -- I'd like to know more about where you're headed with this train of thought. Myself, I'm content to leave it at that, but I have a funny feeling you have a destination in mind...

samrocha said...

I do. Last night in a fit of enthusiasm I decided to title my dissertation: "On the Non-Specificity of the World and Person: Towards a Non-Specific Theory of Education"

Now, I am not sure the term will survive. I mostly trying to talk about our own subjectivity here, how we exist (that is experience ourselves, I think). This seem extremely important in figuring out what education is supposed to do, exactly. But, now I fear that specificity is too private a meaning to me that will only present an array of distracting terminological problems. But the private meaning, in whatever word I come to find, is still what I am driving at, for now.

brogonzo said...

I think I may be conflating your use of the word "specificity" with the idea of discreteness. For me, the word (specific) implies the ability to single out (or specify) a particular thing or place or idea from among many. I can specify myself as being discrete from someone else, and between one place and another.

But in terms of education, I'm not sure how else to look at it the enterprise -- a "non-specific" theory of education would, I guess, be more general than one targeted at someone "specific."