View Full Version : Plato's Chair-ness proven?

Little bit
12-26-2012, 04:26 PM
I've always loved Plato's theory of "chair-ness" or Theory of Forms and remember really loving my philosophy class in college, even though my degree was ultimately Accounting. That's why I was interested in this story I found today:

Meaning on the Brain: How Your Mind Organizes Reality

Chunks of reality
At the most basic level, we don't really perceive separate objects at all - we perceive our nervous systems' responses to a boundless flow of electromagnetic waves and biochemical reactions. Our brains slot certain neural response patterns into sensory pathways we call "sight," "smell" and so on - but abilities like synesthesia and echolocation show that even the boundaries between our senses can be blurry.
Still, our brains are talented at picking out certain chunks of sensory experience and associating those chunks with other stimuli. For instance, if you hear purring and feel fur rubbing against your leg, your brain knows to associate that sound and feeling with the fluffy four-legged object you see at your feet - and to group that whole multisensory chunk under the heading of "cat."
What's more, years of cat experience have taught you that it makes no sense to think of a cat as if it were a piece of furniture, or a truck, or a weather balloon. In other words, an encounter with a cat carries a particular set of meanings for you - and those meanings determine which areas of your brain will perk up in the presence of a feline.
But where's the category "cat" in the brain? And where's it situated in relation to, say, "dog" or "giraffe" ...or just "mammal?" A team of neuroscientists led by Alexander Huth at UC Berkeley's Gallant lab decided they'd answer these questions in the most thorough way possible: By capturing brain responses to every kind of object they could dig up.

Here's a short video about the study:

And the link to the app, which I have yet to view:

I've always thought the idea of chair-ness, cat-ness, or human-ness made sense but I also understand the criticism:

Anyway, one morning, the great philosopher Plato had a stroke of insight. He caught everyone's attention, gathered a crowd around him, and announced his deduction: "Man is defined as a hairless, featherless, two-legged animal!" Whereupon Diogenes abruptly leaped up from the lawn, dashed off to the marketplace, and burst back onto the porch carrying a plucked chicken - which he held aloft and shouted, "Behold: I give you... Man!"

I don't know...I think a plucked chicken would come out as "food" in my brain, not as bird "chicken" and definitely not as Man :P