DEEP aspects of ART


The Umwelt



The sensory worlds of different species are unique 


The instant of PERCEPTION involves the past and future at the cellular as well as the cognitive level: reflection (past experience) and anticipation (future experience).  PERCEPTION occurs at the site of convergence of bottom-up (sensory) and top-down (cognitive) information, both conscious and non-conscious, experiential and “developmentally programmed” . (see more at A&O notes on PERCEPTION/.)  IMPORTANTLY, the origin of sensation is both internal (interoceptive) and external (exteroceptive).  See the A&O READING on INTEROCEPTION (from-cerebrum-2021/)


The limited range of sensations we are capable of detecting become percepts when they interact with the organism. Our first constraints are the physical and chemical peculiarities of the sensory organs embedded in the boundary between the world and our consciousness of it. But next, and almost immediately, they interact with and are affected by previous experiences. We learn to see, we develop theories of what a sensation probably represents. The theory is corroborated by various cerebral modules that provide confidence by testing the information: does it correspond to the real world? does it cohere with other experiences we have had? THUS, we see the world not as it is but as we are. To understand INPUT, we must also consider the organism’s umwelt (sensory world) as well as the process of establishing truth (high confidence in the reality of a percept or belief).  The umwelt was much discussed by ethologists … 

“In the semiotic theories of Jakob von Uexküll and Thomas A. Sebeokumwelt (plural: umwelten; from the German Umwelt meaning “environment” or “surroundings”) is the “biological foundations that lie at the very epicenter of the study of both communication and signification in the human [and non-human] animal”.[1] The term is usually translated as “self-centered world”.[2] Uexküll theorised that organisms can have different umwelten, even though they share the same environment.” (Wikipeda) READ A&O notes on UMWELT

“Our unawareness of the limits of our umwelt can be seen with color blind people: until they learn that others can see hues they cannot, the thought of extra colors does not hit their radar screen. And the same goes for the congenitally blind: being sightless is not like experiencing “blackness” or “a dark hole” where vision should be. As a human is to a bloodhound dog, a blind person does not miss vision. They do not conceive of it. Electromagnetic radiation is simply not part of their umwelt.

The more science taps into these hidden channels, the more it becomes clear that our brains are tuned to detect a shockingly small fraction of the surrounding reality. Our sensorium is enough to get by in our ecosystem, but is does not approximate the larger picture.

I think it would be useful if the concept of the umwelt were embedded in the public lexicon. It neatly captures the idea of limited knowledge, of unobtainable information, and of unimagined possibilities. Consider the criticisms of policy, the assertions of dogma, the declarations of fact that you hear every day — and just imagine if all of these could be infused with the proper intellectual humility that comes from appreciating the amount unseen.”  (from Eagleman, “WHAT SCIENTIFIC CONCEPT WOULD IMPROVE EVERYBODY’S COGNITIVE TOOLKIT?” in Edge:  https://www.edge.org/response-detail/11498


WHERE DO WE DRAW THE LINE with respect to uniqueness: differences between taxa are easy, but between different individuals? Humans experience synesthesia (see A&O notes on synesthesia).  Read Ariel Bleicher‘s article, “Humans Possess Exotic Sensory Abilities” (Scientific American 2012)