The discussion on facts and feelings (Drawing the line between feeling and fact) really brought up a lot of different thoughts for me.
I think there is something valid in exploring about the nature of illusions. Determining the validity of one’s subjective experiences and understanding the physical constraints and limitations imposed on us by our own sense organs and brains.
What I see from meeting people from so many different backgrounds and cultures, is that so many people see absolutely validity in people’s own subjective experiences.
@rick you brought up some interesting points that got me thinking about a lot of different things, so thanks.
I would further split illusions into arching categories:
Non-Sensual (mental) illusions
Sensual illusions relate to the problems in our sense organs capability/capabilities for detecting external stimuli and/or the brains means of interpreting these problems and gaps in stimuli or jumping the gun to try and compensate for the absence of information, by using memory and previous experiences to infer things. These can then be broken down into the following groups:
Tactile (relating to body/skin e.g. spider sensation, phantom limbs)
Temporal (perception of time)
Intersensory (blend of different senses, such as taste, smell etc)
When you understand the deficits as to why the illusion happens due to the way the particular sense organ or combination of sense organs works in conjunction with the brain then this is something repeatable and demonstrable and the illusion is not metaphysical but an experiential deficit, like losing one eye and having a depth perception deficit and then having to compensate for it.
One day we might be able to modify our bodies with implants or modify our DNA/RNA and find a means to bypass these deficits and thus make these illusions no longer possible because they are just problems to be solved rather than some unknowable, unresolvable, unchanging aspect.
Non-Sensual (mental) illusions are more interesting. One could describe these as those caused by internal stimulation only, however they are still based on the historic real external data known, types of things people have seen, smelt, touched, heard, and learned by other means such as read about, abstract concepts etc. In the sense we are not imagining something that has never been perceived by the senses before. Even a monster imagined is based on constructs experientially encountered before, a body, arms, legs (or tentacles), colours, shape, emotional intent, etc. Pre-existing data reimagined and amalgamated in a new combination.
I have known friends and family with Bipolar and Schizophrenia. There are multiple experiences they have had of seeing people, monsters, things, etc that do not exist in actuality. My imagination used to be so strong that I could imagine incredibly detailed worlds, monsters, scenes and scenarios but I knew I was conjuring them so there was no fear or surprise there. I sometimes thought that a lot of what they experienced was similar to how imagination manifested for me when writing, creating, but it had happened to them in a sense of not being aware or conscious of the imagining they were conjuring. They were passively experiencing the imagination rather than in control of it, hence it was a terrifying and frightening experience.
However, from a biological perspective there are obviously groups of neurons working in conjunction to enable the hallucination (or imagination) and thus hypothetically if identified one might be able to stimulate that part of the brain and make the illusion happen to that person at a whim. Alternatively, construct a neuronal circuit equivalent in somebody else and make them experience the same hallucination. This is because there is a definitive mechanism for allowing an illusion to arise. Which clearly relates to this way of combining historical sensory data into a new form of idea which can also manifest as an illusion/hallucination.
For example, somebody blind from birth will never have a visual hallucination of a red devil. That would be something I would want to test, can I transfer the circuits in that persons brain that made her see some monster and put it in a blind persons brain and will they for the first time have a visual hallucination experience. (Then you can pre-prepare a blind person for visual stimulus before finding a new way to cure that blindness.)
What are the rules at play and the limits and mechanisms for all these types of illusions?
I was thinking of this and I would sat that the rays do not actually exist, the mechanism to allow the experience of the rays actually exist. Therefore, what is actual can be demarcated between what is objectively perceivable and measurable and what is subjectively perceivable in the known limitations of the sense organs and brains of that organism. One has to take into account all of the components that make a subjective experience possible. In this sense, ones subjective experiences cannot be an absolute arbiter due to the dependencies and limitations they are subject to, these constraints and capabilities build up the complete picture.
The brain does not create the external universe but interprets it, filling in gaps and deficits which are still based on other types of data it has received from those sense organs and its ability to store/remember information. The possibility exists for the brain to do this incorrectly as well, jump the gun and interpret something that was never there and never experience, a phantom experience, like a phantom limb.
I agree that the idea of him existed in actuality possibly born from a real individual who was very kind and gave gifts, this person then become an idea which then become a belief which then enabled the illusion to manifest. I remember being convinced I had seen Santa with his reindeer fly past as a 6 year old (funnily enough my Dad when on morphine kept having hallucinations of Santa on his reindeer flying through the lounge and it pissed him off enough he quit using morphine lol). The illusions have evolved from things that exist in actuality, people, red clothes, being jolly, etc. I think it is better to say that the mechanisms for allowing the illusion to recur or a new illusion of a similar fashion will still exist as this is a known possibility for the configuration of matter that is a human being. We can generate internal illusions as well as experience sensory illusions. A concept or idea has the potential to manifest and become an illusion as well.
I would say that the neuronal mechanisms exist for making illusions in this universe, including a sense of an illusory (metaphysical) feeling-being to manifest rather than saying there is independently an illusory feeling-being. That this feeling-being is not a something in the way there is an arm, an appendix, a brain.
That brains can make a “sense” of a feeler, an “experiencer”, an agent to whom all of this is happening to though. They can transmit and communicate ideas, via language and visually, including abstractions and other mental capabilities, such as lateral thinking or pattern recognition.
For example, if I cut off an arm we recognise its form and function as an arm, if I cut out a set of neurons is it a memory, or a self, an agent of experience…or is it just neurons? It’s function is part of a greater collective of systems of other neurons and brain regions, can it not be removed without a larger context of the whole system.
The arm could be broken down to tissue types and cell types, the proteins, the molecules, the elements, the individual atom of that element type and the sub atomic constituents like quarks. The arm itself is an abstraction I guess. Even our understanding of the constituents are abstractions…an atom just a model an approximation to try and understand nature.
It is tricky…to make sense of the subjective.