Books that make you think… differently

This post isn’t about the book by Adam Steltzner, I promised to write, but on an entirely different topic altogether. And this time it’s a book that is a unique and one of a kind.

There are books that you may find interesting, there are books that are easy to read and there are books that make you think… differently. I think I’ve read only a couple of books that caused me to think deeply about the reality and perception. One of them was On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins, the other was Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, but the last one that was most impressive, in my opinion, was Mind and the Cosmic Order by Charles Pinter Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus at Bucknell University.

What do I mean by the books that cause you rethink a world we live in, are books that try to answer deep questions about how the brains might work, how we function as a society, how we came to be in this Universe and more. Usually, these books require mindful reading, attention and are not that easy or fun to read. I should say these books require working with them, working through them. The more you think about the content of such books, the more you play with the concepts they describe, the more you get out of them. One additional thing that such books provide a reader is references to other useful books that could help to understand information better.

Mind and the Cosmic Order is exactly such a book I described above. This book contains a number of very well thought ideas that are systematically elaborated to convey a very peculiar point of view on how what we call as a perception emerges in a mind, be it humans or animals one. The books makes use of the evolutionary approach to animals behavior that emphasizes that evolution provided animals with such a system for perception that fits the animals environment and most efficient for animals survival. Based on this assumption, the author then introduces the concept of Gestalt perception

The essence of a Gestalt is that it’s “different from the sum of its parts.”

Pinter, Charles. Mind and the Cosmic Order. Springer Nature, 2020.

which is defined as a perception of an outside world as a coherent whole, which is what suits us humans from the evolutionary point of view, and makes us active agents in this world.

One of the interesting points that I haven’t thought previously was that the mind not only don’t get sensory input directly from the senses, but it also projects the internal world-model that it creates, outside making us, essentially, feel that we see a world outside, which feels perfectly real, but being a construct of the mind. Further elaborating on this point, the author explains that our whole perception is Gestalt based and is the only way we perceive outside world.

Additional point was, that outside world has no form and structure, which are creations of the outside observer, in our case the perceiving mind. The structure and the form of objects we think are outside there are only for us to be able to function in the world efficiently. They occur only for us, but are not required by the world outside and, are not inherent in the physics of the outside world.

The main and the most interesting point in the book that builds upon previous ones is that Quantum Mechanics paradoxes, namely, The Measurement Problem, can be resolved easily if we accept previous points, that human mind is incapable of sensing outside world directly, it has a bespoke world-model that serves a mind carrier survival and that an observer could only make conclusion based on an explanation of the world-model inferred from senses. In essence, what Charles Pinter proposes is an inversion of what the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics states. This means, that there is no wave function collapse during the measurement, instead it is the perception of the observer that is changing, while the world outside remains in quantum superposition. What is interesting in this explanation that is radically different from the multiverse point of view, where an observer is split with each measurement along with the universe where this measurements happen.

All in all, Mind and the Cosmic order provides you with many ideas to think about, It’s an interesting, but not an easy read. It requires your attention, it requires you to think and work through what is explained. In addition, the author mentions great many books and papers that worth reading to get a wider picture of what is mind, how it emerges and creates a world that we are so used to think of as being the only real one possible.


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