Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Does "Focus" Give a Truer Picture of Reality?

In Objectivism, much is made of "focussing" your mind as the basis of gaining a proper grip on reality. Dr Leonard Piekoff calls the choice to focus "man’s primary choice. Until a man is in focus his mental machinery is unable to think, judge or evaluate. The choice to throw the switch is thus the root choice on which all the other choices depend.” But how reliably does focusing your mind vouchsafe a true and undistorted view of reality? Here's a recent variation of a well-known psychological test. There are two teams, and your task is to try to count the number of passes the team in white makes in the confusing scenario. Get ready...and ...focus!

14 comments:

Kelly said...

Spectacular. Thanks for the Post

Red Grant said...

Elliot Spitzer

Henry Scuoteguazza said...

I've seen this video before in a training class. To me it shows that being objective is a lot more difficult than we think.

Cavewight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cavewight said...

I've also seen this video before and I don't see it as a visual disproof of the mind's efficacy at focusing. If your purpose in viewing the video was to think, judge or evaluate on the basis of focusing on a particular thing, then it was hugely successful in proving the mind's efficacy at it. I focused on this post while writing it, and what do you know, everything else around me went relatively out of focus. Focusing does not guarantee that your range will broaden, only that it will sharpen, and sacrifice breadth in the process.

Cavewight said...

I should add that, in this regard, the best way to attack Objectivism is not in its placing value on focusing attention, but on its moralizing of focusing, and its moralizing of psychology in general. This is one of Objectivism's most egregious errors of all.

Daniel Barnes said...

Henry:
>I've seen this video before in a training class. To me it shows that being objective is a lot more difficult than we think.

Yes, that's the takeout I was hoping to get from it. It's not that focussing is bad in itself; it's just that it has its concomitant problems. Consider what "focus" actually means. It means to concentrate on something to the exclusion of something else.

merjet said...

Why would anyone be fo' cussing one's own mind? :-) Of course, my remark is about as relevant to the video as the video is to Rand's philosophy.

Cavewight said...

Daniel Barnes wrote: "But how reliably does focusing your mind vouchsafe a true and undistorted view of reality?"

I don't know that that issue has anything to do with the Peikoff quote in your post: "The [primary] choice to throw the switch is thus the root choice on which all the other choices depend." Peikoff wrote nothing there about a true and undistorted view of reality.

Renee Katz said...

One of the implications of "focusing" is that you are aware of something while simultaneously unaware of something else. You can't "focus" on everything.

Jay said...

Right, and also keep in mind that Rand wants us to exclude certain things from our focus. Irrational whims, irrelevant considerations, etc.

Daniel Barnes said...

Objectivism actually contains a number of moonwalking bears. The problem of induction is one of them.

Anonymous said...

So because a focused person is not situationally omniscient, our mind cannot be relied upon to accurately interpret the data provided to it by our senses. Yep, lack of omniscience=blind.

In that light, one wonders just how man was ever able to survive the perils of moon-walking bears.

Anonymous said...

I AM MORE OBJECTIVE THAN THOU! --Ayn Rand