Recognizing

Matthias Melcher, Aug 16, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes
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This is a first rate intellectual synthesis (8 page PDF) of what are at first glance two very approaches to cognition, Iain McGilchrist's thesis of a division of responsibility in the brain, 'the master and the emissary', and my own description of knowledge as 'recognition'. "The differences," writes McGilchrist, "lie not, as has been supposed, in the 'what' - which skills each hemisphere possesses - but in the 'how', the way in which each uses them, and to what end." The 'emissary is concerned with abstraction and categorization and the identification of salient facts we need to exist in the world, while the master is the thick jungle of overlapping connections and perceptions from which that salience emerges. It's an interesting picture, and as a metaphor I certainly see a lot to recommend it - provided we care clear that the 'what' (categories, abstractions, languages, things) are not the 'how' of cognition.

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