Unity and Rationality

To what extent are our brains unified? Rational? Coherent?

In this lecture we discussed the unified experience of consciousness that exists. It was interesting to consider the complexity and expanse of the mind, contrasted with the unified way that we experience it – it is also interesting to note that what binds the various sections of the mind is still unknown.

Another really interesting point that I took from this lecture was the insight into rationality, that when we probe into our decision making, it becomes apparent we aren’t as rational as we’d like to think. Kahneman and Tversky (1979) assert that human beings have a tendency to act out of what ‘feels’ to make sense, rather than what actually makes sense. For example, if something happens a lot then in our minds we often assume that the opposite will happen next, eg. a game of heads and tails is very much based on chance – this does not stop people from making assumptions that have no rational basis.

We then applied our discussion to how we view art. Looking at the painting ‘Rouen Cathedral’ by Claude Monet – how it exemplifies the discussion we were having on unity and rationality. Within the painting there are many different elements, yet we view it as a unified experience.

The painting and the cathedral are different. But it is not just paint, and it not just a cathedral. It is a painting of a cathedral.

We see the paint, and the paint is as stone – but not stone.

We see flatness and depth

We see something that is distinct from us, but viewing the object constitutes what it is to ‘be me’ at this moment.

It becomes apparent that a painting offers us many contradictions and can be seen as quite a paradoxical experience. We see very separate things in a painting – the object that is painted, and the paint as itself, yet we see these things together.


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