RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

writing for godot


Written by William M Erlbaum   
Thursday, 31 August 2017 09:38
The concept of "hallucination" has been defined in different ways, including:

"a sensory experience of something that does not exist outside the mind;
"an experience in which you see, hear, feel, or smell something that does not exist;
"perception of visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or gustatory stimuli in the absence of any external objects or events and with a compelling sense of their reality;
"A hallucination is a sensation or sensory perception that a person experiences in the absence of a relevant external stimulus;
"The definition of a hallucination is something that someone sees or imagines that is not really there;
"the perception of an object or event (in any of the 5 senses) in the absence of an external stimulus;
"Hallucinations are sensations that appear to be real but are created within the mind. Examples include seeing things that are not there, hearing voices or other sounds, experiencing body sensations like crawling feelings on the skin, or smelling odors that are not there"

At bottom, then, hallucinations appear to come down to experiences that seem real but are created by and within the mind and do not exist outside of the mind.

For the purpose of this essay, I will place my full reliance upon the common sense position, what has been called the naive realist position, that beyond each human mind, and outside of our minds, there exists a real world of objects and events. Included therein as parts of that real world of objects and events, are each human mind and the experienced events of the bearers of each of those minds. I will not be relying upon or utilizing the solipsism paradigm, which contends that everything comes down to mind and that there is no reason to believe that there exists any world beyond one's consciousness.

That said, if I experience floaters and flashes, which my opthamologist informs me occur in some older people as an accompaniment of vitreous contraction, neither my opthamologist nor anybody else can experience my floaters and flashes, but I alone experience them, and they are not hallucinations. They are a part of my experience alone, of my consciousness alone, something in my mind if you will, but they do not exist outside of my mind.

Floaters and flashes are disturbing experiences. If we had no such field as opthamology, and had no such concept as vitreous contraction, might it not be suggested that my floaters and flashes are hallucinations and that perhaps I have a so-called "mental disorder" like "schizophrenia"? While I cannot exclude the expression of such an evaluation as a theoretically possible utterance, I suggest that such a claim, based solely upon my disturbing mental experience, without a known cause, would be entirely gratuitous, a non sequitur.

Likewise, that I heard my mother today - she died in 1977, or tasted the icing on the cake that's not in the room, could not possibly be hallucinations, for it could never be reasonably concluded that my mother's voice and the taste of the icing on the cake were created by and within my mind and had not existed outside of my mind. Extrinsic to my mind and in the real world of events and objects, I would have had to have been taught the concept of "mother" and to have been introduced to my mother. I would have had to have learned about voices and to have originally heard my mother's voice, learned the meaning of "icing" and of "cake", been introduced to the taste of icing, and to have remembered all of that, in order to have heard my mother today or tasted the icing.

While what produced my hearing my mother today, or my tasting the icing on the cake, pose intriguing questions for analysis and investigation, hallucinations are not in the picture. Like the luminiferous ether, they utterly fail to provide material for developing an edifice of "mental disorder" or "schizophrenia". your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

0 # bread and butter 2017-09-07 16:56
Floaters and flashes are caused by physically real objects outside your mind. Floaters are tiny particles literally floating around in your intraocular fluid. The Flashers are the result of cones or rods misfiring, probably due to some damage to your retina.
0 # BrotherBill 2017-09-08 18:44
This "bread and butter" comment appears to be redundant. The essay plainly acknowledges the anatomical and physiological context in which floaters and flashes are experienced and focuses upon that experience qua experience, noting that it is not an hallucination.
+1 # tedrey 2017-10-15 16:20
In my opinion, the argument is acceptable, except for the title, and the last paragraph.

I would rewrite that paragraph thus--

My hearing my mother today, or my tasting the icing on the cake, do fit the definitions of "hallucination" at the start of the article. What produces such hallucinations poses intriguing questions for analysis and investigation. Whether in some of their manifestations they provide material for developing an edifice of "mental disorder" is a completely different question, left here unresolved.

And the title has to go.
0 # BrotherBill 2017-12-03 22:08
Thank you, tedrey, for your comment.

You write "My hearing my mother today, or my tasting the icing on the cake, do fit the definitions of "hallucination" at the start of the article." Would you be so kind as to show and explain how my "hearing my mother today, or my tasting the icing on the cake" fit those definitions?
0 # tedrey 2018-05-25 14:36
Are you claimimg that there are no such experiences as "tasting the icing or hearing one's mother" without an external stimulus?

If not, would you accept that there *are* sensory experiences, as vivid as tasting the icing or hearing my mother, which while not being caused by any *external* stimulus, *are* caused by an *internal* stimulus, such as a memory? (You might add vivid dreams.) You may not want to call them "hallucinations ," but if they are real experiences, I should think their causation might possibly have connections with "mental disorder." Or not.

Shall we drop the term "hallucination" then, (keep your title), and investigate and analyse these actual experiences which must have actual internal mental causes?

I apologize if I don't get back to this thread, but this is not one of my usual haunts; I'll try down the line.

Best wishes.


THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.