[Previous] A False Dichotomy | Home | [Next] Magee's anti-fallibilism and anti-morality

The Mystical Power of Eyes?

Confessions of a Philosopher by Bryan Magee page 451:
According to the laws of physics nothing comes out of anyone's eyes at all. Light rays go into the eye, and cause all sorts of things to happen inside a person, such as seeing and headaches, but there is nothing at all that comes out of the eye into the surrounding space. According to all the scientific knowledge we have, what I see when I look into someone's eyes is the light from the surrounding air reflected back to me from the surfaces of the person's eyeballs, and that light is outside the person, the light in the air around us coming back at me again. If it is dark I cannot see the person: it is only by the surrounding light that I see the surfaces of his eyeballs, with whatever degree of clarity that allows. And that, according to science, is the whole of the situation. But who actually believes it? Who can believe it? The truth of which most of us have indubitable experience every day is that when I look into another person's eyes I am in what is for the most part a reliable degree of contact with multitudinous things going on inside that person--and he with multitudinous things going on inside me: feelings, moods, thoughts, intentions, hesitations, doubts, fears, hopes, and a host of other highly variegated inner states, together with attempts to conceal or dissemble any or all of those, most of it fleeting and flashing past in flickering instants of time, and the whole of it nuanced and inflected in subtle and sophisticated ways. Is there anyone who believes that this staunchless two-way flow of information is physically encoded on the surfaces of our eyeballs in a way that changes multitudinously instant by instant like a flow of orchestral sound (if so, how is it encoded?) and read off in the surrounding light by observers who instantly and accurately decode it in what is at both ends an essentially computing process? I have yet to hear of such a person.
I am such a person.

Elliot Temple on September 17, 2008


Want to discuss this? Join my forum.

(Due to multi-year, sustained harassment from David Deutsch and his fans, commenting here requires an account. Accounts are not publicly available. Discussion info.)