THE SPECTACLE OF REFLECTION: ON DREAMS, NEURAL NETWORKS AND THE VISUAL NATURE OF THOUGHT

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Abstract
The article considers the problem of images and the role they play in our reflection turning to evidence provided by two seemingly very distant theories of mind together with two sorts of corresponding visions: dreams as analyzed by Freud who claimed that they are pictures of our thoughts, and their mechanical counterparts produced by neural networks designed for object recognition and classification. Freud’s theory of dreams has largely been ignored by philosophers interested in cognition, most of whom focused solely on the linguistic incarnation of thoughts, but even though commonly neglected by respectable theories of thinking, dream images may prove to be the key to the black box of thought. As argued in this article, when seen from the right perspective and approached with the right set of questions, oneiric visions yield groundbreaking insights into the mechanism of how concepts and judgments are formed. Support for this conclusion comes from a tradition seemingly remote, if not opposed to psychoanalysis: the mechanical model of the mind conceived by information sciences and embodied in the form of artificial neural nets which mirror the activity of human visual cortex producing visions strikingly similar to those created by the sleeping mind. These purely mechanical, artificial ‘dreams’ constitute byproducts of algorithms designed for object recognition and classification, which, as I shall argue, reveals the true purpose of our own oneiric visual formations. Just like their mechanical counterparts produced by neural networks, condensations and displacements encountered in dreams are in fact visual universals.
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Archival date: 2021-01-10
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