[Art_beyond_sight_theory_and_research] 11th and 12th fingers

Lisa Yayla Lisa.Yayla at statped.no
Wed Jan 6 10:33:13 UTC 2010

Dear Prof. Hopkins,

Thank you so much for your rich answer. It was of great help. 
I especially appreciated being reminded, very nicely, about jumping to conclusions (e.g. evolution).
I have found Merleau Ponty's work on Google Books and have started reading it.  

Thank you.

Best regards,

-----Opprinnelig melding-----
Fra: art_beyond_sight_theory_and_research-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:art_beyond_sight_theory_and_research-bounces at nfbnet.org] På vegne av Robert Hopkins
Sendt: 23. desember 2009 16:59
Til: Art Beyond Sight Theory and Research
Emne: Re: [Art_beyond_sight_theory_and_research] 11th and 12th fingers

Dear Lisa,

I think your questions are interesting, and they certainly make sense.  
Here are a few thoughts.

First, the idea that seeing is in some ways like touch is one that  
some writers have endorsed without any thoughts about evolution.  
Merleau Ponty is the master here (see his 'Phenomenology of  
Perception'). He emphasises the active side of vision (for instance,  
the fact that the eye must move (saccade) if it is to work. (Though M- 
P didn't know the details here, the nerve cells in the eye respond to  
*changes* in stimulation. If the eye didn't move, and the scene  
remained static, we'd soon receive no visual information at all.) He  
also stressed the phenomenological side of the comparison. He has  
interesting observations on colours, in this respect: they are, in his  
terms, different ways of 'calling forth the gaze'.

Second, you are right that sight and touch at least overlap in the  
sorts of information they provide. That makes it possible, even  
plausible, that the same areas of the brain are involved in processing  
the input from each. However, while there may be overlap here (both  
senses involving some of the same processing) there won't be more.  
I.e. each will also involve its own peculiar processing too. For the  
task of extracting information about, say, shape from a light array is  
very unlikely to match at all closely with that of extracting such  
information from a set of stimulations to the skin. So there may be  
common processing at higher levels (eg in identifying the shape as,  
say, that of a cube) but there almost certainly won't be lower down  
(eg in trying to work out where the edges of the object are). Here's  
another way to think of this, Vision and touch may in part inform us  
about the same properties (shape, size, solidity perhaps) but they  
also each inform us about different ones (warmth in touch, colour or  
the direction from which light is coming in vision). Given this, it's  
unlikely that a single lot of processing the brain could suffice to do  
all the work in extracting all this information from both senses.

Third and finally, I agree that sight can evoke touch, and perhaps  
vice versa. But we don't need to suppose they share an evolutionary  
history to make sense of that. The senses are most useful to us if we  
can integrate what they all tell us into a single picture (I don't  
mean that as more than a metaphor) of the world. Whatever does that  
integration for us, the mere fact of its occurring will naturally lead  
to the sorts of association and evocations you here describe.  
Evolution can be left out of the story (at least here).

Don't know if this of any help. Perhaps it's me who doesn't make much  


Prof. Robert Hopkins
Head of Department
University of Sheffield
45 Victoria St
Sheffield S3 7QB

+44 114 222 0572 (my line)
+44 114 222 0571 (department office)


On 21 Dec 2009, at 10:19, Lisa Yayla wrote:

> Hi,
> I am hoping you will be able to help me with some questions. They  
> are not very academically phrased and pretty rambling
> so I  hope you will excuse this. And I suppose the questions are  
> over simplified and have great gulfs of missing logic but
> I hope you will understand what I mean.
> My questions are:
> I was wondering if one evolutionary-wise could say that the eyes are  
> in away our 11th and 12th fingers?
> The octopus - doesn't the octopus have a very similar eye to humans?  
> Perhaps in the octopuses' development
> after 8 touch tentacles its evolutionary self thought
> 'what about a variation on the theme. I want to know about that  
> thing in the distance but I can't reach it. Let me "build" something  
> that doesn't have to touch physically but will still give me the  
> same information I get when I touch?'
> And the eye was developed and became the octopuses ninth tentacle.
> And if we assume that the first 8 tentacles send information to a  
> part of the brain that analyzes tentacle
> retrieved information, such as contrasts or lack of contrasts which  
> make changes on a surface, wouldn't
> the eye, the ninth tentacle, do the same- that is send it to the  
> same area of the brain as the other 8 tentacles?
> So then this new fangled 9th " tentacle"  even though it is modified  
> its aim is to the same as the other 8
> tentacles - that is to send tentacle information to that part of the  
> brain that understands it.
> The common point between the original 8 tentacles and the new  
> fangled 9th is the information they are
> searching for to send to the brain.
> Perhaps people are a type of octopi and when our 11th and 12th  
> tentacles (eyes) don't work we use the others (fingers)?
> And that works because they were all built to get the same type of  
> information and send that information to the same place in the brain.
> Fingers need to contact and move to retrieve information while eyes  
> contact and move in a different way to
> receive similar information. The eye has to constantly move to see  
> just as the finger does to feel - could one call
> the eye haptic? The haptic eye?
> So the 9th tentacle (eye) goes about its tentacle job sending  
> tentacle type information to that part of the brain that takes
> in tentacle information  and even though the eye is a bit  
> differently formed than the other tentacles, it looks for the same  
> type of information.
> Just as humans can't see the surface of Mars but they want  
> information so they develop tools to gather information about  
> objects out of range . Information   of the type that they know  how  
> to analyze and understand.
> And another question- is the reason that when looking at something  
> the urge to touch and hold the object is so strong is because of a  
> close evolutionary connection between touch and sight? I mean if we  
> hear something we don't have the same feeling of wanting to pick it  
> up and touch it or..?
> Thanks.
> Best regards,
> Lisa
> -Scanned by Exchange Hosted Services-
> _______________________________________________
> Art_beyond_sight_theory_and_research mailing list
> Art_beyond_sight_theory_and_research at nfbnet.org
> http://www.nfbnet.org/mailman/listinfo/art_beyond_sight_theory_and_research_nfbnet.org
> To unsubscribe, change your list options or get your account info  
> for Art_beyond_sight_theory_and_research:
> http://www.nfbnet.org/mailman/options/art_beyond_sight_theory_and_research_nfbnet.org/r.hopkins%40sheffield.ac.uk

Art_beyond_sight_theory_and_research mailing list
Art_beyond_sight_theory_and_research at nfbnet.org
To unsubscribe, change your list options or get your account info for Art_beyond_sight_theory_and_research:

-Scanned by Exchange Hosted Services- 

More information about the Art_Beyond_Sight_Theory_and_Research mailing list