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TSE  September 2003

TSE September 2003

Subject:

Cognition and the Objective Correlative was Re: Auden's limerick about Eliot

From:

Tom Gray <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Wed, 3 Sep 2003 06:03:43 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (103 lines)

--- Ken Armstrong <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> At 05:36 AM 9/1/2003 -0700, you wrote:
> >This may not be entirely germane but modern brain
> >theory links congnition and feelings (or emotion)
> >extremely closely.
>
>   So does Eliot, which surprisingly no one has
> remarked. At least, he saw
> thinking and feeling as distinguishable but not
> separate in his dissertation.
>
> Ken A.


I realize now that I forgot to put in the author's
name for the book 'The Muse in the Machine:
Computerizing the Poetry of Human Thought'. The book
is by David Gelernter, a noted Yale computer
scientist. His idea is that feeling and cognition are
inseparable. Cognition is an evolutionary solution to
the problem of existing and acting in the world.
Cognition, at its basis, is the ability to recognize
the similarities between the present situation and
past ones so that an appropriate action may be
selected. Feelings/emotions are ways to capture the
essence of a complicated situation so hat it may be
recognized and stored for later use. Gelernter
supports his idea with many empirical examples. Among
these are the metaphysical poets and TSE's 'objective
correlative' as an example of the linkage between
cognition and feelings.

I have a feeling that many of you will have already
read Gelernter's book so that I am not providing the
majority of readers with any new information. However
for those of you who have not read his books.,
Gelernter is a noted computer scientist whose ideas
are finding broad application. He is not a
sensationalist who popularizes provocative ideas to
sell books. His ideas on the 'objective correlative’
are having significant impact on modern computing and
systems research.

I find this especially pleasing because Gelernter's
ideas are a practical way of handling complexity.
Computer science in the late 60s and 70s fell under
the spell of mathematicians and logicians who wished
to put it on a formal rigorous basis. They were
concerned with the problem of verifying the operation
of large computer programs that operated in critical
environments. They used the formal methods of
mathematics and logic in this effort. Others who
doubted the utility of these efforts were regarded
with condescension as people who were not capable of
understanding subtle mathematical ideas.

This has to do with Eliot so do not worry, I'll get
there.

Well one thing happened on this formal road to
Damascus. The scales fell from people's eyes when they
realized that these methods simply did not work. They
worked on classroom examples of programs. They were
able to find errors that people already knew wee
there. However they did not work on programs of real
world worth. They could not cope with the explosion of
possibilities for error. They could not find errors
that no one knew about. They could not cope with
complexity. They used mathematics and logic with a
real understanding of how mathematics and logic truly
functioned.

And yet with all of this, somehow people could write
programs that more or less worked. People could deal
with the complexity of the real world.

Gelernter linked this to the idea of beauty. Why is
there an innate sense of beauty within people? Why
would an early human of 200,000 years ago running
around naked on the African plains require a brain
that could create mathematics and understand beauty.
Gelernter's answer to this is that the appreciation of
beauty is founded on the ability to recognize valid
solutions and proper strategies in the midst of
complexity.

To Gelernter, esthetics is a valid verification and
validation tool in engineering. This agrees with the
experience of engineers and computer scientists who
talk about the beauty (they usually use the word
elegance) of good designs.

When I read of Eliot's 'objective correlative' I too
saw what Gelernter saw. Cognition is an emotional
construct that is driven by images and allusions.




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