|I enjoyed reading this thread. I would like to make some comments.|
It seems that when discussing information that is highly dependant on reason and inference, it is vital to accurately define the terms we use, as it seems many people imply different meanings on those terms.
Quote: "a POTENTIAL CAPACITY does not equal an ACTUAL capacity".
This is a good example of a bad phrase. To me, the phrase 'potential capacity' is wrong. An entity either has some capacity or does not have it. It might potentially have some capacity, but there is no such thing as a potential capacity. 'Potential' here should modify the verb, hence the adverbial use is correct.
To say a human has a potential capacity for language is wrong. 'Potential' should be omitted or used as an adverb instead, as in saying humans potentially have a capacity for learning.
We can also use 'potential' as a noun, as in saying humans have the potential to speak language. These uses of the word 'potential' overlap somewhat, and illustrate nicely the linguistic semantec-barrier that must be overcome.
One might say humans have the potential to learn language. This has precisely the same meaning as saying humans have the capacity to learn language. In this sense, 'capacity' and the noun form of 'potential' are often interchangable. Care must be taken in this manner to bring the desired meaning across cleary.
Quote: "The most that you can say about these 'brain algorithms' is that they represent POTENTIAL CAPACITY."
As said above, 'potential capacity' here should be simply 'capacity'. A person can potentially learn language because they have the capacity to do so.
OK, enough of that. Now for some of Henry's questions.
Quote: "Do you acknowledge that there is a qualitative difference between the CAPACITY for particular knowledge (such as language), and the POTENTIAL FOR LEARNING that knowledge?"
It seems the difference here is that an entity with the capacity to learn language but missing the capacity for language will never master language, as they don't have the capacity for it (the capacity of having the knowledge).
An entity with the capacity for language but without the capacity to learn langauge could know language, but that knowledge wouldn't have been able to be got through learning.
In this regard I would say there is a qualitative difference.
Quote: `brain algorithms about humor, sexuality, sense perceptions, etc.": do those qualify as "knowledge?" In other words, are they LEARNED?'
This confuses me somewhat. Note the phrase 'brain algorithms about humour'. Is humour a brain algorithm? I haven't really thought about this. Certainly it seems we learn to judge what is funny, although I can't say that we learn how to laugh, or act if something is funny.
I can't think that animals have humour. Do they? Especially pursuant to the theory that we are descended from animals, animals should show some sign of humour, if it isn't learnt, as animals do show emotion (to some degree). I don't know that they show humour at all.
Here is a good example to think about. Examine your own response after reading it, and think about what part of it is learnt. Some readers might this funny, while others most likely won't find it funny at all. How much of your reaction is learnt?
Two cannibals are eating a clown. One of them says to the other: "Does this taste funny to you?"
Also to sexuality, now. I won't even try to accurately define sexuality, as it is to my mind a made up term, with no solid meaning. Using such a flippantly used term for such a question is misleading at best.
Now sense perceptions. I have never heard of a baby that didn't use their senses like sight and sound. Somehow we knew how to see. I don't see that we learned it necessarily. However, knowing how to blink, or wink, or such things certainly seems like knowledge. Receiving input from the eyes and ears, for example, is definitely not learnt. Our brain just recieves that information. We learn how to process it, and from this we learn to control our eyes, like their focus, angle, etc.
I would therefore say that sense perception isn't learnt. This is strictly related to the normal five sense our body possesses. This does not necessarily relate to any other methods of perceiving reality which might abound.
Our brain is most definitely programmed with automated behaviours and capacities. I don't believe we learn how to feel. However, we can choose how to act on such data.
Are they (sense perceptions) learned? No. Are they knowledge? I don't think so. We learn what they are, like eyes, etc. We don't learn how to receive that input though.
Quote: `"Brain algorithims" do NOT count as "innate knowledge" unless you accept the notion of "A priori knowledge".'
This seems quote a semantic distinction. Whether you call how we receive sensory information knowledge or not, they definitely exist 'a priori'. I don't see that they are knowledge, though, they are 'a priori faculties'.
When we dream, we do receive sensory information, in that a loud noise or some such can wake us up. When we are dead, they can't. Until we die we receive (our brain receives) sensory information, which is used to form knowledge.
Quote: `So what I want to know is: by denying "tabula rasa", are you trying to say that humans possess some sort of inborn knowledge?'
That depends on the same semantic distinction as was discussed, however we can take clue's from animals. There is no way that an animal is born a clean slate, it has much preprogrammed behaviour. Humans do too, for example how a human get's sexually aroused following some stimuli. If you want to call this knowledge, then it is 'a priori knowledge'. If you don't, it is an 'a priori faculty'.
I know Henry Emrich is away, so I won't expect a reply from him for a while yet.