illusions are like mistakes


mistakes occur after the happening

In your reading of the introduction to “From Being to Doing” (p. 13) you met the notion that mistakes don’t happen in the moment the act that is considered to be a mistake takes place.  The “mistake” is an attribution made later. 

Thus we should congratulate someone who has just revealed that “I made a mistake” as that implies an expansion of his or her vision and understanding.  And when that person apologizes for the mistake, we should realize that the apology is a plea for accepting his or her honesty.  If they had actually “known better” at the time they did whatever they did, they would have been lying; now they want you to know it was an “honest mistake”.   (And that is of course, how that expression came about, as people are known to offer the idea of a mistake as an excuse for not doing what they knew was right.)

If you, as an observer, see that the action that is taking place is inappropriate, and the person doing it does not see that, you might offer a correction as an expansion of vision.  But it is not appropriate to castigate them for not seeing what they do not see.   We know not to blame a blind person for being blind, and this is only a more subtle case of the same.  “Don’t you see?  Are you blind?” is a comment made by an observer who has a different structure at that moment.  What you can say is “From what you say or do, I discern that you do not see what I see.”   

illusions occur after the happening

The same idea applies to illusions.  We see what we see, and then later, or given some other experiences or explanations, we make an assessment of what we perceived and say “that was an illusion.”  However, at the moment of it’t happening, we don’t know it is an illusion.  Oddly, we enjoy illusions, we enjoy the magic of having something revealed as different from what we thought it was.  It’s a little bit like the idea of a paradox which I have discussed earlier; namely with the appreciation of an illusion we have entered a new domain in which we can see two different perspectives each of which is valid in its own right.  We enjoy insights!

Consider, for example, the common illusion I’ve replicated here.  You almost certainly know the “trick” ... but it’s not really a trick.  If you were given those two objects to fit into the small box below them, only one would fit.  We rely on our daily life experience with things, and the idea of “just the line, not the arrows” is a conceptual matter, not a practical one.  Now you see both, and it is fun!

... a few illusions

Which straight line is longer?

in the experience...

In the experience we cannot distinguish a mistake from an illusion.  That means that we can never be sure at any moment that we won’t later find ourselves looking back and saying “that was an illusion”.

There is no fundamental way for us to distinguish a perception from an illusion.  It all depends on the criteria we use.  This is just like an explanation; do we accept better authority?  Do we find it fits better with other experiences and perceptions? 
Do we simply like one perception better than another?


In the next pages I will present visual examples (they are easiest to show) that reveal some of how it is we experience the world as we do, given our biological constitution.  We are indeed structure determined systems with the ability to reflect on our experiences!