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Line of sheep walking near dense woods.


To be conscious is not simply a fact or event like those determinate facts and events which make up our physical world. If we call it a fact, or event, or process, or function, we do so by analogy, and in any analogy the differences can be as important as the resemblances.

Philip Wheelwright (1968)

Wheelwright notes the complexity of consciousness and our reliance on analogy to adumbrate it. Analogies are ever present assistants in building our worlds, linking in newly arrived elements, reinforcing bonds with older constituents. Critically we see how they can work beyond language; as when we use a map. Analogies point, orientating us to see what others have seen, they let us share learning. However, as we look intently in the direction indicated, we find a conjurer at work: in looking we are also looking away. The picture shows sheep exercising their fabled ability to follow. But, in their absorption in the animal ahead, they pay the less heed to what is around them. While simple analogies may build, more complex ones may distract. Wheelwright reminds us of the importance of differences in any analogy: being too intent on the sheep in front may reduce our alertness to the wolf in the dark woods.

The quotation is from page 18 of The Burning Fountain published by Indiana University Press.

The sheep were seen by the woods north of Hind Hill, just outside Moffat, in southern Scotland.


Saturday 14th November 2020

Murphy on duty to this site