Friday, January 9, 2009

Pareidolia, Religion, or Art


Pareidolia is a subset of apophenia. It means perceiving significance in stimuli that have none. (Apophenia means seeing patterns in data that have none.) Both of these diagnoses, naturally, depend upon thinking that someone can objectively judge what is "data", "patterns", or "significance".  

Does significance have to be shared to be significant? If someone sees Jesus in a tortilla, and is moved to, say, quit smoking or be nicer to their grandmother, what does it even mean that "there is no actual Jesus in the tortilla?" Is seeing a representation of your higher purpose, your dreams and hopes, in your daily bread, that crazy? And insisting that those dreams and hopes don't exist, at least not in a tortilla, is "saner"? I can't decide which argument sounds crazier to me.

Clarence Irving Lewis said that since there isn't any way to judge whether our perceptions are "true" in an absolute sense, there isn't anything we can do but evaluate whether our purposes and goals are thwarted by the information we perceive. Two people with different purposes may see entirely different patterns and significance in the same data.

Seeing patterns and significance where another person, with a different purpose, didn't see it, is an act of creation. Art comes from it, and humor, and insanity, and religion, sometimes all at once. 

And herewith I present this picture of Garnier Fructis ascending to heaven, next to the acronym "YMT" ("Your Madness Transforms").

1 comment:

jennconspiracy said...

You rock. This cracks me up.

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