|Even though I cannot see Bow, I'm pretty sure he is still there underneath the blanket|
|Now I can see Bow. But can he see me?|
Another lesson that is even more subtle is that seeing things affects what you know, but being seen does not necessarily affect what someone else knows. If he did not know you were seeing him, then he has no new knowledge.
|Peekaboo! I see you!|
Trying to gauge another person's state of mind involves guessing what they know and what they do not know, based on the sorts of information that are available to them, and also by trying to model their mental process. It can be very difficult, because not everybody perceives what he sees the same way. Someone can see you, but not notice. Someone can hear you, but not understand what you said. Even very intelligent adult human beings can make terrible miscalculations, just based on a false belief that to exist is to be perceived or that seeing necessarily means knowing.
Daniel J. Povinelli wrote a whole book about what young chimpanzees know about seeing. The problem is that what a researcher knows about what a chimpanzee knows is not necessarily a straightforward fact. The smart chimpanzee may not choose to let the researcher in on all its knowledge. Do you know what I know? How can you be sure?
Yesterday, I reviewed the movie Cloud Atlas. I took issue with the statement by the character Sonmi:
"To be is to be perceived, and so to know thyself is only possible through the eyes of the other."
Being is one thing. Being perceived is something else. To conflate them is to be a social metaphysician, a person who believes that social reality is the only reality. People may misperceive you. You may misperceive yourself. But who you are is a fact, not open to social mediation.
People perceive different things in the same situation. Sometimes I will reminisce with someone about something that happened long ago, and it will turn out that they never knew a fact that was obvious and significant to me. Then they will say, "I must not have been in the room when that happened." Well, maybe. Or maybe they were in the room, but they were not mentally present. Maybe they saw, but did not perceive, heard, but did not understand. Maybe their attention was centered on another sight which was significant to them, and not to me.
People do not remember what they see. They remember what they perceived and how they interpreted the data. This is one of the reasons that we don't tend to remember what happened in our early infancy. It is not because we did not see, but it was hard to come to many conclusions with so little data to go on. We cannot remember what we did not perceive. It takes time for someone's mind to turn a sight into a perception, an event into a memory.
That is why it can happen that you might meet someone on a particular day, but they will not meet you until much later, when they finally perceive you for the first time. That is the topic of my children's book, When Sword Met Bow.
When we bring a baby home for the first time, whether he is a human or a chimpanzee, he does not know enough about life to know us or meet us in any meaningful way. We may meet him on that day, but it may take a while before his cognitive development is enough to meet us back. That is because seeing is not perceiving, and the relations between sentient beings are not necessarily reciprocal.
Seeing is not knowing. And just because you know somebody you must not assume that they know you. And before any seeing or knowing can even begin to happen, things have to actually exist.
Reality is primary. Social reality is secondary. And while psychological visibility -- the feeling you get when somebody really understands you -- is a great delight, people continue to exist even when no one sees them. It's that very basic concept of object permanence that you learned when you started playing peekaboo!