Posted on 02/06/2014

Photo taken on February  6, 2014

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Sufaces & Essences
Douglas Hofstadter
Emmanuel Sander

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Photo replaced on February  6, 2014
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The Mouse

The Mouse
Why do we claim that the invention of the mouse was more than a technological advance – indeed, that it continued a marvelous conceptual breakthrough?

Is it possible to see the invisible? No, since the invisible is precisely that which one cannot see.

Is it possible to touch the intangible? No, since the intangible is precisely that which one cannot touch.

Is it possible to move an object without touching, to open or close a folder without touching it, to throw an object into the wasterbasket without touching it? Moving, opening, closing, and getting rid of intangible objects – these are things that we do continually with our mouse.

Acting on the immaterial world is no longer a self-contradiction. The mouse plays the role of a biological limb, but acts on intangible entities. Thus with the help of a mouse, one can flip through a virtual book, adjust the volume of a loudspeaker, place items into a “shopping cart” in a virtual store, and so forth. Immaterial entitles can be acted upon no less than physical objects.

The mouse is the fruit of a substantial mental leap. From time immemorial there has been an unbridgeable gap between the categories of material and immaterial. Thanks to this gap there has always been a clear-cut distinction between the world we touch and perceive and the world inside our minds, between what is real and what is imagined, between the concrete and the abstract, between matter and pattern, between tangible and intangible.. If the idea that a physical action can have an effect on a distant entity is strange, the idea that it can have an effect on an immaterial entity is even stranger; indeed, it verges on the paradoxical. Thus the creation of the mouse involved generalizing a property that till then had been limited to the world of material objects – that is, the property of being actable-upon. A new category – that of ‘actable-upon objects’ far broader than the category of material objects – came into being when the mouse was conceived of. This new category toppled our prior assumptions about how we relate to the world around us, dramatically altering our ontological categories – that is, the set of basic categories with whose aid we carve up the world. ~ Page 253

Excerpt • Sufaces & Essences Authors • Douglas Hofstadter • & • Emmanuel Sander
2 years ago.