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image: Campus NewsLecture Notes
Seeing beyond the eyes
How do humans see? "The commonsense view is that we have eyes, and so we see," says Sidney Schulman, the Ellen C. Manning professor emeritus in the Biological Sciences Division. "But the truth is we see with more than our eyes."

PHOTO:  Neurologist Sidney Schulman on Kant

This fall students in Schulman's course, Neurology and Kant's Theory of Knowledge, are learning to see with philosophical as well as scientific eyes, using one perspective to illuminate the other.

"Immanuel Kant didn't talk about the nervous system-he didn't even know it existed," says Schulman, SB'44, MD'46. "But reading his works, I began to see connections. The question for both is: how is this piece of organic matter called the human being able to know the space and matter around him?"

Schulman, who has taught at the University since 1950 and has taught this course since 1980, began closely studying the 18th-century philosopher after finding arguments similar to Kant's theories in the works of Heinrich Klüver, a German neurologist.

"Kant's theory of perception is strikingly in accord with present-day scientific thinking," says Schulman. "Neither sensation alone nor thinking alone can account for the human experience of the world around us. Both are essential and must work in partnership."

The approach is unusual, Schulman admits. "Many scientists scorn and make fun of philosophers, but science started with philosophy. It's a curiosity about the world that drives them both."

The class is a small discussion group of five students, mostly biology concentrators. They read the first half of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, scientific papers on neurology, and Donald Hebb's Organization of Behavior. Requirements include a midterm, a final exam, and the occasional pop quiz.
-W.W.




 


  DECEMBER 2001

  > > Volume 94, Number 2


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