Question: On page 66 you say that Virgil “had no idea what he was seeing. He had no ready-made CONCEPT to interpret the sight, all a meaningless blur.”
It seems you are saying that without a concept, perception would be meaningless, a blur. Yet it seems that one of the points of the book is to perceive before we interpret perception through concepts.
It seems to be a contradiction. I'm sure I missing something you are saying or interpreting it wrong[ly]. Would you clarify the seeming contradiction?
Response: First, your “quote” above, from page 66 of The Grand Delusion, mixes my words with those of Oliver Sacks (please see text). It was Oliver Sacks who wrote that Virgil “had no idea what he was seeing” (I only emphasized his word, “idea”), that it was “all meaningless, a blur.” Nevertheless, you made an observation worth exploring.
All I am pointing out, using Oliver Sacks’ story as an example, is that perception, prior to conception, is indeed meaningless, if not a blur. Meaning is in how we conceptualize experience. It’s not in actual direct experience itself, only in how we interpret immediate, direct experience. And we do so by relying on past conceptualized experience—i.e., on memories—which consists mainly of mentally constructed pictures, ideas, thoughts, opinions, inclinations, beliefs, and so on.
I’m not sure why you feel this contradicts what I’m otherwise saying in The Grand Delusion other than the possibility that you may be unwittingly holding to the belief that correct understanding of the world necessarily comes through meaning—that is, that it comes to us through conceptual understanding. One of the main points of my book is to show that it is this very knee-jerk thought-habit of ours that keeps us perpetually locked in confusion—hence, delusion. We need to wake up to what we’re doing and flip this around. Unimpeachable understanding of Reality is in direct perceptual experience alone and not in what we otherwise make of direct perceptual experience.