The Dog and the violet
In a sense the statement "I perceive something that is outside me" is true. But in another sense, this statement is misleading. Everything that I perceive, the dog, the white hair, the violets, are nothing but phenomenological "apparitions" caused by the neural firing in my brain. Thus, the bottom line is, the perceived image of the dog is not outside me, but "within" me. Everything I perceive, even the image of a star billions of light years away seen through a telescope, is nothing but the result of neural firing in my brain.
Even if there is a "dog" standing in a field of "violets", if the neurons in my brain do not fire in an appropriate way, I would not perceive the dog nor the violets. Conversely, even if the "dog" and "violets" were not there, if the neurons in my brain fired in an appropriate manner, I would have a perception of the dog and the violets. We thus come to a very important conclusion. The entities outside me, and my perception of these entities, are in principle separate things. It is only that in normal circumstances, a highly reliable correlation is expected between the external entities and my perception of them. (Otherwise there would be no survival value for perception!) In principle, my perception could be independent of the actual external objects that normally invoke it.
Here, it is important to note that we are not discussing merely a distinction between the real and the virtual. To be sure, if we remain in the domain of anecdotes and analogies we will be unable to deduce any scientifically meaningful conclusions. It is only when we begin to address the serious questions about the neural basis of perception that we realize how much is at stake. In the following argument, it will be shown that the thesis "my perception is a part of me" is something more than a harmless philosophical analogy. It has implications that cuts deep into the very foundations of neuropsychology as is understood today.
(Translated from the Japanese text of Ken Mogi's "Qualia and the Brain" (Nikkei Science, Tokyo, 1997) by the author)