Thursday, November 30, 2017

How Olfaction Becomes You

AKA Osmetic Ontogenesis

In this jaw-dropping essay, the authors use the story of a sniffing salamander to explain the Uroboric cycle of perception. I know this isn’t a salamander, but it’s close enough, and cool as hell.

These sparkling crystals of olfactory knowledge are taken from the following essay:
Hosek R J & Freeman W J (2001). Osmetic Ontogenesis, or Olfaction Becomes You: The Neurodynamic, Intentional Self and Its Affinities with the Foucaultian/Butlerian Subject. Configurations 9: 509–541.

Our neurodynamic model of olfaction represents this situation. The organism does not directly perceive the impact of chemical odors from its surroundings on its receptor cells; rather, its unique perception consists in its prediction and hypothesis-testing into these surroundings. All that the animal perceives is the specific outcome of the tested hypothesis, and the activity of perception is formed in assimilation with the environment, which includes the organism’s state prior to and concurrent with the odorant impinging upon its receptors. These states consist in a variety of discourses, including the organism’s alertness, past experience with the odorant and all other aspects of its surroundings, and so forth. We can say, for example that a rabbit’s desire for a particular odorant is constructed within the discourses of the laboratory via the previously described odorant-training of newborn rabbits. Similarly, another organism’s desire for a certain cologne might be formed within advertising strategies that link particular scents to sexual pleasure and desirability. These desires correlate to brain states; thus, expressed in neurobiological terms, discourses form the shape of brain activity, its material substrate, and the emergence of intentionality in masses of living neurons. The odor’s meaning for and its very perception by the organism depends on these various factors, and this meaning and perception concomitantly shape the organism.

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