Lately I've been pre-ocuppied with this question, which frankly makes me look at my surroundings in a fresh way. (I am mainly concerned with objects at the moment, but I think there can be a lot of parallels between objects, and knowledge (about objects))

A related question could be: How do we determine if an object is familiar to us? When we look at an object for the second time, what is it that we see (this time)? Why do we feel at ease in these situations? Can we look at something again, but see it as if we see it for the first time? How does something become unfamiliar to us? What happens when we discover something unknown in the familiar?

I read some about it in the first paragraphs of the second part of Wittgenstein's Brown Book, and am quite fond of his philosophical quietism with its ostensive examples, in a way it seems to be an example in itself these questions, that one only has to look closely at what is so familiar, but at the same time seems to go unnoticed.

Wittgenstein writes:

I. Do we have a feeling of familiarity whenever we look at familiar objects? Or do we have it usually? When do we actually have it? It helps us to ask: What do we contrast the feeling of familiarity with? One thing we contrast it with is surprise. ... (from L. Wittgenstein, The Blue and Brown Books, p.127)

... and then he goes one to show us examples of situations, and examines them closely.

Heidegger, I believe, also talks about it, but in a different way, in Sense and Time.

I was wondering, would there be other literature that touch upon an aspect of this, which I could read on this subject?

1 Answer 1


The answer from SwiftPushkar is really interesting. I know that when we are in front of new things, or peoples, our brain uses a complex treatment, with all his advanced functions. When we already know something, it just uses more basic treatment. In fact it uses a really old part of our brains in term of evolution. These treatment are faster. That's the reason why when you are in a new environment you're usually more tired.

I know you are looking for a philosophical approach, but you might want to consider that this question is linked to psychology and neurology. So let's assume that your brain bypass the function that you reserve for things that are already familiar. I'm pretty sure that watching it with intensity, focusing on details you have not seen before could reactivate these functions instead of using only gregarious area of your brain.

Unfortunately I don't have precise sources, or good readings to recommend. There was a good documentary on that on arte but I can't find him. Maybe someone knows about it ? Otherwise this book is good but I don't know if it can be found in english : Jean Delacour - Conscience et cerveau. Maybe Consciousness and brain.

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