White Box Baby
Michelle M. Estrada, Boise State UniversityFollow
acrylic and matte gel on canvas
Dimensions: 30 x 26 inches
Within philosophy there is a belief that some knowledge comes to us A-priori, or before experience. It is often argued that things which make us human; things within our nature; the common concepts humans form seemingly independently from one another, cross-culturally and universally, all stem from an innate knowledge granted before birth. As a thought experiment a professor offered what he called the “White Box Baby.” One would take a baby and place it within a white room, deprived of color, human interaction, objects, and would learn only through audio, physical information regarding concepts such as nature, friendship, purple, shapes, speech, etc. The baby would be observed for some time until finally being released with the knowledge of the physical world but not any of the experience. Once released, after however many years, the hope would be that the isolated human could differentiate shape, color, numbers, perhaps even display certain innate virtues, temperament, awareness of self and its relation to other objects, independently from the majority of physical stimuli. If the baby can gain more knowledge from the experience of concepts it already knows then it would prove that knowledge lies in a less physical sense within the mind. As a curiosity I decided to take this concept and juxtapose it with the idea of absurd probabilities. For this reason I have decided to portray white box baby in panel 1 with pieces of itself coming away in cubes, it is already lacking what is essential in being human which is companionship, nurture and interaction therefore, it is not whole and can never be whole (as with feral children). There are things we may acknowledge as being indisputably inherent in human nature, but is it possible to isolate and deprive only one infant out of an entire world of mixed beings, long enough to discover what knowledge is possessed, and how much? The following 4 panels show the process of this absurd probability by using a child’s paper fortune game to receive knowledge. If one takes into consideration all of the factors that would have to play into attempting the “white box baby” experiment one can see the absurdity of the whole idea. There are infinite problems and probabilities that arise in trying to isolate what knowledge we believe we innately possess, or how much. Therefore, the knowledge gained from the paper fortune is more a non-conclusion in jest of the philosophical puzzle.
© Michelle M. Estrada, 2017.
Since January 11, 2018
philosophy, acrylic, paintings, baby, box, surrealism
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