Perceiving, Knowing, Creating.

Still mulling Winnicott’s contention that one, while being careful not to locate a clock where one is not, creates one’s perception of a clock through conception and apperception.  No, that’s not quite correct. Or maybe it is.  In any case, I have been looking for an example and think I have found one in the DNA issue.

Watson and Crick are credited with having “discovered” the structure of DNA: the double helix.  The word “discovery” implies that the structure was already there—pre-existing Watson and Crick—to be discovered via perception.




But I think there’s a prior problem; one may perceive but not “know” what one perceives.

Why and how did Watson and Crick know what they were discovering?  Well, more or less digressively, they did not come to know it through the so called scientific method.  Rather, their piece in Nature with the picture of the double helix was a piece of rampant speculation arrived at, not my testing, hypothesis and so on, but by a synthesis of things previously known.

More specifically Watson, in The Double Helix, acknowledges the contributions of A) Erwin Chargaff.  He found out that the DNA in any cell has a 1:1 ratio of pyrimidine and purine bases and, more specifically, that the amount of guanine is equal to cytosine and the amount of adenine is equal to thymine. B) the work of Linus Pauling on amino acids (proteins), his discover of the function of the double helix in the structure of amino acids and by way of method his use of models to demonstrate the structures of amino acids.  And C) and most importantly, I think, the x-ray work of Rosalind Franklin.

Watson nearly pissed his pants when he saw one of Franklin’s x-rays.  This very one I think:




Franklin, however, for her own reasons I suppose did not see this as a picture of a double helix.  Clearly she perceived the structure in this x-ray.  But she did not know it.  Watson and Crick knew it because, following Winnicott’s strange claim, they brought to it conceptions, models, speculations, and imagination.  These led them to create what was already there: the structure of DNA.

So what’s the point?  Not much.  Except that what we know about a perception is not the same thing as the perception. Most of the time of course we do not create what we know.  Rather we have been socialized into knowing what we perceive.  A long schooling has taught me that a green light means I can go.

Creation, per se, is not perception, nor is it simply knowing what is perceived, but seeing or knowing something new about what is perceived.

One Reply to “Perceiving, Knowing, Creating.”

  1. I like it when you see a person out of the corner of your eye, but when you turn to look it’s just a shadow or something else….this always tends to confirm my belief that reality is nonsense.

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