All animals receive light and sound from the surrounding world and use this input to provide information about the material properties of that world. Humans, in addition, are able to utilize information in light and sound that has nothing to do with its material source but is about objects and events that are not materially present and may have no material existence at all. The author argues that this perceptual capacity is a necessary condition for the development of the arts, the humanities, science and all that is considered uniquely human.

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