Sensory perception Essay

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Sensory perception cannot be entirely trusted specifically in terms of knowing what is real from what is not and what is genuine knowledge from what is mere belief for several reasons. For one, the human senses have the tendency to fluctuate in terms of its capacity to perform according to its specific functions (Ross, p. 500). For instance, the ears, when suffering from an ear infection, are highly prone to hear things quite differently.

If this is the case, then our sensory perception of hearing through the ears does not have a strong merit for serving as the foundation for knowing the real world and distinguishing those that are not real. It is also the case that human sensory perception varies from person to person. For example, an ageing man may hear the same rustling of leaves or speech of an individual quite differently from a little kid. Or perhaps the same note played in a grand piano may faintly be heard by those with hearing defects but may be clearly be distinguished by the master pianist.

These are only a few examples to illustrate the point that human sensory perception varies from person to person, and the list may very well be inexhaustible. This leads us towards the idea that, since human sensory perception greatly varies, it may be quite difficult to reach at a solid agreement among individuals concerning the common understanding of reality. Although there may be attempts to resolve such a crisis, the very fact that human sensory perception differs inhibit human beings from arriving at the bottom of the issue.

Yet it cannot be doubted that, when asked about what is real from what is not, the tendency of the individual is to rely on sensory perception (Walton, p. 557). One can defend the idea that this pencil is real because the individual is able to see and touch the pencil. There are many other ways in order to provide possible arguments that support the idea that sensory perception grants human beings an access to reality and a corresponding awareness of it. While it may be true that the individual is able to see and old the pencil does it guarantee the individual that, indeed, the pencil is real?

One is to be reminded that our eyes sometimes suffer from a blurring of vision and that our skin has the tendency to be sensitive or numb or somewhere between depending on the external environment and on the internal bodily processes the individual is experiencing. Apparently, sensory perception gives one experiences of ones external environment and that these experiences may correspond to an actual object existing in the external environment of the individual (Brown, p. 336). If this is the case, then it is also probable that the object perceived through the senses may exist.

Nevertheless, whether or not the object perceived exists in the external environment, the question remains: can sensory perception be trusted? With the idea of trusting the senses, we are directed towards the notion that the senses provide a way for the perceiving individual to sense an object outside of ones system (Sorabji, p. 60). It can be asserted that the senses provide the individual with sensory experiences such as the color and smell of the object, the quality of hotness or coldness and many others.

The idea can further be stretched by arguing that, without the senses, the brain will have no way of accepting data from the external objects. But how is one to know what is real from what is mere hallucination? Correspondingly, how is one to know that ones senses are giving an impression of a defective data offered by the impaired visual senses, for instance? The foundation for the refutation against the credibility of the senses rests on the idea that the senses of human beings are open to impairments and oftentimes prone to the trickery of the external environment.

For example, mirages tend to trick the human eye and, consequently, the human understanding and the larger sphere of human knowledge. What appears to be a small patch of water in the middle of a scorching desert is the visual effect of heat on sand from afar. Unless the individual decides to get closer to the source of the desert mirage can one be able to fully discern the idea that the eyes do not give us what is really the case. This case holds highly probable for the individual. The larger aspect of the faulty functioning of the senses can all the more be observed in terms of two or more individuals.

Take for example the case of two individuals and a small piece of freshly baked bread. Assume that the first individual is one who lives in a warm region while the other individual lives near the fringes of Alaska. The first individual may very well claim that the freshly baked bread is not quiet hot while the Alaskan may very well claim that the bread is warm for the reason that the former is used to a warm environment while the latter lives in an environment where a little heat is easily detected by the skin.

Or let one assume that the opposite case is true for the two individuals”either way, it can be observed that there is a difference in the way both individuals have experienced the bread in terms of its hotness or coldness. The instance where there are variations in the manner in which individuals tend to have a sensory experience on the warmness or coldness of objects is one proof that, when applied to the larger context of humanity, there can hardly be any precise and unchanging sensory experience for the same object.

While it may be true that humanity can generalize an object as either warm or cold, it nevertheless remains that it does not guarantee that all of the individuals have experienced one and the same degree of warmness or coldness of the object given the fact that the specific human anatomy widely varies from person to person although individuals may have the same general anatomy of, say, the head composed of the skull, eye sockets, teeth, etc.

The point is that, although two, three, or a couple of individuals may agree that this or that object is warm, there is hardly any coherent and precise sensory perception that unifies all of human sensory experience on the same object or event at its most detailed form. This contention leads one to the consequent argument that sensory perception cannot be trusted and that these variations in human sensory experience fail to provide a substantial account for what is real from what is not. Why cant sensory perception be trusted even if there are wide variations and disagreements on human sensory experiences?

The answer to this question rests on the idea that human knowledge is a very critical aspect in the lives and progress of humanity. Since the daily experiences of human beings pretty much contribute to and define their knowledge of the external world, a corrupted sensory experience may lead to knowledge founded on false assumptions or beliefs. Further, if the wide variations in sensory experiences will serve as the basis for human knowledge, then it is not a farfetched idea that it will result to multiple interpretations and, consequently, multiple forms of knowledge on the same object or event.

All the knowledge in the world becomes relative to the numerous individuals asserting their own stand on what knowledge is; knowledge becomes equally proportional to the total number of individuals advocating their own knowledge. If this is the case, can the separate notions of knowledge correspond to a genuine knowledge? Or does it give the guarantee that all of these knowledge claims are sound and valid even though one or two of these knowledge claims come into conflict?

The argument is clear: sensory perception cannot be trusted due to its dire effects on the epistemological exploits of humanity inasmuch as there is the primary concern or need for a true and genuine knowledge that transcends individual interpretations and relative sensory experiences. The seemingly imperfect condition of the human sensory organs contributes in large parts to the disruptions in the corresponding sensory experiences. This imperfect state should all the more prompt the rational mind to do away with trusting sensory perception as a guaranteed medium for obtaining knowledge and in understanding reality.

Works Cited

Brown, Kevin L. Dating Adam Smiths Essay Of the External Senses. Journal of the History of Ideas 53. 2 (1992): 336. Ross, Peter W. Qualia and the Senses. The Philosophical Quarterly 51. 205 (2001): 500. Sorabji, Richard. Aristotle on Demarcating the Five Senses. The Philosophical Review 80. 1 (1971): 60. Walton, William M. Is Existence a Valid Philosophical Concept? A Metaphysical Approach. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 12. 4 (1952): 557.

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