Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
JacobGalt

How do you know everyone's senses are the same?

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

If someone says: I have seen something that you will never see because, while it's real, it's not available to your sense perception organs, how can you respond?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If someone says: I have seen something that you will never see because, while it's real, it's not available to your sense perception organs, how can you respond?

You say: "Well I just think you're wrong but the little green man sitting on my shoulder right now says you are a complete loon."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You say: "Well I just think you're wrong but the little green man sitting on my shoulder right now says you are a complete loon."

Then how can you proof anything to someone if he can just say: "your senses are invalid, unlike mine"?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If someone says: I have seen something that you will never see because, while it's real, it's not available to your sense perception organs, how can you respond?

That while two different people may not be able to perceive the same thing in exactly the same way, the reality of the thing is not based on perception.

If you think you are seeing something that nobody else can see, and nobody else can touch, feel, hear or taste it either, then the most likely answer is that something between your sensory organs and your rational facility is altering your sense of perception. There are no contradictions, and since light must interact with something for that something to be seen, if you see something and it isn't there, and it wasn't an optical illusion, then your sense of sight is faulty.

For example - the right hemisphere of the brain, if stimulated magnetically, can trigger a mental sense of an other-worldly, comforting presence in the area that cannot be confirmed by any of the five senses. The sensation of the presence is not proof of existence of a presence, but a false sensation generated by the brain. (It also provides a much more simple explanation for the numerous 'miraculous godly presences' people have felt over the millennium than the idea of the existence of some being which contradicts reality)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Then how can you proof anything to someone if he can just say: "your senses are invalid, unlike mine"?

Ask them to prove their claim.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

but a false sensation generated by the brain.

If a magnetic field stimulates the right hemisphere of the brain, how is this a false sensation generated by the brain? Is this not an effect 'sensation of an other-worldly comforting presence' of the magnetic stimulation?

I'm not seeing how this example ties in with the OP question.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If someone says: I have seen something that you will never see because, while it's real, it's not available to your sense perception organs, how can you respond?
Why would you respond to such a bizarre claim? Just because someone says "Martians are controlling our minds and we have to wear tin foil hats to block their rays", you don't have to persuade them that they are wrong. Rational people do not attempt to use logic to persuade insane people, and the man you are talking about is mentally ill.

Of course if a space alien arrives from the planet Kelgorn, and they happen to be able to see sounds, then I would simply reply "So what? I can hear them".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If a magnetic field stimulates the right hemisphere of the brain, how is this a false sensation generated by the brain? Is this not an effect 'sensation of an other-worldly comforting presence' of the magnetic stimulation?

Thanks.

Correction: The sensation contradicts the other senses - the conclusion that something is in the room is a false interpretation of the sensation.

I'm not seeing how this example ties in with the OP question.

If you substitute "sees" in the OP with "experiences a sensation", then the person with the contradictory sensation concludes that he or she can feel something others can't, and ignores his own other senses which disagree with his "sixth sense". The others are simply unable to sense the mystic presence, so they say, "I have sensed something that you will never sensed because, while it's real, it's not available to your sense perception organs."

My example ties in to illustrate how the sensations we experience are not perfect, and thus when they contradict others, the option that our senses may be in error must be left open.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Perhaps I am stuck on 'I have seen something that you will never see' - assuming that the claim comes from someone who relied on his physical senses for the original observation.

I consider the specific sense used unimportant. It's the nature of the claim that matters.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If someone says: I have seen something that you will never see because, while it's real, it's not available to your sense perception organs, how can you respond?

Let me recast the question in a more concrete way. Someone claims to possess a sense mode that you do not have; on the basis of that new sense mode they claim to perceive things you do not. Should you believe them? The basic claim here is the possession of a new sense mode. What evidence do they present for its existence? Can they explain how it works? What physical basis does it have? Can the things they claim to perceive be integrated with the things you perceive with your senses, or do they contradict your perceptions? Etc.

If I'm blind, and you come to me and say you possess a sense mode -- vision -- that I don't, why should I believe you? You can present lots of evidence in terms I can understand that vision exists. I can touch the sense organ from which vision arises. I can grasp the concept of ambient energy in the environment as similar to sound waves and heat, and vision can be explained as a response to a form of that ambient energy. You can use your vision to identify objects too far away to touch, describe them and I can validate some of their characteristics like shape using my own senses. That provides a solid basis for my accepting that vision is real, even though I don't have it myself.

But if someone says they possess a new sense mode, but they can't or won't provide any evidence or explanation, then they're just asserting a claim arbitrarily. Demand the proof.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For example - the right hemisphere of the brain, if stimulated magnetically, can trigger a mental sense of an other-worldly, comforting presence in the area that cannot be confirmed by any of the five senses. The sensation of the presence is not proof of existence of a presence, but a false sensation generated by the brain.

I wouldn't call it a 'false sensation'. It's an awareness of a magnetic field, in a very unusual form. One could imagine someone with sufficient knowledge of neurology and an awareness of the presence of an electromagnet though the standard senses concluding from his sense of 'other-worldly comfort' that the electromagnet has been turned on.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My example ties in to illustrate how the sensations we experience are not perfect, and thus when they contradict others, the option that our senses may be in error must be left open.

You lost me here. The validity of sense perception is axiomatic. To say that our senses "may be in error" is confusing the metaphysical and the man-made. In response to the OP, you most likely cant prove that everyones senses respond to stimuli in the same way, but it doesnt matter. When contemplating the relationship between sensory apparatus, and reality, as long as existence exists independent of consciousness (any consciousness), its the same reality being percieved no matter how the sensory apparatus happens to react to it.

j..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wouldn't call it a 'false sensation'. It's an awareness of a magnetic field, in a very unusual form. One could imagine someone with sufficient knowledge of neurology and an awareness of the presence of an electromagnet though the standard senses concluding from his sense of 'other-worldly comfort' that the electromagnet has been turned on.

The point is that the brain, on its own, can generate a registered sensation that contradicts our physical senses.

The magnetic field is only the stimuli to trigger the function of that portion of the brain. What the experiment showed was that about 80% of human brains have the innate ability to generate this false sensation.

The theory is that the sensation was an evolutionary defense mechanism to protect us from locking up in a panic when faced with an imminent threat. Probably it evolved as we were developing something beyond perceptual awareness, and thus became increasingly able to identify situations in which an end of being (death) was likely. The feeling of something mystical assuring us that everything would be ok would allow us to continue to act in self-preservation, improving our chance of survival. Since, as mammals, during infancy we get the sense of protection and comfort from our parents, the brain developing the ability to recreate that sense of protection and comfort from outside doesn't seem that far fetched.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You lost me here. The validity of sense perception is axiomatic. To say that our senses "may be in error" is confusing the metaphysical and the man-made. In response to the OP, you most likely cant prove that everyones senses respond to stimuli in the same way, but it doesnt matter. When contemplating the relationship between sensory apparatus, and reality, as long as existence exists independent of consciousness (any consciousness), its the same reality being percieved no matter how the sensory apparatus happens to react to it.

j..

Ugh - semantics.

When I say our senses may be in error I mean the *interpretation* of our senses.

I damaged my thumb a few years ago with a table saw. The nerves in my thumb were frayed, and as the thumb healed, a piece of nerve tissue became trapped in the scar tissue, so there is now a spot on the inside of my thumb at the joint that, when lightly touched, feels as if I'm being tickled *under my thumbnail*, which is a full inch and 180 degrees away from the point of contact.

My senses tell me that the skin is being tickled. My nervous system identifies the sensation as being under the thumbnail. It is not. I must consciously remember that my senses are not accurate when it comes to where I am being touched. The sensation of touch is correct, but the interpretation of the sensation is not.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You lost me here. The validity of sense perception is axiomatic. To say that our senses "may be in error" is confusing the metaphysical and the man-made.

More precisely it is confusing percepts with perceptual judgments -- the latter are conceptual identifications of what is given in perception. Since they're conceptual, they're volitional -- and therefore fallible. But what would it mean for a sense perception (as distinct from a perceptual judgment) to be invalid? It would have to be an awareness of something other than reality. But there isn't anything other than reality. There is nothing else to be an object of awareness.

Typically when people say the senses 'may be in error' they are referring to various illusions like the infamous bent stick in water. It looks bent, but it really isn't, so our senses are in error. But this confuses the percept with the perceptual judgment. The percept is simply an awareness of a stick in water. The judgment is 'that stick looks bent'. The judgment is wrong; the percept isn't.

In response to the OP, you most likely can't prove that everyone's senses respond to stimuli in the same way, but it doesn't matter.

In fact, I can prove that everyone's senses don't respond to stimuli in the same way. Hellen Keller lacked senses -- vision and hearing -- that I have. My visual system can distinguish between red and green; there are other people whose visual systems don't. My visual system is nearsighted and can't distinguish details beyond a certain distance which can be distinguished by my friend whose vision is 20/10. Dogs can hear pitches of sound that human beings cannot; bees can see wavelengths of light that humans cannot. Examples can be multiplied indefinitely. But, as JayR says, none of this matters, because all of these cases are still instances of awareness of reality in some form, and they're all valid. Some are more useful than others -- able to distinguish differences more precisely, or to pick up information in a more useful form -- but they're all equally valid in that they all have reality as their object.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The point is that the brain, on its own, can generate a registered sensation that contradicts our physical senses.

How does your example demonstrate this? The brain is responding to the presence of the magnetic field. So what? The brain, though the optic system, also responds to the presence of light waves. Why is one kind of response privileged over the other? It isn't doing it "on it's own", it's doing it in response to something else in reality. Our senses and nervous systems are physical systems. They exist in reality. That means they are subject to causal interactions beyond those of the standard 'see, hear, touch, smell, taste' variety, and some of those causal interactions will give rise to forms of awareness that may be pretty weird. So what?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When I say our senses may be in error I mean the *interpretation* of our senses.

But this is precisely the distinction that must not be blurred if the nature of sense perception is to be correctly understood. It isn't a matter of 'semantics', it's a matter of proper conceptualization of a complex phenomenon.

My senses tell me that the skin is being tickled. My nervous system identifies the sensation as being under the thumbnail. It is not. I must consciously remember that my senses are not accurate when it comes to where I am being touched. The sensation of touch is correct, but the interpretation of the sensation is not.

This is correct. In my terms, the perception is valid but in an unusual form, and you need to take account of the atypical nature of your perceptual system when forming judgments based on your tactile percepts. I would note the role of your other senses in identifying what is going on here. How do you know that you aren't being touched under the thumbnail? Because you can see that you aren't, and you know that your thumb was injured in the past, and that the injury had an effect on your thumb's tactile sensing capabilities. Perceptual judgments involve an integration of information across sense modalities and with other conceptual knowledge.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How does your example demonstrate this? The brain is responding to the presence of the magnetic field. So what? The brain, though the optic system, also responds to the presence of light waves. Why is one kind of response privileged over the other? It isn't doing it "on it's own", it's doing it in response to something else in reality. Our senses and nervous systems are physical systems. They exist in reality. That means they are subject to causal interactions beyond those of the standard 'see, hear, touch, smell, taste' variety, and some of those causal interactions will give rise to forms of awareness that may be pretty weird. So what?

Well, the magnetic field was only a trigger for the brain's ability to generate the sensation - but I see your point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If someone says: I have seen something that you will never see because, while it's real, it's not available to your sense perception organs, how can you respond?

The senses of human beings necessarily evolved (as with all living organisms) in this world in order to perceive existents that were supportive or obstructive to the survival of the human organism. It is completely illogical to consider that the senses of an organism would evolve in any other manner.

To ensure the survival of the living human organism, humans must have adapted to the facts of reality, just as any other living organism down to the amoeba must have adapted to its surroundings to survive.

If the senses of humans evolved in order to help the human organism to perceive the facts of reality in order to support survival, then it logically follows that the facts of reality provided by the senses must be true. Otherwise, the senses would be providing false data to the human organism that is contrary to the survival of the organism.

Negatively put, why would a sense evolve that provided false data to an organism that was destructive to the organism? This would defy the concept of evolution and would contradict the facts of reality. Organisms that do not conform to the surrounding facts of reality do not have a valid means of survival and will eventually become extinct.

The fact that human beings have not only survived, but have risen above all other life forms on this earth, is certainly proof that the five senses of homo sapiens are valid. We, as human beings, are capable of perceiving that which exists.

It is not the senses (or perceptions) that are in question. It is what the human consciousness does with percepts that is in question. And so, it is not valid to conclude that the senses of one human being perceive existents that are unavailable to another human being.

What actually happens is that the consciousness of one human being evaluates its percepts differently than the consciousness of another human being. This is a feature of the conceptual faculty, not a feature of the senses.

Percepts, by their nature, must truly reflect the facts of reality. Otherwise, an organism has evolved whose senses report false data about the world in which it exists. This would be a contradiction because no such organism could survive if it was forced to react to data that was inimical to its survival.

So, since perceptions evolved in this world are essentially infallible, for one human being to claim that it has perceived facts of reality that are unavailable to another human being would be a contradiction. It would only be valid to claim that the assessment of perceptions by the conceptual faculty was different from one being to another.

Ultimately, it is not perceptions that are in question. Since they evolved in this world to assist an organism to survive in this world, perceptions are necessarily infallible. It is concepts formed from perceptions that are in question.

It is in the realm of concepts that a proper philosophy (a comprehensive view of existence) becomes necessary. It is the philosophy of Objectivism that provides the guidance to correctly assess the data provided by the senses (percepts) in order to support the survival of the species of homo sapiens.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To ensure the survival of the living human organism, humans must have adapted to the facts of reality, just as any other living organism down to the amoeba must have adapted to its surroundings to survive.

If the senses of humans evolved in order to help the human organism to perceive the facts of reality in order to support survival, then it logically follows that the facts of reality provided by the senses must be true. Otherwise, the senses would be providing false data to the human organism that is contrary to the survival of the organism.

The problem with this sort of attempt to validate the senses with scientific evidence (such as arguments from evolutionary biology) is that the various fields of scientific knowledge are themselves built on information provided by human senses. If I ask you how we know that human beings are the product of an evolutionary process, you might (for instance) refer me to some genetic evidence which supports the contention that humans and other animals share a common evolutionary ancestor. If I continue to ask how we know that this scientific evidence is valid, eventually we will get back to the fact that it is based on data from our capabilities of perception. Regarding any scientific evidence (evolutionary biology included) as true requires us to take the validity of our senses as a given, and no such evidence can therefore be used to support the validity of our senses further along the line of reasoning.

In short, evolutionary biology can certainly help us with the question of why our sense organs are structured in the way that they are. It can give us confidence that our sense organs should be oriented towards perceiving those aspects of reality which are most pertinent to our immediate survival. However, it cannot validate the senses without engaging in circular reasoning.

The proper response to questions such as these is to argue that the validity of our senses is axiomatic. It is a given, a starting point upon which all knowledge is built. In fact, a little thought will help us to realize that the mere idea of our senses being fundamentally misleading is nonsensical. What would it mean for our senses to be designed to give us "false" information? Our mechanism of visual perception, for example, takes in light signals and transforms them, through a determinate process, into information for our brain. There is simply no way for our sensory organs to receive anything other than the light signals which are actually out in the world. Now, one person's sight may be able to pick up on a wider range of light than another's, but there is no way for either individual to have some sensory input that didn't come from reality. Where else would it have come from?

Now, this is not to claim that a person can't misinterpret the information which his/her senses are giving him/her (as in an optical illusion, a stick seen through water that appears bent, for example). And it is not to claim that their brain cannot malfunction and provide phantom sensations which do not actually originate from the senses. Nor is it to claim that our senses pick up on absolutely everything out there. Volumes could be written on dealing with the various arguments against the validity of the senses, and I can't possibly set straight every common misinterpretation of what I'm saying in this post. My point is simply that the validity of the senses should be taken as a given, and that objections to this view inevitably focus on the fallibility of other parts of the process, such as perceptual judgment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The problem with this sort of attempt to validate the senses with scientific evidence (such as arguments from evolutionary biology) is that the various fields of scientific knowledge are themselves built on information provided by human senses. If I ask you how we know that human beings are the product of an evolutionary process, you might (for instance) refer me to some genetic evidence which supports the contention that humans and other animals share a common evolutionary ancestor. If I continue to ask how we know that this scientific evidence is valid, eventually we will get back to the fact that it is based on data from our capabilities of perception. Regarding any scientific evidence (evolutionary biology included) as true requires us to take the validity of our senses as a given, and no such evidence can therefore be used to support the validity of our senses further along the line of reasoning.

In short, evolutionary biology can certainly help us with the question of why our sense organs are structured in the way that they are. It can give us confidence that our sense organs should be oriented towards perceiving those aspects of reality which are most pertinent to our immediate survival. However, it cannot validate the senses without engaging in circular reasoning.

The proper response to questions such as these is to argue that the validity of our senses is axiomatic. It is a given, a starting point upon which all knowledge is built. In fact, a little thought will help us to realize that the mere idea of our senses being fundamentally misleading is nonsensical. What would it mean for our senses to be designed to give us "false" information? Our mechanism of visual perception, for example, takes in light signals and transforms them, through a determinate process, into information for our brain. There is simply no way for our sensory organs to receive anything other than the light signals which are actually out in the world. Now, one person's sight may be able to pick up on a wider range of light than another's, but there is no way for either individual to have some sensory input that didn't come from reality. Where else would it have come from?

Now, this is not to claim that a person can't misinterpret the information which his/her senses are giving him/her (as in an optical illusion, a stick seen through water that appears bent, for example). And it is not to claim that their brain cannot malfunction and provide phantom sensations which do not actually originate from the senses. Nor is it to claim that our senses pick up on absolutely everything out there. Volumes could be written on dealing with the various arguments against the validity of the senses, and I can't possibly set straight every common misinterpretation of what I'm saying in this post. My point is simply that the validity of the senses should be taken as a given, and that objections to this view inevitably focus on the fallibility of other parts of the process, such as perceptual judgment.

Good post, Dante.

However, I must add that my entire post was intended to establish the very fact that the senses are axiomatic, without making the actual statement. This was purposely done to answer the original post while maintaining the level of knowledge of philosophy demonstrated by the original poster.

I could have reduced the entire post to the following:

The senses are axiomatic and, as such, require no validation. It is concepts formed from axiomatic percepts that are the products of individual consciousness and therefore subject to analysis; and then let the original poster figure out what that meant.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If I'm blind, and you come to me and say you possess a sense mode -- vision -- that I don't, why should I believe you? You can present lots of evidence in terms I can understand that vision exists. I can touch the sense organ from which vision arises. I can grasp the concept of ambient energy in the environment as similar to sound waves and heat, and vision can be explained as a response to a form of that ambient energy. You can use your vision to identify objects too far away to touch, describe them and I can validate some of their characteristics like shape using my own senses. That provides a solid basis for my accepting that vision is real, even though I don't have it myself.

H. G. Wells's "Country of the Blind" addressed this via a fictional presentation. The hero did eventually convince (some) people that he had a sense they did not -- though it was hard; some were never convinced -- but the only consequence was that they offered to remove the growths that were causing him so much unhappiness. He got out just in time. We say that in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king, but this story validated the claim that in the land of the blind, the sighted person is considered insane.

We might wonder if we "sense" the validity of Objectivism and call that "logic" even though all the logical arguments in the world do not convince others who cannot "sense" what we do.

Mike M.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...