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American Perception Of Reality

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Hi...

I hate to "use people," but I'm doing some research on what Americans percieve as reality, and how it differs from other nationalities and philosophies.

Any thoughts are appreciated.

Oh, if you could please specify your nationality, religion and possibly a short description of your worldview (most likely just objectivist).

Thank you soooo much.

xKylex

P.S. A member recently tried to tell me this was polylogism, but its not. I am not denying that there is only one reality, I am simply saying that different cultures have different perceptions of the one reality. You can't deny the existence subjective opinions. Thus, when you have a group of these subjective opinions that coincide you have what I call a subjective "truth." You can't deny this, having different world religions prove it. What I was curious to see if you could help me with was, how do Americans PERCIEVE Reality?

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P.S. A member recently tried to tell me this was polylogism, but its not. I am not denying that there is only one reality, I am simply saying that different cultures have different perceptions of the one reality. You can't deny the existence subjective opinions. Thus, when you have a group of these subjective opinions that coincide you have what I call a subjective "truth." You can't deny this, having different world religions prove it. What I was curious to see if you could help me with was, how do Americans PERCIEVE Reality?

I'm the member you speak of. Apparently, you don't know the meaning of "polylogism." It is the doctrine that standards of reason are not independent of person and place. It means that men of different backgrounds do not share a common logic to comprehend reality. As Dr. Leonard Peikoff explains, "On the polylogist view, there is no common or universal logic to serve as the objective standard and arbiter when men disagree. There is no way for members of opposing groups, with opposing views, to resolve their disputes; it is useless to appeal to facts or to evidence for this purpose, since the minds which engage in the process of reasoning obey different rules of thinking." ("Nazism And Subjectivism," The Objectivist, February 1971)

As for the religions of the world, they offer no proof that "that different cultures have different perceptions of the one reality." Roman Catholics in Poland and in Peru have radically different cultures yet share the same religious views.

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xKylex, I don't think you are using the word "perceive" correctly. Perception is an automatic process by the mind to process sensory information. As such, all human beings that share the same sense data will "perceive" reality in the same way. The difference between the analysis they make of that comes from the *ideas*, i.e. the philosophy, that men hold. Muslim protesters do not view Danish cartoonists with murderous rage because they "perceive the world differently", they do so because they hold a set of conscious beliefs that rejects individual rights and holds an imaginary God as the arbiter of men's actions. Similalrly, Americans do not "perceive the world differently" than anyone else. We simply generally hold different philosophical premises (a different culture) than other nations - even this is tenuous, since many Americans hold a vast array of differing beliefs.

If you mean something else by "perception of reality", please define your terms.

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xKylex, I don't think you are using the word "perceive" correctly. Perception is an automatic process by the mind to process sensory information. As such, all human beings that share the same sense data will "perceive" reality in the same way.

Not quite - perception has been shown to be influenced by background assumptions; for instance, a famous experiment involved showing subjects a brief (< 1/2 second) picture of various playing cards and asking them to name what they saw. In order to make things interesting, a 'fake' card was included in the deck, with circles instead of hearts. The vast majority of test subjects didnt realise that anything was amiss, and described the circle card as showing hearts, since that was what they were expecting to see. Later, they were told that one of the cards was fake, and the experiment was repeated. Since they knew what they were looking for, most of the subjects now correctly described the fake card.

Another example would be the perception of optical illusions which can be seen in more than one way, for instance the 2 faces which can be seen as a vase, or the old/young woman picture. Different people can perceive these as being completely different things, and not realise that there is another possible way of seeing the picture until it is explictly pointed out to them.

I remember reading somewhere about a more dramatic experiment where someone 'stabbed' another person with a banana in front of a large group of people, and the 'stabbed' person collapsed to the ground and simulated pain. In a later interview, a lot of the witnesses claimed that they had seen a knife in the assailants hand instead of a yellow banana. To some degree, what you perceive is a function of what you expect to perceive in a given context (compare to repeatedly 'seeing' the face of a person you are expecting to meet in a crowd of people when they are late and you are looking for them).

I'm not sure if this is the sort of thing which the original poster means though.

Edited by Hal
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As such, all human beings that share the same sense data will "perceive" reality in the same way.
This is partially right, and largely wrong. The idea of people sharing sense data doesn't make any sense: even though I have some idea what you feel when you burn your finger, I can't feel your pain (share your sense data), not can we have shared experiences of seeing. We can look at the same object under the same lighting conditions, but what I see will be substantially different from what you see, because of my color-blindness (assuming you don't enjoy the same affliction).

Not only can you not retain sensations in your mind, you can't retain percepts without relating them to concepts -- conceptualization is how the mind retains information. Since concepts can vary considerably across cultures, correspondingly "perception" varies. Examples of that would be colors, and the ability to perceive sounds (language sounds or musical sounds). We know that it takes a considerable amount of time and focus to fully integrate the voltage coming up the optic nerve, so for instance if you give the subjects in Hal's card experiment 10 seconds to contemplate each picture, I bet they get it right all the time. When you don't have enough "data", you interpolate the answer based on your conceptual knowledge, such as your knowledge of the possible card suits, or your knowledge of the consonants and vowels of a language.

However, a propos the initial question, the notion of "perceiving reality" in a generic sense would be meaningless, in a literal sense. He must be asking "What is The American Philosophy", to be contrasted with The German Philosophy.

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Since concepts can vary considerably across cultures, correspondingly "perception" varies.

While it is true that we literally do not share sense data, our senses all function the same way. So it would be more accurate to say that what varies is our interpretation of our perceptions, not perception itself.

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While it is true that we literally do not share sense data, our senses all function the same way. So it would be more accurate to say that what varies is our interpretation of our perceptions, not perception itself.
I'm not sure what you mean by "in the same way". If you mean "according to the individual's nature", then I can't argue with that. My color-blindness is not a question of "interpretation", it is an activation problem regarding an insufficiency of a certain pigment in my cones. There are similar things about dead hairs in my cochlea that mean that I don't hear things the same way you do. Generally is it true that you see colors and smell smells, not the other way around, so in that sense the senses function the same (though given the existence of synesthetes, that's not strictly true). The basic question for the psychology of sensation and perception is, how many significant layers do we have to assume? For example, if you pick up an apple and look at it, is that a matter of interpretation of your perception, or do you simply directly perceive the apple? I don't see the need to distinguish between sense data, perceptual data, and conceptualised information (that is, the knowledge "this is an apple", in a self-evident case).
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While it is true that we literally do not share sense data, our senses all function the same way. So it would be more accurate to say that what varies is our interpretation of our perceptions, not perception itself.

I dont think this is accurate, I think its misleading. The word 'interpretation' normally implies something which we do to the information given in perception - for instance, I interpret a book I'm reading, or a fight which I witness in a bar. However, this is not what happens in the case of perception- the processing of the sensory data is performed prior to my becoming aware/conscious of it. I do not first see a pattern of black and white marks on a bit of paper and then 'interpret' is as being an old/young woman - I just see the old/young woman. The people in the experiment I mentioned above didnt first see a mark on the card which they then interpreted as a heart - they just saw a heart. When youre talking about what goes on prior to consciousness, the term 'interpretation' is misleading. Interpretation is what we do after we become conscious of something.

Edited by Hal
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I don't see the need to distinguish between sense data, perceptual data, and conceptualised information (that is, the knowledge "this is an apple", in a self-evident case).
It is necessary to distinguish between the three to defend the validity of our senses and the validity of axioms, which Objectivism holds to be "perceptually self-evident".
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The people in the experiment I mentioned above didnt first see a mark on the card which they then interpreted as a heart - they just saw a heart. When youre talking about what goes on prior to consciousness, the term 'interpretation' is misleading. Interpretation is what we do after we become conscious of something.
In the first place, perception is not "prior to consciousness". And reporting on what one perceives is also not prior to consciousness. So interpretation is certainly a possibility.

The alternative is to believe that the process by which our brain integrates sensory data into percepts changes depending on one's knowledge. I do not believe that to be the case, because that process is automated and not accessible by our consciousness. How, then, can the content of our consciousness change it?

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In the first place, perception is not "prior to consciousness".
Yes, it is. I do not see raw sensory data (disjoint patches of colour in my visual field) - I see actual objects. This processing of sensory data must be done prior to consciousness. People dont see green patch with bits of brown underneath then interpret this as being a tree - the tree is given to consciousness as an object.

What exactly do you mean by 'perception'? I think I recall AR defining it as an integration of raw sensory data (ITOE, first few pages), and if this is the case, it is definitely preconscious.

The alternative is to believe that the process by which our brain integrates sensory data into percepts changes depending on one's knowledge. I do not believe that to be the case, because that process is automated and not accessible by our consciousness. How, then, can the content of our consciousness change it?

The fact something is automated doesnt mean that it cant be affected by knowledge. Our knowledge must be represented in our brain somehow, which implies that every new thing we learn changes our physical structure. Hence its not absurd to suppose that conscious knowledge can affect nonconscious processing. To take a semi-related example, your body's recovery from disease is 'automated', yet it can still be affected by your conscious attitudes, which is how faith healing and the placebo effect work. Theres not always a rigid boundary between mind and body.

Edited by Hal
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Yes, it is. I do not see raw sensory data (disjoint patches of colour in my visual field) - I see actual objects. This processing of sensory data must be done prior to consciousness. People dont see green patch with bits of brown underneath then interpret this as being a tree - the tree is given to consciousness as an object.

What exactly do you mean by 'perception'? I think I recall AR defining it as an integration of raw sensory data (ITOE, first few pages), and if this is the case, it is definitely preconscious.

Here is Miss Rand's definition of perception: "A perception is a group of sensations automatically retained and integrated by the brain of a living organism, which gives it the ability to be aware, not of single stimuli, but of entities, of things." (Lexicon, page 355)

I agree that we are not conscious of sensations as such; our brain automatically integrates them and gives us percepts. The issue is whether or not this process of integrating sensations into percepts is affected by our knowledge or our expectations. I hold that it is not. No matter how much I learn and no matter what I expect to see when I open my eyes, when I look at a table, I still see a table.

I can imagine that background assumptions might affect one's level of concentration and lead one to overlook the one card that is different in a deck; but I cannot imagine that the process of integrating sensations into percepts is actually changed by our knowledge or expectations.

I cannot comment on faith healing except to say that I do not believe it occurs. I'm sure there are countless reports of it occuring, but as far as I know no such claim has withstood serious scrutiny.

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hmm... Yes this is all very fascinating. I'm learning quite a bit about the definitions of perception and how my mind integrates data, but I've still seen nothing that answers the origional question. Though poorly worded for the more literal minded people on the forum, I think that most can understand what kind of information the guest was looking for. What is the dominant philosophy of Americans? I dont know. Ayn Rand suggests it is altruism.

For kyle:

I am 19 years old, white, male, LDS and a student of Objectivism. I live in Boise, Idaho U.S. of A. I am a capitalist. Thats really all the information I can give you, as I have not a clue as to the philosophy common of my countrymen. Good luck in your search for information.

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It is necessary to distinguish between the three to defend the validity of our senses and the validity of axioms, which Objectivism holds to be "perceptually self-evident".
I haven't seen that proof; can you give me a reference or sketch the argument?

In connection with a later point you made about sense data and Rand's definition of perception, the important thing to note is that she does not mention "sense data" in the quote or elsewhere except in one (disapproving) place on p. 50. I'm skeptical about her accepting the validity of the concept, since "sense data" is a hallmark of Cartesian representationalism, but perhaps you or someone has a relevant quote. The transduction from sensation to the cognitive realm yields percepts. As I understand both her theory and the nature of cognition, sensation cause percepts in the mind, which then have some degree of permanency (often quite low). The problem is that cognitive science uses "perception" to refer to a process (and not a product) which is much more general and higher-order than what is implied in Rand's quote. I was not aware of that quote, so my understanding of her theory of perception and concepts is limited to ITOE. Time for an upgrade, I suppose.

Anyhow, if you limit "perception" to the process of automatically creating universal percepts given sensations, there is still a wide range of automatic processes that depend on concepts (anything that involves categorization). What do you call that process? For instance, identifying an apple, grasping the fact that the paper is blue.

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The people in the experiment I mentioned above didnt first see a mark on the card which they then interpreted as a heart - they just saw a heart.

No, they REMEMBERED a heart, which is not the same thing.

This is evident in more than just psychology experiments, and it's one of the reasons why eyewitnesses are considered notoriously unreliable in court. There's a heck of a lot that goes on between seeing something, embedding it in your memory, and then calling it back up, so much that any little thing can scramble the signal.

In a pertinent experiment, numerous people were shown a video of two cars running into each other. When the lawyer changed the wording of his question from "about how fast were the cars going when they ran into each other?" to "about how fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?" and asked a follow-up question "was there any broken glass?" something like 30-40% more people said there was broken glass when asked the second question.

I myself have experienced this when I've lost my keys (which I do often, since I'm absent-minded), because memories don't come with a calendar. So I remember putting my keys somewhere, but that may not actually be the place that I put them the most recently. Usually I can't just rely on my memory to throw up the most recent happening as the most vivid one, so I end up having to do this logic workdown "Okay, I KNOW I had them when I came in the door, and I put my coat over HERE, and then I put my shoes over HERE, and then I went and got a popsicle out of the FRIDGE . . . maybe I left them in the kitchen . . ." until I find them.

It is VERY important to distinguish what someone actually perceives from what they remember perceiving.

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I haven't seen that proof; can you give me a reference or sketch the argument?
I was puzzled by this question so I went back to what you said earlier and found that I had ignored part of it. You said:

"I don't see the need to distinguish between sense data, perceptual data, and conceptualised information (that is, the knowledge "this is an apple", in a self-evident case)."

I ignored the part in parenthesis. Perhaps with that you are specifying a certain context in which it is not necessary to distinguish between sensation, perception and conception. Is that the case? Are you saying that one can make a self-evident observation such as “this is an apple” without distinguishing the various mental processes involved? If so, I agree.

However, in the broader context of epistemology, if one wishes to claim that Objectivism’s axioms are perceptually self-evident, we obviously have to distinguish perception from conception. At the conceptual level, nothing is self-evident; everything conceptual must be validated by being tied to what we can directly perceive.

And to uphold the validity of perception, one must uphold the validity of sensation. One must be able to demonstrate the stolen concept fallacy inherent in claiming that sensation is unreliable – and to do that we must refer to sensation separate from both perception and conception.

Anyhow, if you limit "perception" to the process of automatically creating universal percepts given sensations, there is still a wide range of automatic processes that depend on concepts (anything that involves categorization). What do you call that process? For instance, identifying an apple, grasping the fact that the paper is blue.
My understanding is that perception simply tells you that an entity or an attribute exists. Learning to identify it as an apple or the color blue means learning the concepts represented by those words, which would be a process of concept formation. Once the concept is learned, we program the subconscious to automate the process of recalling its meaning each time we perceive another entity or attribute.

"All learning involves a process of automatizing, i.e. of first acquiring knowledge by fully conscious, focused attention and observation, then of establishing mental connections which make that knowledge automatic (instantly available as a context), thus freeing man's mind to pursue further, more complex knowledge." (From the Lexicon entry on the Subconscious, page 483)

So I would say that the process of seeing the object is perception and the process of identifying it as an apple is part of cognition. I say "part of cognition" because the other part is the volitional act of choosing to focus on the perceived object and invoke its identity; once that choice is made, our subconscious automatically gives us the meaning of the concept (provided we learned it).

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Ok, since most of you seem to be fundamentalists (ones who interpret things literally, just to avoid misunderstanding) . . .

Unfortunately a lot of nuances are lost in online communications, so strict interpretations are necessary to avoid confusion. Now that we have that sorted out . . .

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I ignored the part in parenthesis. Perhaps with that you are specifying a certain context in which it is not necessary to distinguish between sensation, perception and conception. Is that the case? Are you saying that one can make a self-evident observation such as "this is an apple" without distinguishing the various mental processes involved? If so, I agree.
To make clear what I'm trying to avoid, lemme explain this in terms of a way that some people think of perception (in a broad sense), namely "perception is a kind of inference" ( :) , as you might imagine). You have an apple in your hand, you look at it, it's plain daylight -- something happens in the brain and you infer that this is an apple. This I consider to be a wrong use of the concept "inference": you see the apple and you know that there is an apple in your hand, you don't infer that you see an apple. We can put this in contrast to seeing a man's shadow walking past your window, and inferring that there is a man there based on the shadow -- that is a proper inference, because your knowledge of the man walking by is not based on perception of the man himself. To take a classical example, the inference that Neptune exists was a classical inference (later validated by observation). When we are talking about truly inferential conclusions, then we do need a further layer of things, so I'm leaving out non-observed, inferred knowledge.
However, in the broader context of epistemology, if one wishes to claim that Objectivism's axioms are perceptually self-evident, we obviously have to distinguish perception from conception. At the conceptual level, nothing is self-evident; everything conceptual must be validated by being tied to what we can directly perceive.
Agreed: on the basis of one (type of) thing in our mind, we form other things. We form concepts based on percepts. But you threw in a word that confused me -- directly. What would if mean to indirectly perceive something? Or does that just mean "of what we can perceive (and perception is necessarily direct)". If not, then that sounds like the inference theory of perception (no, pleas, not that!)
And to uphold the validity of perception, one must uphold the validity of sensation. One must be able to demonstrate the stolen concept fallacy inherent in claiming that sensation is unreliable – and to do that we must refer to sensation separate from both perception and conception.
Here is where I don't agree. I don't see why showing the validity of sensation is required, independent of the validity of perception. It would suffice to show that perception is valid, and cut out the middle-man of sensation. A percept arises because there's a noise out there, the sound wave hits my ear, and through a non-random causal chain that motion is transduced to my brain where I get a percept. I think we're dealing with a terminological problem: we have sense-organs that are connected to the brain, and getting that external stuff to the mind where we can be aware of it is the process of "sensation" -- but some people call it "perception". What do we call that stuff, when it gets into the mind? A percept -- it could be called "sense data". What you term cognition is often called "perception" (especially contemporarily).
My understanding is that perception simply tells you that an entity or an attribute exists. Learning to identify it as an apple or the color blue means learning the concepts represented by those words, which would be a process of concept formation. Once the concept is learned, we program the subconscious to automate the process of recalling its meaning each time we perceive another entity or attribute.
If perception did only tell us "an existent exists", and nothing more, then we could never tell identify anything -- we'd just have a stream of useless information "Something's there; something's there; something's there". Perception has to include some information about what it is (basically, all information that we need to make an identification).
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David,

I get what you're saying, but it's not exactly what I'm talking about. While reality is partially tangible (i.e apples and shadows) it is largely intangible (i.e. emotion,thought). You're absolutely right in saying I can't infer that there is an apple in my hand, but intangible goes infinitely deeper. In fact emotion can be as deep or shallow as I choose it to be. With enough effort I can put a check on the emotion, and feel nothing if I wish. But this works both ways. I can go as deep into emotion as I wish, there is no bottom line. Thus, I am able to infer as much as I want to. With each inference I delve deeper and deeper into that facet of intangible reality.

Now when discussing the intangible part of reality internal and external variables come into play.Furthermore, the internal can be greatly manipulated by the external. Now, where I get my borderline polylogistic point (I still hold it is not polylogistic, but I can understand the inference) is that the external is controlled basically by institutions of authority. Lacan points out in his contribution to the Psychoanalytic theory that any "Master" (in my case American authority (e.g. the government or the media) is intrested in sustaining their power and and reasons for it. Thus, they will do anything in there power to justify it. Politicians and journalists will use a very powerful tool to achieve this, propaganda. Propaganda works because people try to define Reality (the intangible part) with words (which are inherently tangible). This obviously falls short and we are left with a gap. As Michel Foucault points out, "We do not like not knowing, so we pretend that we do." Lacan calls this a fantasy.

Ok, we have the fantasy, and we have the authority, and most importantly the reality. The reality, as we all know is a constant that in some facets is infinitely deep, which is why we create fantasy. Now since the authorities in different cultures differ (no two people are alike thus no two institutions are alike) the means of creating a fantasy in which a particular culture is submerged is different, even if that difference is very small.Thus, there should be a trend in the cultural view of reality (which is actully a fantasy) because the fantasies will differ.

As a realist, I know that unfortunately we are stuck with this. No person can make an impact on anyone but themselves. But, I can present the information, and hopefully people will accept it. Ultimately what I am trying to prove is: we need to accept Reality as it is,even if that requires blind acceptance without understanding (which I know is technically faith and against the objectivist ideaology... but I feel it is justified because the objective authority would understand reality and everyone would accept it instead of living in subjectivism) because the true reality, even when painful, is better than a happy fantasy.

Ok revised request:

I would like to know how the American fantasy differs from reality. Any insights, again are much appreciated.

Thanks, xKylex

P.S. Thank you all for the crash course in objectivism. If nothing else, I have gained some insight into a philosophy, that is not necessarily mine, but I would love to learn more about and maybe one day even believe in.Thanks.

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Also, David, what about how you see the apple.I see the apple but it may appear red to me and green to you , because what i see as red, you may see as green, we have just been trained to see it the same way. Confusing Iknow, but like dyslexics, they see a "p" as a "q" but that doesn't change the fact that it is a "p" and with training they can recognize the fantasy "q" as the reality "p" and successfully communicate.I don't know, just a thought.

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Ok, since most of you seem to be fundamentalists (ones who interpret things literally, just to avoid misunderstanding) here, I will re-word:

American INTERPRETATION of reality OR their worldview/philosophy...

Are there certain specific areas on which you'd like people to focus? I dont have the time nor the energy to transcribe my world view and frankly, I doubt you have the time and energy to read it. However, if you must have something, I'll give you the short but sweet version: reality, reason, rights. :)
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