Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Is Sense Experience Really Objective?

A table is a table. A chair is a chair. A banana is yellow and a pear is green. Or is everything completely jumbled up? Does someone else see a banana like a table and a chair like a pear? Do we hear what we want to hear and see only what we already know? 

There is a difference between experiencing the world as we know it and understanding the world objectively. It is an interesting idea that we can only observe our surroundings through the filter of our senses such as smell, color perception and touch. Everything that you or I have smelled, seen and touched has been filtered through hundreds of thousands of cognitive processes in the brain. Therefore, the subjective experience of the world around us is unique to each person. 

When you really think about it, do you see the same color as your friend? The subjective appreciation of the color red for example may vary from person to person. But how could you possibly know? The only way would be to somehow observe the universe through the conscious lens of another person. Unfortunately technology is not yet, if ever, advanced enough to project the sense experience of one person into the mind of another. 

In other words, the world we experience can only be sensed through the brain, and therefore can only be interpreted subjectively. Perhaps then the world does not exist at all, but only exists on an imaginary plane in the mind. But since the universe appears to be coherent and intelligent beyond ourselves, can we just assume that it is impossible to learn of the true objective quality of the universe?

This question of an ideal to strive to learn links to Plato's world of the forms. Plato suggested that there were two planes of existence. The first is the Material world wherein sensory perception and material forms exist, and the second is the Noumenal world, wherein abstract ideas such as love and hatred as well as the perfect ideals of material forms exist. Plato said that there is a journey that one must walk, learning the forms of mathematics, justice and beauty, to finally learn the form of the Good, that which he said was the most true ideal. 

This leads one to wonder if these ideas are somehow linked; if we can learn the objectivity of maths and scope beyond our subjective reasoning to find the ideal forms of justice and true beauty, then perhaps then the form of the good and the true objective quality of the universe become one. 

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