When Can We Trust Our Senses To Give Us Truth?

1249 words - 5 pages

Since humans evolved, we’ve relied on our senses to guide us and help us survive, for without them, we’d have gone extinct a long time ago. Our sight lets us view the world around, allowing us not only to spot danger, but also to explore, and discover new places and objects, whilst our hearing allows us, for example, to survey our surrounding more efficiently. We’ve always needed our senses to survive, so much so that the idea of them being untrustworthy is a worrying thought, but is it possible for this to happen, and can our senses be deceived?

The first issue is what actually is truth? There are many things that we perceive to be true, depending on perspective or our beliefs, which differ from one person to the next, known as subjective truth. For example, when facing another person, with two objects in the middle, like in the diagram shown, for person A, the truth is that the red object is on the left, but for person B this is false, as it’s on the right from their point of view. On the other hand, there truths which are true no matter your perspective. For example, if person A instead said that the red object was west of the blue box, this would be true no matter where someone was viewing them from. Another example of this is 1+1=2 (written in base 10), as this will always be true, no matter your perspective, or learning.

Another issue to determine is the type of truth that’s being looked at. It’s not physically possible for our senses to give us all the truth about something our senses tell us. For example when looking at a painting, a watercolour of a field perhaps, we can see the colours and shapes of the landscape, but how much truth can we really discover from the painting? We can see the way the artist interpreted the landscape and committed it to canvas, but what truths are left undiscovered when discovering truth through our senses alone? For example, just by seeing the painting, we don’t know the name of the painting unless it’s labelled, the location of the landscape scene, or even if it exists or not. The time it was painted could perhaps be determined, through a combination of sight and previous knowledge, but an accurate date is unobtainable through senses alone. In this case our mind is aware it’s lacking information, and if more is needed we can search for it, so our mind isn’t being deceived, as such. However, because it’s not possible for our senses to provide a complete truth, it’d therefore be better to search for if it’s possible for our senses to deceive us or mislead us.

Delving into this deeper, how can we define something as an optical illusion as “true” or not? For example, a rainbow is considered to be real, and people don’t question their existence, but they’re just optical illusions caused by the refraction of light through water droplets in the air, and don’t exist in a specific location in the sky at all, instead, it depends on the viewers location combined with the position of the sun in the...

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