Doesn't each person's mind distort reality such that no one is really capable of perceiving it as it truly is?
Since every individual's mind perceives and processes information differently, how can there be an objective perception of reality?
How do we know if the reality that we perceive is, in fact, what it is independent of our consciousness?
When we see something, there is a plethora of integrating functions conducted by our minds. This information processing can essentially distort whatever we are seeing. For example, people growing up in an environment with lots of straight lines, such as modern cities, are more likely to be deceived by linear optical illusions than are people from villages.
Growing up in different environments does affect perceptual ability: A study by MIT validates this point on optical illusions
Here is a quote from that study:
I think the key to understanding this issue is addressed in the conclusion of the paper you cited:
"The findings we have reported, and the findings of others we have reviewed, point to the conclusion that to a substantial extent we learn to perceive; that in spite of the phenomenally, absolute character of our perceptions, they are determined by perceptual inference habits; and that various inference habits are differentially likely in different societies. For all mankind the basic process of perception is the same; only the contents differ and these differ only because they reflect different perceptual inference habits."
The key points being that 1) our perceptions are phenomenally absolute, and 2) we have various inference habits that are determined by what type of environment we grow up in.
Some clarification is still needed though to prevent confusion:
That our perceptions are phenomenally absolute does not mean that everyone perceives the same object in the same way. A color blind person (dichromatic) will obviously not see what a color normal person (trichromat) would and both would not see as many colors as some types of birds (tetrachromat). This should not be taken to mean that these different physiological types of seeing amount to seeing different things. As long as the source of the perception is in the external world and not a hallucination we have access to data about the world and can form concepts from that data. The paper, though, is not claiming that people are perceiving the optical illusion differently as would be the case with color blindness. Instead it is saying that people habitually draw different conclusions from the same absolute perception based on the type of environment in which they live.
answered Oct 23 '12 at 10:57
Ben Mills ♦
This question (omitting the excerpt from an MIT study) reads as if it was taken straight out of a college philosophy textbook on the ideas of Immanuel Kant. For a detailed introduction to the Objectivist view of Kant's ideas, a good place to begin is with The Ayn Rand Lexicon under the topic of "Kant, Immanuel." Objectivism blasts his ideas thoroughly in every branch of philosophy.
One of Kant's ideas is that perception cannot provide knowledge of "reality as it truly is" because perception always involves cognitive processing, which may differ in some ways from one person to another. But sense-perception only provides raw data about existence, not a ready-made direct image of it. Sense-perception also involves an on-going series of perceptions, not just a single isolated one-time "snapshot," and data from multiple sensory modalities is frequently combined into the perceiver's overall perceptions. All of this perceptual data allows animals to apprehend existence well enough to meet their own survival needs in the habitats for which they are adapted, and provides ample material for man's conceptual faculty to integrate further into conceptual knowledge of reality.
Many of the comments so far have indicated, in effect, that it is not necessary to appeal to neuro-physiological science to prove that perception involves cognitive processing. Of course it involves procesing, obviously so. One comment mentions blind people. There are also color-blind people who are not totally blind; deaf people; hearing people who are "tone deaf" (and others who have "perfect pitch"); and so on. And then there are the perceptual capacities of other animals to consider, too, such as the far keener senses of smell and hearing in so many animals, compared to man; keener eyesight in some animals (such as birds of prey); sonar in some sea animals and bats; apparent ability of some migratory birds to sense the Earth's magnetic field; and so on. But the essential issue is not whether or not perception involves cognitive processing, but whether or not that processing "distorts" one's awareness of reality in a way that makes knowledge of reality impossible, reducing to subjective preference and impulse. That was Kant's "contribution" to philosophy (along with collective consciousness as the ultimate "creator" of "reality as it appears"), and that is a premise that Objectivism sharply challenges. Objectivism denies that cognition has to be a passive reflection or snapshot in order to provide objective evidence of reality. In addition to the Lexicon topic on Kant, refer also to the Lexicon topic of "Perception."
answered Oct 04 '12 at 00:52
Ideas for Life ♦