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Someone once said that it is impossible to say how we live in an objective reality because our perception of reality isn't perfect. People who are color blind, for example, will never be able to know what many colors inhabit the world. Some people are blind entirely. How do I counter this argument?

asked Feb 20 '13 at 20:41

Collin1's gravatar image


Color blindness (and even total blindness) is the inability to be aware of the world visually. Note, "visually" is an adverb. Adverbs are about the how of things.

Colors as such are aspects of our visual awareness of physical things. Colors tell us about physical aspects of things, specifically what frequencies of electromagnetic radiation get absorbed or reflected by a thing.

There is no question that sight is extremely valuable in giving us data from which to gain knowledge of the physical make-up of things, but sight is not essential to gaining such an understanding.

When a man is blind, its a way of being aware that he doesn't have. But this doesn't mean that he can't be aware of all of the same facts in a different way. Just his experience of those facts won't be so rich or fast. For instance, it would take him decades of training and practice and technology to know the beauty of the Mona Lisa. Yes, it probably wouldn't be worth it to him. But in principle, he could know the beauty of the Mona Lisa, even as a blind man.

Similarly people who are deaf cannot hear sound, but they can be aware of physical vibration in a different way, given special equipment such as devices which light up when exposed to loud sound.

Only a dead man -- a man with no sensory input at all, is cut off from the world. Everyone else is fully able to use their sensory input to form a growing and correct understanding of the world.

Man doesn't have to have the hearing of a bat to know that ultrasonic frequencies exist, and he can build devices that make the existence and the nature of those high frequencies available to his analysis.

We don't call men "frequency deaf" just because they don't hear like bats. We should not question human awareness just because no form of perception is complete. We perceive what we perceive, and we work with that to learn about the world. And this is enough for us to know the world, because our perception only limits how we know the world, not the extent to which we know the world.

answered Feb 21 '13 at 10:51

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦

This question very succinctly hits a major issue that has utterly tormented modern philosophy ever since Critique of Pure Reason was published more than two centuries ago. To this day, modern thinkers have been unable to shake this argument -- until Ayn Rand came on the intellectual scene. An overview of Ayn Rand's answer can be found in The Ayn Rand Lexicon under the topics of "Kant, Immanuel" and "Perception." And once the answer is understood in regard to perception, those who are captivated by Kant's argument will undoubtedly ask what the answer is in regard to concepts. It was really concepts that were the primary focus of Kant's original claims. I don't think it will be possible to give a fully satisfactory answer to Kant's argument and its myriad variations without thorough study of Ayn Rand's view of sense-perception and especially concepts. She reconceptualizes what "objectivity" is, too, in contrast to an "intrinsic" view of concepts. Refer to the topic of "Objectivity" in the Lexicon. Further discussion of intrinsicism can be found in OPAR (check the index).

In regard to perception, one point that Objectivism rejects is the view that perception gives man knowledge, transparently and automatically, like light beams imprinting themselves photographically on man's consciousness without any "processing" by his consciousness. Objectivism also points out that attacks on the senses commit the fallacy of the "Stolen Concept," which is mentioned in the topic of "Perception" and explained further in the topic of "'Stolen Concept,' Fallacy of," in the Lexicon.

It will probably be necessary to proceed in two distinct phases to have any serious hope of unseating Kant's central epistemological ideas. First, one will need to study the issue in some depth oneself, including careful study of Ayn Rand's writings on epistemology and her theory of concepts. Then, only after doing that, one may be able to achieve some degree of success in one-to-one persuasion of others.

Regarding examples like color blind people, why limit the objection to people? Many animals have far keener sensory-perceptual capabilities than man. Does that mean animals are more "objective" than man?

It might, perhaps be helpful in regard to sense-perception, to start with the fact that perception gives man evidence that existence exists, that existents have specific attributes, and that man is conscious of that which exists. Identifying specifically what exists requires further processing by man's consciousness. Man can err in his cognitive processing, but he can also discover his errors and correct them, over time and with further observation and thinking. Note, however, that man can't go very far cognitively without resorting to concepts. One will not be able to convince a long-standing doubter without a foundation in the validity of concepts as well as the validity of the sensory-perceptual base from which concepts are formed and integrated.

answered Feb 21 '13 at 02:13

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

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Asked: Feb 20 '13 at 20:41

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Last updated: Feb 21 '13 at 10:51