“We See and Understand Things Not as They Are but as We Are.” Discuss This Claim in Relation to Perception and Language.

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November 24th, 2012
TOK Essay
“We see and understand things not as they are but as we are.” Discuss this claim in relation to perception and language.

When one uses the word “things”, is it only in relation to physical objects or could it also encompass the theories and ideas of others? In this essay I plan to discuss how we use or perception and language to show that we “see” things as we are and not as they are.

For those of us that are fortunate, we are able to use our five main senses to perceive the world around us. Our hearing, sensitivity, smell, vision and taste are all senses that we take for granted. When processing and understanding objects we primarily use our vision to first determine what it is based on our prior knowledge. If the object is harmful then we will not pick it up or touch it. Somebody with damage to their nerve endings in their fingers can cause great harm to themselves if they pick up a hot object. Take for example a person in a kitchen. If he does not have any prior knowledge about how hot a kettle can be when boiling water, he may pick it up and severely burn his skin. Normally his sense of touch will act as a fail-safe system and warn him about the hot object once he touches it, however he has damage to his nerves so he will not know. Others may look at this example and say that the man was unintelligent in doing so because everybody should know about picking up a hot kettle. In this example we can see that humans also make assumptions about the other knowledge of people. They think that everybody understands the world the same way they do. This can be a crucial mistake in schools because teachers may be unaware of a child’s cognitive problems.

When reading most people understand the words in front of them in a similar context as everybody else, however there are some people with however they perceive it differently. A word such as ‘tam’ will become ‘mat’ to them. This can cause frustration to the student and...
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