We See and Understand Things Not as They Are but as We Are." Discuss This Claim in Relation to at Least Two Ways of Knowing.

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s) : 599
  • Published : March 9, 2011
Open Document
Text Preview
When we are trying to understand something, we sometimes rely on our senses and use reason to seek for the truth. We also use intuition to discover unknown things. As environment and culture may affect people’s way of thinking, people from different backgrounds may interpret things differently. People from the same background can even have different personal experiences, which also affect people’s understanding of the surroundings. No two people have exactly the same idea and we try to understand things based on our own ideas. The “things” we are referring to can be objects, scenes, characters or in other forms. Whatever the things are, they will be meaningless without being given any definitions. When we call an object “dehumidifier”, we unconsciously give it the definition of an equipment that absorbs moisture from the atmosphere and makes the air dry. In fact, “dehumidifier” is just a box with calcium chloride granules in it. People regard it as a useful tool in daily life without noticing its components. In this case, we normally do not understand things by their realities, but by the functions as we know them. “The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” Henri Bergson’s statement shows that what we see and understand is based on what we are ready to take in. We are ready to take in something because we can make hypotheses from our previous knowledge. That is our empirical knowledge which is obtained through our five senses. We are able to know the external world around us through these senses. For example, we wear more clothes when the weather gets colder because we feel the coldness if we were wearing fewer clothes. Obviously, senses generate experiences and when we are facing something new, we usually try to learn from our past knowledge so as to acquire new knowledge. However, such a way of knowing things makes people fail to understand new information without learning from past experiences. Moreover, in terms of human vision, only light waves of frequencies between 4×1014Hz to 9×1014Hz can be visible to us. Humans possess limited senses and this affects our judgments about sizes. The size of objects will not change in a short time; this enables us to make correct judgments without seeing what the objects look like in reality. For familiar objects like vehicles, they appear smaller when they are further from us; even though they appear small, they are actually very big but far away from the observer. Of course, people will sometimes make mistakes. In America, there are over 3,000 accidents that are caused by false judgments of distance of the trains every year . Our limitation of senses can also be explained by a phenomenon called refraction. Refraction is the bending of light waves when it travels from one medium to another of different density. Once I approached a swimming pool and thought that the water in the pool was shallow and jumped into it. Later, I found that I had been deceived by my senses as the water was not as shallow as it appeared to be! This is a simple refraction phenomenon. As water and air have different refractive indices, light bent when it hit the surface of water and what I saw was the virtual image of the bottom of the swimming pool after refraction. Not only do our senses have limitations to perceive the real world, but what we see is also affected by the light arriving in our eyes. Lincoln Barnett writes, “the world is designed by the physiology of the human sense organs- is the world in which we are imprisoned by our essentially limited nature. And what the scientist, and the philosopher call the world of reality- the colourless, soundless, impalpable cosmos which lies like an iceberg beneath the palace of man’s perceptions- is a skeleton of symbols. ” Leaves appear to green because chlorophyll contains pigments that reflect green light. Firstly, the colour of the object depends on the light that is reflected by the object but does not belong to the object itself....
tracking img