The Problem of Perception



“Rouen Cathedral”, by Claude Monet.
I don’t even need colors to make my point.

If there is a world full of objects that are independent of my own body or mind, and if I can only know them through the effects they have on my body’s senses, in turn causing mental states of awareness in my brain where these objects are represented, how can I ever know that these representations correspond to the objects or, in other words, that my perceptions correspond to reality?

8 thoughts on “The Problem of Perception

    • More like a rhetorical question, but I am eager to know your answer. I know this has been asked since forever, and that the way I posed my question imply the cloistering of the “I” characteristic of the Modern Age, but I have no idea what the prevailing answer today is. I thank you in advance for any clarification.

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      • I am loving that you asked this question in such a direct manner, which really makes overt the issue.

        It asks me to think a little bit more because often enough I am already so involved with the working out of that very issue that sometimes myself, and I would also indict many other philosophers, I forget what the question is or forget what we are really trying to address as well as what we’re really talking about.

        If you watch my video I just posted of my paper of me reading my paper, that’s why I begin and then take up again about midway the question “what the hell are we talking about”. 😄

        *

        I am not really sure if I can speak to where we are at right now in a coherent fashion without starting at the beginning. And this is what is bringing me to pause in the answering of your question. Because I am one that advocates starting at the beginning. I’m pretty sure it was Kierkegaard that talks a little bit about starting in the middle, and how philosophy is the best started at the beginning.

        And so when you ask this question I find myself rolling over in my head about what exactly is the beginning. Because I think starting in the middle really does not do the question justice, and I really think it makes a bunch of philosophers who begin just throwing around terms at each other.

        And so I ask myself what is this beginning that I am talking about.

        So, thank you.

        Russell, Husserl, Kant.

        Those are the authors that come to mind right off. But I am not super well read and I feel like many authors could’ve likewise come up, like Plato I’m sure and Aristotle and all those early western philosophers.

        Russell: what little bit I have read of Russell Bertrand Russell, he talks about how we never come to the actual object in itself, And a bit Chicola I remember something he was talking about “the table “I think. Like when we investigate that table in front of us we find out that we fall into various parts and we keep finding parts of the table and we never find the actual table. Perhaps you’re familiar with this kind of argument.

        Kant, of course it is well known for sticking us in the conundrum of human knowledge and only what we know. I think more or less that is what you are referring to in your post you are in your question.

        But he does point out that indeed there are things that exist outside of experience or outside of reason, but as soon as we start to reason then we have his philosophy about it . so that to me asks why did philosophy get stuck in this subjectivity of not being able to know if the object in itself?

        Husserl then Points out ideas of the dependent and the independent object. And I like what he has to say very early in his part two of the philosophical investigations: we already have an independent object as soon as we say there’s one: The table. There it is, it exist in itself a perfect object outside of our knowing, identified by the term “table“.

        So just as an example or some sort of exercise to roll around in your head, I think does well with these three ideas.

        I’m going to think about your question a little bit more and I’ll get back to you . 👨🏽‍🚀

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      • Because I’m not an academic philosopher and my concern is not to teach other people about various authors arguments, I find it difficult in a way to answer your question.

        Partly because I think that your question is based in a particular manner of approaching things that would require a little bit of “backstory“ to breakthrough or to break into.

        I think part of the question is what am I trying to do by asking that question

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      • No I didn’t mean to send that …

        I mean the question is what are you trying to accomplish by that question?

        What assumptions are informing that question?

        Because I ask myself what is perception? What is an object that lies outside of perception? Do I live in a universe where I am able to segregate myself sufficiently from that universe in order to perceive something else of the universe as it actually is?

        Does human reason have a special privilege? What is the nature of science?

        I think Philosophy begins with : what is the assumption involved in my question?

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  1. Man; that is such a good question. I am racking my brain to give you a good answer. Lol

    I think the reason why it’s so difficult to answer is Becuase I think you are asking a slightly deeper question than it appears at first glance. Like you are asking less about how we might know of objects in themselves. And more about perception.

    I feel the pivotal term is perception.

    What do you think ?

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  2. I would say that we encounter objects in themselves all the time. But it is only when we ask into them that there is a problem.

    Perhaps that is indeed where, at least, some philosophy is on the matter of perception and objects.

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  3. Thanks for thinking so hard about it. The problem is really complex. If there is anything underlying my question it is the “cloistering of the self” so characteristic of Modern Philosophy. I talked a little bit about it in a previous post. This is what I said:

    “Rationalists started from their minds as the only possible source of truth, and, most expectedly, could not get out of it to face reality as such. From Descartes’ pineal gland God knows how (pun intended) connecting mind and body to Leibniz’ monads — little “soul particles” composing the world — they tried desperately to reconcile the two irreconcilable worlds they had created.

    Empiricists, in turn, started from the world itself, from sense perception as the only possible knowledge or, at least, the starting point for all knowledge. But if sense perception formed images, representations, or ideas in man’s mind, man had only access to them, not to reality per se. The subject ended up locked inside anyway. Moreover, sense perception varied from man to man, even from time to time for a single man, so not even the source of knowledge could be trusted; skepticism arose, as it repeatedly did in history.”

    So, I believe that these ways of facing the problem led eventually to Idealism, Phenomenology and the like, but I still have very little understanding about all that. I just read a bit of Fichte and he merges subject and object into his “pure ego” who “posits itself”, but then he needs to create objective reality somehow so he says the ego also posits all that’s objective. I find that very hard to accept or even understand. But whatever that means, my point here is that, based on those ideas, all we see are indeed our representations but OUR REPRESENTATIONS ARE OBJECTIVE REALITY!

    I really don’t want to get into Idealism now because, as I said, I know too little of it. But the problem of perception is very interesting, so I want to think about it just in terms of Modern Philosophy pre-Kant for now. Mortimer Adler explains the problem really well in his “Ten Philosophical Mistakes” — I guess I’ll have to think much more deeply about it and maybe make a post about what he says in his book.

    Thanks again for jumping into this discussion.

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