Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Jay Renalsds, Nov 4, 2001.

  1. Jay Renalsds Registered Member

    We all see things differently. What is real to one person may not be read to another. So how do you choose what to believe? Some people won't believe something until they see it for themselves, others will believe it if it is seen in a reliable source, or at least thought of by them as a reliable source. Other people believe almost anything they hear. So how do you determine if something is real or not? Do you listen to your friends? Your parents? TV? What? Is there really anyway to discern reality from illusion without seeing everything and doing everything for yourself? For instance if you were to watch the news and someone was assasinated, do you believe the news caster when he/she immediately claims it was some militia or terrorist group? How do you know the person was even assasinated in the first place? How far do you trust what you see and hear on the news and from friends/family? Or how do you choose what to believe and what not to believe? If you believe in god why? If you don't believe in god why don't you when so many other people do? What other things do you believe/disbelieve? And how do you arrive at these conclusions?
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2001
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  3. machaon Registered Senior Member

    Somethings just have to be believed to be seen.......
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  5. Counterbalance Registered Senior Member

    One perspective on “perceptions.”

    True. We all see things differently, even though the differences may be miniscule at times.

    Some of the questions asked are more or less duplicates so I’ve condensed them into four.

    1. How do you determine if something is real or not?

    In my opinion, and in the end, the answer to this is going to depend upon your own “nature.” Are you (whoever) a fearful, distrusting sort? Or an “I don’t know anything regardless of what’s before my eyes” sort? Do you look at the kitchen table and doubt that it’s a table? Or are you satisfied that the thing sitting there in the middle of the room is, in fact, made of a substance we call wood, metal, or plastic... and used for the multiple purposes which tables are used... Do you believe your own eyes and your own sense of touch... Do you trust your mind’s and body’s abilities to perceive information and then to integrate--or process it...define it...label it... Do you require someone to come along and validate all of the info you’ve just gathered...

    Or do you say: “Yep, that’s a table alright,” because you are confident that it is actually a table...

    2. Do you listen to others and take their word for it?

    When you hear a news report on TV or read an article, do you think in terms of having a choice? Do you swallow it whole without any questions--and regardless of who is reporting the story--or do you say: “This sounds pretty credible. I’ll keep this in mind as the days pass, and while I form my own conclusions?”

    3. Are there any ways to discern reality from illusion without seeing everything and doing everything for yourself?

    I think there is. We have proof that we live in a physical world. We have come up with theories and laws about how “things” work--or don’t work. Exceptions sometimes occur. We learn from this and revise the ‘rules.’ Doing this has made more sense than not, so that over time this method seems to be the best way to go about it. To be honest, we need to say: "As far as we know, such-n-such is true..."

    If we don’t experience something firsthand, we turn to those who have. I’ve never been to Africa, for example, but I am willing to trust the countless reports of others who have been there when they claim that the majority of the people there have dark skin; that the land is inhabited with wild beautiful animals; that the climate and topography is different in Africa than in other places. I have reports, essays, TV programs, photos, and word-of-mouth--most of which is consistent. That which is not consistent, I handle differently. I resort to the “This sounds pretty credible [or not] so I’ll keep this in mind as the days pass, and while I form my own conclusions?” method.

    4. How do we choose what to believe?

    I don’t know that we are always required to choose to believe. I think we’re free to leave open the “door of possibilities” in many instances. Others may try to pressure us to make a choice. They may “feel” that we need to take a stand. They may want us to support the beliefs they hold themselves. Their reasoning may not match our own. Whatever motivates them, may not motivate us.

    In the end though, I think it’s perfectly okay to say: “I don’t know.” Or, “I’m not sure.” Or even, “I’m not particularly interested enough to form an opinion at this time.” I don’t think it’s appropriate for ME to do this willy-nilly. I think I have a responsibility to make certain choices according to what I conclude is important; according to my own standards of what is proper.


    Basically, humans have only a few ways to make these kinds of judgments. And making a “judgment,” in this sense, is not an evil thing. When we “think,” we’re actually making nothing but endless judgments. If we don’t “think,” we become something less than human.

    I propose that reality is whatever each of us thinks it is--on one level. And then I support the fact that regardless of what some people choose to claim, there is actually a star we call “Sun.” And that we live on planet Earth. That we each have two feet and one brain (in most instances). Etc...

    Reality is that which we cannot easily dispute...

    (...though many keep trying.

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    Last edited: Nov 4, 2001
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  7. Twilight Registered Senior Member

    I agree there are such ways and I'd like to give an example.

    In the year 400 b.C. there lived a man called Democrit. He was the last of the so-called "nature's philosophers". Democrit is known because of his writings about "The atomic theory", where he said that the matter is formed from many different "atoms" which connect with each other to form different structures. Although he couldn't explain how did he obtain this theory, it was later proven to be right.

    The thing that surprised me was how did Democrit arrive to that conclusion using ONLY this mind? He couldn't see the atoms because at that time humanity was not too advanced. The only conclusion I can think of is that our mind is a stronger tool that we usually imagine...

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  8. Chagur .Seeker. Registered Senior Member

    Twilight ...

    It is THE tool that makes all other tools possible, allowing us to extend our senses from the microcosm to the macrocosm and affirm our thoughts.
  9. machaon Registered Senior Member


  10. whatsherface imaginary entity Registered Senior Member

    Perception=deception. Our minds are designed to lie.

    Do You See This?
    Your brain lies all the time, but you seldom notice. That's because the very organ that could alert you to this deception is the guilty party. For the most part, these are half-lies, deceits of omitted information. Although the human brain remains the most awesome computer on the planet, it regularly throws away tremendous amounts of data because it must process only the most useful.

    Visual Cortex Sees More Than The Conscious Mind Does
    "This suggests that not everything in the cortex can become conscious knowledge," said He. "Your visual cortex isn't telling you everything."

    How The Brain Fills In Gaps In What Eyes See
    "People take perception for granted because it seems so instant and automatic to us," says Allison Sekuler, associate professor of psychology at U of T and one of the study’s senior authors. "What many people don’t realize is that the objects we see are not necessarily the same as the information that reaches our eyes, so the brain needs to fill in those gaps of missing information."

    To See, Brain Assembles Sketchy Images Eyes Feed It
    "Even though we think we see the world so fully, what we are receiving is really just hints, edges in space and time," said Frank S. Werblin, professor of molecular and cell biology in the College of Letters & Science at UC Berkeley.

    Brain Magic - Why magicians are really just applied neuroscientists
    Illusionists and magicians exploit three properties of your brain in order to practice their craft.
    1) Your brain sees what it expects to see ... [test]
    2) Your brain doesn't perceive what it doesn't expect ... [test]
    3) Your brain can only focus on one thing at a time ... [test]

    Human Brain Lives In The Past, By 80 Milliseconds
    Using a visual illusion known as the flash-lag phenomenon, Eagleman and Salk Professor Terrence Sejnowski showed that the human brain appears to construct conscious awareness in an after-the-fact fashion, which they term postdiction.

    Seeing An Effect, People Believe They Saw Its Cause
    A series of experiments has provided the first scientific evidence that when people see an effect, they automatically "fill in the blank" with its probable cause -- even if they haven't actually seen that cause with their own eyes.
    The result: a memory that seems real, but isn't.

    "How do we know that we know what we think we know?" We don't. Our consciousness appears to be made up in an after-the-fact sort of way.

  11. Twilight Registered Senior Member


    Of course our perceptions of reality are not the reality itself, but you don't need to exaggerate things.

    Last week I was at the university listening to a teacher that explained us how the numbers written in the computer's memory are not the real numbers but some error-affected numbers, how these errors tend to propagate within calculations and many more besides. After 3 hours of listening I was almost convinced that, this way, the computer shouldn't work at all...
    But, of course, there are ways to correct (or to minimize) the errors so they wouldn't be significant anymore. So, in reality, computers work just fine because we'll always find a way to manage the imperfections.

    Similarly, our senses might not be perfect, but we can always rely on them and try to cultivate the ones we need most.
  12. whatsherface imaginary entity Registered Senior Member

    It's not exaggeration, the more our conscious science learns, the more it appears to agree with all the oldest interpretation that what we perceive to be reality is illusion.

    EDGE: But for you, the main application of the theory is to change our sense of the nature of reality?

    DEUTSCH: Yes. However useful the theory as such is today and however spectacular the practical applications may be in the distant future, the really important thing is the philosophical implications — epistemological and metaphysical — and the implications for theoretical physics itself.

    from IT'S A MUCH BIGGER THING THAN IT LOOKS A Talk with David Deutsch

  13. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

    We know that we all perceive things somewhat differently. This discrepancy, it could be argued, was one of the reasons for the development of oral languages. Interestingly, language can often cause more problems than it solves. The idea of 'real' is further complicated when we use the word itself.

    So, to answer your question whatserface, you have to take a step back and look at what you mean when you say real. From what you said in the thread opener I get the feeling that what you're really trying to get at is not to what is 'real' but to what is True. That of course, opens up another huge can of worms....

    In any case, you're right; it's not an exaggeration, and there are Philosophers (not to mention Taoists and some quantum scientists) who do believe that all is illusion. Check out George Berkeley (1685-1753) for this point of view (or any other phenomenalist philosopher).

    However, Twilight makes an excellent point when he says:
    . This of course, describes the nature and function of science. Naturally over time we discover more and more discrepancies in what we perceive, but the scientific method constantly serves to refine our knowledge in the hope that we can move towards Truth, and therefore, the 'Real'.

    Now, as to whether or not there is a 'Truth', or a 'Real'..........................

    P.S.: Twilight: it's "Democritus", and his period was c.460-c.370 B.C.
  14. whatsherface imaginary entity Registered Senior Member

    I really have to disagree with this, if by senses you mean those that tell us of our physical surroundings. Our science for a long time has been focussing on developing tools to tell us things our limited senses cannot, and funnily enough it comes more and more to agreeing with those who have known somehow, by other than rational senses, that what we think is real and obvious is actually a bit dodgy.

    'Reality' is what our minds tell us it is, and those have a vested interest in their own separate existence.

  15. Twilight Registered Senior Member

    Did you say this was not an exaggeration?

    Whatsherface, these are your words.

    No comment.

    Let me ask you something: if you cannot rely on your senses, how come you still keep your eyes opened?

    How do you think science developed, if not from the experience of the 'real' world, experience that was based on perception?

    And... glaucon: you're right, it's 'Democritus'. 10x

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    Last edited: Nov 23, 2001
  16. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member


    You're grasping at straws here.
    Technically speaking, even those inventions that aide us in understanding the world are subject to error. Science is not a rule-system, it is a method. It's the best we can do and, more importantly, it works well enough to get things done.
    Of course, philosophically speaking, one could point out that there exists in contemporary science, an implicit belief that we will succeed, and one day know it all. This is an error. Why? Well, to paraphrase Socrates: 'The more you know, the more you know how little you know'. The world we live in is dynamic, and so are we. There is no finite 'all' to become known.
    With respect to your comment that reality is what our minds tell us, the majority of scientists and philosophers would agree with you. But, so what?? What's wrong with that situation?
    It seems to me that you're assuming that there is a 'real', 'objective' reality beyond our perception. If you really want to figure all this out, I suggest you take a good look at that assumption.

    Nice to see someone thinking hard!

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  17. Godless Objectivist Mind Registered Senior Member

    Good thread Ray!

    How & why are perceptions different?. Can't we agree on anything?, if I say i'ts white, why is it that you see grey?.
    When I tell my son to come home at 10:30pm. he hears 12:30am. is this what he chose to hear? for his benefit?.

    We perceive things differently cause we are all diffrently brought up, between cultures, countries, etc. Also cause of our parents, enviorement etc. How we learn to trust one another, is the direct relaitionship to our enviorement & the people we deal with.

    I base my decissions on what I dig up, I have to have more than one source, of news for example, I don't believe everything I read, nor am I so gullible as to believe in things which can't be explained, by anyone. However I do think many of us perceive whatever may comfort us, for example if one is not so inquisitive, these people may believe a good friend, without questions!.

    Accepting what you hear, see, feel, is a learned process. We learned that the table was for eating, though many of us eat in front of the TV instead. LOL. If we are told that eating in front of the TV is bad for your diggestion, we tend not to believe this! even though it may be true. The perception here is history, we
    've have not gotten sick in the past from eating in front of the tube, however after reading the doctors report, if one is to get sick after eating in front of the TV, one may change their perception of the of the doctors report. Perhaps not, if it was only one isolated instance.

    And as human nature is, you may be saying or perceiving that this post was a bit long!!.

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  18. Counterbalance Registered Senior Member

    What is perception?

    Perception: The mental process of organizing sensations into meaningful patterns.

    OR a better question perhaps:

    What affects perception?


    The following claims are being taught today:

    (Taken from the ninth edition of Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior by Dennis Coon.

    1. Ultimately, all behavior can be traced to the activity of nerve cells.

    2. Sensations, thoughts, feelings, motives, actions, memories, and all other human capacities are associated with brain activities and structures.

    3. Endocrine glands serve as a chemical communication system within the body. Behavior is greatly influenced by the ebb and flow of hormones in the bloodstream.

    4. The brain's circuitry is not static. The brain grows new nerve cells and it can "rewire" itself in response to changing environmental conditions.

    (If you want the details, by all means look it up.


    As much as our humans brains are similar to one another, there are still an infinite number of differences in how we process sensory input. Chemically speaking, are we all the same? We are--and we aren't. The slightest differences in electrochemical changes and the ways the CNS interacts with other branches of our nervous system in an individual body can play a role. Any number of things can influence how a body perceives its environment; how it processes and organizes the incoming data. How we behave is affected by how we perceive everything... and our perceptions depend upon how our brains and bodies process the information.

    Intermingled with all of this we have the retrieval of memories and new thoughts taking formation. It gets rather complex; rather mystifying. So what do we do?

    We perceive that a table exists and don't waste much time doubting it. Any way you look at it, there is actually more evidence that it does exist than not. Try walking out your front door and doubting that the front porch steps exists. If you doubt it, put your foot on it and reassure yourself. Call it a step, or call it what you like, but something of substance is there. It supports your weight. Now... go ahead... take another step... (OR stay at home and doubt everything and become mentally ill.)

    Someone brushes their fingertips across your cheek, and then lightly presses their lips against yours... I don't know about the rest of you, but I'll call it a kiss. It's what we humans have consistently called it. Personally, I have no reason to doubt it's a kiss, just as I have no reason to doubt that most anything else my senses and mental library of memory/experiences tells me is real, or exists.


    Other useful definitions:

    Perceptual category: A pre-existing class, type, or grouping.

    Perceptual defense: Resistance to perceiving threatening or disturbing stimuli.

    Perceptual expectancy (or set): A readiness to perceive in a particular manner, induced by strong expectations.

    Perceptual features: Important elements of a stimulus pattern, such as lines, shapes, edges, spots, and colours.

    Perceptual habits: Established patterns of perceptual organization and attention.

    Perceptual hypotheses: An initial guess regarding the correct way to organize (perceive) a stimulus pattern.

    Perceptual stimulation: Varied, patterned, and meaningful sensory input


    Last edited: Nov 23, 2001

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