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Truth and Senses - Essay Example

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Philosophers and thinkers alike have been studying the problem of how to know the truth for thousands of years. Our method of knowing the world is primarily based on sensations arising out of our sensory apparatus. The five senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell all provide us with information about the material world…
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Truth and Senses
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Download file to see previous pages When we attempt to find out the possibility of understanding the truth through our sensory organs, there are two stumbling blocks we should be aware of. First, can we be absolutely certain that our sense organs will always provide us with objective and reliable information Second, can we be absolutely certain that all information; the entire truth so to say, can be grasped by our sensory organs
It is obvious that sensations can be inconsistent and contradictory and are as likely to lead one astray as they are to lead one towards the objective truth. Bertrand Russell provides a fine example of this in "The problems of philosophy", when referring to a table he says,
Although I believe that the table is 'really' of the same color all over, the parts that reflect light look much brighter than the other parts, and some parts look white because of reflected light it follows that if several people are looking at the table at the same moment, no two of them will see exactly the same distribution of colors. (Russell, Bertrand 4)
It would be pertinent to observe here that, had our senses given us the objective truth, then the sensation of color would have been identical for everyone. To further illustrate this point, take the example of sound. Our ears perceive certain wavelengths, which are interpreted by our brains as sound. There are supersonic and subsonic wavelengths that our ears cannot perceive. At the same time there exist creatures like bats which can easily perceive such wavelengths. Again, earthworms have no auditory perception at all. They pick up vibrations from their surroundings through their sensitive skin, and these vibrations help them navigate and find food. If we were earthworms we would argue that there is no such thing as sound!
A simple experiment can easily be arranged here to judge the correctness of senses. We can take two buckets full of water, one ice cold and the other hot and dip one hand in each of these. After a while, take a bucket full of lukewarm water, and dip both hands in it. The hand which was earlier placed in the hot water bucket will feel cold and the other will feel warm. It is apparent from this small experiment that even in a limited way, our sensory organs don't provide reliable data. There are other, more insidious ways of tricking the senses, drugs being one. Senses can also lead us astray under conditions of extreme emotional duress.
Keeping the above in mind, we can conclude that we can't always bank on our senses to provide us with correct and reliable information. Similarly there is reason to believe that our senses are often unable of providing us with complete information - so to say "the whole truth".
In recent years, scientists have discovered that 95% of the contents of the universe are invisible to our current methods of direct detection. Observable universe, which can be perceived by the senses comprises of 5% of the mass of the actual universe. The rest is dark matter and dark energy. There exist realities that our senses can't perceive!
There is a hilarious, but thought provoking episode in the third book of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. During a trial, one of the witnesses, "a strange and difficult man" called Prak is administered a drug to force him to tell the truth. Inadvertently or deliberately, the amount administered to him is excessive. The journalist ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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