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When can we trust our senses to give us truth?

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Kim Baardsen Monday, November 19, 2007 IB 1: Theory of Knowledge When Can We Trust Our Senses to Give Us The Truth? When can we trust our senses to give us the truth? This is a complicated question that requires us to think about how much of what we perceive is reality and how much is created by our minds and beliefs. For us to do this we must do as Bertrand Russell says in his book, "Problems of Philosophy": "the painter has to unlearn the habit of thinking that things seem to have a colour which common sense says they 'really' have and to learn the habit of seeing things as they appear." (Russell, Bertrand) This quote refers only to sight, but it is good to recognize that we must do the same for all our senses: we must learn to make a distinction between 'appearance' and 'reality'. This requires us to look past our prejudices and beliefs and perceive what is really there. The four ways of knowing (logic, perception, emotion and language) all play an important part in this, as our prejudices and beliefs are formed when as we take in information and our minds do their best to organize it so that it is understandable. ...read more.


At the time of a certain experiment, everything could be perfect to make a theory true, and it is disproved not long after by someone else. This could be because the scientist interpreted the information wrong, their equipment was not accurate or they were not aware of the small but important factors that affected their experiment in different ways. At the time of the experiment, the results were pragmatic and cohered with their previous knowledge. The information could even correspond with other people's information, but when there is more justification it is easier to believe that it is true. This gives us an important human trait: justification and evidence are used to prove the validity and reliability of an established "truth" even when it is not necessarily the true. We see it as the truth because we can not see what is wrong with it and there is nothing that contradicts it at the time. As soon as there is some doubt, humans naturally try in some way to make it irrelevant or take it into account and try to find ways of minimizing that doubt. ...read more.


Math is good at giving us the true and is used all the time, in our heads subconsciously, in banks to manage our money, in power-plants so we do not blow out our electrical equipment and the examples go on forever. Math is used everywhere because mathematical answer is the truth. The flaw of math is that it gives us a very simple truth. As soon as you add more variables it just gets more complicated. Math also does not give us useful truths to areas of knowing like psychology, or literature because it is impossible to explain these things using numbers. When trying to see if something is pragmatically true, we must use the same pure logic and reason to limit doubt. Pragmatic testing should be the same for everyone, while correspondence and coherence testing very individual as they test if something is true by checking a claim with something else, be it another person or another sense in the body. There is the problem that one of these sources could not be the truth making the truth not true. In my opinion, we should trust our senses to give us truth when we have eliminated all doubt and there is trusted justification. ...read more.

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