• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

When should we trust our senses to give us truth?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Sense perception is one of the four ways of knowing. It is our senses that give us the ability to smell, hear, touch, see and taste. As we use these abilities to perceive the world around us, how much can we rely on them to give us the truth? This also begs the question, when should we trust our senses to give us truth? Epistemology is one of the main branches of philosophy1 which attempts to answer these questions. We identify an epistemological problem; our knowledge of the external world that may be misguided by our senses. When we speak of 'trusting' our senses, it is referred to whether we may 'rely' on our senses, and use our senses as valid measures of our existing world. Our senses are used so often since they are the most immediate forms of the ways of knowing. But our senses can be fallible. To explore these issues, we will look into the arts and the natural sciences. G. E. Moore (1941) asserts that "a thing can't be certain unless it is known". He believes that this differentiates the word 'certain' from the word 'true'. ...read more.

Middle

Since we are in doubt of our senses of both sight and touch for the previous example, we must use other ways of knowing. We may use reason to justify that the stick is straight both in and out of water. Descartes' law3, the law of refraction, must be used to draw a conclusion and support the sense of touch that the stick never bends. Thus when we are in doubt about the accuracy of our senses, it is difficult to trust them to give us truth. Although we have seen that our senses may not be reliable during different circumstances, they are important to us when speaking of safety and danger. What one feels, the experience of emotion, is important to each individual. Emotion, the way of knowing, is interrelated with perception. For example, if I touch a working stove, I will feel pain and associate the emotion of fear when I see a working stove in the future, thus avoid touching it. Thus a posteriori knowledge, knowledge that is dependent on experience4, has been acquired from both perception and emotion. However, combining emotion with perception may create error in the knowledge acquired and our understanding of reality. ...read more.

Conclusion

This shows how language can aid our senses to give us truth. Our senses give us information of the external world. Since perception is a selective process, this information is not a mirror of reality. What constructs the selectivity of perception are all other ways of knowing. From this, our understanding of reality can therefore be distorted. Thus, our senses alone cannot be trusted to obtain truth. On the contrary, reason, emotion and language can all be used to aid our senses to give us truth. This is because all other ways of knowing help to understand reality, and using senses alone, no meaning can be made from reality. For example, as our sight is limited to the size of an object, we can't trust it in identifying a type of micro organism with the naked eye. By using reason from the use of manmade instruments to aid our senses, truth can be acquired. Thus clearly, our senses are most definitely limited. However, we do trust our senses most of the time. This is because they are our most immediate way of knowing the world and perhaps because most of the time they seem to work. Furthermore, when in doubt of all other ways of knowing, we should trust our senses to give us truth as they are the only available form of the ways of knowing. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge essays

  1. When should we trust our senses to give us truth?

    Due to certain alterations made by external means or circumstances, our sense perception provides us with "different truths" based on personal experiences. What is perceived through sense is very personal to an individual, and is subjective in a individualistic way.

  2. This essay will explore how sense cannot be trusted to give us the whole ...

    'truth' or certainty especially with the different perceptions of different people at all times. Thus, as seen here we cannot trust our senses to give us the truth when we allow preconceived notions to affect our perception of certain facts.

  1. When should we trust our senses to give us truth?

    An example to illustrate this point is that one of the experiments we are required to do for IB biology is to observe a thin layer of onion skin under a microscope. The layer of onion I saw underneath the microscope was completely different from any layer of onion I

  2. TOK - Can we rely on perception to lead us to the truth

    This explains that different topics require different amounts of knowledge to be justified as truth. The word 'Truth' means a statement which is universally accepted to be a reality or actuality. Another commonly accepted definition is 'Justified True Belief'.

  1. When, and to what extend, can we trust perception to give us truth?

    tend to be so limiting. One of the most famous stories on self-limiting perceptions is the story of Roger Bannister, the man of the four-minute mile. For years, the belief was that running a mile in four minutes was physically impossible. No one could ever do it.

  2. To what extent do our senses give us knowledge of the world as it ...

    All this information is correct, however there is dispute between what the colors truly are. This is because colors are learned and thus color names are not a priori, but instead are a posteriori. Thus, when the two people come together and try to organize the same light by color,

  1. When (if ever) should we trust our senses to give us truth?

    Our senses are based on our perception, our ability to use our combined senses to understand and interact with our environment.

  2. When should we trust our senses to give us the truth?

    Here the coherence theory is used, which states that a truth is only true when it is supported by other truths. Therefore all our senses are required to combine and work in tandem to allow us to formulate truths about the environment around us.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work