“How things really are” is important to address in order to realize what understanding the filters of perception involves. Assuming that this phrase is another way of expressing reality could be impulsive. “Reality” is one word and hence more convenient for the essay writer to use in a discussion. Therefore, it could be argued that “how things really are” is deliberately used in place of “reality” despite the similar meanings at first-glance. The philosopher Hegel claims reality is simply consciousness2. Another may claim that popular perception or consensus amongst a group is reality. If the latter claim were true, the difference between reality and how things really are becomes apparent. Popular perception could clearly be in conflict with “how things really are”, and hence the phrase removes some weaknesses that reality may imply. By using an original phrase as opposed to a common word, the questioner may find finding flaws in the question problematic. On the other hand, the author may have had no intent to distinguish between “reality” and “how things really
1, 2 Abel, R. (1976) Man is the Measure: A Cordial Invitation to the Central Problems of Philosophy. The Free Press.
are”, as a parallel meaning between the two is very probable. I intend to interchange the two due to my personal opinion of them being almost direct synonyms and for the sake of convenience.
The claim does not suggest that the absence of filters will allow us to see reality, but that realizing they exist and understanding them will allow how things really are to be realized. Filters act as a sieve as information from outside one’s metaphysic is absorbed, processed, and interpreted. Arguably, the most important filters, as everyone is affected by them, include the influence from culture, religion, socio-economic background, age and sexual orientation, censorship imposed by media, language, and especially one’s senses. All these issues listed shape the mind frame of a person, and the most obvious and essential point to realize is the tremendous variety found across mankind. Some filters such as senses may be innate, while others are shaped as one’s grows. Sense perception may be considered the biggest filter because it is the essential medium for collecting information. Touch, sight, sound, taste, and smells can be deceiving hindering one’s pursuit of knowledge of the “real”. A simple example is how one’s physical dehydration and emotional distress can deceive the eyes by imagining an oasis. Sense perception in this case is unreliable, and priori justification5 goes as far as saying knowledge is gained by pure reason, and is independent of sensory experience. However, consider where mankind would be today without sight. How might mankind have adapted? Everything has its disadvantages and advantages, and recognizing them is the first step to realizing how things really are. Yet, the remaining questions are as follows: is it possible to go beyond the level of recognition and actually fully understand filters, and will one understand reality if just one exists?
There is an implication in the claim that our filters hinder our knowledge of reality, so why do filters exist? Perhaps, filters remove harmful elements of reality as to protect us. However, a counterargument could be that filters may enhance reality such as our emotions becoming too overwhelming to bear if there is a death in the family, for example. Psychologists attempt to understand emotions and aid people in controlling them. They are in a way attempting to understand this particular filter. Yet, puzzles still remain about the human psyche acknowledging that man has a long journey in trying to understand the way the mind works. Will scientists ever be able to fully explain behavior, and will this bring us closer to understanding the filters? Knowing how to go about understanding filters seems an impossible task that I cannot answer.
3 Bonjour, L. (1998) In Defense of Pure Reason. Cambridge University Press
It seems to me that one can never know if comprehending filters will bring us to reality simply because we may never be able to experience it. Also, there is a danger that lies in trying to understand filters, as man may not be able to cope with the so-called “reality”.
One must still consider if one reality actually exists. The following argument suggests a reason for numerous realities according to varied thought processes. Thought is an incredible mechanism, and is intangible. Nature and man-made objects are equally incredible, and are tangible6. If consciousness were reality like Hegel proposes, then everything tangible (outside of one’s mind) could simply be a figment of our imagination. Therefore, the reality of our thinking makes the reality of the exterior world. However, filters still exist in one’s conscious as reasoning is taking place, and this varies from person to person. For example, an Egyptian visiting Switzerland may reason that the temperature is below freezing when in actual fact it is 10 C. His metaphysic and senses have been trained according to his environment, and his reality of the temperature is different from that of a Swiss. Hence, the tangible environment is manipulated to suit one’s intangible thought-process. This is suggesting that different realities exist, and hence raises an issue with Hegel’s statement that if reality is in one’s conscious then there cannot be one reality as everyone’s conscious operates differently. On the other hand, the claim is not suggesting that there is one reality. It simply refers to “how things really are”, which is open to debate on the idea of everyone possibly seeing the same reality.
The idea of tangible and intangible introduces the concept of science and mathematics vs. a more abstract subject such as English and Psychology. In high school, there is always a right or wrong answer to a science question, but this does not apply to English. Does this make Science more reliable and closer to discovering the way things really are since they have set answers? A scientist though may succumb to just as many filters as a historian. He/she could manipulate evidence to support a hypothesis. Maybe by having a pre-disposition towards the outcome of an experiment, one might misinterpret the results. Yet, what explains the agreement amongst scientists of many backgrounds of how photosynthesis works for example? This returns to the idea of reality being of popular belief and consensus. Since, many people with differing filters (e.g. culture, religion) were able to agree on the process of photosynthesis, does this bring us closer to how things really are?
As stated before, according to Plato reality exists in the form of ideals. However, everyone has his/her own metaphysic, in other words his/her own reality like the two men at the bus stop. Understanding the filters cannot just involve comparing how one thinks to
4 Smith, A. (2002) The Problem of Perception. Harvard University Press.
another. One would simply be analyzing the differences in how people perceive “how things really are”. Can all the filters be understood and with this allow “how things really are” to be witnessed? I believe that people can understand the concept of filters and how they differ from person to person. However, I do not believe in one reality, and especially a reality being fully understood by man. Plato holds more substance with philosophy than a simple Theory of Knowledge student. However, this subject asks us to think for ourselves even if that means to doubt the greatest of philosophers.
Smith, A. (2002) The Problem of Perception. Harvard University Press.
Bonjour, L. (1998) In Defense of Pure Reason. Cambridge University Press.
Abel, R. (1976) Man is the Measure: A Cordial Invitation to the Central Problems of Philosophy. The Free Press.
Last modified: 02/08/02
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