To what extent do our senses give us knowledge of the world as it really is?

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Essay Question: To what extent do our senses give us knowledge of the world as it really is?

Human senses do not give much knowledge to the world as it really is; they primarily function to create a physical representation of the world that the brain can understand. Human senses can detect and receive true information, but the brain processes this information to attempt to form an image of the world that is coherent, not as it truly is.  On the other hand, some people might say that human senses can give us absolute knowledge as the world is; it is just the way that humans organize information that leads to the common thought that what we perceive is not truly what is.

Human senses are, in the most basic of definitions, ways that the mind receives information from the outside world.  Whether this is through touch, smell, taste, sight, or hearing, does not matter; it is still information from the outside world, in this case, categorized into groups. This means that what information that is going into, for instance, the eye, is true raw information of the world; it is the world as it really is. The brain does not know this information even exists in its raw form, as processing takes over subconsciously.

Out of processing, comes the physical representation of our world.  The operative word in that sentence is representation. Human senses can only give one a representation of the world according to one’s own subject organizational skills and the information gathered by one’s senses. This limitation on knowledge of the true world occurs because the raw information, the world as it truly is, is processed and warped until the human brain can comprehend the information and produce a coherent idea of what is outside of the mind. This processing of information in order to create a coherent world can be seen in many illusions. In the “grid illusion”, the white spots on a black planar grid appear to spontaneously change from white to black.  This spontaneous and rapid change in color does not actually happen. What is actually happening is a conflict between the two sources of information, the right and left eye, and a false representation of the world created by the mind’s desire for a coherent world. When the brain scans the illusion, moving left and right swiftly, the eyes focus on critical points of the illusion, glazing over other parts of the illusion. Thus, the brain, attempting to form a coherent unicolor picture, assumes that the parts of the illusion it cannot gather information from are simply black, like the rest of the picture. However, they are not. Thus, whenever the brain receives information on those assumed parts; the brain realizes that it was wrong in assuming those parts were black and changes the black parts in the physical representation of the illusion to white parts. This process happens rapidly and this results in the consequence of the dots turning from black to white frequently. Thus, the illusion of the spontaneous changing of color of dots from black to white and vice versa is caused by the processing of the brain trying to create a coherent version of the world.

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In addition, the senses receive this pure and true raw information rather haphazardly. Thus, the information gathered is also unreliable when concerning knowledge about the true world. For example, the rods and cones contained within the cornea of the human eye are used to detect light and color, respectively. However, when the cornea is not exposed to copious amounts of light for a long period, the cornea’s rods become adapted to the darker environment. Then, when the cornea is introduced to a light-rich environment, the cornea receives this information as being extremely bright, to the point where there is no ...

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