TOK - Can we rely on perception to lead us to the truth
Sheheryar Javaid IB1-2 Mrs. Cope
Can we rely on Perception as a way of Knowing to lead us to the Truth?
Perception is the process by which humans and animals interpret and receive information and use this obtained information to understand different things. One question that arises is, ‘Who are we talking about’. The way perception is used differs from person to person and animal to animal. The difference between humans and animals is our ability to think and reason logically. Animals rely on their perception for survival. Lions are an example as they have a strong sense of smell to find their prey. This example shows how some kinds of perception are different for humans and animals.
Animal’s features were made specific to the type of animal they are and their environment. An example being dogs as their sense of smell is far greater than us humans. Continuing from the dog example, if we smell something, we are not completely sure what it is as it can be a number of things. But a dog’s strong sense of smell can be more reliable. This verifies that dogs can rely on their sense of smell more than humans, proving the fact that the reliability of senses is not the same for all humans and animals.
This point brings ‘reliance’ into question. It is certain that we cannot rely on a Way of knowing too much as each has their doubts. It is never safe to put complete reliance on a Way of knowing so by putting full reliance, we need to be sure that it is true. Therefore, at different situations, we rely on different Ways of Knowing for the truth.
However perception is not only different between humans and animals, there are also differences between the ways humans perceive things and how they choose to perceive it. Many examples were used to prove this, a well known one being visual images. They can be perceived differently as they have different images hidden inside of them.
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This is image may be perceived by some people as a man playing a saxophone, and to some as a woman. It mostly depends on the way you look at it initially. When I looked at it, initially I thought it was a woman, but when is asked my 7 seven old sister, she only noticed the man and paid no attention to any other details, probably as her brain is underdeveloped. People may notice the darkness of the black man and focus on that but some may focus on the outside details and see the woman’s face. The purpose of this example was to prove that all people do not "see" the same thing when looking at a visual image.
There are many different reasons to why humans may perceive things differently. These are mainly personal, cultural differences and society. Personal includes age, gender, experience and a person’s race.
- As a person grows up, their mind develops and this changes how they perceive things from simply looking at them, to carefully analysing and understanding them, proving children, adolescents and adults ‘see’ things differently.
- Culture affects the use of language in perception, like how Arabs have thousands of different words for camel.
- Society includes the family background, education, and environment. People can always learn how to perceive and this affects their perception.
Every single characteristic of a person has great influence to what they choose to smell, touch, taste, see and hear.
Perception consists of five human senses being utilised, by humans and animals, to make sense of the world and properly judge it. This allows us to properly identify and use objects, but the question is how much reliance can we put into perception to help us get the truth? These senses work together to convert something into knowledge for us to use like when we recognise a book with sight and touch then read it to obtain knowledge. By seeing the textbook, then confirming this by touch, we obtain the knowledge that it is in fact a text book. With sight, touch, smell, hear and taste, we believe that we are able to see everything, as the five senses help us to prove it by each telling us a part of the truth, but there is always more than what we see. For example, if I saw someone driving a luxury car, I will most probably perceive the driver to be rich but they may be just be the owner’s personal driver or even just taking it for a test drive. We see the person driving an expensive car and assume he is wealthy but that cannot always be true. With this example, it is clear that out senses cannot always be true.
This example might prove how perception might not always be the best way of knowing. Is perception more reliable than other ‘Ways of knowing’? Another ‘Way of Knowing’ is ‘Reason’. Many religions believe that there is one god and acknowledge this as truth, but can we see or use any of our senses to prove that there is a god? A statement like this can only be proven through reason and science. Some people may believe that it makes sense for there to be a God who created the earth and all living creatures, whereas others may believe the ‘Big Bang Theory’ and ‘Evolution’ as these are supported by an ‘Area of knowing’ which is Science. With this, it is proven that Perception is not the most reliable ‘Way of knowing’ and cannot answer some questions that may arise. But ‘Reason’ also has its doubts. By reason, we make assumptions that cannot always be true. By saying all humans are smarter than monkeys, we assume there is not one human that is less intelligent than a monkey, but there can be one.
Another ‘Way of knowing’ is ‘Emotion’. This and perception are related, for instance if felt the pain of a slap before, then I will attach this feeling to the emotion of fear, and try to avoid it. But the problem with this is that emotion affects our perception in ways that can affect knowledge, as we might obtain false emotions which could ultimately affect our knowledge.
Knowledge is what’s gained by using the ‘Ways of knowing’. What we gain is belief of something which is based on strong evidence. How strong the evidence is, is what the ‘Ways of Knowing’ influence. Some statements can have full certainty, such as 2+2=4 or that ‘I am sitting on a chair’. But sometimes strong evidence is required to back up the truth, as it cannot be easily argued against. The evidence required to justify truth is basically simple math. Mathematics can usually be justified very strongly. The amount of evidence required to justify ‘Evolution’, is a vast sum of scientific knowledge and proof, and even after that, it cannot be certain. 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’. This is when we are able to justify something using a Way of Knowing’ and an ‘Area of knowing’, and that we put our full ‘belief’ in it that it is true. For instance, if I use my perception senses to look at a table and feel that it is a table, then I will believe that it is in fact a table. This is justified true belief. But truth cannot be fully obtained from one Way of knowing.
Although we cannot obtain certain truth from Perception, we can obtain enough to be able to slightly prove it, a partial truth. After this we can choose to interpret it however we want to, but if knowledge obtained from perception can be supported with the other ‘Ways of Knowing’, such as reason, then we can get an answer which is even closer to certain truth. However if two different Ways of knowing oppose each other, then we will perceive the one which gives us a wider picture of the truth, and this Way of Knowing might be the one the individual relies on the most. For example, if we believe in Creationism but Science proves Evolution, we will probably side with our Emotions, even if we cannot prove it. The most reliable Way of knowing, in my opinion would indeed be Perception as it provides the resources we need to interpret and assume something. An example being as Language cannot be used without hearing and Reason cannot be used without any one of the senses.
Theory of Knowledge by Richard Van de Lagemaat – Pages 447 – 8
Word Count - 1426