Chang Kil Shin Professor Bob Pachella Psychology 442 15 May 2010 Reflections on Perception of Reality I have always believed in what I saw, what I heard, and what I experienced. As these elements play a significant role of perceiving the world around me, it is very hard to distrust the reality. However, it was not a long ago that I began to ponder about this issue more profoundly. What do I really perceive? Could I precisely explain our perception without the help of science?
As I spend more time thinking about this fascinating issue, I realized that it is necessary to analyze how the nature of perceptual experience relates to reality, and to science. The problems of perception do not only lie on the subject of metaphysics but also on the context of epistemology. Discussing broad philosophical positions about the nature of perceptual experience is the first step to form my own perspective on perception. Identifying and comparing reasonable interpretations and support of various assertions is therefore a key to successfully solidifying my argument.
I would like to begin by introducing my ideas on perceiving the world that I am currently living in. In my opinion, my perception towards the world would depend on how to deal with apparently obvious truths about my experience of the world with the possibility of particular types of perceptual errors. Although I make myself open to the reality, this fact of openness is sometimes frightened by the existence of certain illusions. For this reason, philosophical hypothesis of perception needs to respond to this threat by providing an account of perception that preserves central and significant features of perception.
Materialism argues that there exists some order of reality that is independent of the human mind, consciousness, and perception. According to materialism, there is a real material world, which consists of matter and energy and obeys some natural laws independent of human mind. As far as I understand, this epistemological materialism argues that logical experience does not contain a theory about what reality is, but rather about how we should treat reality. This epistemological materialism argues that all statements should be meaningful, and that in order to be meaningful a statement should be testable and verifiable, carving away metaphysics.
Testable statements must then refer to scientific properties if observers are to agree. Therefore, statements of mind, reflecting internal feelings, thoughts, and motives are meaningless unless they display some physical change or behavior. Materialism seems to offer a simple and efficient perspective on reality, which indeed appears to be in agreement with our experience and observations. Moreover, materialism also seems to be the only metaphysics most consistent with scientific knowledge. But if the materialism was clearly to be true, the world would be without purpose and my life would be absolutely meaningless.
Both being a moral human through free will and taking responsibilities for immoral actions would be delusion. This is certainly not the case for all of us. We, as human beings, strive to give meanings and purposes to our lives. Idealism, on the other hand, argues that there is no order of reality independent of human minds and morality. It gives supreme power to minds over other physical values such as body. Material substances would have no existence independent of mind, or while existing, this reality may exhibit human values and morality.
It may also be true that reality’s basic nature could be mind in that our apprehension of reality is more determined by mind than matter. Most idealists believe that there is a fundamental unity to the world which is simply greater than the sum of its parts. However, I think that there is a close connection between the existence of our morality and the universe as our values imply something more to the universe than just matter, laws, and physical substances. I might have become the unique outgrowth through physical processes, and my mind could still qualitatively differ.
My mind may be self-actualizing while the rest of nature and reality could be still the realm of matter. The reality therefore would be able to contain mind and matter at the same time. I would also like to underline the importance of the nature of knowledge. We need to acknowledge that our sensory knowledge is in fact imperfect as not everyone has exactly the same perceptions and impressions of external reality. We are truly chained to our bodies and could only appreciate certitudes in the privacy of our minds.
Hence, I believe that our knowledge and perceptions of reality could never be perfect. Beyond what we could know, reality may still consist of physical interpretations. Constructionism argues that perceptual experiences consist of representations that are constructed by the mind that express external reality. And perceptual experiences both involve objective from the world and subject material supplied by mind. In other words, my perceptual visions are being constructed and my experience contains the representations of that reality.
Basically constructionism is the result of compromise between materialism and idealism. As the major focus of constructionism is to unveil the ways in which individuals behave to form the creation of their perceived reality, it involves looking at the ways the world is being created and shaped into reality. For this reason, I believe that reality could be seen as a continuous and dynamic process while it is reproduced by human beings acting on our interpretations and knowledge. My belief is closely in line with this view of constructionism.
I think that everyone tends to interpret and construct a reality based on his or her experiences and interactions with circumstances. Although the world outside our minds is considered to be objective and material, it may still be perceived subjectively by us, depending upon different values and morals each one of us holds. The discussion of the nature of reality and its perception, however, does not end here. It is crucial to look at this issue from a different point of view; epistemology dimension.
There exist two extreme arguments for describing the nature of knowledge linked to the perceptual experiences. Positive science, which is based on materialism, explains that the only true knowledge one could learn about the nature of reality is primarily dependent on science which provides objective knowledge. But this view does not fully explain the nature of knowledge. Intuitionism, which is based on idealism, asserts that there are different forms of knowledge that the mind has access to. Therefore, no empirical investigation is actually necessary.
We could hardly distinguish above two different ideas about the nature of knowledge as they are closely linked to each other. In my opinion, science is used to prove and validate our intuitionism by showing the actual models and data. They both then provide us with a sense of justification for the nature of knowledge. Realizing that there are different philosophical positions about the nature of perceptual experience and its relation to reality, and to science is essential to successfully understanding the nature of reality and knowledge.
We have discussed interpretations and critique of the fundamental beliefs that explain the relationship between perception and reality. As we know, it is not easy to simply conclude which theory is the most powerful in explaining such a complicated subject. I believe, however, that the constructionism is the most plausible theory that holds valid argument along with the combination of positive science and intuitionism. How we perceive the reality not only depends on the physical world and materials but also on the experience and morals we retain.
Scientific data and methods as well as intuitionism and insight do play a significant role in supporting the conceptual space produced by broad philosophical positions. Because perception is a dynamic dispute between the attempts of the world to impose a reality and our efforts to transform this reality into our own perspective, it is important for us to develop our own perspective gradually. Thus, my initial position towards the nature of reality and science may still change and later shape a new theory as we go through more studies and discussions in the course of psychology.