Re: perception vs reality

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Sun 17 Apr 2005 - 08:27:32 GMT

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    Scott Chase wrote:

    > --- Kenneth Van Oost <>
    > wrote:
    >>----- Original Message -----
    >>From: Scott Chase <>
    >>You wrote,
    >>>Instead of the solipsistic private illusion, I
    >>>it's better to think of this in terms of the
    >>>idealistic shared illusion. The categories of
    >>>we all share due to genetic or cultural
    >>>might influence the manner in which we perceive
    >>Ok, but than a few conditions has to be fullfilled,
    >>1_ we must perceive any sensation in the same way
    >>others do,
    >>or at least have the notion that we all feel the
    >>Do we !?
    > Maybe not so much across cultures, but more so within
    > a culture (or a nation). We could each perceive the
    > world through lenses similar to others in our
    > respective countries when it comes to matters of
    > patritotism and national pride. Taking it down a few
    > notches, we might perceive sports similarly to fellow
    > fans of a certain team. The sports franchise is a
    > social institution and we identify with it and get
    > pulled in by emblems, mascots and songs and share
    > these socifacts with fellow fans, just as we share a
    > comon flag and national anthem with other citizens.
    > There's much room for differentiation in this context,
    > but stll there are some commonalities.

    Even within cultures there is a question about whether we perceive sensations in the same way as each other. Philosophers talk about
    "qualia": the subjective qualities of our conscious experiences - e.g. the way chocolate tastes, the way it feels to cut your knee. The problem with qualia is that other people's are inaccessible. So how do we know that your chocolate-tasting quale is the same as mine? There is a spectrum of liking for the tastes of certain foods: does one of us tolerate, another loathe and a third love the taste of brussels sprouts because each is reacting to the *same* tasting experience in a different way - or because sprouts actually taste different to each of us?

    Here's another example. A few years ago I needed an operation: in pain when I came round from the anaesthetic I was asked by the morphine-wielding nurse whether my pain was "mild, moderate or severe" and was overwhelmed by questions about what she meant by each of those terms - how should I know whether what I felt was what is generally accepted as "moderate"? But then it turned out that she didn't care about my philosophical quandry (surprise!) - she wanted to know what it felt like *to me* at that moment. This still interests me: the objective amount of painkiller we need is dependent on our subjective experiences of pain. Presumably we could inflict precisely the same injury on a selection of people, and each would need a different level of painkiller as a result.

    Not that I would advocate such an experiment!


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