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Essay: Sense data

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  • Subject area(s): Philosophy essays
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  • Published: 21 September 2015*
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  • Words: 1,058 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 5 (approx)

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In general, we tend to judge someone or something solely by their appearances. But in actual fact it can be difficult for man to determine reality from appearance. Before I go any farther I would like to distinguish the term appearance as oppose to reality. According to the Oxford dictionary appearance is ‘an impression given by someone or something’, whereas reality is ‘the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them’. Nevertheless people habitually characterize things in relation to their emotions, attitudes and interests; but not all things are as they seem. In ordinary life we can make mistakes as appearances can be deceptive. Nevertheless, does that mean we should never trust appearances? Not trusting appearances can or would make life more complicated. Therefore we have to treat appearances as reality until we can prove otherwise.
Bertrand Russell coined the term sense data, ‘to the things that are immediately known in sensation’. We rely on our senses to store knowledge and experiences gained, for example if we taste an apple once we will try to remember; the texture, taste and colour so whenever we experience a similar sensation our sense data will tell us it is an apple. As a result based on our past experience we tend to remember the colour and the texture of a similar shaped object and assumed that it will functions the same and in most instances it does not. Bertrand Russell’s theory on appearance versus reality attempts to make just that and open one’s mind to considering how things, we see are not really as they seem. ‘Is there any knowledge in the world which is so certain that no reasonable person could doubt it’? Bertrand Russell (1872-1970). Russell believed that all knowledge is ultimately derived from our sensory perceptions of the world around us. Russell coined the term ‘sense data’ in his effort to differentiate the relationship between appearance and reality. Sensory data is how an individual would perceive things based on touch, smell, taste, sight, or hearing. Behind every assumption or doubt there are some forms of metaphysics to be explored.
Our Sense data can be deceptive because they are unreliable and we have a tendency to over-trust and put too much importance and dependence of our five senses. Sense data can tell us something which isn’t the truth which brings me to my next point, whose perception of the senses is right and accurate? We all have different perceptions of objects and things in different ways it is also hard to tell what is real from what is not. We as humans can never be sure that what we are seeing is real and what others perceive as the reality of that object, only if we could be two people at once. Even though our senses are unreliable we all use them on a daily basis to perceive our immediate environment and we believe in them enough to think they are the most trustworthy source we have access to. Every creature/species will go through sense deception in some form throughout their lifespan. . Reality is linked to our senses, as our five senses (taste, touch, smell, hear, sight) interpret the environment we surround ourselves with on a daily basis. Every person’s reality and belief of what is real and what isn’t differs depending on our senses. Our view of reality can be ambiguous and affect our appearance of what we see if we are not being logical and trusting our senses
John Locke propose the theory of the ‘blank slate’, he believed that all human beings are born with a completely blank mind as a result we perceive things based on how we were socialized, base on our experiences or information we receive during our lifetime. In addition there are only few things that we actually “know”(reality) which is often based on reason or scientific evidence. We might know when we are hungry and what to eat to satisfy our hunger. Beyond those types of examples, we basically assume and hope that we are right. We access things through our senses. Politicians and magicians rely on such to persuade us of their objective. What we access through our senses is subjective.
The Sunday Gleaner dated February 9, 2014 carried an article titled, ‘Medical Council gets tough on Doctors Continuing education warning issued for doctors.’ The article began with: “Amid growing concerns about falling health care standards at some of the country’s public health facilities, the Medical Council of Jamaica is warning doctors that they could be banned from practising locally if they fail to meet the annual continuing medical education (CME).” This simple mean that there might be doctors practising below the set standars. Now we all trust our doctors, but how are we sure that they all qualified to diagnose and treat us of our ailment, most person never even seem there medical certificate or license. How many doctors maintain the standard set for practising medicine ins this country, what we know about some of these doctors, that they wear a cape and have an office?. That’s their appearance and that’s how we form our perception of them. Sometimes we even have doubts about the medications they prescribe. We claim that we know things like how credible our doctor is but we often are unsure about what we know. As Plato states ‘any item of knowledge must by definition be free from uncertainty and doubt’. Therefore if we have doubt about anything it might just be an illusion.
Another example is the current ongoing trial of popular dancehall artist Adijah Palmer, he is being accused of murder it might appear to his fans and family members that he is not guilty, because of their perception of him; might be that he is a good person, a man that love is mother and his children,because he is a good lyricist and people all over the world love him. While some person will say he is a murder because of the lyric he put in is songs and his physical appearance, and we here people predicting his verdict. However there might be some truth behind his trial, most of what is being said is based on assumption and people’s perception of him.

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