Our senses help us interact with the world. Smell, hearing, sight, taste, touch, and external stimulus play a major role in shaping our perceptions of the surroundings and the world. To trust our senses means that we have justified belief of what we perceive is “true”. To what extent can our senses give us truth? In order to obtain a better understanding of under what conditions we can rely on our senses, we need to compare circumstances where they have most been true with circumstances where they most have not.
We appear to rely on our senses in order to perceive the truth in terms of the world and the surroundings. Senses are the representation of reality, we can perceive that there is an apple on the table by touching or seeing it through motor and sensory neurons and electromagnetic rays. Also, senses play a significant role in surviving. A keen sense of smell allows animals to run away from predators and allocate food, similarly, a good eye-sight allows us to see what is going on around us and helps us get familiar with the surroundings in order to adapt.
In 2004, many animals such as elephants and flamingos escaped the tsunami in Sri Lanka and India, the animals “predicted” the coming disaster as they may have more acute sense of hearing or touch which allows them to feel the strong vibration of the Earth. On the other hand, our senses can easily be deceived. Advertisements on TV and internet tell us how great a product is and encourage us to buy it, however, the truth may be that the actual product is not as effective as it seems to be.
I bought a shampoo because on the advertisement it said that it can moisturize my hair and make my hair look shiny, and the hair of the model in the advertisement looked pretty which made me want to look like her. However, when I actually used it, it did not have all the effects that were described and my hair still looked the same. Magic performance is successful because of its deception of our senses. Once during a magic show, I saw the performer cut a lady in half but the lady was still alive.
The truth is that the performer did not cut the lady, the lady appeared to be in half because of the information that my sense of sight sent. Senses can be misleading because they may only show one side of the situation, unless more senses work togerther and we reasoning the information we get from our senses, we cannot reach the truth. However, we still may not get the truth even if we reason or our senses work together. Different people perceive differently. Blind people do not have their sense of sight so they cannot know that an apple is red but they may have stronger senses of hearing and touch than normal people.
It is also understood that emotion affects our perception of truth. I like fast food and therefore I perceive fast food as delicious food and have affection for it, but my mom hates fast food and therefore she sees it disgusting. Despite the problems our senses may cause, they still play a significant role in our areas of knowledge. Evolutionarily, we trusted our sense. According to Charles Darwin’s natural selection theory, the strongest will survive and the weakest will die. Men select the best looking women and women select the strongest looking man.
Although the this pattern has now changed, men are still generally attracted to good looking women and women choose men that they feel being safe with. Scientifically, scientists need to observe the phenomenon and conduct experiments through their senses first and then make theories by reasoning. Our senses are limited. We see only a tiny part of reality as we can only see the visible spectrum of the whole electromagnetic spectrum and the things we see are our representation of them. As Hermann von Helmholtz argues, we convert the image we see through our eyes into something that makes sense base on our prior knowledge and experience.
The optical illusions created by Hermann and Lingelbach supported Helmholtz’s idea because we have difficulty to see images composed of lines due to limitation in our optical sense. As philosopher Rene Descarte says that “the senses deceive from time to time, and it is prudent never to trust wholly those who have deceived us even once”, our senses indeed can be fallible and limited, but we need them to interact with the world. So let us just follow our senses and live in the world our senses provide us.