Did You Just See That? Essay, Research Paper
Humdrum Conundrum: Does or does it not make sense to insist that how each person sees things depends entirely on that persons unique time, place, and subjective judgement? on their cultural background?
I would like to point out that this paper is written assuming there is an absolute reality…and there is actually a table sitting there, and it is not just a figment of our imagination, as it were. Pardon the assumption, I have to have somewhere to work from.
?Did You Just See That??
I believe it makes perfect sense to insist how someone sees something depends entirely on his or her point of view. A great modern philosopher, Bertrand Russell?s, idea of appearance and reality explains that perception of a table and its distribution of colors, shape, and sense, vary with each point of view. Commenting on the distribution of
color, Russell states that, "It follows that if several people are looking at the table at the same moment, no two of them will see exactly the same distribution of colors, because no two can see it from exactly the same point of view, and any change in the point of view makes some change in the way the light is reflected." What one person sees the table as green, one might see as red at another viewpoint. And what might seem to have color is actually colorless in the dark. What one might perceive as being rectangle, may look oval in another view. What may sense the table to be hard by a touch of the fingertips may be soft by the touch of the cheek. Determining hardness of the table depends on pressure applied and judge of the sensation. No assumptions can be absolutely true because
there is no determining factor in choosing the right angle to look at or sense the table. There are no determining factors in which angle or measurement is better to judge than the other in sense of color, shape, and feel of an object. So, depending on an individual?s point of reference, or point of view, will alter their sense of perception of any object, thing, or mass. It is the same idea with a photograph. Depending on the lighting, time of day, and position the picture was taken from, a table can be made to look like any number of things. If it is night, the table may look like a darker lump against a dark backdrop. It is still a table, but it is perceived differently.
To use another example, think of sitting, relaxing on a nice sandy beach with a few friends of choice. As you sit in your cabana chairs, sippin? a brew, you calmly note that there seems to be a large, dark spot above the water, and it seems to be emitting a few reddish flashes every now and again. From the information just perceived while sitting there in the cabana, you come to a conclusion that that dark spot is the very tip of a storm cloud moving towards you. You shout down to your companions, who are playing frisbee about 50 feet away, more or less, telling them to observe the spot for themselves, thinking that once they see it, they will agree, and all doubt will be removed as to its identity. Now, suppose that one of your chums is from the lovely island nation of Japan. He heed your call, looks up at the spot, and proceeds to run from the beach, heedless of fences and seawalls, screaming something crazy about Godzilla is coming. Obviously, your buddy perceived something other than a storm cloud out in the distance; Rather, it seems that he took in the sensory information, and into his perception jumped in an item from his cultural background: a large firebreathing lizard that comes from the sea to either destroy or protect Tokyo. From 50 feet away on the hot sand, his perception was altered. But more importantly, it shows how cultural background can influence perception. There is another example, even more make-believe than the first. In the Disney movie ?The Little Mermaid?, the main characters of the story most decidedly live in an entirely different culture…that is to say, Under the Sea (bad pun, I apologize). One day, after she has finished gathering strange objects originating from the land above the sea, Ariel takes them to her seagull friend Scuttle, thinking he might know something about the objects. But, since both Scuttle and Ariel are not a part of that culture, they can only speculate that a fork is in fact NOT a dinglehopper, and is used for eating, not grooming oneself. If someone presented us with a fork, we would make an observation, and quickly draw from our minds the identity of a fork. There would be no reasonable objection to that conclusion, for we have experienced forks in the past. But since our two animated friends had never been exposed to a fork before, they were forced to draw conclusions from their entirely different point of view. That situation is a wonderful example of how culture can directly influence someone?s perception.
Perception is tricky: no two perceptions by one person will be alike. If there IS an absolute reality, then an object is an object is an object, and will always be that object, no matter what the point of view it is being observed from. Even if you are cowering underneath it, your desk still is a desk, even though you can only see the underside of it. And if I am standing on top of it, screaming and shouting and waving a chainsaw like some crazy person, assuming I am still seeing things ?normally?, I am still seeing the desk, even though it is the top of it. George Lucas really knew what he was talking about when he had the great Obi-Wan Kenobi say: ?Everything is true, from a certain point of view.?