This quote states that a person’s understanding is not objective, as it is affected by several factors. The statement speaks about seeing and understanding seeing and understanding refers to perceiving. Perception is the process where sensory stimulations is translated into organized experience . The quote mentioned above says that it depends on what we know and how we are, how we see and understand things. Knowledge is acquired by the 4 ways of knowing, sense perception, emotion, reason and language. Sense perception is they physical response of our senses to stimuli.
Emotion is the state of mind responding to one’s circumstances. Reason is one of the human mental faculties that are able to generate conclusions from assumptions or premises . Language is a method of communication via signs and sounds . However one cannot rely on only one way of knowing as they are all interconnected. Our senses are limited as us humans only have 5 senses; information obtained from the senses lead to sense perception. In the world there are different species that have different senses and limitation to them as well.
For example snakes have a heat detector in their tongues as they detect infrared heat rays, but the lack a good vision as they can see the movement of an object but barely the object itself as they see it blurry . Humans vary in their sense limitations, some have a finer sense of smell, some are colorblind and some suffer from deafness. This is because of the different acuteness of senses humans have. According to Gestalt psychology humans sense things in patterns rather than specific, as we tend to group similarities .
For example there is a known article in The Boston Globe titled Grape Expectations, where scientists at Caltech and Stanford researched the effect price in wine tasting. People were provided with the same wine said to be at different prices, ranging from $5 to $90. The results were consistent as everyone said the more expensive the wine, the better it tasted, thought it was clearly the same wine as the cheaper. The most important part of the experimentation was that when the tasters were told the more expensive wine was coming, their brains expected a tastier wine.
This proves our senses are not objective, but subjective. Wines were the same but they were sensed not as they are, equal, but as we are, expecting a better wine from the more expensive wine . As all ways of knowing are interconnected we can’t focus just on one, emotion is the reaction and response to the information received by our senses; emotion is a way of knowing that is subjective as one does not share the same emotion with someone else. According to Western Science chemical reactions cause emotions, and so every individual as they all have different physiological processes, have different emotions .
Our emotions interfere with our way of thinking and our ability to reason. A personal example to confirm that emotion interferes with our ability to form coherent and unbiased thoughts is when I was to decide whether or not a person should form part of a team, I have a previous knowledge of the fact that this person is good playing hockey. Even though I know all of these facts I still do not choose her, as I do not sympathize with that person, as we have had an argument weeks ago. My emotions against her lead my thoughts to not like her playing, even though I knew she was a good player.
Furthermore, there is an article in La Nacion, an argentinian newspaper, titled “El amor anula una parte del cerebro” (Love cancels a part of the brain). This article states that love, an emotion, eliminates the ability of humans to analyze someone else’s personality and good looks. Those who are in love tend to find him the handsomest partner out there and tend to ignore their faults . This shows we see and understand things considering our emotions and in a very subjective way, as we see and understand things not as they are, but as we are.
Reason can be divided into deductive logic and inductive logic. The first one is when a conclusion is formed from two or more premises; on the other hand inductive logic is when we make assumptions and generalizations based on our experiences, our empirical knowledge. Empirical knowledge is when we know something is going to happen because we’ve seen it so many times; it is based in our experiences and our previous knowledge of our surroundings. Plato portrays this in his Cave Allegory. Where the prisoners in the cave created their own reality based on what they could see and hear, shadows and echoes.
When they are released from the cave their senses cannot comprehend the new reality, as they’ve had no experience. This proves that we see and understand the surroundings as we are, rather than what they are, as we need a previous experience in order to form an empirical knowledge and this last mentioned is needed to reason with inductive logic. Moreover reason can also be influenced by our culture, how we are raised and how we react will determine our reasoning. Culture is defined as socially transmitted behaviour, patterns, beliefs, arts and thoughts; where socio-economic factors alter and determine your culture.
An example of this is a study from the Russian School; where Alexander Luria led an investigation in Central Asia to determine whether culture affected reasoning. He and his colleagues headed to Central Asia in the 1930s, they tested it in 4 groups. Non-literate women in remote villages who did not participate in formal economic practices; non-literate men who were engaged in traditional farming; young activists involved in collective farming (some of whom were minimally literate); and women attending teacher training schools.
The results were that the men who were farmers, when asked something that was not in their daily basis, they could not answer it. People with low education could not do deductive logic and their reasoning was fully due to their inductive logic, meaning that if they hadn’t experienced it they could not reason a valid answer. This proves that we see and understand things as we are not as they are as every individual has a different reasoning due to their previous experiences and knowledge . Language is a very important way of knowing as thought and language are separable but dependant.
One cannot think without putting that thought in words. According to the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, which investigated the Hopi Indians, they noticed that language determines thought, linguistic determinism; as well as the fact that a difference in language equals a difference in thought, relativity. Furthermore language is also related to culture as people from different sectors may speak different languages and will also have different cultures. Different socio-economic groups will also have different languages; slang.
An example of this is comparing the amount of words to describe one thing. Eskimos have over 40 words to describe snow, in it’s different presentations, while in other cultures, like African, where there is none or very little snow it is only described as snow. Another study was made to the Hopi Indians, who only describe time in two ways; sooner and later. This can definitely be compared to latin communities that not only describe time as before, now and after but for now they have several words that have a different connotation. Ahora” which translated is now, means in a little while. “Ahorita” which translated means now, has a connotation of in a smaller while. “Ya” which translated means now, is the only one of this three that literally means right now. This shows that things are understood differently depending on where you are from; as culture affects our language and therefore our understanding of it. However, us humans do not have a completely subjective perception. Our perception can be objective as well. Senses provide us with clear and truthful evidence; this leads into an objective sense perception.
In reason as well as inductive logic there exists deductive logic; where a conclusion is formed from two premises, no previous experience or culture affects the conclusion, therefore it is an objective conclusion. Biologically the human body is equipped with objective ways to perceive the world; reflexes, which are involuntary, unconscious and unbiased, provide humans with actions, which are completely isolated from our way of thinking and therefore is not affected by our culture, socio-economic level, sense acuteness, emotional state, nor language.
In conclusion, humans’ perception of the world is affected by the 4 ways of knowing, sense perception, emotion, reason and language. Although the ways of knowing may be objective at some point they are biased by who we are. This takes us back to the fact that we see and understand thing not as they are but as we are; as every individual has a different perception of the world and therefore a different reality.