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Sophie Rand

Student Engineering, The Cooper Union For The Advancement of Science and Art


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Can we ever know how another person "senses" the world?

In my Bioelectricity class this week, we learned about the cells
in our body that help us sense our environment: chemosensors in our
tongue that help us sense taste, for example, the photoreceptors in
our eye that sense light, and the hair cells in our ears that sense
the mechanical vibrations of sound, to name a few.

As a result, I recently revisited my answer to the age-old question of
“how do I know that the blue I see is the same blue you see?” that was
so startling and exciting to most 3rd graders playing baby Kierkegaard
a little bit differently. An answer could be that we just have to
trust that perception is guided by biology and that humans are
biologically identical to within 80% of our biological systems.

This answer, of course, raises new questions: even if you and I may
perceive the same blue, is that blue "real?" Where does sensation
leave off and perception begin, and how may we trust ourselves as we
try to compare them? Can we ever know how another person "senses" the
world? Would love to hear your thoughts!


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    Feb 17 2012: I am interested in this question because my 23 year old son is living with severe global developmental delay. He is still learning to communicate verbally. I have had many positive experiences communicating non verbally with him. We play and wrestle, hug, kiss, cuddle and clown. We make noises together. We take turns. All this may seem weird to outsiders because all of this is behaviour one usually sees between a parent and a two year old. But something vital is going on. It has to do with unconditional love -whatever THAT is. Here is an example of what we do with him and others who require special care... http://www.alexandersociety.org/?page_id=26

    All that shared and I leave you with an award winning lecture by Michael Persinger to consider in the context of this question. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9l6VPpDublg

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