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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 believe there is indeed a big amount of trust required to answer this. "No one will ever truly no another person." I'm not sure if thats a quote i heard or just something older quotes have jumbled to form but I think it is true. We may tell people our deepest secrets or what not and they may know us but they will never know us as only we will fully know us. We are the only ones thinking and not every thought you have is recorded not every desire not every emotion even in a journal there's always a chance that something is forgotten. I think this carries over to sensory perception, we can trust that someone sees the sky similarly to us, if not the same, but we will never know 100%. Unless someone creates a technology that will allow you to slip in and out of someone else's senses :P The real issue I think is how can our differing perceptions and sensory awareness be used to connect people on a larger scale? How can we get more people who don't see blues as vibrant or smell pumpkin pie as strongly, to experience life through their senses as strongly as other people do?

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