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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 18 2012: In some measure, you don't need to know --or rather-- it doesn't matter if you know, it simply matters how you act (react/respond) to the 'blue' you see. The role sense play are largely informational, played out in propreoception. Do I say 'blue' when I see 'blue'? Do I reach out and pick up the 'blue glass' without knocking it over? It matters that most of us know to stop when the traffic light turns red, but that behavior might have almost nothing to do with 'color' at a specific wavelength. When perception is translated into action, it has meaning.culturally. Do the thoughts we 'keep' to ourselves, mean anything? Are they effectively meaningful if not accompanied by some interaction with the external environment?

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