How to understand the reality and truth around us through our ways of knowing
The given question asks how to understand the reality and truth around us through our ways of knowing. It is possible for numerous persons to view the same problem at a different position with a different reality as illustrated by Amitav Ghosh’s quote: “(when) The rubber tree won’t yield latex: the biologist blames the sapling, the geologist blames the soil, the contractor blames the unskilled laborer and the owner says its fighting back at being controlled. ” Thus we see that one’s position in a certain matter can filter his/her reality because of different reasoning.
One’s Ethical standpoint also plays a role in his/her view of reality as well. An extremist Muslim can see Ben Laden as a savior, not a terrorist, whereby an American would see him as a terrorist and not a savior. Experience is another “filter” that can affect our knowledge of reality. Children (which generally have less experience) view the world and life in a different way than an adult does. Language is used for communication and thus is a way of knowing- although different sources can be less reliable than other; language is a filters that can either help or harm our perception of reality, as other filters discussed before can as well.
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The main way by which our minds communicate with the external world is through our five senses; but even these can prove to be treacherous. Under emotional distress one can see things that are not there; such as a thirsty man in the Sahara can see a mirage portraying an oasis. Yet senses still help us to function correctly and be aware to a certain extent of our environment. The question is do we all experience our senses in the same way? There is no way for us to know; it is impossible to know the exact truth regarding the objectivity of the appearance of anything.
This can explain why some people like some music that others don’t, or why some paints are admired by some whereby disliked by others. Yet there still is some coherence and harmony in between all of our own existences which shows that to some extent we share a same reality as well- in which we find the truth. Some parts of reality cannot be detected with our mere senses and thus our senses are extended by machines in order to find out truth, as we have seen with radars that give off sonic sound waves to give an image of the bottom of the sea.
This extension of the senses is crucial in order to find truth in science areas, such as geology and biology (microscopes). In that sense our filters are made more precise and help us find truth that we never would’ve known existed- for example cells were discovered by use of the microscope. It is possible for numerous people at different positions to view the same problem at different points of view- as observed with Amitav Ghosh’s quote in a work pyramid. This is good as it gives more possible solutions to a problem. Each can be tested, compared and observed in order to derive from it a truth.
Historians and think tank members such as Mr. Darko1 analyze different documents from various countries to derive truth. Mr. Darko explains that he uses his reasoning to deduce the truth taking in to account exaggerations, propaganda and any other “truth fogger”. The downside to his and the historian’s technique is that it is difficult to actually obtain any proof that their deduced truth is the actual truth. The different documents are filtered for truth- different documents represent different points of views and points of views are filters, as they help perceive a truth.
The different documents carry some truth, as well as some lies- or lack truth. Reason in this case has to filter out the non- truth. Scientists on the other hand can have various hypotheses; these can be tested and questioned until an ultimate hypothesis is agreed upon. Some hypotheses are more difficult to test than others- such as the hypotheses to how life began on earth- divine creation, organic dust, mud, or hydrothermal- scientists still disagree as they cannot reproduce the creation of life on earth on a natural scale.
Yet there are cases such as with mechanism of telomerase whereby scientists disagree and end up agreeing facing new evidence. One can think that the agreed upon hypothesis is true, but it may not be, just as everyone thought the earth was flat, when really it wasn’t. Language is the mean of communication by which historians obtain their information from the past. Words can be more powerful and treacherous than we think. If some lies are spread during the time the historical event is taking place, it can be thought of as true and spread in all the documents that are found- thus hiding truth for good.
But in a dialogue one can still filter out lies from truth. Some people give out uncontrollable signals when they lie, such as quicker blinking or a stutter amongst other signals. These can serve as lie detectors. To enhance our senses lie detectors have been made which measure these uncontrollable signals, such as increased sweating and pulse rate. Though these work on most; there are some people such as actors who are trained to take up another identity as seemingly truthful as possible; in which case it is much more difficult to filter out the truth from the lies.
It is not only lies that must be filtered out of the communication, but also misunderstandings. Misunderstandings can lead to ignorance, and confusion- thus we can see that being as clear as possible in communication is crucially important. Clarity can filter out confusion and misunderstandings. Some areas of knowledge show truth through subjectivity; which shows that there is more than one truth available. This is the case with art. In art there can be more than one meaning depending how much one wants to go in to analysis.
In this case it is highly difficult to filter out any “not truth”-because as long as every opinion can be supported it can be considered true. This is the case with Robert Frost’s “Walking by Snowy Woods on a Winter Evening”. Robert frost is infamous for making his poems seem to have more than a few possible themes. Some say that the cited poem is about death, others about solitude, and others about peace. In this case there are multiple different truths about one subject.
Yet some art, as Gina Miller’s “One” is not produced to have meaning; but for esthetic. In Esthetic art it is difficult to know if the piece of work is beautiful or not; as people differ in their definition of beauty. Men for instance do not always agree wheater a woman is beautiful or not. Thus where subjective truth reigns each person can construct his or her own reality. 3
With time one gets increasingly experienced. Depending how one has understood his/her experience, the experience can serve as an asset to reach truth. One who generalizes information based on past experiences can be biased towards new experience. This is the case with stereotypes and racism. One who has met a few persons that proved to be bad representatives of a population cannot think that the entire population is like that sample. If one learns from past experience in a positive way and knows that each case is unique and stays away from generalizations it is easier to achieve truth. In this sense experience affects reasoning; which is a filter for truth.
As I said before with time one gets increasingly experienced- thus children can be seen as the least experienced category of people, and so it explains why they understand things in a different way than adults do. Their reasoning is not as “tweaked” as adults’ as they have less experience. Unless they are genius phenomenons children need to be introduced softly and gently to the harsh and brutal truths-as with death, other truths can be faced straight away, such as how fruit are made and less complex science facts.
The ethical standpoint of people also affects their knowledge filters. A Muslim sees a woman wearing a veil as protecting the woman, men (from sin), the family name and carrying out the orders of the Holy Koran. An atheist understands it as stopping the freedom of a woman. This problem deals with subjective truth, concerning the question: “what is better?” Both views are correct in their appropriate culture, but not in the wrong one. For instance in France there has recently been many problems around the veil; ending in making it illegal to wear on in public organizations- such as a public school. Some ethical points are agreed upon everywhere such as cold blooded murder being wrong. Thus we can see that ethical truth is hard to find using the appropriate way of knowing (filter) – reason.
Everybody’s mean of seeing truth is different to some extent. We all live in our own reality to some extent. If we all lived in the same reality, there wouldn’t be much difference in opinion and the world would be quite dull. Some filters are innate such as the five senses and others are shaped with time to a certain extent like emotion, reason and language (communication). Each filter has its strength and weakness, and each one can be used in a positive clarifying way or a confusing obscure way as I have explained for instance with racism. Truth as we have seen can be either objective or subjective, as art is subjective and science is objective (at most times), subjectivity having more truths than objectivity. The question to ask now is does one reality truly exist? Or is it that everything outside the mind is not real?