People have always been concerned about knowledge and the way this knowledge can be obtained. In that sense, one of the main points of interest in knowledge is the truth and based on what means this truth can be reliable. In that context, as human senses were considered as part of those studies, this paper examines this subject on whether the truth is only dependable on the five senses or there are other ways of obtaining the truth.
Truth can be defined and determined in many different ways. Truth can be considered as correct reflection of the objective reality in consciousness of the person, and its reproduction in a way that it exists in itself, and irrespective of the person and its consciousness. The understanding of truth as conformity of knowledge to things goes back to the thinkers of an antiquity.
At each historical stage, the mankind had a relative truth – approximately adequate and incomplete knowledge. The recognition of the relativity of truth is connected with inexhaustibility of the world and the infinity of process of obtaining knowledge. The true knowledge of each epoch contains elements of the absolute truth, where it possesses objectively true contents, it is a necessary stage of the development of human knowledge, and its contents are included in the subsequent stages of knowledge.
Relating the truth to the theory of knowledge, we can say that the focus of interest of the theory of knowledge studies the objective (logic) section of knowledge. Therefore, the aim of this theory is to construct a theory of truth, where we conduct a preparatory research consisting of the analysis of structure of knowledge. For instance, by the means of analysis it is possible to establish that the knowledge (judgment) is related to the object, that it belongs to the examined object, and that there are such elements as, on the one hand, “senses”, and from another hand, a causal relation.
In regards to senses, as part of the knowledge, it can be said that the way we usually achieve the ‘truth’ is by processing the information that is obtained from our senses, where the ending result is our knowledge of that truth. That is especially correct when we consider such examples as the child testing the fire and acknowledging that it burns, watching the moon to believe that it exists, and tasting the sugar to know that it is sweet.
Such ‘truths’ can be regarded as simple facts that are obvious and evident where they cannot be considered untrue for another person, unless the aforementioned senses are absent.
However, some the of this information cannot be reached easily, where for example the Greek philosopher Socrates taught people not to accept their existing thoughts as true. Above all, Socrates believed if people only relied on their senses no one would get to the truth or reality. For example, we have people who do not believe in God and other people who do, wherein in such cases the reliance on the five senses will satisfy either party.
Each of these statements is true to each individual, and each party will use its own set of evidence to justify such statements. In that sense, a unified knowledge is something controversial, for example the philosopher Richard Rorty argues that “the current multiplicity of knowledge is a good thing. “As we pragmatists see it,” he writes, “there can and should be thousands of ways of describing things and people.” (Wilson, Rorty, and Gross).
In that matter, the concept of perception can be viewed as a way of obtaining knowledge and interpreting what people believe to be true. People’s perception can alter reality when trying to ignore what is really true because of particular factors. All these factors can shape the person’s perception and therefore consequently altering his sense of what is true.
In that sense, we can say that in some subjects, the absolute truth is a matter of the majority’s perception which is based on collective representation of certain evidence that supports that subject. This can be examined through the example of various doctrines addressing one subject such as, issues of different religious confessions, philosophical directions, etc.
This truth can be changed along with people changing their perceptions. Therefore, our senses are not the only things that determine our truth or our belief in the truth. These views on knowledge acquisition, i.e. senses and perception can be considered as early views, where “Early philosophers, such as Alcmaeon, Democritus, and Protagoras, speculated that sensation and perception were the only sources of knowledge. Alcmaeon and Democritus suggested that the sense organs take in information from the environment and send it to the brain where other ideas are then derived. In other words, knowledge comes from the interaction of the senses with the environment; there is no other source.” (Reynolds, Sinatra, and Jetton 93).
Accordingly, there are other means of obtaining knowledge along with human sense such as intuition, logic and experience. Experience can be related to the senses in some way, where every action related to examination through the different senses can transform into an experience resulted from the outcome of such examination.
Thinking process is not always carried out in unfolded and logical way. There are cases when the person extremely quickly and almost instantly seizes a difficult situation and finds the correct decision. The ability to comprehension of truth by its direct discretion and without explanation with the help of discussion can be called intuition. Intuition takes an important place in knowledge; it informs it of new impulses and movement directions.
Under the intuition as a term it can be understood as intellectual intuition which allows getting into the essence of things.
Combining intuition and senses for example, what we intuitively believe to be the “real world” is what we see, e.g. “We intuitively think that the rainbow is a natural phenomenon existing apart from the human mind, but it is not. Its palette is a product of the way the visual system and brain break the continuously varying wavelength of sunlight into the seemingly discrete segments we call colors”. (Wilson, Rorty, and Gross) Accordingly the aforementioned concept can be applied to the other senses as well.
In acquiring knowledge and obtaining the truth a big role is also played by logic thinking, the means and methods of concepts’ formation, and logic laws. Also an increasing role in knowledge is played by imagination, attention, memory, emotions, will and other abilities, where these abilities in spheres of philosophical and scientific knowledge have important values.
It can be seen that, in the course of knowledge, the people use both feelings, and reason, as well as senses. The mind’s main task is therefore, to unite the diverse and to establish the indigenous reasons and motive forces of the studied subjects.
In conclusion, we rely on our senses to give us part of the truth but not always the reliance only on them is enough. There are many ways people find their truth, and truth is not tangible as there are many theories in terms of finding the truth. Senses are just part of what gives humans answers to the truth where they are limited even in terms of observing simple facts.
There are many ways the senses can be tricked into believing something is fact. This leads us back to the question and to understand that truth is based on several different factors that should be combined to receive a complete answer.
As it was mentioned that senses and perceptions were considered as the first and early means of obtaining the truth, it can be said that these means are developing as human’s knowledge increases, where for a child the senses are the only way to obtain knowledge, a mature person combines all the means available.
Reynolds, Ralph E., Gale M. Sinatra, and Tamara L. Jetton. “Views of Knowledge Acquisition and Representation: a Continuum from Experience Centered to Mind Centered.” Educational Psychologist 31.2 (1996): 93-104. Questia. 2009. Web.
Wilson, Edward O., Richard Rorty, and Paul R. Gross. “Is Everything Relative?: A Debate on the Unity of Knowledge.” The Wilson Quarterly Wntr 1998: 14+. Questia. 2009. Web.