Do I trust my senses?
The five physiological senses are subjective, they are methods of perception through which we perceive the harmless enigmas of the universe which contains underlying truths and evidence; these are controlled and interpreted by knowledge. I believe that there is not a single correct answer to the non-refuting question of truth, because senses depend on two factors: uncertainty and situation. Senses are built upon fallible interpretations of perception and it depends on the circumstances of a given situation. This raises important questions concerning knowledge and senses: How does the answer to the question vary when I replace the imperative ‘should’ with ‘would’, ‘could’ and ‘might’? Is it the nature of sense perceptions that they are essential to the revelation of truth? Can man trust his senses? Are all truths relative and none absolute? What do I think about the relationship of my reasoning and my mental abilities to my senses as far as leading myself to the truth and to knowledge and to wisdom? In this essay, I will concentrate on how sense perceptions are affected by the limitations of our knowledge. This in turn, will involve areas of knowledge.
There is no truth without the three mechanics of existence: knowledge, independence and belief. It is because the brain and nervous system constitute of a belief-generating machine; it guides future actions whether correct or erroneous. There are seven units in the belief-generating engine: learning, critical thinking, yearning, input, emotional response, memory and environmental feedback. The learning unit is the understanding key because humans are prone to error when judging the relationship between events. The world around us abounds with coincidental occurrences; some of which prove justified truth and others that prove fallacious beliefs.
The Critical thinking unit is acquired through experience and direct teaching that we come to understand the limits of our immediate intuitions and common logic. I cannot trust our automatic inferences about co-occurrence and causality because I use reason and faith to evaluate certain events around me; intuitive thought is always won by rationality. The Yearning unit assuages the fallacious and justified true beliefs.
The Input unit, our perceptions selects and organises information from the environment in our sensory world. We are less likely to be influenced by incoming information if it does not already correspond to deeply held beliefs. For instance, a spiritual Christian is prepared to visualise Virgin Mary, information and perceptual experience suggests that she has appeared. This is more easily accepted to a believer than it would be by an atheist.
The Emotional Response unit is based on experiences accompanied by strong emotions that are triggered due to information from the outside world even before we are consciously aware that something has happened. This is relevant to the understanding of paranormal experiences because normal events are not expected to produce these emotional responses.
The Memory unit is based through personal experience, we believe in the reliability of our memories and in our ability to judge the truth and false knowledge. However, memory is a constructive process rather than a literal rendering of past experience, and memories are subject to serious biases and distortions. Not only does memory involve itself in the processing of incoming information and the shaping of beliefs; it is influenced by sense perceptions and beliefs, therefore, it is very difficult for me to reject my own memory process; for memory is likely to provide truth.
Environmental feedback unit is feedback from the external world that reinforces and weakens our beliefs, but since the beliefs themselves influence how that feedback is perceived, beliefs can become very resistant to contrary information and experience.
Robert Kirkham states:-
‘The believer’s evidence necessitates the truth of the belief’.
In Kirkham’s opinion, the senses are our evidence that demands truth. With all respects, I do not agree with Robert Kirkham because the evidence does not ‘necessitate’ the truth of the belief. On the other hand, it protects it by giving reason because people use logical syllogisms such as deduction and induction in order to come to conclusions they feel are more inflexible than our own basic sense perceptions.
I believe that the following areas of knowledge: Critical thinking, logic, reason and science attempts to ferret out truth from a tangle of intuition, distorted perceptions and fallible memory.
The Buddha states:-
‘Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true not because of a so-called wise person, ancient books, divine origins, or because someone else had said it’
I disagree with the Buddha because an important way in which a true critical thinker checks on his/her perceptions and beliefs is to compare with those of others because shared beliefs can promote social solidarity and a sense of importance. If the majority doubts the thinker’s belief then they can work to dispel doubt and find certainty. Figments of our imagination and reflections of our emotional needs can often interfere with the perception of truth and reality. We will never succeed in abandoning irrational tendencies because of the basic nature of the belief engine.
Ralph Waldo Emerson states:-
‘Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect / ‘Trust thyself, every Heart vibrates to that iron string/self-trust is the first secret to success ’.
I believe that the spiritual experience is a sixth sense. How can I truly trust my senses when I know that my senses can deceive me? I cannot trust my senses because it is my experiences with my senses that lead me to reason and think logically. I can think mathematically because I see, hear and understand the teacher. This knowledge built the basis for the rest of my mathematical knowledge. It is my ability to reason that gets me to consider whether or not I can trust my senses. If I cannot trust my senses, and my senses lead me to think logically, then I cannot trust my logical thinking. If I cannot trust my logical thinking, then I cannot trust the thought that I might not be able to trust my senses.
The eye experiences many levels of sense; receives information from word and creates meaning. For instance, I am walking down the park, I see children playing happily; it is unlikely that I am even paying attention to that. I might be staring at a spectacular appearance of the moonlight. While one experience may be much more intense than another, neither can be considered more or less real, no matter how often or seldom such experiences occur.
The ear also experiences many levels of hearing. For example, I am walking down a busy road and hear the noises of car engines driving by or GCSE students in a hall performing an examination when suddenly a pen drops on a floor. It is not a question of volume, but it is about how intense affect my sense of hearing. The effect on the emotions is real and powerful, yet the noises from the car engines are just as real as a pen dropping in a quiet setting like an examination hall.
I was curious to know the religious points of view of how religion takes on account to trust our senses because religion dominates my life and in other people’s lives because of my cycle:-
In the Bible, John’s Gospel, it states:
‘Much in this world is unreliable, even our own senses can fool us. But God's Word Is
I agree with the statement because in Islam, Muslims have spiritual belief in Allah the Creator similar to God in Christianity that He alone has knowledge above all mankind and His creation.
Islam expects all Muslims to be masters of live hearts and wakeful conscience, which would ensure the protection of the rights of Allah subhanahu wa taala and humanity and which would also protect their action: from the commitment of excesses. Therefore, it is vital that all Muslims should be Ameen, an arabic term for trustworthy.
The phrase trust has a sea of meanings, but its foundation is the sense of responsibility as each one will appear before the Almighty Allah subhanahu wa taala and account for his/her actions.
The Prophet salla allahu alayhi wa salam said:
“Every one of you is a guardian and everyone will be asked about his subjects. Imam is a guardian. He will be asked about his subjects. A man is the guardian of the persons in his household. He is answerable about them. A woman is the guardian of her husband's house. She will be asked about her responsibility. The servant is the guardian of the articles of his master. He is answerable about this responsibility of his, “
Ultimately, I consider that truth requires cognitive orientations that reflect an underlying philosophy which presupposes an objective in reality that is not always perceived by my senses because my senses are useful but not absolute. The mind brings my trust to my senses by logical consideration but is limited by knowledge and experience. I can trust my spiritual sense because not all spiritual experiences include powerful, open visions. Just like my eyes and ears, my spiritual sense is always regularly active and has a greater impact than my other physiological senses. My purpose of life, religion and parents are the products of my mind that control when I trust my senses.
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