The whole notion that
"the senses are inaccurate" is so flimsy an error (and so
transparent a ploy) that it amazes me that anyone uses it any more.
The senses do not make "mistakes." We make mistakes in identifying
what our senses tell us. There is a huge difference here, and the notion that
"the senses are inaccurate" drops this distinction in order to
promote intellectual fraud. The senses do not "make
decisions"; they simply respond automatically to things which impinge on
them. If I feel pain, is that a "mistake"? Is it really pleasure
that I'm feeling and cannot tell the difference because the senses are
suddenly "playing tricks" on me?
Peter mentioned the scenario in which someone
hears a voice which wasn't really there. But if he heard something and thought
what he was hearing was a voice, then this is not an error of the senses, but
in his identification of what his senses sensed (perhaps he misidentified the
squeeking of a door closing as the sound of a voice; that's not an
"inaccurate perception" but an inaccurate identification of what he
sensed - i.e., an error of judgment or inference, not an
"error of sensation"). And if he really didn't hear anything to
begin with, then still he cannot blame his senses, since he didn't sense
anything (since he really didn't hear anything after all); he has
simply confused his imagination with objective phenomena (or perhaps his
mind is simply looping one of its theistic wormholes again -- or whatever
psychotic episode may have seized him) . Perhaps this is what happened to
Abraham in the case of the voices he supposedly heard?
Some like to point to the tired old example of the
pencil stuck in a glass half full of water. The pencil "appears"
bent. "See!" they shout, "the senses are misguided! For we know
the pencil is really straight!" Well, how did they know the pencil was
All this points to the fact that our
perceptual faculties are astonishingly accurate, for they don't just
deliver isolated sensations which have no objective reference in reality or
relation to each other. Instead, they deliver an entire context of
information, integrated automatically (by our neural nets) in the form of
percepts which we must identify by means of reason (i.e., a means of
integrating the perceptual into the conceptual). Remember, reason is the
faculty which identifies and integrates what the senses provide us. Perception
integrates individual sensations into percepts so that what we see are
not isolated, contextless attributes (e.g., "black, red, glaze,
shine, shape, round, straight," etc.) but entities (e.g., a car
with its many attributes, or a table with many individual objects on top of
it). In this sense, our perceptual level of consciousness
"pre-integrates" what our senses sense in the world around us, but
it is up to us to name what the senses tell us by means of concept-formation.
Without this whole process functioning as well as it does, we couldn't compose
a single e-mail, let alone drive an automobile down to the grocery store and
Look again at the case of the pencil dunked in a
glass half full of water. It "appears" bent because of light
refraction: light travels faster through air than it does through water, and
our perceptual faculty responds to this fact. A set of "inaccurate
senses" would have us see a pencil which appears straight when it is
dunked in a glass half full of water, for it would drop the factual context of
the different speeds at which light travels through the two media in question.
But that is impossible. The senses do not have a will of their own, thus the
notion that the senses "deceive" us relies on a stolen concept that
has been retired to the pasture or irrational philosophy long ago, thanks
to rational philosophy. Peter and other careless thinkers need to
figure this out, and start using their minds like rational human beings.