Is Perception Constant or Dynamic?
Immanuel Kant’s idealist philosophy regarding experience stands in contrast to the
views of other philosophers.
Critical theorists Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin, for
example, disagree with Kant that perception is constant.
Rather, they believe that it is
mediated by historio-sociological factors such as history, government, and art, and that an
understanding of these factors is essential to understanding perception.
Kant believes that the senses come to man as “sense impressions.”
The faculty of
“intuition” enables man to receive sense impressions.
And “concepts,” or “categories” (
knowledge that exists independent of experience) categorize the raw sense impressions
received through intuition, which results in man having a coherent understanding of the
For Kant, this process is unchanging.
All experience can be explained through the
categories that Kant has posited.
Adorno and Benjamin strongly object to Kant’s explanation.
For both Adorno and
Benjamin the senses do not come to man as “sense impressions,” but rather as already
mediated by historio-sociological factors.
As written in the Internet Encyclopedia of
Philosophy entry on Adorno, “The objects of philosophical study and, indeed, the very
exercise of philosophy itself, were social and historical phenomena.” So, as society changes,
perception changes; and as perception changes, experience changes.
changes, the “unchanging” process that Kant explicates is in fact very changeable:
object of philosophy was not the discovery of timeless, immutable truths, but rather to
provide interpretations of a socially constituted reality,” the IEP entry states
At first thought, this notion may seem far-fetched.
It is difficult to accept that the
way we experience the world is conditioned by historical and social factors.
Yet there is
evidence that lends it a surprising degree of support.
For example, some people collapsed at