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TOK Essay - Pham 1 Stephanie Pham H Wilson Theory of...

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Pham 1 Stephanie Pham H. Wilson Theory of Knowledge February 5, 2010 7. “We see and understand things not as they are, but as we are.” Discuss this claim in relation to at least two ways of knowledge. A continuing question of philosophy is whether or not an external world exists outside of our human senses. It is difficult to know for sure if this dimension is present and highly improbable that we will ever discover an absolute answer to this question. Humans are physically limited and unable to transcend these confines, making it impossible to view the world from an omniscient view. Thus, it is unfeasible to prove or disprove the existence of an outside reality. However, even if such a place exists, we as individuals do not experience it the same way that others do. The claim that “we see and understand things not as they are, but as we are” attempts to explain this idea: our view of the world depends on us only. The first part of this statement, “we see and understand things” refers to the world that is presented to us and our familiarity of this world. The next part, “not as they are,” acknowledges and assumes there is an external world, but disregards its impact on our human experience. The final component of the claim goes on to assert: we understand things “as we are,” which indicates that our encounter with the world is absorbed by our senses and interpreted to form our own individual view of reality. The ways of knowledge that can be applied to this claim are perception and language. It is crucial to examine perception as a way of knowledge when examining this claim because the five senses play an important role in gaining knowledge from the environment. There are two elements involved in the human understanding of the world: sensation, which is anything provided by the outside, and interpretation, which is how our minds construes the
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Pham 2 information given to us. There are numerous theories and perspectives on the relationship between reality and perception. The philosophy that best applies to the statement that “we understand things as they are” is the phenomenalism theory, which basically states that “beyond our experience of reality, there is simply nothing to be said (Lagemaat 100).” This signifies that we do not view the world objectively, but subjectively. If there is an outside reality, it seems that the human senses actively structure it, not reflect it (Lagemaat 87). For instance, optical illusions can trick the viewer because they depict an image with elements that seem one way, and yet in reality, are actually another. For example, there is an illusion that shows two lines. The first line
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