E-mail to a Professor

22 Feb

Today I sent an e-mail to my professor regarding a paper I wrote about (which is actually posted on this blog) because I got marked down for apparently not answering the question. I asked him if I could explain my reasoning to him and show him that I did in fact answer the question, but perhaps not as explicitly as I could have. I thought this was an interesting addition to what I wrote about in that paper (link below) and thought I’d share it with you.

I suppose what I wasn’t explicitly clear about was which premise I was attacking: I am in fact attacking the first premise, that illusions exist. At the conclusion of my paper, I made the claim that so-called “illusions” are nothing more than additional transformations upon the phenomenon which our senses perceive. The common misconception that I was trying to point out is the conception of the veridical world as constituted merely by its most salient entities. In truth, the veridical world is constituted by everything in it, and we are perceiving the rest of this world whether or not we realize it.

For example, a room with an apple on a table has more within it than just an apple and a table: it also contains air. Though air isn’t immediately evident to our perceptions, it is significant in that it is there, even if it only has an extremely minute effect on light and sound phenomenon. It would seem odd that we should count the effect of the apple on a wave of light as a perception, but not count the effect of the medium which it passes through as a perception. This sort of conception about the veridical world as constituted by more than just its most salient objects reconciles illusions like objects appearing bent in water: we are having a perception of the object as well as having a perception of the water, our final perception being an amalgam of both of these perceptions (as well as others).

An even more important and very often ignored part of the veridical world which has an effect on our perceptions is the body itself, particularly the brain. We often forget that the body is itself part of the real world. Any transformation that occurs in the body is just as significant as any other transformation, if not more. If we consume LSD and experience a hallucination, are we perceiving nothing at all about the veridical world? Are we not perceiving the effect of a chemical upon our brain? One might question whether or not this counts as a valid perception, but I would reply that if we count touch or pain as a perception (essentially the effect of some stimulus upon a nerve cluster), then we have no reason to not count the effects of hallucinatory chemicals on the brain as perceptions.

My point in this last part is to show that so called “illusions” and “hallucinations” are nothing more than additional perceptions about the veridical world (which includes the body and the brain). I still believe in the notion of sense-datum: the entities which we see in the world of our perceptions are still entirely mental. What I believe in addition to this is the notion that sense-datum is always an accurate and direct representation of the veridical world and its features, the problem being that it is a direct representation of ALL of its features (including the features of the air, the body, and the brain). Even if the causal source of illusory features is not the object about which we are having an illusion, the causal source must be located somewhere in the veridical world. In this sense, an illusory feature is in fact a perception of something existing in the veridical world, even if that something does not in any way resemble the “illusion.”

Whether or not this answers the question of the assignment, I’d like to hear your thoughts about this, just for my own pursuits.

Thanks and best,
Steven Balasta

Posted by on February 22, 2012 in Learning, Philosophy, Writing


4 responses to “E-mail to a Professor

  1. Maria Luisa Balasta

    February 24, 2012 at 8:28 AM

    I would like to know how he responded….


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