The Five Blind Men and an Elephant

BMAT question 

We Don’t Live in a World Of Reality, We live in a World of Perception. What do you understand the above statement to mean? Provide examples of how we live in a world of reality and how we live in world of perceptions. What is the common ground between reality and perception.

My Answer

Descartes, the famous philosopher imagined a world controlled by an evil demon creating false illusions; he concluded that the only way he could be sure that he existed was because he could think. The film, the Matrix, was based on this idea.  Our view of the world is limited by our perception. Our vision, often regarded as our most important sense only detects a narrow range of electromagnetic wavelengths. Our other senses are similarly limited.

We live in a world of reality to the extent that our senses do not seem to lie. If I touch my desk it feels solid and occupies the space my vision tells me it does. When I call my sister she does hear me. This tells me that we do live in a world of reality. However science tells me that my desk is made up of atoms with enormous spaces between them and even within the atoms there is much more space than solid. Are my senses deceiving me by making it appear solid? We all know of examples of when perception is completely misleading such as in mirages.

It is important to realise that our picture of the Universe is limited by the perception of our senses. We only perceive a small fraction of the Universe. In the old story of the blind men and the elephant, one blind man felt the tail and declared it to be like a snake, another leg and said it was like a tree and so on. All of them were right but all were also wrong. We are stumbling around in the Universe in a similar blind way, reality and perception come together at times but we rarely see the full picture.