In order to answer the question about when we should trust our senses to deliver us the truth, it is important to first understand our senses. Primarily, our senses serves as a jump point of our awareness or our consciousness, as it takes the form of an inner entity within us, somehow becoming a guide for our actions. We perceive our senses as a truth detector, which again goes back to how it guides our actions. For most of us, we consider our senses as a much more reliable truth detector compared to our emotions, as it can often deceive us and possibly lead us to our demise. These senses are able to relay to us whether something is right or wrong, or may be unfit for a situation.
Further defining it, I could personally say that it is an instinct, an innate ability, which helps or leads us to perceive the world we live in, including the existence of things and the occurrences of events that may or may not matter to us. We have these five human senses, which include sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. All or some of these senses are present in human beings, and these are very useful in their day to day activities. Our senses enable us to act normally, or even to respond accordingly to whatever predicament we are facing.
Our senses are essential in decision making in all of the situations that we may encounter. We synthesize the inputs of our sensory organs and use it to determine what course of action we should take. But still, there are some uncertainties regarding our senses. In a situation where a person sees a car coming when he decides to cross the road at a certain time, how will he be able to tell if what he is seeing with his eyes, what he is hearing with his ears, or how the wind feels in his skin, is really the truth? How can he be so sure that the image or idea that is formed in his head is the reality, and that his senses are not lying to him? In this split second, how will he decide? Should he trust his senses or just ignore them? In the end, it is still up to the person to decide on what course of action he will take, as it is essential to trust ones senses on delivering the truth about a certain event or entity.
In order to gauge if we can really trust our senses, we need to lay down certain considerations that we have to follow. One way is to understand the effect of one’s previous knowledge, understanding, and experience, the completeness of one’s senses (whether or not you have all five senses), the presence and the effect of mental illness to one’s judgment and decision making, the usual interpretations of one’s senses, and finally, the accepted norms of the society that one person belongs to. All these considerations have to be understood, as it is essential in understanding whether or not our senses can be trusted to deliver us the truth.
Initially, we have to gauge our previous knowledge, understanding, and experience, in relation to using our senses. We could ask ourselves if there are any situations or occurrences that our senses have failed us. We should determine how it has failed us, and what its effect to us is. We should also determine the situation wherein our senses accurately perceived events or objects, and use this to compare on the instances it has failed us. By basing on this previous knowledge, we can see the importance of the stored information that we have generated from the past. This old information will be used to create a new one, and that would be our understanding of our senses, whether they are unreliable or not.
If we are able to tell several instances which the senses have failed us, then we start to construct an understanding that at these situations, our senses may not be enough in order to determine the truth. At this point, we start to create a knowledge that tells us how hard it is to perceive an event or an entity with our senses that we possess. One practical example of this is when we need to use the microscope. Before we know about the existence of microorganism unseen to the naked eye, we have a mindset that the world is what is there to see. Our previous knowledge tells us of how surfaces of rocks, soil and other places look like, but with the use of the microscope, we are able to establish a new knowledge about microorganisms that we cannot see with our eyes alone. Our ears are also unable to detect sounds outside the range of our perceivable or tolerable wavelengths. However, we are able to do so with certain devices, and we are even able to put this into practical use, and one example is our use of SONAR.
In relation to this information, we would go back to another criterion in gauging the truthfulness of what our senses perceive. This is whether or not one person has complete or incomplete senses. If we look closely at this idea, we become clear to the fact that there are a lot of people living in this world without complete senses, but despite their incompleteness, they are still able to function normally, and that predicament tend to work for them. This is not only a case of faulty functioning sense, but the absence of a sense (or senses). Despite this, they are able to live their lives like people with complete senses do, and this is made possible by their remaining senses.
Looking at this in a knowledge standpoint, we may say that they were able to learn how to live even when they lack a certain sense. For a blind man, perception is not limited to the eyes alone, and he is able to navigate his way in the world with the use of his hearing or smelling. They learn to use their remaining senses in different ways, and that enables them to live normal lives. The knowledge that they gain from using their remaining senses becomes different from the knowledge that they gain when they have complete senses. In a way, they are able to fully trust their remaining senses because it’s what they have. Somehow, they were able to hone those senses in a manner that they perceive things accurately, and without failure. Let’s compare a normal person and a blind person when they wait for a train. A normal person relies on a combination of his senses, sight and hearing, in order to determine if the train is already near. He can look far back into the rail and see any hint of the train coming, couple with hearing of the increasing train sound. On the other hand, a blind man would solely rely on his sense of hearing to determine if the train is coming. He could concentrate on the distinct sound that a train makes upon its arrival. The blind man may only rely on hearing in order to determine the train’s arrival, but this doesn’t mean that it is a disadvantage. Even with his sole sense, he can concentrate on the distinct sound made by the train, and it hones his sense of hearing, so that he can accurately perceive the train’s arrival. On the other hand, a man with both sight and hearing could hear and see the train when it arrives, but he may be distracted by one sense and lose concentration of accurately determining its presence. Suffice to say, the presence or absence of any sense does not necessarily mean a diminished understanding of the world a person lives in. The knowledge that he gains with the presence of absence of a sense may vary, but still, he is able to fully understand it, and be able to form his own construct of what is the truth.
Another criterion would be the presence and the effects of mental illness to a person’s judgment and decision making. With this criterion, we determine if a person is affected by other things other than his senses in the things that they perceive. Certain cases of mental illness may result to perceiving events or entities which are not real, and are only created by one person’s mind, as a result of his mental illness. If this is the case, then the integrity of what he perceives through his senses is jeopardized. Something that may be non-existent in real life may exist in one’s own perception. This doesn’t mean that he has heightened senses, instead it means that he has a problem, which needs to address in a different manner. This case is also similar to when a person consumes substances that may alter his perception of things. Illicit drugs can often result to hallucinations, but this doesn’t mean that what they may see or experience is real. There is actually no knowledge created in this case, as it invokes the mind to have false perceptions, instead of actually seeing the reality. There is no truth in what the senses may perceive, since it is the person’s mind that creates these images or occurrences that he is having.
Our senses are really important in order for us to function fully in our lives. However, there are certain instances that may affect what we perceive with these senses, thus jeopardizing the integrity of what we perceive. Because of this, the knowledge that we create in relation to these senses (their presence or absence) may vary, depending on the situation. Trusting theses senses and understanding their faults are equally important in knowing whether or not they give us the truth.