Monday, August 28, 2006

How do you know?

First question for you all...

If you had...
no sense of smell...
no sense of sight...
no sense of taste...
no sense of touch...
and no sense of hearing...

...what knowledge about the world could you have?

29 comments:

Wolf Man Jack said...

You could only know that you yourself exist. You would be your entire universe, you would be your own god, your own devil, your own creator, your eventual destroyer. You could only know that you youreself existed, and you would know that you are the only thing that exists.

J.Malone said...

How...? Would you "know" that you existed? or just believe so? What's the difference?

Dmitriy Polyakov said...

I would not have any knowledge of the world what so ever. I wouldn't even know as to whether I exist. I would not know if there was even a world around me. I might have mind ability, but I would not be able to use it in any way. My mind might be telling my body to stay alive and yet I would not be able to feel that I existed. I wouldn't even know whether or not I was approaching death. Beacause sooner or later, without senses, I would just lay dead, having acquired no knowledge of a world that I didn't percieve even existed.

Wolf Man Jack said...

Yes you would have no knowledge of the world outside you, but your limited perception would allow you to see yourself as the only thing in existance. Since all of our knowledge is based on our perceptions of the outside world, based on our experiences, then if we could only percieve ourselves, and experienced our own mind, then that is all that we would have knowledge of.

J.Malone said...

Sorry... my friend Jenny would like to respond...

"I think it needs to be clarified as to whether the sense of touch also includes internal sense of self. Would you be able to feel air moving in and out of your trachea and lungs? Would you be able to feel internal pain and body processes? If so, then I'd argue that without the 5 senses, you WOULD know of your own existence. What do you think?" - Dr. Jenny

J.Malone said...

So Wolf... how would you know you existed if there is no world to exist in?

Wolf Man Jack said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Wolf Man Jack said...

To Jenny:
I agree, and even if we couldn't feel those internal things, then we still would have knowledge of our own mind. If that is all that we can percieve then that is all that we know. However, if it holds true that in order for the brain to develop it is necessary to intereact with ones environment, then it may not be possible for the brain to advance far enough along to hold any of this.
To Malone:
Because even if you put someone in a room devoid of all senses, then you stillhave your mind, and that keeps going, no matter the environment, or lack of a percived one.

Thinking about this problem brought memories up of the book Stiff and the story of the monkey brain being transplanted into the belly of another monkey. If that had been the case since the monkey's conception, would it, assuming human mentality, be able to percieve anything. It is alive, but without any senses, so would it develop a mind and be abel to creat thoughts on it own.

Another point that might be interesting to bring up is the idea that when we lose one of our senses the others become stronger. So if there was some kind of barely recognisable "6th Sense" would it, under this situation, come to full frutition, and could you use that to create your awareness?

Dmitriy Polyakov said...

When I posted my comment earlier, I was viewing the matter of not having a sense of feel to the point of semi-consciousness. However, if we do have the ability to think, we would perhaps know of our own existance and most likely nothing past that point. Besides that, I have a question for Wolf. What would we be aware of if we supposedly had only this "6th sense", without knowing that we posses any other?

Wolf Man Jack said...

Perhaps other consciousnesses (sp), i have no idea, it is purely speculation.
Perhaps the 6th sense is telepathy, or perhaps another form of spacial awareness, or a way to see heat paterns, or anything. Something we are not used to using in our regular lives that becomes important when that is the only thing we have.

sage tansanjelo said...

On the 6th sense idea, i'm going ot ramble, perhaps your 6th sense would be your conciousness, however doesn't that imply that you are not only aware of yourself, but aware of your surrounding's, sensation's, and thoughts? Which poses the question of language. Does surroundings mean feel the wind on your skin, or simply be aware that you are right here right now, but you would have no sense of time. It doesn't seem that you would have any knowledge that you were here in the world, the only real knowledge it seems you could have is simply that you are here. to be continued... after i sleep

Adrienne said...

For me, this definitely brought to mind Johnny Got His Gun, the novel we all read in ninth grade by Dalton Trumbo. Though he still had a sense of feeling, he was also pretty much imprisoned in his own consciousness. But he had the advantage, or maybe the curse, of having those five senses for a time before losing them. Which brings me to my question- would it be better to have all the senses, and then lose them, or to have never had them at all? I think that by once having them, then one can perhaps make better sense of what might be going on, even though one has lost all ability to perceive it, and one has memories on which to reflect. However, it might be more difficult to develop a method of coping,as Wolf said, with a sixth sense. Although I think being left alone with my consciousness would drive me insane. But would you even know what insane was?

Adrienne said...

And I would like the seniors to notice that I did in fact spell definitely correctly.

maitboy said...

I'd say that the question brought up as to whether or not the subject had had the senses previously and lost them or never had them at all is most important. I'm not sure that the mind would do anything if it had no external experience, but if there were a sixth sense that would change everything. However, I think speculating on a sixth sense is rather pointless, because without evidence of any one you can't prove its existence.
However, if the subject had at one point been aware, known language and higher level thought, I think it would be a chance for deep reflection on this very question. It makes me think of The Stranger, by Camus. Mersault reflects on whether or not life would be worth it if one had just one foot of land to stand on, surrounded by nothing. He also talks about how a man who has lived only a day could live one hundred years in prison, because that one experience would be enough to think about and try to remember to satisfy the mind for all that time. Thoughts? Seniors, you know what's up, so let me know. And good spelling Adrienne.

devin said...

I think that it is far better to have never had senses at all then to have had them, even if for a brief period of time, and then lost them. In Johnny Got His Gun, for example, the narrator is constantly unhappy and even sometimes wishing for death. The human condition, by its very nature, wishes and needs to experience, because experience is the only thing that drives us forward in life. If one were suddenly trapped in a black void for what could be an extended lifetime, with doctors most likely attempting to keep you alive, it would be, for me, experiencing hell. The memories of what had been would only be further torture, because I could no longer live through experiences such as those again.
As to Meursault, I don't think we can believe anything he says, thinks, or does in The Stranger, because for all intents and purposes, he is not human.
He is a man entirely devoid of bias, bias is essentially unjustified belief, and "we are what we believe", are we not?

Big E said...

I am going to respond to three possible scenarios here
In the general sense, as if we were a normal human born without senses:
In that case I believe the human brain, as we know it, would cease to exist. It would remain unstimulated in atropy, with to realization of self. I say this because of the relative evidence that states A.) That newborn infants have no realization of self and B.) Unstimulated minds do not develop
In the general sense, as if we as beings were created without the senses:
I hand this one off to Mr. Descartes
"I think therefore I am"
All that you would know would be based on your own thinking process'. I say this because there would be nothing empirical or outside to base anything out of.
In the case that we suddenly lost all senses:
The knowledge that we would have of the world would be narrowed to what we knew before the incident. I'm sure anyoen in such a state would will their own detah however; I am doubtful the Human Brain would be able to continue working in such a state.
-Evan

A. Koss said...

What this post made me think of was an unfortunate experience of mine a few years back, where I was accidently locked in a boiler room. The room was absolutely pitch black and completely silent. While I did not have empirical proof of the world outside at that moment, I did emphatically believe that it existed. At no point did the world cease to exist because I could not perceive it or interact with it. So knowledge does not need to be based on sensory perception and a person can still believe and know even if they have no senses.
However, it is impossible for the person to distinguish between knowledge and belief in such a case. I would argue that a person with no senses would still develop a cognizance, but it would be a kind of warped cognizance because their only justification would be faith.
I think that a person born with no senses could still have knowledge about their world, but that it would be limited to self-awareness. Since you don't need senses to believe, and your beliefs comprise who you are, you can still be a person and thus have self-awareness. Through skillful logic I'm sure such a person could deduce some facts about the external world as well.

Adrienne said...

Props for great IB speak A. Koss, but we're still arguing two different sides of the issue. Can we believe anything if we have absolutly nothing on which to base our beliefs? Everything we believe is based on some sort of external stimuli- even something as ambiguous as eating ice-cream with the taster spoon, becomes completely meaningless if we have no experience with ice-cream, eating, or taster spoon. It becomes once again the argument of whether or not the senses were first present, and then taken away, or if they were never there in the first place.

maitboy said...

I'd like to go back to what Evan said about the mind ceasing to function if all sense was lost. I have to agree with him there, I think that one would drive one's self to madness, and bigin to imagine things. For example, in Johnny Got His Gun, he still has feeling, and so, he is still connected. He can still picture what is going around based on that feeling.
However, I think that being completely without senses would be like being lost in a cave. There have been many instances of dimentia associated with this, because people begin to hallucinate, often to imagine what they want to see. Now, if this were the case, I think the mind would drive itself mad and die, or in doing so, create a new reality for the person to live in.
As for if the mind had never had senses to rely on, I think that it would be impossible for it to develope. The reason for this is that we all think in terms of something. We thing in language and in concept. But even with an awareness of one's self, if possible, that would be the only concept we could grasp. With no language or notions to grasp, the mind could not prosper.

Wonton said...

To the original question posted.

There would be no world to experience.

There would be no experience at all.
Thus, there would be no world to know.

--Winston

lasanya said...

I think, if you didn't have any senses, you wouldn't be in existence. Having senses is being alive.

Wolf Man Jack said...

So not being alive means you don't exist? what about rocks? They aren't alive, and I am pretty sure they exist.

Peter K. said...

Let us assume that such a person has a sense of self. I can really only justify that to myself, aqauaintence knowledge, but assuming that is true:

What can such a person know? K=pJTB

Belief: Assuming such a person is self aware, they could believe many things, all of which would be confined to themselves. If they have never known there is anything besides themselves, how can they believe anything about it? Belief would be limited to the self, and explaining the self. For instance, such a person could believe: there is a higher being that put them into existence. That does not require perception of a world outside the self because it is non-tangible and a product of our own thought process. Such a person could not believe: airplanes will fly and stay up. That is because they can never have known airplanes were a possibility. It would be impossible for them to concieve an airplane because it's complexities are so great that they would need some kind of knowledge as a basis.

True: Any belief such a person had has a potential for truth. They could believe that they do in fact exist, which, for our purposes, is true. They could also believe that they are the only thing to exist, which for our purposes, is not true.

Properly Justified: Such a condition would greatly cut into potential justifications for their knowledge claims. All Emperical justifications would be eliminated. One of the few justifications that could make this descriptive knowledge is logic, i cannot think of any others that are not limited, for the most part, to aquaintence knowlwedge.

Conclusion: Such a person could have beliefs, and potentially they could justify those beliefs, at least to themselves, if not others as well. It is possible that some of those beliefs could be true. Only things about the self and not contradicting what we know about "reality" has potential to be knowledge to such a person.

Questions, comments? Agree, Disagree? Why?

bre said...

i believe that if we take for granted that the person had no previous experience of life; that they had been born without any senses, and if we also assume that the only senses that exist to man are those 5 which we consider knowlegde, and to interpret the sense of touch as all feeling and also perception of oneself, that though this person may have the capacity to think, there would be nothing to think about, therefore this person would essentially be living dead. The human mind would not have the necessary stimulations to be able to develop the parts of the brain, and therefore this person would not be able to think.
solely instinct, which in a way can be considered another sense, would exist.

Peter K. said...

But if instinct would exist, that would lay a foundation for other thoughts to form. I see no reason why if such a person had the capacity to think, and they had something to start with, that they could not develop further thoughts.

Big E said...

Wait, Peter, did you suggest that this person would be able to concieve the thought of a god but an airplane is too complex? I personaly find airplanes orders of magnitude simpler than spirituality.
Also, I would like to point out that we don't know what our thinking capabilities would be without the knowledge of some sort of language to think in. I think it would be hard to conceptualize anything without having language programmed into my brain first.
-Evan

Peter K. said...

Not exactly, A person would be able to think of a god because the could reasonable ask the question: "why do i exist?" but the person could not ask themself, "how can i fly" because they would have no frame of reference for flight. Does that make sense?

And as for language, i would guess that it would not impede thinking too much. Hellen Keller must have had some way to think before she learned to communicate. Could a person with no knowledge of language be intellegent? I think language would be a fairly minor obstacle to overcome. Could one not think in pictures? Actually, that wouldn't work, because the person would not think through any of our conventional messages, but would just think the thought. But i guess this is something we cant know.

Big E said...

I would like to be a devils advocate an point that Hellen Keller Didn't become Blindeaf until 19 months of age. But I get yout point. And the whoel question of how language effect sone thinkign process is a debate all within it's own, one that I have done only a small amout of research.
-Evan

Vvyynn said...

bqjdkb.

Now I'm going to try and redeem myself. If a person did not have any of the five senses, they could only know in Pragmatic. [insert comment for debate here], quite frankly I disagree.