Thursday, February 26, 2009

Perceptions and Reality

What is perception and what is reality it is an age old dilemma or question. The facets of this phenomena has more to do with our experience as humans and how we view the world and less with the empirical notions of the term. It is obscure to a certain extent because it is difficult to draw the line between reality and perception.

The text book definition of reality is the quality or state of being real! In my eyes reality is the concrete entity of any type of situation. The textbook definition of perception is immediate or intuitive recognition or appreciation, as of moral, psychological, or aesthetic qualities; insight; intuition. I define perception as the concept of how an individual views the world, or how one's perspective can lead to judgment on a given situation. In addition I think reality is more of a collective truth and absolute fact on the other hand perception is more personal and entails an autonomous viewpoint. I see reality as an objective concept rather than subjective, it tends to be more empirical. The working definition of reality in a practical setting seems to be "the actual situation at hand" and it is supposed to be a concept that people visualize through an unbiased lens while not integrating any personal feelings. Theoretically, reality should be more validated by substancial evidence and it should be the most accurate and popular assessment of any experience or situation because it is indicative of the population's consensus as well as the communal viewpoint.

But the contradiction to this lies within the counterpart itself. Everything is perception. Unfortunately most perceptions tend to be negative. For example in a scenario where a male personal trainer is helping a woman do a stretching exercise and somebody behind a glass window notices that the personal trainer is touching her hips in order to get her to stretch better, one might view that as inappropriate. Now the person who viewed it as inappropriate behind the glass was not close enough to actually observe the "reality" of the situation or simply did not ask the personal trainer what he was doing, therefore he misunderstood the situation and as a result thinks the personal trainer is a pervert.

Perception is what determines how the world will view us and vise versa. But a simple example where reality's objectivity is discredited is when it comes to characterization of material things. For example lets take a car being purple for instance. A hundred people saw the car together under the same conditions on the same day at the same time and seventy of them thought it was blue but the other thirty of them thought it was purple so according to the statistics the more popular one is blue which is correct and is a fact. But for the people who said the car was purple it is factual from their view point so how can I dispute that? Another nebulous aspect to the perception-reality dichotomy is when you involve past personal experiences. A possible scenario is where a young African American male is at an interview for an internship and the interviewer who is an older white male asks him if he plays basketball then he pauses in disgust because he thinks the question is blatantly racist and uncalled for. The younger male proceeds to accuse the older guy of racism because of his biases based on his personal experiences where he encountered racism from his white counterpart. These experiences have led him to believe that the perceived conceptions are racist, although they could be misconceptions. But to him the perception is reality because this is what he sees with his own eyes and what he believes to be true. How can we defy anybody's gut feelings or convictions on any given situation? The individual is supposed to be an expert on his own feelings, insight, and perception most of all. Who am I to tell somebody that they are wrong in their own intuition? The young African American male views any questions that encompass stereotypical roles for African Americans as racist and he will continue to do so. If the alternate scenario involves a young white male who was asked the same question but he did not view it as racist, the perception is entirely different which now becomes his reality. So the conundrum becomes which is the actual reality which is a bit redundant but serves its purpose. In the scenario it turns out that the "real reality" form an objective and unbiased perspective. The "real reality" is that the white man was not racist and was just trying to start a casual conversation. This is distinct from both men's perceptions.

When I say everything is perception I meant it. The majority of the time people will cast judgements internally without knowing the whole spectrum of the situation or circumstances of any given situation. This causes a big gap of unfamiliarity between the perceptive and realistic viewpoints. One last scenario that can be applied universally is where morals and values comes into play. For example what if 1000 people fill out a survey and 800 of them think that abortion is ethically justified while 200 believe abortion to be ethically wrong. Th reality rule would tell us that the 800 of them who thought abortion was right would be the population who is theoretically right according to the reality of the situation, but when you incorporate values and morals, the 200 people who viewed abortion as wrong becomes those people's realities from a subjective perspective. Moreover if you focus on a particular group the reality will vary. For example the religious crowd's reality is that abortion is ethically wrong regardless of the survey statistics. You cannot discredit somebody else's opinions when distinguishing a perception from reality!

But as we know this issue is very enigmatic and a good metaphor to compare it to would be a dog chasing its tail. I use this metaphor because it identifies a revolving door where you end up right where you started! The dichotomy between fact and opinion, subjective and objective, and perception and reality is going to be one that is perpetually puzzling in its nature however it is a topic that is very thought provoking. I hope this leads to more discussion on this abstract facet of everyday life.

1 comment:

  1. Fuck I'm not going even get into this. There is a whole fucking philosophical field dedicated to it! (Epistemology)

    I often wonder myself...
    Reality is seeing things with your own eyes. But then the eyes can be deceived. So who knows?