How do you experience the world?

The world affects you; everything that you ingest through your senses changes how you see the world. Philosopher David Hume posed a great question: if you deprive a man of all his senses from birth – that means sight, taste, touch, smells, and hearing – will he have any thoughts by the age of 18? Hume believed no, thought consisted only of external experience. The man’s mind would be thoughtless because he had no experience of the world.

Immanuel Kant, inspired by Hume’s question, answered with a slight difference. He believed the humans have intrinsic thought that adds to the external experience of the world. These thoughts he called “a priori”. Hume believed that life is a blur of color in front of our eyes and sensations to our skin. This neglected the meaning of sensory input; there were no connections between image and what it meant.

To Kant, life was more than an unpredictable swirl of the senses. There were concepts that were too abstract for only sensory input. Time is not something we could feel but yet we understand it without question. Our knowledge of space, and the relationships between objects, is too complex for sensory input and were thus a prior.

This bore what Robert Pirsig (Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) calls the “classical” and “romantic” mindset. Classical understanding believes that form underlies itself, that what we sense is what exists as reality. On the other hand, the romantic understanding believes that there’s meaning behind form. The romantics believe in more a priori thought, as opposed to relying solely on sensory input.

By acknowledging both extremes, we gain a wider understanding. When I look at a car, I see potential for road trips, going out to shows, and more romantic ideas. Others see a car merely as a method of transportation. Through learning these different perspectives, we can see a greater part of the world. The question becomes, what do you see when you look at the world?

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