Trusting Your Senses

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MrT

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Trusting Your Senses
« on: June 20, 2012, 11:39:27 AM »
What is your criteria for determining whether or not your senses are reliable? Either explain how you decide, or acknowledge that you just pick and choose what suits you.

I saw this in another thread and thought it could make an interesting discussion.

How much does one trust their senses in everyday situations?

In most day to day situations I trust my senses for many things without really giving it much thought.  However, when it comes right down to it, I don't think I trust my senses alone for many important things in my daily life. 

I'll give some examples.  If I hang a picture in my bedroom, I probably just glance at it, and if it looks fairly level, I leave it at that.  But if I'm putting up a shelf, it's a bigger deal, and more important to be level, so I get out an instrument that takes perception and sensory guesswork out of the process (I.E. a bubble-level). 

If there were no speed limits and limited traffic, I would probably just go a speed that felt comfortable to me and safe for those around me.  Guessing my speed based on my senses and perception would suffice.  However, since there are speed limits and knowing how fast I'm going is important, I again take perception and senses out of the picture and use the speedometer of my vehicle to determine speed, rather than my senses.

If someone asked how long my driveway was I would probably just estimate it based on the perceived distance my senses tell me it is.  It's just a casual conversation, so it really isn't that important.  If I had to re-pave my driveway and needed to buy supplies and figure costs, I would use a tool to determine the length. 

If I was asked how big my picture window is I might say it was eight feet wide by five feet high, based solely on my senses.  However, if I was buying new shades for the window, I would get an instrument to determine the size, taking my perception out of the picture so I was sure I would get the correct size shade.

An anesthesiologist wouldn't determine how much sedative to give a person based on the fact that it "looked" like enough.  They would use a precision instrument to measure out the correct amount.

I realize I'm rambling a bit.  However, I just wanted to stress the point that in daily life, I really don't rely solely on my senses for many things which are terribly important or require precision.  I realize that my senses are employed in the use of those instruments, but my perceptions from my senses are not being relied upon to judge size, distance, weight, volume, speed, etc.

Virtually anything I determine based on senses, I confirm with instruments if any doubt or debate arises, or if a situation presents where the determination becomes important or requires confirmation or precision.

What are the thoughts of the people here? 
« Last Edit: June 20, 2012, 11:53:27 AM by MrT »
The above is not meant to be an attack or inflammatory, it's just what I think.

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MrT

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Re: Trusting Your Senses
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2012, 11:47:04 AM »
Another point to add.

There are situations where the senses alone must be used to determine something for me.  Maybe an instrument doesn't exist for the situation, maybe I simply don't have access to one.

In these cases, if the determination is important, or a matter of debate then I must admit that I cannot reach a conclusion beyond one based on senses alone.  In those cases, I can only make a determination to the best of my judgement and perception and therefore cannot state conclusively that my determination is definitive beyond what the senses along can tell me.

If possible I may look for occasions where others may have employed an instrument in that situation and do what I can to confirm the veracity of their statements.
The above is not meant to be an attack or inflammatory, it's just what I think.

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Rushy

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Re: Trusting Your Senses
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2012, 11:53:09 AM »
I wanted to know just how flat the Earth is, so I used a bubble level. Turns out the Earth is quite flat indeed.

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MrT

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Re: Trusting Your Senses
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2012, 11:55:03 AM »
I wanted to know just how flat the Earth is, so I used a bubble level. Turns out the Earth is quite flat indeed.

But was it level?
The above is not meant to be an attack or inflammatory, it's just what I think.

Quote from: Tom Bishop
I don't understand

Re: Trusting Your Senses
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2012, 02:08:24 PM »
I wanted to know just how flat the Earth is, so I used a bubble level. Turns out the Earth is quite flat indeed.

If you use the wrong tool or the right tool wrongly, that's bound to happen.
“The Earth looks flat, therefore it is” FEers wisdom.

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Rushy

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Re: Trusting Your Senses
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2012, 02:46:47 PM »
I wanted to know just how flat the Earth is, so I used a bubble level. Turns out the Earth is quite flat indeed.

If you use the wrong tool or the right tool wrongly, that's bound to happen.

If the Earth was round, all ground would be curved since it is attached to a giant sphere. All ground is not curved, therefore it is not attached to giant sphere. If we lived on round Earth, a good game of bowling or a flat parking lot could simply not exist, but they do, in many places upon the disc. I haven't seen any curved bowling lanes recently, have you?

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markjo

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Re: Trusting Your Senses
« Reply #6 on: June 20, 2012, 03:03:33 PM »
I wanted to know just how flat the Earth is, so I used a bubble level. Turns out the Earth is quite flat indeed.

If you use the wrong tool or the right tool wrongly, that's bound to happen.

If the Earth was round, all ground would be curved since it is attached to a giant sphere. All ground is not curved, therefore it is not attached to giant sphere. If we lived on round Earth, a good game of bowling or a flat parking lot could simply not exist, but they do, in many places upon the disc. I haven't seen any curved bowling lanes recently, have you?

I have seen many parking lots that are not flat.  I have not, however, seen any bowling alleys made out of ground.
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MrT

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Re: Trusting Your Senses
« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2012, 03:13:15 PM »

If the Earth was round, all ground would be curved since it is attached to a giant sphere. All ground is not curved, therefore it is not attached to giant sphere. If we lived on round Earth, a good game of bowling or a flat parking lot could simply not exist, but they do, in many places upon the disc. I haven't seen any curved bowling lanes recently, have you?

Hmm, I see your point.  But then, if the Earth was flat, then all ground would be flat since it is attached to a flat Earth.  There would be no rolling hills, all parking lots would be flat (there are many around here that aren't), there could be no mountains or valleys, the leaning tower of Pisa would be straight because it was build on a flat Earth. 

So the Earth can't be flat either!!?  What the heck are we living on?  What shape could it be? 

/crazy
The above is not meant to be an attack or inflammatory, it's just what I think.

Quote from: Tom Bishop
I don't understand

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Lord Wilmore

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Re: Trusting Your Senses
« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2012, 04:51:50 PM »
Trusting your judgement and trusting your senses are two different things, even if they overlap. Measuring a driveway with your senses is not a simple case of input-result. It requires complex concepts, e.g. abstract measurements and even calculations. You can see exactly how long the driveway is; whether you can accurately calculate its length abstractly based on what your senses tell you is a cognitive, not sensorial issue.


Moreover, in all the examples you listed, you still trusted your senses. For example, when you put up the shelf, you look at the bubble level. And in doing so you trust your senses.
"I want truth for truth's sake, not for the applaud or approval of men. I would not reject truth because it is unpopular, nor accept error because it is popular. I should rather be right and stand alone than run with the multitude and be wrong." - C.S. DeFord

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MrT

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Re: Trusting Your Senses
« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2012, 05:19:34 PM »
Trusting your judgement and trusting your senses are two different things, even if they overlap. Measuring a driveway with your senses is not a simple case of input-result. It requires complex concepts, e.g. abstract measurements and even calculations. You can see exactly how long the driveway is; whether you can accurately calculate its length abstractly based on what your senses tell you is a cognitive, not sensorial issue.


Moreover, in all the examples you listed, you still trusted your senses. For example, when you put up the shelf, you look at the bubble level. And in doing so you trust your senses.

What if I said my shelf was level and my friend said it wasn't.  We are both trusting our senses, but our perception and judgement is leading to differing conclusions.  If a level was held up to the shelf it could quickly show which of us was correct. 

As I said, we trust our senses in countless situations each day without a thought.  And obviously in each of my examples your senses would be used in using and interacting with each of the devices (I even mentioned that, and specified that the difference was senses alone, or senses aided by instruments etc.).  I'm talking about basing definitive conclusions about important or debated situations purely on senses, perception and judgment alone, vs. using some type of external device to aid the senses which works in a consistent and repeatable way. 

Senses alone can only tell us so much about the world around us (not referring to Flat vs. Round specifically, but everything).  Wether this is because of a cognitive shortfall or otherwise is a bit of a moot point.  The point is there are situations where something can be directly observed and our senses (and our "cognitive" ability to process and draw precise conclusions from those observations) fall short of accurate or complete conclusions.  There are poisonous gases which the senses alone cannot detect, but instruments can.  Yes, you have to look at the device, or listen for a warning tone, so your senses are obviously involved.  The senses were involved in developing and producing the device as well.  But if someone worked at a plant which produces dangerous chemicals, they wouldn't rely on senses alone to determine of the air was safe to breath. 

I'm merely pointing out that while we trust our senses in countless situations without consciously thinking about it, we also (at least I do in my daily life) use devices which make up for the shortcomings of our senses and the perceptions that arise from them.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2012, 05:50:38 PM by MrT »
The above is not meant to be an attack or inflammatory, it's just what I think.

Quote from: Tom Bishop
I don't understand

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MrT

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Re: Trusting Your Senses
« Reply #10 on: June 20, 2012, 05:35:12 PM »
By the way, you are allowed to give your feelings about senses and how much you do or don't trust/use them in daily situations. 

Would you trust your judgment of the length of your driveway based on senses and perception alone, without tools or measuring instruments? 

How far do you trust your senses?  Must all conclusions be reached with senses alone, or are there limitations which must be made up for with instruments?

It was just meant to be a discussion.  I see lots of mentions on this site about senses, etc. and I just thought it would be interesting to see what people thought about trusting theirs.  I read your question (quoted in the OP) and figured I'd start a thread where I answered it myself and other could do the same if they wish.  If you would rather debate my judgment and what I think about senses and make philosophical arguments like "when you look at a measuring device you are trusting your senses", that's fine.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2012, 06:13:24 PM by MrT »
The above is not meant to be an attack or inflammatory, it's just what I think.

Quote from: Tom Bishop
I don't understand

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Nolhekh

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Re: Trusting Your Senses
« Reply #11 on: June 20, 2012, 06:20:58 PM »
I wanted to know just how flat the Earth is, so I used a bubble level. Turns out the Earth is quite flat indeed.
levels test levelness, not flatness.

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Son of Orospu

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Re: Trusting Your Senses
« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2012, 05:17:39 AM »
I wanted to know just how flat the Earth is, so I used a bubble level. Turns out the Earth is quite flat indeed.
levels test levelness, not flatness.

Incorrect.  A good level will have a perfectly straight edge that could easily be used to check the flatness of an object.

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Nolhekh

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Re: Trusting Your Senses
« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2012, 05:39:37 AM »
I wanted to know just how flat the Earth is, so I used a bubble level. Turns out the Earth is quite flat indeed.
levels test levelness, not flatness.

Incorrect.  A good level will have a perfectly straight edge that could easily be used to check the flatness of an object.
Fine, then is the deviation over a metre of a 6.4Mm radius sphere perceptible to human senses?  A metre is 8.952*10^-6 degrees or 0.03223 arc seconds on a round earth.  The deviation is so small that my calculator won't even acknowledge it.  Would your senses have any chance of picking this up?

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mathsman

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Re: Trusting Your Senses
« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2012, 07:06:26 AM »
Incorrect.  A good level will have a perfectly straight edge that could easily be used to check the flatness of an object.

There's no such thing as a perfectly straight edge. The straightness of an edge can only be made within appropriate tolerances which will be adequate for the purpose.

Indeed, these tolerances, or margins of error (if you're a glass-half-empty kind of person), on any measuring equipment are quantifiable. We still need our senses but the instruments bolster the accuracy of the conclusions from our senses.

If you are prescribed a medicine with a recommended dosage do you estimate the amount you are going to take or do you measure it out? A fool would trust their senses and estimate it. Sensible people measure it out.