Perception of reality

This question is difficult for me to phrase because I’m not a science person, but I’ll try my best.

If I understand correctly, the reason we perceive reality the way we do is because of the brain transforming quantum wave patterns into electrochemical neurotransmitters. However, as we also know it is possible to experience an alternate perception of reality, for example while dreaming or under the influence of a hallucinogenic drug.

So then my question is, how do we know that what we consider normal consciousness is the ‘correct’ perception of reality? Is it possible that, under what we would consider normal circumstances, our brains are wired in such a manner that we perceive reality in a false way?

For the first question, I’m not sure we do. Even with reliable people, multiple eyewitness accounts of the same event contradict each other. It’s useful to put the ol’ belief engine into ‘skeptic’ gear and ask yourself: “do I really know this or do I just think I know this.” Just don’t slip so far into solipsism that we don’t have enough rope to pull you out… that’s a deep well! :wink:

It is possible. One of the interesting potential explanations I’ve heard for deja vu is that your memory is recorded, filed, and retrieved at the same time, making you think you’ve experienced the present in the past. Whether this explanation is correct or not is also an interesting question.

Well, that’s enough uncertainty for one post, especially in GQ!

It depends; things like colours and smells would be more susceptible to change than would, say, the perception of geometric shapes; a cube looks like a cube because it has corners and faces - it feels like a cube because it has corners and flat faces. The sensations we perceive as ‘red’ and ‘vanilla’, on the other hand, are just convenient labels that our brain uses (OK, they are based on physics and chemistry at one end, but the actual sensations themselves aren’t inevitable and of course there’s no way to know if we all perceive them in the same way

My ‘red’ could be what you internally experience as [what I would describe as] blue; my ‘vanilla’ could be what you internally experience as [what I would describe as] ‘ripe peaches’ - as long as the experiences were consistent, there’s no way to compare them. My ‘cube’ on the other hand, is an understanding that the object has six flat, square sides, eight corners and twelve edges - that is (or at least seems much more likely to be) a shared reality.

Socrates’ discussion with Glaucon in Plato’s “Allegory of the Caves” (* The Republic *) will demonstrate that this philosophical question has been pondered by great minds for at least a couple of thousand years:

There is no ‘correct’ reality. Our brains model our environment based on fragments of sensory input and it fills in a lot of gaps.

We share a fairly consistent model of the world with others because our brains and sensory apparatus have all evolved with that world.

In the case of humans we have memes and memeplexes which normalise our modeling of the world toward societal means. This does not mean that that normalised perception of the world is more correct - it is just more common.

I would like to take this a step further by asking a very perplexing question (that I am currently trying to understand.) How do you explain the colour red to a person who has been blind all his life? Basically, I think that all we have is perception, nothing new there, but without language, or some other means to share our perceptions, experiences, etc. with other people who can experience and perceive similarly to us, there is no way to know “true reality” from “false reality.” As long as a majority perceive something and describe that something the same, that could be a means to verify reality.

Well put, ignore my drivel.

I don’t suppose I could describe colour (or even sight) to a blind person. Perhaps my thoughts earlier about the cube thing are also wrong; could I explain the concept of ‘cube’ to a person who had no sight or sense of touch or spatiality? Probably not, by definition.

‘Cube’ is experienced by more than a single sense; perhaps that’s all there is that makes me think it is a more enduring or fundamental artifact of reality than ‘red’. I dunno.

Input from various sensory apparatus is encoded into different levels of memory. This is how we perceive the universe (indeed, those pieces of offal in our skulls are part of the universe).

What’s “wrong” with this picture?