Trust Your Senses?

Spring                                                  Bee Hiving Moon

I’ve reached the age when hearing that I have mild cataracts counts as a good thing.  Eye exam today.  Playing space invaders (visual field), still good in both eyes in spite of the glaucoma (eye drops).

My ophthalmologist of 20+ years retired last year so this is only my second time with Dr. Brown.  She’s about 5 feet tall.  That’s with platforms.  She’s bright. “I see a stable eye today,”  she said.  A stable eye.  A good thing at any age.

Every time I to go the ophthalmologist (which I cannot spell) my thoughts turn to epistemology.  Today I got to thinking about medical specialties that focus on senses.  ENT.  Dermatology. (sort of) Ophthalmology.

Dr. Brown said to me today, “This visual field test tells me that your optic nerve is in good health.” A lot of ink has been spilled in philosophy over the degree to which we can trust our senses–since they stand between us and the world out there–but it occurred to me today that we never consider less than optimal senses.  What kind of information does an unhealthy optical nerve give me?  Does the degradation of visual stimuli correspond to a diminished or corrupted reality for me?  Ditto for olfactory, taste, touch, hearing.

I know my world is different from yours acoustically.  With only one ear bringing in sound data I cannot easily find the source of sound.  My aural world is less rich than yours.   I don’t know that it’s less real, but it’s different.  In some critical instances, very different.

Two examples.

Emergency vehicles.  When I hear a siren while I’m driving, I can’t tell where it is.  That’s different than the experience of a person who hears normally.

Vehicles approaching in a manner other than customary.  In England where they drive on the left I had to constantly remind myself to pay very close attention.  From the left is where I don’t hear.

Anyhow, I’m curious about sensory data.  And what it can and can’t tell us.


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