This was an essay for my Theory of Knowledge (TOK) IB class. I think it’s pretty good.
“Our idea of anything is our idea of its sensible effects” – Charles Sanders Pierce. How reliable is our “idea of anything” according to this view?
Charles Sanders Pierce states that “Our idea of anything is our idea of its sensible effects.” In this paper, an attempt will be made to show the validity of this statement and to justify the exclusion of the imperceptible part of the outside world from our conception of it.
For our purposes, we will set a person’s mind and ideas apart form everything that goes on in the real world around it. The two that we’ve just separated, can actually be argued to be within each other, but in this paper, they will be discussed separately, connected through our senses and actions. This is consistent to the current idea of how the brain is believed to work, and it does not have an effect on the result of this paper except in the radical case that one may believe all reality to be an illusion of the mind.
Within our current view, the outside world causes stimuli to our senses and these stimuli are transferred to our brain through an intricate network of nerves. Some stimuli invoke automated responses of which we may not even be aware, but others are combined with stimuli from our other senses to help form an idea, or an image in the brain. The brain processes the idea and responds in a pattern built through experience. Throughout this paper, we will mainly concentrate on the first part of this process, the reception of stimuli and the formation of ideas.
... many other vehicles. This is just one of many lasting effects World War II has had on the US. Ships were also ... the free transfer of ideas and news through the Internet. The idea of the computer, though conceived before World War II, blossomed and ... use variations of the assault rifle. The idea of the assault rifle developed in World War II has stood the test of ...
The only input to our brains are the signals from our senses. Groups and certain patterns of these signals are associated to real world objects or phenomena by experience. These associations are our ideas. When all or part of these signals are induced by stimuli, our brains call the appropriate idea. Given enough stimuli, we conclude the presence of the associated object or phenomenon.
Whatever properties or effects of an object we cannot sense, we cannot include in our idea of the object. For example, we do not have a direct sense of radio waves, so looking at a radio broadcast antenna, we can tell what it is but we cannot tell if it is working or not. One argument may be that we can use electronic equipment to detect whether it is working, but the equipment is only an extension of our senses, developed to convert the radio waves, in this example, to one or more signals that can be detected by our senses. We may conceive the presence of radio waves only after this conversion. Another argument may be that we can understand what electromagnetic waves are, their properties, and how they work. However, in order to do this, we use models, representing the phenomenon with a model that we have first hand experience with. In the case of electromagnetic waves, we use water waves to model them. It is this restriction that prevents our full understanding of them. The wave model breaks down in some cases, and another model has to be used in order to explain the new data we may find using various instruments.
So, a question arises: Can we build equipment to detect everything and convert it to a sensible form? Not everything, but there are bound to be aspects to the outside world that we cannot currently detect. In order to be able to detect them, we have to sense an effect directly or indirectly so we can search for their presence in the right way. Our example, radio waves developed from the idea of induction, electric current in one wire inducing current in another close by.
... of the transverse wave. The antenna converts lactic currents into radio waves. A radio transmitter applies the oscillating radio frequency lactic ... this simulation activity enhance your understanding of how radio waves are transmitted and received? As stated above, the ... (or electromagnetic signal) is produced when radio stations broadcast. A radio wave (radiating electric field) propagates out from ...
However we search, some “things” may just be undetectable in any way. Just as some subatomic particles are observed not to interact with others, there may be other phenomena that we will not have any interaction, directly or indirectly. Even if possible, it is not necessary that we know about this type of phenomena since it will have no effect on us, nor on anything we can interact with.
In any way, we deal with only the part of the real world that we can sense, directly or indirectly. Whether the broadcasting station is emitting radio waves, what frequency or how strong is of no use unless we have the radio receiver to convert the information to a sensible form. When we see the broadcasting station, we form the idea of what we can directly sense, and combining it with our information from the past, we conclude that it is the source of the sound – a directly sensible effect – coming out of our receiver. If, in our past experience there was no radio or television or radar, our idea of the broadcasting station would not bring up any question concerning the radio waves.
Let’s go a step beyond exclusion of the outside world that we cannot sense. What we do sense is formed into ideas only in a very abstract way. Only the stimuli leading to an idea and the responses forming from it take place in the real world. Since the collection of stimuli form the idea, then organisms with different senses will conceive the real world in differing ways. Certainly, the way we sense and conceive a tree in our way is much different than a bat’s conception of the same tree. In this case, we use light reflected from the tree to get the idea of its presence and relative position to other objects while the bat uses reflected sound to do the same.
However different these conceptions might be, as long as the response invoked by them reaches its goal and makes the desired effect on the object, or in this case, takes the desired action to avoid the object, the organism is successful. Since the outcome is just as successful, the difference in conception, or the formation of the idea, is not significant. This difference across different species may well be present within the different individuals in one species. For example, two individuals may see the same light, a red light, and the same type of cells in the eye will be stimulated. However this stimulus is conceived in the brain does not matter, as long as the individual can call it “red” and is consistent with this conception when the stimulus reoccurs. Likewise, the inverted image in the back of the eye does not have an effect on the way we see things. The explanation for this is usually that “the brain flips the image right side up,” but this is not at all necessary since coordination is developed along with the rest of the body. Newborn children have little coordination, but their coordination develops as they experiment with their bodies. Their nerves may be thought of as a hundred phone lines connected on one end to phones in a hundred homes but disconnected on the other end. The phone lines will be tried one by one until all are labeled and connected. The nerves are connected in a similar manner as coordination develops. Some types of physiotherapy depend on re-coordinating the nerves that may have been severely damaged.
... Effects of World War I On Germany World War I had a devastating effect on the entire world. Germany however, might ... ultimately to the outbreak of the Second World War. World War I was probably the most influential ... Germans to sign a treaty that forbid them form keeping an army of any size. In ... from the influenza outbreak that spread around the world. Rebuilding the economy would be almost impossible ...
As shown throughout the paper, Charles S. Pierce’s view that our idea of anything is our idea of only its sensible effects is valid.