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The theory of "Do we really understand?"

Friday, June 27, 2008
We 'express' a lot of things to each other. But do we actually understand each other? Do we really understand the thing being expressed, the way it actually is inside the mind of the person expressing it? I don't know right now how to make you understand what I am trying to express. And that itself is quite consistent with what I am trying to express, if you get the drift. (I am tempted to put a smiley here but will refrain). Let me make a crude attempt at giving an example to explain the thing I am trying to explain. When I say, "These french fries are salty!", how do you know what I mean by 'salty'? Salty is the taste that I feel on my tongue, inside my mouth, within my body, through some chemical reactions causing 'interpretation' in my brain. You have no idea what ->I<- call 'salty'. Actually 'salty' is the protocol we developed purely based on things that are OUTSIDE of us. When you were a kid, people fed me certain things, and uttered the word 'salty' with it. At the same time I felt some 'taste' on my tongue. So over the period, you must have associated some sensation that you felt, with word 'salty'. So over time whenever I feel the same sensation again, I say it feels 'salty'. I say 'salty'. You hear 'salty'. And understand your own interpretation of 'salty'. Cos you too, over life, have associated the same word with some internal sensation of your own. Which however may not be the same sensation which I feel. The only thing common between our two 'salty's is that they are our individual sensations associated with this white thing ‘salt’ on our tongue . It is quite possible that the sensation you call 'salty' is the sensation I call 'sweet'.
Confused? Let me put it this way. There is this lemon. There is sugar. And there is salt Then lets assume there are some standard sensations in every person's the brain. Though this post, in a way, is actually questioning such an assumptions. Lets call these sensations A,B,C. Now we call three fellows 1,2,3 When 1 tastes lemon , he gets sensation A. When 2 tastes lemon , he gets sensation B. When 3 tastes lemon , he gets sensation C. Whenever 1 got sensation A, he always heard people say 'sour'. Whenever 2 got sensation B, he always heard people say 'sour'. Whenever 3 got sensation C, he always heard people say 'sour'. So even though the trio had sensed a different taste on tasting the lemon, they all agreed that the lemon was 'sour'! Similarly, for 'sweet' , 1 always got sensation B, 2 got C and 3 got A. But they all still call sugar 'sweet'. Reason? Its the external protocol they have associated their respective internal sensations with! And nobody would get wiser to this mismatch, because the consistent external protocol would make them all feel a smooth illusional seamless sameness of perception. Hello fellow! We are same! We all feel salt is salty! Hooray to us!
But what happens when I have a sensation inside me that I have never correlated with any outside word over my life?
How do I express myself then?
And even if I do express it in some way, how do I know you recognized it for what I meant it to be? -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OK the point of the post is made and done with. Let me give you one more example to explain the concept in case the example above was still confusing.
This time, to simplify, lets move outside of ourselves and our perceptions and salt,lemon and sugar. We will use an analogy
Switch 1 - Salt
Switch 2 - Lemon
Switch 3- Sugar
Lets replace three minds with three rooms.
And three conciousnessess inside the minds with three persons in the room.

Now, an electrician has made connections in this way:
When switch 1 is pressed a red bulb glows in room1, yellow bulb in room 2, a green one in room 3.
When switch 2 is pressed, a yellow bulb glows in room1, green one in room 2, red one in room 3.
When switch 3 is pressed, a green bulb glows in room 1, red one in room 2, yellow one in room 3.

In the ‘learning phase’,
When a 4th person presses switch 1 and says “Guys, the light you see in your room now is s1 light, the 3 persons take a note of it.
Similarly he presses switch2 and switch 3 and ask them to take a mental note of s2 and s3 light.

Next, in the exam phase,
Person 4 presses switch 1 and asks which light do thay see, all 3 answer “S1 light!” even though person 1, 2 & 3 are seeing red,yellow and green lights actually!

Think different light colours as different taste sensations of three persons to the same ‘switch’ salt!

Hmm could this be the reason why some people like salty more, some sweet and some sour? They all like the same sensation, but its produced in them by different substances!
Suppose everybody actually likes green light ‘sensation’. Still person 1 will like ‘S3 light’ more, person 2 will like ‘S2 light’ more and person 3 will like ‘S1 light’ more in the example above!!
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4 comments :

Jaydip Mehta said...

Good one .. I also had posted similar kind of thoughts some time before .. see here http://jaydipmehta.blogspot.com/2007/08/language-just-medium-of-communication.html

chinmai said...

hey saur .. agreed to ur sayings in the blog and not agreed as well... sensations over the time ve been related and people interpret it the same way accordingly like for eg. salt will taste salty only but the degree of saltiness wud vary from ppl to ppl .. and in case if ppl fail to understand the common interpretations there comes the misunderstandings and its after effects... so for feelings and tastes that ve been identified wud be expected to be understood in the way of common sense,...
but i agree for this point mentioned in ur blog " But what happens when I have a sensation inside me that I have never correlated with any outside word over my life?" nice one..

Maryum said...

deep!!!

Ketan said...

Is this not a repetition of *that* post?

Sorry, didn't read this post completely. Left it somewhere in the beginning 'cuz I felt I'd read it! :)

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