When is something real? LO23365

Leo Minnigh (l.d.minnigh@library.tudelft.nl)
Wed, 24 Nov 1999 11:21:18 +0100 (MET)

Replying to LO23352 --

Dear LO'ers, dear Rick,

I was thinking to change the subject title into: 'the mind, the sixth
sense'. But for clarity of our discussion I have kept the original title

Rick wrote a very, very clear contribution with lots of windows and views
to various directions. Your final question triggered my following
direction of observation:

> My grand question: Why isn't this the resolution for spiritualists,
> philosophers, scientists, and public thinkers troubled by the tension
> between (1) and (2)?

The direction of view is the direction of our senses: sight, hearing,
feeling, taste and smell.

We interpret a lot of our surroundings as 'real' with the use of our
senses. The translation of these perceptions are than interpreted in our
mind. During a long history, mankind agreed upon a common vocabulary to
describe these perceptions. We agree what is 'red, yellow, or blue', we
agree what is 'a high or low tone, rythm and other sounds', we agree what
is 'heavy, or light', or 'warm, or cold', we agree what is 'sweet, sour,
or salty', and we may agree what is 'stinky, or rosy'.

Why could we agree about most of these perceptions? Because we invented
'objective' gauging instruments. So we could test what frequency coincides
with red light, we could test the frequency of tones and vibrations of
air, we could test the weight, or temperature of some object, etc. We even
are able to reproduce and 'make' comparable (identical??) copies of these

Did you ever test the frequency of the blue you see, with the
vrequence of the blue that your neighbour sees? Or with the blue that is
artificially reproduced according to your frequency?
Did you ever listened to your own voice from a tape recorder??
Did you compare your feeling of a certain temperature with the temperature
indicated by a thermometer (do this experiment several times during the
course of the year)?
Are you able to compare your own tast of salt food with the taste of
someone else? Is there a trustworthy ('objective') instrument to test
one's taste?
Is there a instrument that could be used to copare our smelling with the
smelling of others? (I once heard on a radio interview that there are
women who describe the smell of a male urinoir as the smell of a bouquet
of flowers!?). And a dog could smell things that we can't. There are
instruments that could measure very small amounts of chemicals in the air,
however these instruments could not 'translate' these records into the
vocabulary that describes our taste.

We see already from the above examples that for certain perceptions of
'reality' the level of agreement is not the same as for other types of

And now our sixth sense: the mind.
Intuition, thoughts, dreams, belief, etc. Are these 'things' perceptions?
But if so, we are not able to test them with a neutral instrument. There
is not such instrument. But even worse, there is even not a common
vocabulary. So we are not able to reach a certain level of agreement. We
could see the effects of a lack of such instrument already with smell and
taste. With the perceptions of the mind it is impossible (yet).
Maybe once there will be a vocabulary and an instrument. And then....

Ah, we could measure and name the 'things' in our mind as real! Let's
invent the vocabulary and instrument(s).

Rick, this was one of my answers to your intriguing questions.

dr. Leo D. Minnigh
Library Technical University Delft
PO BOX 98, 2600 MG Delft, The Netherlands
Tel.: 31 15 2782226
Let your thoughts meander towards a sea of ideas.


Leo Minnigh <l.d.minnigh@library.tudelft.nl>

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