We Only See What We Can See

Consider two recent pieces in the New York Times: “How Animals See Themselves” by Ed Young, and “In a Parallel Universe, Another You” by Michio Kaku, both published on June 20th.

Young reports that animals sense light, sounds, smells, etc. much differently than humans do.  It helps them to identify food, mates, and other means to achieving objectives using signals unsensed by us.  They are arguable in the same world as us humans, but see the world quite differently.  Consequently, we can disrupt their worlds without our seeing any difference.

Kaku argues for there being different worlds.  The differences are not just light, sounds, smells, etc.  There are possibly completely different universes that function in ways that we are unlikely to understand.  Values, norms, and success paths may be completely different.  A fundamental challenges involves proving this in any meaningful way.

So what?  We each need to eat and mate in the world we inhabit, not all the other worlds.  This pragmatic perspective makes sense.  However, it suggests that absolutist perspectives are capricious and arbitrary.  Our convictions that we are “right” are ridiculous.  We need to understand the contextual nature of perspectives.  We only see what we can see.

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