What is subjective perception?

Subjective perception is the way an individual sees the physical world based on the functioning of their own brain and sensory systems. Each individual has a brain, sensory systems, and cognitive structures that differ from those of others. As such, it cannot be conclusively said that you hear or see exactly what other people hear or see. The problem of subjective perception is very important in philosophy, brain science, and psychology, and is a major barrier to establishing the conclusive objectivity of scientific findings. Perception can be shared only through communication, and there is no form of communication that can perfectly express perception from one person to another.

A commonly discussed example of subjective perception is the question of whether or not each person perceives color in the same way. Many people, even children, realize at some point that without being in someone else's mind, they can't tell if other people see the same "yellow" as they do. The light waves that reach each individual's eyes are the same, but it cannot be known whether the eyes and the brain process light waves in exactly the same way. Two different people's perceptions of the world could have subtle differences, or they could vary dramatically. The subjective nature of perception makes it impossible to know conclusively.

For some, subjective perception is simply an interesting topic to ponder, but it is extremely important to science. Many scientific experiments are based on observations, and non-quantitative observations are usually based on perception. However, perception does not provide a pure representation of the physical world, as sensory information passes through perceptual, neurological, and cognitive filters. You can't even know for sure that one person's filtered view of the world is the same as someone else's. This raises the question of how science can claim to present objective findings about the world when those findings are based on subjective perception.

Throughout history, many different philosophers have pondered and written on the subject of subjective perception. Some claim that although people cannot directly know the physical world, human perception is sufficient to allow reasonable discussion and study of the perceived world. Others take subjective perception to an extreme and claim that there is no objective external world, or at least that the external world is completely unknowable and that trying to explore and understand it is completely useless. Since there is no clear solution to these problems, subjective perception remains an important philosophical topic.

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