We trust blindly in our sense perceptions. Often, we say: “I saw it with my own eyes”, or “I heard it clearly”. We trust our other senses similarly, considering their reports to be irrefutable evidence.
However, it is necessary to realize that our perceptions are tainted by three major defects:
- Our senses have serious limitations. For example, the human eye perceives less than 1% —specifically, 0035%, or between 300nm and 900nm— of the light spectrum. In addition, we cannot perceive objects placed too close or too far, nor those placed behind opaque obstacles. The same holds true for our other senses.
- Emotions distort perceptions. If we are agitated or distracted, we fail to perceive objects within our perceptual field, as when we are in a hurry and cannot find the keys that we hold in our own hand. We also have the tendency to see what we want to see, and to not see what we don´t want to see, as when we are “in love”.
- Conceptual categories determine our perceptions. If we do not recognize an object, we do not note its presence. For example, if we do not know a certain individual named Joe, he can be right in front of us without noting his presence. On the contrary, if another individual resembles a friend of ours, we might believe we see our friend, even when he is not there.
Sense limitations, emotional distortions, and conceptual categories —present in all sentient beings— challenge our blind faith in the “evidence” of our perceptions.