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Friday, October 15, 2004

There Is No Objective Experience

by Gregory Bateson

All experience is subjective. This is only a simple corollary of a point made in section 4: that our brains make the images that we think we "perceive."

It is significant that all perception – all conscious perception – has image characteristics. A pain is localize somewhere. It has a beginning and an end and a location and stands out against a background. These are the elementary components of an image. When somebody steps on my toe, what I experience is, not his stepping on my toe, but my image of his stepping on my toe reconstructed from neural reports reaching my brain somewhat after his foot has landed on mine. Experience of the exterior is always mediated by particular sense organs and neural pathways. To that extent, objects are creation, and my experience of them is subjective, not objective.

It is, however, not a trivial assertion to note that very few persons, at least in occidental culture, doubt the objectivity of such sense data as pain or their visual images of the external world. Or civilization is deeply based on this illusion.

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