The Problem of Perception
By Josh Beaudoin
This is our final issue of the year and I’d like to leave you with one last idea to think about: the problem of perception. This problem revolves around the idea that with so many facts out there, how are people supposed to draw accurate conclusions about anything? People have access to a near-infinite number of “facts” to back up their views, and with so much information out there, it’s impossible to sift through all of it, even for someone who is sincerely interested in finding the truth.
This raises the question of how are people supposed to find the truth, if the truth is buried beneath the understanding of all these facts? Even if they could somehow know the information, how on earth are they supposed to understand it? The reality is that we can’t find the truth on our own because of our limited ability and time on earth to reason. However, I believe that’s why free speech is so important. Without speech, every individual is stuck in the echo chamber of their own mind. Speech, I believe, is the utterance of thoughts, and it’s through the verbalization of them that we may—as a society—slowly progress toward the truth. It’s the idea that no one person has a claim on the truth, but perhaps there are some who hold a fragment, and that by talking together, we can sift out the error to create a clearer picture of the truth.
Science is a good example of how this happens. Over the millennia, thousands of individuals, none of whom had the truth, were able to share and compound their ideas which somehow culminated in technology that allows us to see distant galaxies through the James Webb Space Telescope, or individual atoms under a microscope. The scientists might not have had “the truth,” but because of their efforts we’re a lot closer to it than we were 200 years ago, and those efforts created tangible change.
This process isn’t easy or linear. It’s complicated by a host of variables. It’s messy and has taken thousands of years for us to get to where we find ourselves now—a point where people enjoy more rights, freedoms, and prosperity than any other time in history. If we all commit to listening and learning from one another, we can continue to stumble towards the truth, even though we don’t know what that truth will look like. Hopefully, the future will be better because of our efforts for the next generation than it was for ours.
Hello everyone, I’m Josh Beaudoin, the editor-in-chief of The Collegian from 2021-2022. I’m from central Alberta, Canada, and first started at The Collegian in 2019 as the writer of the food column. I love to spend time outdoors and regularly hike in places like Mount Rainier National Park and Banff National Park. I also do quite a bit of reading about social and political topics.