Summary of Truth and World by Wolfgang
Wolfgang Welsch, Wahrnehmung und Welt (Berlin: Matthes & Seitz, 2018), 76 pp., in German. ISBN 978-3-95757-605-7
The author presents the results of decades of his research
on perception in summary form.
First he clarifies the main point of the Aristotle's
theory of perception: in perception not only our perceptive faculty reaches
fulfillment, but so also does the perceived object. The perceptible is oriented
towards being perceived, and this objective intention finds its fulfillment in
the subjective act of perception. Perceptible world and perceptive faculty
In contrast, modern thinking has established a
strict opposition between man and world. The Cartesian dualism of res extensa
and res cogitans tore both apart. Consequently, human cognition,
both sensual and rational, could no longer be regarded as a reliable
representation of the objective world, but was declared a purely subjective
In the meantime, however, science has proven this
dualism to be erroneous. Because of his rationality, man is not a stranger to
the natural world but has emerged from nature together with his reason. And
nature is not simply mechanical and spiritless but is spiritually affiliated from
the ground up. Continuity between nature and man is the great agenda of
The fact that our standard perceptions are worldly
correct (similar to Aristotle's view) can be justified today by evolutionary
theory. Where, however, our perception cannot rely on evolutionary adaptations,
it does often go astray, but we can also clear up and compensate for these
errors, from the familiar perceptual illusions to the structures of the micro-
and macro-world. And a mere physical view of the world is obviously insufficient.
For the aisthetic interpretations of physical givens also represent elements of
the world as soon as perceiving beings have appeared on earth. Such perspectives
on the world are also part of the world.
After a ramble through the natural and cultural
history of perception (including examples of how the arts have shaped our
perception), an unusual perspective is tried out. Normally, one asks how the
world presents itself in perception. The author tackles the reverse question:
what does perception mean for the world? As soon as organisms appear,
perception (in whatever elementary form) is not only necessary for their
survival but also has effects on the environment. Since organisms lead their
lives in the wake of their perceptions, these have practical effects on the
environment, influencing and changing it. In this respect, perception is not
only a cognitive phenomenon but also an ontological one. Aesthetic acts
contribute to shaping the world.
So the reality which we perceive has long since
been formed by many previous perceptions. Nature contains, even before all
human perception, an almost endless series of animal perceptions and their
consequences. Acts of perception and their consequences have long been inscribed
in the things we know. Since life entered the world, the perceptual process –
of animals as well as of humans – has become the new driver of evolution. The
world is changing as a result of perceptual events; perception drives the world
forward. This is the significance of perception for the world.
Published on March 24, 2019.