Is observation a practical intervention? - Chapter 2

Perception: passive and private or active and public?

Passive perception is the view that one only has to open one's eyes or just look at something to see. This is a private matter because the meaning is interpreted for oneself. This is an unreliable conception of perception. Observation takes place actively in daily life. People often have to make an effort to observe. This is done, for example, by accommodating the eyes or listening 'sharply' with the ears. A person who perceives actively performs all kinds of actions; many automatically and unconsciously to determine whether an observation is valid. Even if someone looks at something, but is not sure whether he sees it through a glass window or if the image he sees is reflected in that glass, he will show active behavior to investigate whether or not that image is a reflection. Tools can be used to prevent perception from having a harmful effect on the truth. As a result, subjective unreliable differences in perception can be minimized. These tools are accessible to everyone and therefore public. The challenge in science is to organize an observable situation in such a way that confidence in certain claims is minimized.

How did Galileo objectify his observations?

Galileo is famous for manufacturing the first telescope and using it to observe things that had never been observed before. Initially, he was discredited by his contemporaries. However, after his opponents had learned how to use the telescope, they realized that Galileo was right. Galileo, therefore 'objectified' his observations. One can, therefore, observe better with objects. Some objects can also help us see things that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Although Galileo could not prove that he was able to perceive reality, his arguments were much more likely than the prevailing views that the moons of Jupiter were illusionary.

Why are observable facts fallible?

Observations that are suitable for forming a basis for scientific knowledge are both objective and fallible. Objectivity implies that they can be tested by anyone and each person would get the same result. Observable facts are imperfect and therefore fallible. An observation is never 'complete'; there will always be an 'open end' until the current observation is improved by another observation.

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