The process of cognition includes obtaining information through the senses (sensory cognition), processing of this information by thinking (rational cognition) and material development of cognizable fragments of reality (social practice). There is a close connection between knowledge and practice, in the course of which materialization (objectification) of people’s creative aspirations takes place, the transformation of their subjective ideas, ideas, goals into objectively existing objects and processes.
Sensual and rational knowledge is closely related and are two main aspects of the cognitive process. At the same time, the indicated sides of knowledge do not exist in isolation either from practice or from one another. The activity of the senses is always controlled by the mind; the mind functions on the basis of the initial information that the senses supply to it. Since sensory cognition precedes rational, then one can in a certain sense speak of them as steps, stages of the cognitive process. Each of these two stages of knowledge has its own specifics and exists in its forms.
Sensory cognition is realized in the form of direct receipt of information through the senses, which directly connect us with the outside world. Note that such cognition can also be carried out using special technical means (devices) that expand the capabilities of the human sense organs. The main forms of sensory knowledge are: sensation, perception and representation.
Sensations arise in the human brain as a result of the effects of environmental factors on his senses. Each sense organ is a complex nerve mechanism, consisting of sensory receptors, transmitting nerve-conductors and the corresponding part of the brain that controls the peripheral receptors. For example, the organ of vision is not only the eye, but also the nerves leading from it to the brain, and the corresponding section in the central nervous system.
Sensations – mental processes occurring in the brain during the excitation of the nerve centers that control the receptors. “Sensations are a reflection of individual properties, qualities of objects of the objective world that directly affect the senses, an elementary further psychologically indecomposable cognitive phenomenon.” Feelings are specialized. Visual sensations give us information about the shape of objects, about their color, about the brightness of light rays. Auditory sensations inform a person of various sound vibrations in the environment. Touch allows us to feel the temperature of the environment, the effect of various material factors on the body, their pressure on it, etc. Finally, the smell and taste give information about chemical impurities in the environment and the composition of the food taken.
Biological and psycho-physiological disciplines, studying sensation as a kind of reaction of the human body, establish various dependencies: for example, the dependence of the reaction, that is, sensation, on the intensity of stimulation of a particular sense organ. In particular, it has been established that from the point of view of “information ability” in the first place a person has vision and touch, and then hearing, taste, smell.
The possibilities of the human sense organs are limited. They are able to display the world around us in certain (and rather limited) ranges of physicochemical effects. Thus, the organ of vision can display a relatively small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum with wavelengths from 400 to 740 millimicron. Outside of this interval are in one direction ultraviolet and x-rays, and in the other – infrared radiation and radio waves. Neither one nor the other does not perceive our eyes. Human hearing allows you to feel the sound waves from a few tens of hertz to about 20 kilohertz. Oscillations of a higher frequency (ultrasound) or lower frequency (infrasound) cannot be felt by our ear. The same can be said about other senses.
From the facts testifying to the limitations of the human sense organs, a doubt arose in his ability to know the world around him. Doubts about a person’s ability to know the world through their senses turn out in unexpected ways, because these doubts themselves prove to be in favor of the powerful capabilities of human cognition, including the capabilities of the senses, reinforced if necessary by appropriate technical means (microscope, binoculars, telescope visions, etc.).
But most importantly, a person can learn objects and phenomena that are inaccessible to his senses, thanks to the ability to interact with the outside world. A person is able to comprehend and understand the objective connection that exists between phenomena accessible by the sense organ and phenomena inaccessible to them (between electromagnetic waves and an audible sound in a radio receiver, between electron movements and those visible traces that they leave in Wilson’s chamber, and d.) Understanding this objective connection is the basis for the transition (carried out in our consciousness) from the sensed to the imperceptible.
In scientific knowledge, when detecting changes that occur for no apparent reason in sensory-perceptible phenomena, the researcher guesses about the existence of unperceivable phenomena. However, in order to prove their existence, to reveal the laws of their actions and use these laws, it is necessary that his (the researcher) activity should be one of the links causing a chain linking the observed and the unobservable. By controlling this link at his own discretion and calling on the basis of knowledge of the laws of unobservable phenomena and observed effects, the researcher thereby proves the truth of knowledge of these laws. For example, the transformations of sounds into electromagnetic waves occurring in a radio transmitter, and then their reverse transformation into sound vibrations in a radio receiver proves not only the existence of electromagnetic oscillations that are not perceived by our senses, but also the truth of the teachings on electromagnetism, Hertz.
Therefore, the human sense organs are quite sufficient for understanding the world. “A person has just as many feelings,” wrote L. Feuerbach, “how much is needed to perceive the world in its integrity, in its totality.” But a person lacks any additional sense organ capable of reacting to some factors surrounding environment, it is fully compensated by its intellectual and practical activities. So, a person does not have a special sensory organ, which makes it possible to feel radiation. However, a person was able to compensate for the absence of such an organ with a special device (dosimeter) warning of radiation danger in a visual or audible form. This suggests that the level of knowledge of the surrounding world is determined not only by a set, “assortment” of the senses and their biological perfection, but also by the degree of development of social practice.
At the same time, however, one should not forget that sensations have always been and always will be the only source of human knowledge about the world around. The sense organs are the only “gates” through which information about the world around us can penetrate our consciousness. Lack of sensations from the outside world can even lead to mental discomfort.
For the first form of sensory cognition (sensations), an analysis of the surroundings is characteristic: the sense organs, as it were, are chosen from innumerable set of environmental factors, quite definite. But sensory cognition includes not only analysis, but also synthesis, which is carried out in the subsequent form of sensory cognition — in perception.
Perception is a holistic sensual image of an object, formed by the brain from sensations directly derived from this object. Perception is based on combinations of different types of sensations. But this is not just a mechanical sum of them. Sensations, which are obtained from various sense organs, in perception merge into a single whole, forming a sensual image of an object. So, if we hold an apple in our hand, then visually we get information about its shape and color, through touch we learn about its weight and temperature, the smell smells its smell; and if we taste it, we learn it is sour or sweet. In perception, the focus of knowledge is already manifested. We can focus on some side of the subject and it will be “stuck out” in perception.
The perception of man developed in the process of his social and labor activity. The latter leads to the creation of new and new things, thereby increasing the number of perceived objects and improving perceptions themselves. Therefore, human perceptions are more developed and perfect than animal perceptions. As F. Engels noted, the eagle sees much further than a man, but the human eye notices much more in things than the eye of an eagle.
On the basis of sensations and perceptions in the human brain are formed representations. If sensations and perceptions exist only through direct contact of a person with an object (without this, there is neither sensation nor perception), then the idea arises without direct influence of the object on the senses. After some time after the object has acted on us, we can call its image in our memory (for example, recall the apple that we held in our hand some time ago, and then we ate). At the same time, the image of the object, recreated by our representation, differs from the image that existed in perception. First, it is poorer, paler, compared with the multicolored image that we had with the direct perception of the subject. And secondly, this image will necessarily be more general, because in the presentation, with even greater force than in perception, purposefulness of knowledge is manifested. In the image caused by memory, in the foreground will be the main thing that interests us.
At the same time, imagination, fantasy are essential in scientific knowledge. Here representations can acquire a truly creative character. Based on the elements that exist in reality, the researcher imagines something new, something that currently does not exist, but which will be either as a result of the development of some natural processes or as a result of the progress of practice. Any technical innovations, for example, exist at first only in the ideas of their creators (scientists, designers). And only after their implementation in the form of some technical devices, structures, they become objects of human perception.
Representation is a big step forward in comparison with perception, because it contains such a new feature as a generalization. The latter takes place already in the concepts of concrete, singular objects. But to an even greater degree, this is manifested in general ideas (that is, for example, in ideas not only about this particular birch growing in front of our house, but also about birch in general). In general ideas, the moments of generalization become much more significant than in any idea of a particular, single object.
Representation belongs to the first (sensual) level of knowledge, because it has a sensual-visual character. At the same time, it is also a kind of “bridge” leading from sensory cognition to rational.
In conclusion, we note that the role of sensory reflection of reality in providing all human knowledge is very significant:
- the senses are the only channel that directly connects a person with the external objective world;
- without the senses, man is not capable of knowing or thinking at all;
- the loss of a part of the sense organs makes it difficult, makes knowledge more difficult, but does not overlap its possibilities (this is explained by the mutual compensation of some sense organs by others, the mobilization of reserves in the acting sense organs, the ability of an individual to concentrate his attention, his will, etc.)
- rational is based on the analysis of the material that the senses give us;
- the regulation of objective activity is carried out primarily through the information received by the senses;
- the sense organs give the minimum of primary information that is necessary in order to know objects multilaterally in order to develop scientific knowledge.
Rational cognition (from the Latin. Ratio – mind) is a person’s thinking, which is a means of penetrating into the inner essence of things, a means of knowing the patterns that determine their being. The fact is that the essence of things, their regular connections are inaccessible to sensory cognition. They are comprehended only with the help of human mental activity.
It is “thinking that organizes the data of sensory perception, but does not boil down to this, but gives rise to something new — something that is not given in sensuality. This transition is a jump, a break in gradualness. It has its objective basis in “splitting” the object into the inner and outer, the essence and its manifestation, into a separate and common. External aspects of things, phenomena are reflected first of all with the help of living contemplation, and the essence, the common in them is comprehended with the help of thinking.
In this process of transition, what is called understanding is accomplished. To understand is to reveal the essential in the subject. We can understand what we are not able to perceive … Thinking relates the testimony of the senses with all the existing knowledge of the individual, moreover – with all the cumulative experience, knowledge of humanity to the extent that they became the property of the subject. ”
Forms of rational knowledge (human thinking) are: concept, judgment and inference. These are the broadest and most common forms of thinking that underlie the whole innumerable wealth of knowledge that humanity has accumulated.
The original form of rational knowledge is the concept. “Concepts are the products of the sociohistorical process of cognition embodied in words, which single out and fix common essential properties; relations of objects and phenomena, and due to this they simultaneously summarize the most important properties about the methods of action with these groups of objects and phenomena ”. The concept in its logical content reproduces the dialectic pattern of knowledge, the dialectical connection of the individual, the particular and the universal. Essential and insignificant attributes of objects, necessary and random, qualitative and quantitative, etc. can be fixed in concepts.
The emergence of concepts is the most important regularity of the formation and development of human thinking. The objective possibility of the emergence and existence of concepts in our thinking lies in the objective character of the world around us, that is, the presence in it of a multitude of separate objects with qualitative definiteness.
The formation of a concept is a complex dialectic process, including: comparison (mental comparison of one object with another, identification of signs of similarity and differences between them), generalization (mental union of homogeneous objects based on certain common features), abstraction (selection of certain features in the subject , the most significant, and a distraction from others, secondary, irrelevant). All these logical techniques are closely related to each other in a single concept-formation process.
Concepts express not only objects, but also their properties and relations between them. Concepts such as hard and soft, big and small, cold and hot, etc. express certain properties of bodies. Concepts such as motion and peace, speed and strength, etc., express the interaction of objects and man with other bodies and processes of nature.
Particularly intense the emergence of new concepts occurs in the field of science in connection with the rapid deepening and development of scientific knowledge. Discoveries in the objects of new aspects, properties, relationships, relationships immediately entail the emergence of new scientific concepts. Each science has its own concepts, forming a more or less coherent system, called its conceptual apparatus. The conceptual apparatus of physics, for example, includes such concepts as “energy”, “mass”, “charge”, etc. The conceptual apparatus of chemistry includes the concepts “element”, “reaction”, “valence”, etc.
According to the degree of generality, concepts may be different – less general, more general, extremely general. The concepts themselves are to be generalized. In scientific knowledge, private scientific, general scientific and universal concepts (philosophical categories such as quality, quantity, matter, being, etc.) function.
In modern science, an increasing role is played by general scientific concepts that arise at the points of contact (so to say “at the intersection”) of various sciences. Often this occurs when solving some complex or global problems. The interaction of sciences in solving this kind of scientific problems is significantly accelerated thanks to the use of general scientific concepts. An important role in the formation of such concepts is played by the interaction of the natural, technical, and social sciences, which is characteristic of our time, which form the main spheres of scientific knowledge.
A more complicated form of thinking than a concept is judgment. It includes the concept, but is not reduced to it, but is a qualitatively special form of thinking that performs its own special functions in thinking. This is explained by the fact that “the universal, the particular and the singular are not directly divided in the concept and given as something whole. Their division and correlation is given in judgment. ”
The objective basis of judgment are connections and relationships between objects. The need for judgments (as well as concepts) is rooted in the practical activities of people. Interacting with nature in the labor process, a person seeks not only to single out certain items from others, but also to comprehend their correlations in order to successfully influence them.
Relations and relations between objects of thought are very diverse. They can be between two separate objects, between a subject and a group of objects, between groups of objects, etc. The variety of such real connections and relations is reflected in the diversity of judgments.
“Judgment is the form of thinking by which the presence or absence of any connections and relations between objects is revealed (that is, it indicates the presence or absence of something in something).” Being a relatively complete thought reflecting things, phenomena of the objective world with their properties and relationships, judgment has a certain structure. In this structure, the concept of the subject of thought is called the subject and is denoted by the Latin letter S (Subjectum – underlying). The concept of the properties and relations of the object of thought is called a predicate and is denoted by the Latin letter P (Predicatum – said). Subject and predicate are collectively called judgment terms. At the same time, the role of terms in judgment is far from the same. The subject contains already known knowledge, and the predicate carries new knowledge about it. For example, science has established that iron has electrical conductivity. The presence of this connection between iron and its individual property makes it possible to judge: “iron (S) is electrically conducting (P)”.
The subject-predicate form of judgment is associated with its main cognitive function — to reflect reality in its rich variety of properties and relationships. This reflection can be carried out in the form of single, private and general judgments.
A single is a judgment in which something is affirmed or denied about a particular subject. Such judgments in the Russian language are expressed by the words “this”, proper names, etc.
Private judgments are such judgments in which something is affirmed or denied about a certain part of a certain group (class) of objects. In Russian, such judgments begin with such words as “some,” “part,” “not all,” and others.
Common are the judgments in which something is affirmed or denied about the whole group (about the whole class) of subjects. Moreover, what is approved or denied in the general judgment concerns every subject of the class in question. In Russian, this is expressed by the words “all”, “everyone”, “everyone”, “any” (in affirmative judgments) or “none”, “none”, “none”, etc. (in negative judgments).
General judgments express the general properties of objects, general connections and relations between them, including objective regularities. It is in the form of general judgments that essentially all scientific statements are formed. The special significance of general judgments in scientific knowledge is determined by the fact that they serve as a mental form in which the objective laws of the surrounding world, discovered by science, can be expressed only. However, this does not mean that only general judgments have cognitive value in science. The laws of science arise from the generalization of a multitude of individual and particular phenomena, which are expressed in the form of individual and particular judgments. Even single judgments about individual objects or phenomena (some facts that have arisen in an experiment, historical events, etc.) can have an important cognitive significance.
Being a form of existence and expression of a concept, a separate judgment, however, cannot fully express its content. Such a form can only serve a system of judgments and inference. Inference is the most clearly manifested ability of thinking to mediated rational reflection of reality. The transition to new knowledge is carried out here not by referring to this sensory experience of the subject of knowledge, but on the basis of already existing knowledge.
Inference contains in its composition the judgments, and consequently, the concepts), but not reduced to them, but also implies their definite connection. In order to understand the origin and essence of inference, it is necessary to compare two kinds of knowledge that a person possesses and uses in the process of his life activity. This is immediate and mediated knowledge.
Direct knowledge is those obtained by a person through the senses: sight, hearing, smell, etc. Such sensual information constitutes a significant part of all human knowledge.
However, not everything in the world can be judged directly. In science, mediated knowledge is of great importance. This is knowledge that is received not directly, not directly, but by deducing from other knowledge. The logical form of their acquisition and serves as a conclusion. Inference is understood as a form of thinking, by means of which new knowledge is derived from known knowledge.
Like judgments inference has its structure. In the structure of any inference, there are distinguished: assumptions (initial judgments), conclusion (or conclusion) and a certain connection between them. Parcels are the initial (and at the same time already known) knowledge that serves as the basis for the conclusion. The conclusion is a derivative, moreover, a new knowledge, obtained from the premises and acting as their consequence. Finally, the connection between assumptions and inference is the necessary relationship between them, making it possible to move from one to another. In other words, this is a logical following relation. Every conclusion is a logical following of some knowledge from others. Depending on the nature of this following, the following two fundamental types of conclusions are distinguished: inductive and deductive.
Inference is widely used in everyday and in scientific knowledge. In science, they are used as a way of knowing the past that cannot be directly observed. It is on the basis of inference that knowledge is formed about the origin of the Solar System and the formation of the Earth, about the origin of life on our planet, about the origin and stages of development of society, etc. But the conclusions in science are used not only to understand the past. They are also important for understanding the future, which cannot yet be observed. And this requires knowledge of the past, of development trends that are currently operating and paving the way for the future.
Together with the concepts and judgments, inferences overcome the limitations of sensory cognition. They are indispensable where the sense organs are powerless in comprehending the causes and conditions for the emergence of an object or phenomenon, in understanding its essence, forms of existence, patterns of its development, etc.