Observation

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 observation
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Fiona Johanna Hoppe (17/12/2018, within the course "The Odyssey of Philosophy and Information" facilitated by J.M.Díaz)

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Contents:
Observation
Observation and information
Observation and knowledge
5 Observation, cognition and wisdom
6 Deduction

Abstract

Observation in common understanding can be seen as obvious and clear as it does not need an explanation. But with this entry I would like to focus on the meaning of observation in a philosophical context and on the links between other important definitions in the epistemology. I will first explain the word observation with the help of some definitions and then pass to direct and indirect observation. Furthermore, the process of observation is explained just shortly as it would go beyond the scope of this entry to explain in detail. In the passage of observation and information the difference between information and noise is explained, as well as the opinion of Irvin Rock on observation and information. Additionally, different models and definitions of knowledge are defined and connected to observation. Perception is defined as well as going into Rock´s understanding of perception and his view of perception and knowledge. Later, the relation and the difference of observation and perception are explained. In the last passage there is made a linkage to cognition and wisdom. In the end, the content is shortly summarised.

1. Observation

What exactly is observation? What is happening in our heads while observing? What is related to it and what is the difference between observation and perception? What has knowledge to do with observation?

In order to answer all these questions, one has to find out about the meaning of observation. In a common understanding one can say that while observing you just see something with your eyes. But when you just see something with your eyes, can you really make sense of the things you see? Or do you need other senses in order to process the information in your mind?

Looking up the word ‘observation’ in the internet I found the following expression: “Observation in philosophy: Observation in philosophical terms is the process of filtering sensory information through the thought process. Input is received via hearing, sight, smell, taste or touch and then analysed through either rational or irrational thought.” (Wikipedia 2018a)  ("Observation", 2019) [Dear Fiona: if you go to any wikipedia page, in the right hand side menu, under tools you can find "Cite this Page". There you will find instructions about how to enter a citation, providing in addition a permanent link to the state of the page you really consulted. Just use the APA style and use it for the reference list at the bottom of your entry]. According to the second sentence of this definition, a human being can observe with all its senses. Subsequently an example of the necessity of observing with more than one sense: Assuming a dog is barking but you cannot explain what you hear as you have never heard it before or you cannot remember. By touching the thing, you can probably say that this is an animal because you feel the fur and the body heat of the dog. Smelling the typical smell of a dog you can be more sure that this is a dog. In the end when you see the dog you can be certain to say that you heard a dog barking (more about human senses: Perception).

Referring to the article of Jonsson (2018), there are different types of observation which are worth to take into account when defining observation: qualitive and quantitive, personal and impersonal as well as direct and indirect observation. For the following article the difference between indirect and direct observation is important to make clear. As stated by Rock (1985) someone observes through all his/ her senses. In the case of direct observation one can say that the individuum individual [that's German. You can use either individual or person. You use it also later] does not think or uses his/ her perception or knowledge. Instead, it is the mere observation of information with the independence of perception. In contrast, indirect observation can be described as dependent on perception. The individual compares the observed object to former perception and to his/ her knowledge. Nevertheless, it is not easy to differentiate between direct and indirect observation. There is also the question if a distinction between these two types of observation even exists (Cesar 2018).

How does observation work?

“Observation is explained as the process of filtering information one gets from his/her senses which then goes through the thinking process” (Jonsson 2018). Looking at the definition of Jonsson´s article  Reading the first part of the definition from Wikipedia mentioned above and the definition of Jonsson´s article, it gets clear that observation is a process. [It is important bearing in mind that the author is using Wikipedia as her source, therefore there's a necessary coincidence].(I don´t know for sure if Jonsson found this definition on Wikipedia as she has no t used direct citation of this sentence) As the definition states, it is a neutral way of gaining information without a deduction or drawing conclusions. It is just the process of examine a phenomenon or action without evaluation or judgement.

Shortly explained, observation with regards to just visual sensation [with regards to just visual information/sensation] works the following way: Referring to Fig. 1, the light which is an electromagnetic phenomenon comes to our eyes. The fact that waves from our eyes go to the object is not right. Instead waves come from the object to our eyes. These waves cannot be located in a certain place as they are always moving. This concept can be compared to the theories of Newton and Huygens who wrote about the interpretation of waves. [actually is only Huygens who interprets light as wave phenomena, Newton does it as particle movements].


From: Díaz Nafría (2011): Messages in an open universe. In Messages and Messengers, Munich: Fink

Fig. 1. (Source: Díaz-Nafría, 2011a). [Since it appears at the reference list, here it should be cited as: "(Source: Díaz-Nafría, 2011a)."]

2. Observation and information

“Information is a difference that makes a difference.“ (Bateson 1979)

In order to start the process of observation, the process needs input. This input can be seen as information. In the article of Endogenous Information in the gossariumBiTri the theory of Shannon and Weaver is descripted. It is stated that one has to differentiate between noise and information and that information and noise depend on the number of elements that differ from one another (Aguado 2009). In other words, “information and noise are expressed in direct proportion to variety.” (Aguado 2009).

The fact that we differ between information and noise takes us to the problem of observation. The only way for the observer to differentiate between information and noise is order, which is cognitive contribution made by the observer, referring to Ashby (Aguado 2009).

The word ‘information’ comes from the Latin language. Literally translated information means ‘to give form to something’. This is important to keep in mind by looking at Rock´s opinion. Rock (1985) describes the meaning of observation in another way. According to him, the best way to get information is observing. The forming of new information is based on the senses of the individual that is observing, i.e. feeling, seeing, touching, smelling and hearing. However, it is not the object which is observed, that gives the information to the observer. In the process of observation, there is another part that plays an important role: things the observer already knows about the object and the environment he or she observes. The things the observer already knows, i.e. knowledge, are no new information for the observer. As a consequence, it means that information which is observed can become knowledge. Due to the fact that every individual has a different status of knowledge, that derives from the different amount of information the individual has observed, one can say that while observing and accessing his/ her knowledge every individual has a different outcome of an observation.

3. Observation and knowledge

The process of observation implies the question of what you are looking at. In this case the observer needs knowledge he/ she can refer to. In order to find out what links observation and knowledge, one has to take a look at the meaning of knowledge.

Referring to a quotation of Albert Einstein, curiosity is the starting point of gaining knowledge. But taking a more scientific look at the topic of knowledge, one finds a lot of different definitions and opinions of philosophers. There are two models which prevail. The iconic model states that knowledge “is an accurate picture (of mental nature) of the object of knowledge” (Díaz Nafría 2009). The other one is the propositional model which defines knowledge as “a real proposition” (Díaz Nafría 2009).

As shown in the entry of knowledge the classical epistemological model indicates that knowledge implies belief, truth value and justification and that knowledge in an epistemological way is “justified and true belief” (Pérez-Montoro 2009). The same opinion is stated by Plato as he says in his Theaetetus that “Knowledge is true belief” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2005). Looking at this definition, one can claim that knowledge is always true and never false as it is characterised as justified and true. But believing that knowledge is always right would be naïve. To place observation in this definition, an individual observes, believes and afterwards justifies its beliefs so that it can develop knowledge.

Another statement is made by Dretske who defines knowledge in an informative way. From his opinion one can draw two benefits: “that this definition allows us to explain the possibility of transmission of knowledge” (Pérez-Montoro 2009) and that he “replaces the necessity for the justification of belief with causality of information.” (Pérez-Montoro 2009). As stated by Díaz Nafría (2009), Dretske defines knowledge as a belief produced by information which relates to background knowledge. This is important to compare to indirect observation as during indirect observation the observer relates to his/ her knowledge in the same way as Dretske describes in his definition. While observing and perceiving information an individual develops a causality of this information that can turn to knowledge.

In addition, Floridi´s semantic model has to be described because it differs from the ones mentioned above. As stated by Pérez-Montoro (2009), Floridi presents knowledge, information and data in a command structure which says that data is seen as the base, followed by information and then on the top followed by knowledge. For Floridi information “constitutes the elements for further inquiry” and knowledge is “constituted in terms of justifiable semantic information” (Pérez-Montoro 2009). As he sees information also resulting from a data modelling process, this process has to include observation. Through observation the information the observer gets are filtered and passed to the thinking process.

The systemic model of the UTI describes knowledge in a similar way as Floridi´s. In this model the first step is the syntactic/ structural level with data followed by the semantic/ state level with knowledge. The highest level is the pragmatic/ behavioural one which includes practical wisdom and is achieved by interpreting data and “is the basis for decision-making” (Pérez-Montoro 2009). This is very interesting as the UTI model does not imply a level with information but directly goes from data to the level of knowledge and with practical wisdom even a level higher.

Regarding all these different models and descriptions of knowledge, it gets clear that observation can be seen some levels beneath knowledge. Observation is the point of origin of all these models as observing is the process to gain data and information. However, observation is the beginning of the process of gaining knowledge.

4. Observation and perception

Perception has an effect on knowledge but what is its relation to observation? Before digging deeper into Rock´s article (1985) about perception, we will take a look at the definition of perception.

Perception is described as a process. During the process of perception an individual receives information from the environment via the human senses and processes this information in the sensory system (Warntoft 2018). As said, the sensory system supports perception and “is known as the interpretation and transformation of an object into an insight” (Warntoft 2018). Receiving information from the environment with help of our senses makes us communicate with the environment around us. According to Seland (2016), the fact is iterated that perception is the interpretation and the transformation of the manifestation of an object into an insight supported by the sensory system (Warntoft 2018). There are two theories of perception which have to be taken into account as they are very interesting. For more information please look at perception as it is not discussed in this entry.

As stated by Rock (1985), perception is “the achievement of a representation of objects or events based on stimulus input” (Rock 1985: pp. 4-5). He claims that stimulus input is the base of perception, i.e. perception correlates with the human senses. Further on, he writes that the observer does not know anything about the processes of perception (Rock 1985). He argues that perception includes more than one process and that the observer does not know what exactly happens during these processes.

Rock understands perception as autonomous and previous to observation. In most cases perception works autonomously but in special cases knowledge influences perception (Diaz Nafira/ Cesar 2018). There are two kinds of knowledge which are likely to affect perception, as stated by Rock (1985): consciously knowing and information stored in memory which is based on past experiences. He claims that consciously knowing what we observe does not usually affect our perception but there are some exceptions. The information we have stored in memory, Rock argues, does always influences recognition and interpretation but also has an effect on perception. Concluding he admits that there are limitations to the influence of knowledge on perception (Rock 1985).

Due to the fact that Rock is mainly referring to direct observation in his article, I would like to recall the relation between perception and observation. In direct observation perception is independent from observation. The observer does not access to his/ her perception and knowledge from past experiences. Whereas in indirect observation the observer makes use of his/ her former perception and the indirect observation is depending on perception. As a result, observation and perception are not standing on the same level. In order to achieve perception and stored knowledge one indirect observer can refer to, direct observation has to have taken place before.

The main difference between observation and perception gets clear while defining the two words. Observation is the process of filtering the information received by the environment with the help of the senses and giving it to the thinking process. Perception is a process much more longer which includes the processing in the human sensory system, as stated above.

5. Observation, cognition and wisdom

Cognition is “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding thought, experience, and the senses” (Oxford Dictionaries, 2018)”, as stated by Breucker (2018) in the entry of cognition. Referring to this definition, cognition covers a larger spectrum than observation itself and takes place sometime after the observation. Cognition includes the process of understanding thoughts and the process of gaining knowledge. Observation does not have a direct link to cognition as it happens before the process of acquiring knowledge. But observation is the starting point of gaining knowledge which means that observation can possibly have an impact on cognition. Rock sees cognition in a different way. For him cognition implies “other domains (…) such as (…) thought, language, and humor.” (Rock 1985: p. 9). In his opinion cognition is not just limited to the understanding of thought. It implies other fields of study and contains language and humour. This is arguable as language and humor can be seen as a part of the knowledge of an individual. Language is learned by an individual, at the beginning it is information which turns to justified and true believe. Here, observation plays a role again as it is the origin of the process of gaining knowledge.

Defined by the Cambridge Dictionary (2018), wisdom is “the ability to use your knowledge and experience to make good decisions and judgements” (Cambridge Dictionary 2018). Talking about the relation between observation and wisdom, one has to consider knowledge as well as experience. Experience is something an individual has underwent and stored as knowledge in his mind. The experiences the individual has had can help him/ her to adapt to and to understand new situations (Pérez-Montoro 2009). According to Wikipedia (2018b) ("Tabula rasa", 2019), all the knowledge an individual has achieved comes from experience and perception.

There is another definition of wisdom, presented in the Unified Theory of Information (UTI). According to the entry of knowledge by Diaz Nafria (2009), the base of ‘practical wisdom’ is knowledge, i.e. data interpretation, which “is the basis for decision-making” (Diaz Nafira 2009). This comes close to the definition in the Cambridge Dictionary as knowledge plays an important part in the usage of wisdom. Wisdom does either has no direct link to observation as it happens several steps after the observation has taken place.

6. Deduction

Having  had a look at all the definitions mentioned above and all the linkages made between the different fields of epistemology, one can conclude that all concepts correlate and determine each other. It gets apparent that there are many different opinions of philosophers but everyone describes observation as a base for the steps following, such as knowledge, perception, cognition and wisdom.

References

  • Aguado, J.M. (2009). "Endogenous Information". GlossariumBiTri.
  • Bateson, G. (1979). Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity (Advances in Systems Theory, Complexity, and the Human Sciences). Hampton Press.
  • Breucker, H. (2018). “Cognition”. GlossariumBiTri.
  • Cambridge Dictionary. (2018). Wisdom. [Online]. <https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/wisdom >. [Consulted: consulting 18/12/18].
  • Cesar, K. (2018). “Observation”. GlossariumBiTri.
  • Diaz Nafria, J.M. (2009). “Knowledge”. GlossariumBiTri.
  • Diaz Nafria, J.M. (2011a). Messages in an open universe. In Messages and Messengers. Munich: Fink.
  • Diaz Nafria, J.M.; Montoro, P.M. (2011b). „Is Information a Sufficient Basis for Cognition? Part 1: Critique of Dretske´s Approach
  • Jonsson, E. (2018). “Observation”. GlossariumBiTri.
  • Pérez-Montoro, M.; Gejman, R. (2009). “Knowledge”. GlossariumBiTri.
  • Rock, I. (1985). "Perception and Knowledge". Acta Psychologica, Vol. 59, Num. 1, pp. 3-22.
  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2005/ 2013). Plato on Knowledge in the Theaetetus. [Online]. <https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/plato-theaetetus/ >.[Consulted: consulting 16/12/18].
  • Warntoft, P. (2018). “Perception”. GlossariumBiTri.
  • Wikipedia contributors. (2019, January 7). Observation. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11:38, January 20, 2019 from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Observation&oldid=877299092
  • Wikipedia contributors. (2019, January 18). Tabula rasa. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11:40, January 20, 2019, from  https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Tabula_rasa&oldid=879056722




Klemen Cesar (13.5.2018, within the course "Odyssey of Philosophy and Information", facilitated by J.M.Díaz at HM)

This entry started as a part of my ''knowledge'' and ''communication'' entries, but turned out to be more than that]. It takes my beliefs on observation and compares them, to some extent to "Perception and knowledge" (Rock 1985).

In the entry, I aim to summarize my thoughts and my understanding of what I perceive to be observation. Starting with understanding how observation works, what it actually is and what are the outcomes of observation. I write about personal self-restructuration in order to observe more objectively. I end with my idea of the outcome, naming it perception. It could be debated if observation is the outcome of perception or the other way around, but that is a topic for another entry.

1.THE BASICS

1.1 How does observation work?

Most people think of visual observation, but in truth we use all of our 5 senses to observe our environment. We sense the space around us and build our reality. 

The way we observe is often very selective. We all have certain interests and beliefs. Therefore we automaticaly observe content in line with those interests, ignoring everything else that might be contrary to our beliefs. A coincidental example of that is the fact that started writing this article and when I was half way done, I researched a bit and soon found the work of Rock, that confirmed most of my ideas. Maybe I found others that dissagreed, but my mind was unconciously selective and decided to look deeper into Rock's "Perception and knowledge" (1985).

1.2 What does it mean "to observe"?

Observing is the best way of getting information from our environment. The item of observation is not feeding information to the observer. The observer forms new information mainly based on 2 things. A) What one can sense (see, hear, feel, smell, taste) about the item of observation. B) What one already knows (about the world, the item...). [B is not proper information, it may cooperate in the process of observation, but is not information which by definition incorporates novelty, refers to what is not know before the information was received. Use the material sense of informing: giving form to a piece of raw material, for instance, wax. If we want to impress a cast with the form of a shell in a piece of wax that already has exactly that form, we could not inform that piece whatsoever; we would just let the cast go against the wax without no resistance.] If the newly formed information would only be based on A, it would be information completely true to every observer, but since it is very hard for individuals to let go of B, everyone is observing their own reality, that fits to some extent to Reality [This is a constructivist or subjectivist sense of reality. What is call the realist or objectivist stance upholds that reality is what is there independently of the observer]. In case a where an individual would totally let go of B, the information could sometimes be incomplete [the beginning of this sentence is incomplete]. One has to know when to use his knowledge and when it is better not to. To sum up "to observe" means to sense your environment and to shape your reality based as much as necessary on your preexisting knowledge.

1.3 What is the outcome of observation?

Outcome of observation is perception [this is very arguable, as I explained in the conclusive session. Perception has been seen typically as kind of autonomous and previous to observation. This is argued by Rock in his paper. In most cases perception works autonomously, however in many cases, and this is Rock's main point,  knowledge influences perception. There are many examples in which no matter we know something has a particular configuration, our senses provides a different percept. This happens for instance, when a visual image offers few ambiguity to its direct interpretation, for instance, in cases of forced geometries that breach symmetries and counteract parallax]. We are always observing, even when we are not doing it intentionaly, our minds simply want to know what is happening around us [but this happens even more with perception]. But there is always a difference when we are observing. Every observation represents information taken from the environment. Observation is the best way of receiving information. If you are a good observer, that observes all the aspects of a situation, received information cannot be false [I think this cannot be uphold. We have a long history of scientific observations to be sure that this is not the case. The information can be ambiguos and we use a knowledge which is a false belief, eve though we can justify in some extent. The history of astronomy for instance is plenty of cases of this kind]. "Those that know how to observe, will never be disinformed."

2. SELF RESTRUCTURING WITH THE INTENTION OF OBSERVING MORE OBJECTIVELY

Everyone's goal, concerning their perception of reality should be to get their (delta) reality (the amount of deviation between our reality and Reality) as close to zero as possible. [This is a constructivist stance, see the corresponding entries in the glossariumBITri and refer to them].
I claim, our perception stems from previously received inputs. It is due to that, that if we want to change our perception, to a more true version, we are required to look within ourselves and manually restructure our own perception. [Here you are talking about knowledge structures. It is important to make it explicit, because you haven't mentioned what re-structuration are you talking about. Dretske's account and our discussion is worth considering here (Díaz-Nafría & Pérez-Montoro, 2011, in TripleC journal, 2 inter-related articles)] Consider the informational inputs that defined us, not to have existed and to imagine others in their place. To see ourselves as what, in a different environment (slightly or totally different), we could have been. It is impossible to consider all the scenarios and is up to every individual to consider those that will benefit his mind most. One should be capable of looking at one's own life and decisions from a third person's point of view, to be completely objective on any matter. 

3. THE OUTCOME OF OBSERVING IS PERCEIVING

In the previous paragraphs I mostly agree with rock Rock 1984, that says: 

“Perception is a source of knowledge but is knowledge a source of perception? There are two kinds of knowledge that might be considered to affect perception. One is consciously knowing what object or event is now being perceived. The other is information stored in memory based on past experience (or possibly the past experience of phylogenesis). In this study I argue that knowledge of the first kind ordinarily does not affect what we perceive but that there are exceptions to this rule. I further argue that knowledge of the second kind not only governs the final step in perceptual processing, namely recognition and interpretation. but that it also can affect perception itself. However, there are limitations to the effect that knowledge of either kind can have on perception.” [When you use a literal quotation you should indicate the source and the page]

But I have some disagreement with him as well. I claim that knowledge of the first kind (according to Rock) almost always affects our perception. When looking at a penguin for example, knowing that penguins are birds, makes you perceive it as a bird even though it doesn’t fly. When knowing what you are observing, your mind can use its past knowledge to create a representation of what you are perceiving.

The problem is that you cannot be certain of what you are observing. You cannot know what is your item of observation. You can only be very convinced you know. I therefore argue that “knowledge of the first kind” is just a belief that can be more or less true. It can also be completely false. That doesn’t change its role in this article.  For example, looking at a weight that has “1 ton” written on it or somebody tells you it weighs a ton. You can “know” it weighs 1 ton, so you perceive it as a 1-ton weight and if you only rely on your visual sense, for you, it really is a 1-ton weight. But when you try to move it, and are successful, you learn it not heavy at all. Now you are perceiving it differently, and you now know, with higher certainty how much it weighs. A similar situation occurs with knowledge of the second kind. If you saw a 1-ton weight at a previous time, but are now looking at a fake one, you will think it is the same as the one you already saw.

According to what Elin Jonsson wrote in her entry, I am talking about direct and indirect observation. Rock is reffering only to indirect observarion and he is splitting it into 2 parts [not at all, he is primarly talking about direct observation in which you can more properly speak of the alleged independence of perception. In indirect observation, perception cannot be independent, your perception have no direct access to the phenomena at stake]. In one of my previous paragraphs I state, with other words, that the most true representation of our world comes from direct observation and that our goal should be to only observe directly, because it would be ignorant to base new information on previous information. I therefore conclude, I am in agreement with Elin, as I was refering to her concepts even before reading them.

References

  • Rock (1985). "Perception and Knowledge." Acta Psychologica, Vol. 59, No. 1, pp. 3-22.



Elin Jonsson (23/5/2018, within the course "The Odysee of Philopsophy and Information" facilitated by J.M.Díaz)

Observation is defined as a "detailed examination of phenomena prior to analysis, diagnosis or interpretation". In this voice the subject will be further explained, problems and different subjects related to observation will also be defined and discussed. The voice is introduced by dealing with the phenomena, different types of observation and within which areas the subject is mainly used. Secondly observation and it's connection to information is discussed, followed up by mentioning some examples of using observation in scientific activities. Then knowledge and reality will be described and lastly some own reflections and thoughts about the subjects that have been brought up in this voice. 

1. Introduction to observation

We live in a world full of impressions that we get exposed to every day, such as different sights and sounds. These are interpreted and perceived in different ways. A person's senses (touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste) help the person to observe and perceive things, observation is one way to get some form of understanding of reality and relates to the subject "perception"

There are different types of observation and the subject can be used within several areas of study. One type is qualitative observation, which is when an individual note an attribute/something is missing somewhere or note that an attribute/object actually is there. One also talk about quantitative observation, which is defined as a numerical value one could count or measure and is also called the observed phenomena. Further on, observations can be useful in scientific activities, in that case data is collected to formulate and test hypotheses (Wikipedia, 2018) By observing natural and experimentally generated things and effects, scientist are able to collect a huge amount of evidence (Bogen, 2017). However, in philosophical terms, observation is explained as the process of filtering information one get from his/her senses which then goes through the thinking process. The receiver get input via their senses and then the the receiver process and determine these in an irrational or rational way. For example, you see a parent beat his/her kid; then you observe this event as an either good or bad action. Your thoughts about this behavior is based on experiences and thoughts of building relationships, or what consequences that could appear after this event. An observer is the one that observe. It is an individual involved in observation in some extent although could also be someone watching an experiment (Wikipedia, 2008). 

Torretti (1986) describes observation as a physical process, which connects an observed object to a physical system. The physical system is called the receiver, which can be  the individual that perceive. If the observation involves awareness, observation can be connected to knowledge. This might happens if the awareness is based on a person's opinion, in other words if the observation is based on what the person think or believe about the object. The observer can then learn from the observation and derive information from it. One can interpret observations with and without awareness as personal and impersonal observations. In personal observation the receiver could be a person's body, or a part of it (Torretti, 1986). In other words, the receiver could be an individual's senses, although the individual observe things either with one of the senses or a combination of some of those senses. However in impersonal observations the receiver can be different things such as a camera, a voltmeter or a telephone-bugging device or a human being. To make the impersonal observation known and understandable, the observer must observe the receiver by the observer’s own senses (Torretti, 1986). 

It is a clear difference between direct and indirect observation, this difference is relevant for philosophers to determine. The difference could be explained as follows: A direct observation collects information only from an individual's senses and is not affected by thoughts. In indirect observation, on the other hand, the observer bases the information on his or her previous knowledge. Although it is hard to tell at what point observation become indirect, due to one's memory and reason (Torretti 1986; Rock, 1985)Observation takes place through any intermediary, like a mirror. That is why many philosophers state that observation can only be direct observation, in a strict sense (Shapere, 1982). 

2. Observation and Information

Observation requires information from the observed object in the first place, then the observer is described as a system that collects information from something (Wikipedia, 2008). The observer is involved in information due to following definition of information: The probability of selection The first reason is since probability means chance, prediction and useful context. Secondly, the selection can only be understood based on the assumption of someone who selects. Information is defined as a function of the probability of selecting the possible messages. More specifically it is defined as the binary logarithm of the inverse of such probability. This value corresponds to the number of binary distinctions we need to do in order to specify a possible message within a given set. Aguado put in those terms since he wants to highlight that Shannon's definition seem to be objective, namely just referred to the information source, although actually it is encapsulating receptor's subjectivity through that selection (s. Endogenous information, Aguado, 2009)

Further on it is explained that using information as a measure of order creates a connection between information and observation as well. However, trying to distinct information from noise leads to the problem of observation. According to Shannon and Weaver’s theory, variety is an aspect that affects information and noise and might create a disorder. Order is what makes it possible for the observer to understand the difference between information and noise. Information could also be defined as a universal measure of order, for a system where the activity to select implicates a local order. It must be a balance between the order of selection and the observing systems that are involved, which is why there also has to be a functional and structural balance between them (Aguado, 2009).

3. Observation within scientific activities 

Since the time of Aristotle who mention several sources of observational evidence, reasoning from observation has been essential to include in scientific activities. However philosophers did not reflect that much about the meaning of observation until the 20th century, which was when logical empiricists started to think philosophically about observation. Most people thought of observing as monitoring and noticing unusual details of things that one perceive under quite natural conditions, or things perceived during the performance of an experiment. For example it would be to observe to look at a berry and notice its shape and color. Then to manufacture juice from the berry and apply reagents to test if there is copper compounds existing would be to perform an experiment. Although there where some philosophers, philosophically minded scientists, historians and socialiogists of science (Rober Boyle, John Herschell, Bruno Latour, Jim Woodward, Peter Galison are some of those) who considered the distinction between observing and experiments and saw the importance of the difference. This difference was firstly ignored by logical empiricists for a long time (Bogan, 2017). 

However, features from the linguistic change in philosophy made researchers to shift and concentrate on the logic of observation reports instead of observing things in natural and experimental ways. This shift is based on the fact that a scientific theory is a system made of sentences/structures such as propositions, statements, claims et cetera and those are to be tested by compare them with observational evidence (Bogan, 2017). 

The fact that reality is what you choose it to be has been demonstrated through an experiment in space made by some researchers. They demonstrated that a quantum of light is going to react just as a particle or a wave depending on how the physicists measure it. Through get photons from satellites, it is proved that an observer can make that decision even after a photon has made its way almost completely through the experiment, however well past the point at which it would become either a wave or a particle (Cho, 2017).

An additional example of using observation in an experiment was when some researchers proved how a beam of electrons was affected while being observed. It was shown that once an observer/quantum began to watch these electrons going through openings in a barrier, the picture changed clearly. If an electron can be seen going through one opening, then it’s obvious it didn’t go through another. In other words, when the electrons being observed they getting forced to act like particles and not like the waves. Therefore the experimental findings is affected by the process of observation (Weizmann institute of science, 1998). 

However, scientists do not often interact the objects they investigate with the perceptual systems of the human, which is a must in order to create perceptual experiences. Although the scientists believe the evidence they are in need of to obtain should rely without their perceptual experiences (Bogan, 2017).

4. Observation, Reality and Knowledge

One view of knowledge and how it is affected by observation is following: Knowledge one attains by the intentional actions is not knowledge by observation. However, knowledge by observation  can contribute with knowledge in intention, which is G.E.M’s opinion (Haddock, 2015). Further on she means that knowledge in intention is not knowledge by observation, although it can be supported by that kind of knowledge. When an individual attains knowledge from a happening it has to be stated by something, in order to create an intention. Observation though can aid an intention to be known in some sense. Although there are cases where knowledge of intention can also be known by observation, which is almost impossible to deny. One problem more related to reality is the perception of ”happenings in objective reality”. The main point of this kind of happening is the main point of ”an instance of a kind of thing whose instances are knowable observationally” (Haddock, 2015).

Mason (2018) describes the relation between the sensing or the observation and knowledge. She believes the combination of our brain's capacity to understand information together with our abilities to sense is the process that makes it possible for us to learn and gain knowledge. However, Socrates is a philosopher that does not agree upon that our senses contribute to get an understanding of the reality.  

Socrates lived a philosophical life through examining both his, other people's behavior, studying the soul and wanted to improve the human beings' moral nature. He believed in a personal God and reflected over what's the truth and his different view of reality was not appreciated by the inhabitants of Athen (Futter, 2013). One of his view of life that differed from the other people was that Socrates denied a connection between a person's body and the soul. Further on that the body does not contribute to attain knowledge (Mason, 2018). The reason according to Socrates is that a person's needs (food, drinks, sex, material acquisitions and wealth) is an obstacle when searching for knowledge. This since no persons have the same needs, people feel everything in different ways, they will see and hear everything differently and therefore the senses cannot be connected to gain knowledge. However, this position can be extended to the idealist tradition from Plato to the German idealists.

5. Own reflections about the subject

I have read several interesting articles about observation and it's related subjects. Furthermore I have got a wider understanding of the subjects and realized observation is more than just monitoring and noticing things in one's surroundings.

There are some subjects I will dig deeper into and discuss a bit further, also I will give my opinion about some of those.     

I believe the individual derives information or noise from observation in different degrees depending on how involved he or she is in the situation. According to my opinion every little particle in our surroundings give some type of information or noise that is possible to observe. I believe it is possible to observe things everywhere in all situations although it is not assured we observe it depending on our current mood and condition. One individual might during it's morning walk observe a cat sitting in a tree, another individual walking the same stretch although might not observe the cat at all. This due to one of those listen to music or to the news in their headset, then this person is not as observant as the person without headset who directly noticed and observed the cat.  

I will now tell my opinions about information, noise and knowledge since I find the differences interesting. After observing an object the individual/observer/receiver first get information or noise. Then the information can become knowledge if the information is completely new for the person, since he or she learn something from the observed object. Although if the information is not new and the person has observed the object or a similar object before then it is not knowledge for the person, however still information according to me. Is the object unclear and kind of a "disorder" then it is noise, for example when you hear a very bruising noise hard to describe what it comes from. I can to some extent understand the problem of observation, which is to distinct noise from information. Although it might not always be that hard to differ those aspects. I think if something is really unclear, you know it is noise since you cannot really understand what it is or what it comes from. Also if you can develop a thought about the observed object and get an understanding then you know it is information. Therefore you are able to know the difference if you are observant and listen thoroughly to your senses. Also if someone explains for you what the noise is and what it comes from, then it can turn into information for you. However, I would say the individual probably get more information and a clearer picture if one observes an object with more than one sense at the same time, it will also be easier for the individual to differ between noises and information. I mean if you only can hear with your ears a noise, it might be hard to tell what it is. Although if you also can see with your eyes what the noise comes from, then you might understand and it is not noise anymore.  

Another interesting subject I find interesting is the sensing process,. One could discuss whats behind our senses. Who sees through my sight, who decide what I should observe and how I should observe it. Is there anyone or something behind my soul? Or is it my soul who sees through my senses and decide what I should perceive, think and understand? Those questions are interesting to consider although I believe that I have a soul and that it in many situations help me to perceive and interpret things. It would be too easy if I only consists of a body, I definitely believe it is a soul within me.   

References

  • Torretti, R. (1986). "Observation". The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 37, No. 1,  pp.1-23. [online] <https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.bjps/37.1.1[accessed 11/5/2018]
  • Futter, D. (2013). Socrates' Human Wisdom. Dialogue, Vol. 52, No. 1, p. 1-61.
  • Mason, M. (2018). Socrates, the Senses and Knowledge: Is there Any Connection?. [Online] MKM Rese@rch <http://www.moyak.com/papers/socrates-truth.html> [accessed 11/5/2018]
  • Wikipedia contributors. (2018, May 22). Observation. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 10:14, May 24, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Observation&oldid=842363576  [accessed 22/5/2018] 
  • Shapere, D. (1982). THE CONCEPT OF OBSERVATION IN SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY. Philosophy of Science,49(4), 485-525.
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  • J.M. Aguado (2009). "ENDOGENOUS INFORMATION". GlossariumBITri 
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  • Weizmann Institute of science (1998). [Online] ScienceDaily Edition place: Responsible organism
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  • Adrian Cho (2017). [Online] Science Edition place: Responsible organism  http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/10/quantum-experiment-space-confirms-reality-what-you-make-it-0  [Consulted: 27/10/2017] [accessed 20/5/2018]
  • James Bogen (2017) "Theory and observation in science"  [online] Stanford Enclypedia of Philosophy  
    Edition place: Responsible organism https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/science-theory-observation/ [Consulted: 28/03/2017]
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