Perception refers to the process through which people interpret information from their surroundings to make coherent views about the world around them (Callahan, 2010). The process of perception depends on the five senses, which act as an interplay between the environment and the mind to interpret various objects in the environment. A sensation regarding the perceived object from the environment must pass through the sensory organs for perception to be formed. Philosophers have differed widely on whether perception is actually reality through various theories. This research paper undertakes to explore whether people’s perception of reality is the actual reality.

Indirect Perception and Reality

Emmanuel Kant was a philosopher who advanced the indirect perception philosophical position to evaluate human perception and actual perception (Callahan, 2010). Kant argued that the objects people perceive have two types of properties. These are secondary and primary properties. Primary properties are those that make up the object of perception while secondary properties are in humans as they try to perceive the world. Our understanding of an external object is achieved through interplay between the senses and our brains.

From Kant’s argument, our perception of the physical world is influenced by the secondary properties of the object being perceived. Therefore, there is no way humans can know for sure what the primary properties of a physical object are because their senses are limited to the perceived nature of the world. Consequently, without any knowledge of the primary properties of the physical world, our understanding of physical objects remains constrained to our understanding based on our senses. Therefore, what we perceive to be reality is just our own creative representation of the world as we understand it using our senses.

Human beings have been found susceptible to making perceptual mistakes (Constandache, 2000). For instance, people using some drugs to treat mental illnesses may experience hallucination. These hallucinations represent the ill person’s reality by forming images of objects in his mind. However, the images do represent any actual object in the real world because they are non-existence. Moreover, people whose limbs have been amputated feel phantom pain, despite the limbs not being there. The perceived pain forms the reality of the amputated person. However, that pain is non-existence because there are no limbs to experience the pain. These examples are clear indications that human perceptions of reality are not the actual reality.

People’s Perception of and Actual Reality

The only way humans can know whether their perception of reality represents reality itself is through understanding the primary properties of physical objects in the world. Understanding these properties is the only way to know what the objects really are because the perceptions we form are creations of our understanding of the objects and not the actual objects. There are some physical world realities that humans will never understand such as what it is like to be a goat. Since no human being can become a goat and experience a goat’s reality, our perception of what being a goat means will only be based on our senses and brains’ interpretation.


Humans must understand primary properties of the physical world objects to know what their actual realities are. Human perceptions about reality are based on secondary properties. These secondary properties are susceptible to perpetual mistakes, which distorts human perception of reality from the actual reality. Therefore, humans can only match their perception of reality with the actual reality by only understanding primary properties of objects in their physical world.




Callahan, G. (2010). Critical Realism … or Critical Idealism? International Journal of Social Economics, 37 (11), 867 – 879.

Constandache, G.G. (2000). Models of reality and reality of models. Kybernetes, 29 (9), 1069 – 1077.



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