Sensory perception, or how people view things in life, helps to define naïve realism, meaning that we view the world directly as we see it, in cold, concrete tangibility. Meaning, I know I have seen a bird and not just something created in my mind. Representative realism, on the other hand, believes that the mind formulates images—crafts them—as the mind digests information and then creates the images we see within the bounds of our peripheral space.
I will discuss two differences between naïve realism and representative realism followed by an assessment of representative realism.
First of all, when we view life as a naïve realist, we can prove with tangible evidence—using some or all of the six senses— that what we perceive is actually there. For example, a birthday cake on a table can be touched, tasted, felt, and smelled, thereby proving its existence. The representative realist fathoms images seen from an abstract angle. For example, cloud formations in the sky can be viewed as different objects. Someone says, “I see a bear’s face in the cloud, while someone else may see a butterfly.
To go one step further, in naïve realism, we say that time is distributed into ‘now,’ which is a real experience, and ‘the past,’ which did happen but no longer exists, and ‘the future,’ which is yet to occur.
Science says we have “objective reality,” or the here and now. Along with this, there is “subjective perception,” or two people seeing the same thing differently. Classical science, then, broke away from naïve realism and had to consider the representative realist’s viewpoint. For example, when we think of dreams or watching a movie, two people may see things very differently.
True, they are there, but where is the distinction-mark drawn to separate what is dreamt and what is real, or how do we separate two different viewpoints of the same movie? This, for a naïve realist, is difficult to answer. Sure, we can speculate but it only brings us closer to falling in line with the representative’s methodology. Here’s an analogy to help define this: The representative realist’s brain acts as a baker that follows a recipe, using the ingredients in his kitchen to bake a cake.
Slight modifications in the amount of an ingredient can alter the flavor, or even the appearance of the cake. A potential award-winning three-layer cake will sink in the oven without sufficient yeast. Thus, the representative realist solves this dilemma by believing the brain is the baker cooking up images, whereas the naïve realist purely functions on digesting tangible images.
Naïve realism can be criticized and assessed further. If we regard perception as a case whereby individual knowledge creates what we see, the floodgate of personal interpretation is opened. Can naïve realism swim in these floodgates of varied perceptions? If situations are regarded simply, then the naïve realist can understand what he sees.
However, life is not a simple cookie-cutter mold. Even something as simple as a lump of wax seeks varied interpretation when we add a new ingredient, say a wick and a flame. Now the wax takes on new features and varied perceptions. Even the same person can visualize the same object in many different ways. Look at a print created by M.C. Escher and you will see how quickly the mind can shift its perceptive view of the same thing.
In final assessment of representative realism, it can be seen that it does, in fact, provides a significant and worthwhile advancement in our understanding of humankind experiences. For, living in a world where the psychological makeup of an individual holds such lasting presence, it is difficult to image only believing in the naïve realist’s way of thinking. However, just to be fair, naïve realism will always have a place in human intellectual perception. It’s up to the individual to determine how she sees things.