The Moon in Your Mind

My previous conceptual piece on the dissonance between perception and cognition, entitled, Seeing Clouds, had to do with our tendency to persist in perceiving an illusion even when we know we are being fooled by our senses.That’s the sort of conundrum we humans in general encounter on a daily basis. It is similar to the well-known “Moon Illusion,” in which the full Moon near the horizon is perceived as larger than it appears when it is high in the sky. This is usually explained by our misperception of the relative diameters of the earth and the moon when viewed together given the absence or presence of surrounding objects. Problematically however, this explanation does not cover the case of airline pilots’ experience of the illusion as described here.Perception and our knowledge of how it works in relation to our minds is not completely understood and is not completely explained by scientific means. Suffice to say, our senses are fooled in ways that affect us all in similar ways..Even more fascinating than illusions perceived by all are illusions perceived in different ways by different people. Many of these involve color perception. While science defines color as the presence and absence of certain wavelengths of light that definition does not explain how color is perceived by individuals.It turns out that color is perceived differently by different viewers. This is described as “subjective color”.Philosophically, when we examine the realm of subjectivity, perception is a question of epistemology. Subjective experience is fascinating, especially in its implications. This entry deals with what I have found to be a compelling example of subjective experience.Recently, I have become aware of the fact that different viewers differently perceive the color of the moon at various times of the day and also at various times of the month. As of yet, I have no systematic understanding of these phenomena and neither does the scientific community (see hyperlinks below entry)Try this perception experiment by yourself and then with a few friends. Look at the moon in the daytime sky and compare its color with the color of the moon in the night sky on the same date. Try this during various phases of the moon – especially the full moon. Do you see color variations? Personally, the daytime moon appears quite white to me but the same moon at night appears to me to be very yellow. Now ask some friends to do the same. You’ll be surprised that you do not get anywhere near unanimous responses. For example, I have a friend who sees only a white moon both day and night. Even if we are standing next to each other, I will see a yellow moon at night while she sees only white.Think of the implications. What really can we be sure of? Do we know reality or do we know only illusion?Moon Color Links:’Why does the Moon look white in daytime while it is yellow at night?’. What color is the moon? Strange MoonlightThis explanation does make it clear that there is no single simple description of the color of the moon.*Yellow MoonWhite MoonColor-Intensified Moon

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