Philosophy Tuesday

March 17, 2015

This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

I’ve been enjoying the various things to pop out of neuroscience of late, not only because it’s fascinating, but because most of it aligns with and corroborates 2500 years of ontological thought. The figure-y out-y side of me likes putting the two together and seeing how they march in lockstep.

One of the most revelatory, and powerful, findings I’ve come across is how our brains perceive the world. What we think is happening, and how it feels to us, is this:

Event –> Senses –> Consciousness –> Thought –> Action

When something happens in the world, we notice it, we perceive it, we are cognizant about it, and with that awareness we now evaluate it and from there can do something or move on.   That’s totally how we experience the world.

Turns out, neuroscience has found that the order is this:

Event –> Senses –> Filter –> Consciousness –> Thought –> Action

The “filter” is something our brains do before we become aware of the event. It pre-judges and removes and colours the sensory input of the event, based on what we already know and our worldview. So by the time it hits our consciousness, it already more strongly aligns with our views of who we are, of who others are, and how the world is, leaving us an incomplete picture but one that feels quite right because its right by our view. (This is one way confirmation bias does its thing.) Our thoughts and actions are thereby limited by this incomplete perception.*

This filter is hidden from our view, and happens without any intentional effort on our part. Just as our views themselves are often hidden from our (conscious) view. (So it’s a double hidden.) When we’re not aware we have filters operating, we don’t really see what’s so. We see what we think we should see about what’s so.

In our world of patterns, repetitive habits and neuroses, of mostly always being right, and of wondering how can others look at the same thing and see things so differently, here’s one very strong way how we are, in many ways, actually seeing things differently. Sensory waves come in, but confirmation hits our brain.

The filter works best when it’s left alone to do its work in the background. If we train ourselves to remove or look around the filter – to be present and mindful – we can gain access to what’s so, leading to greater options and freedom. When we train ourselves to dismantle or thin our filters – or re-align them in an empowering way – we again gain access to being aware of the greater world and of a greater experience.

* – Research has also found that the thoughts/actions themselves also often begin happening/firing before it hits our consciousness, making being present and examining our filters that much more important.


  1. […] to the actual people in front of us and in our lives, and not form that instant view that will colour all we see going forward, we are open to something. Somethings. Somethings wonderful and rich and diverse. […]

  2. […] don’t notice how our filters have, well, filtered the input before it hits our consciousness/experience.  We don’t see the role our identity has played.  The distortion field from our views and […]

  3. […] views and our contexts shape so much of not only what we see, but also what choices we make and what actions we take*, on a fundamental level.  So very often […]

  4. […] which we experience, that we hear of, that we notice, that we observe, that makes it through our filters, gets broken apart and flung into the vast machine to create a blueprint of […]

  5. […] by some ideal assemblage of parts, constructed over time, pulling from different sources and, of course, filtered by our existing  views.  Leading us along and, in the end, to having some rather […]

  6. […] given how our minds work, and how they try to fit things into what we already know, and how easily they will say “oh yeah yeah yeah, I know that, what you’re talking about is […]

  7. […] brains will filter our new experiences and observations through that truth it already knows, even hiding things from our consciousness.  And even more so that we will take many actions based on all those, quite potentially flawed, […]

  8. […] That’s how quick this happens.  That’s how short the window can be before our filters (a new one, in this case, but also heavily influenced by many already existing ones) come slamming down to colour our perception going forward. […]

  9. […] – we can rationalize anything.  Our consciousness and awareness come to us already pre-filtered.  Without integration, we don’t realize when we’ve been hooked and we hoodwink ourselves into […]

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