In this project I make the argument that we never really see what we know. What I have found is that there are two fundamentally different kinds of content which make up experience. The first kind of content is the phenomenological content of experience. This content is purely passive and is constructed by our sensory organs. In short, phenomenological content constructs a perceptual field which is what is seen. The second kind of content is the semantic content of experience. This content is deployed by our conceptual and linguistic capabilities which stems from the fact that humans are fundamentally social, and in order to navigate the social world, humans have created (via the productive imagination) a number of cultural items (namely, language) which are handed down via tradition. I argue that in order to make sense of the phenomenological content of experience, our cognitive capacities make use of the cultural artifact of language to form culturally normative beliefs, which are themselves semantic. Therefore, seeing is never believing because belief is semantic. My claim is inspired by Merleau-Ponty, in The Visible and the Invisible he suggests that there is a gap between visible and invisible contents of experience. The visible is made up of the flesh of the world and is the phenomenological content, while the invisible contents are semantic. Nevertheless, if what we require for knowledge is belief, and belief is semantic, then we never really see what we know because the semantic contents of experience are invisible.
Wasch, J. (2021). The Seen and the Known, The Visible and the Invisible. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.wcupa.edu/phil_stuwork/1