My seventh grade teacher had a poster of a kitten looking at its reflection in rippled water hanging in her classroom. In bold letters it read “Perception is Truth.” My twelve year old mind found comfort in this, much the same as people find quotes from celebrities comforting. I did not really understand it, nor did I take the time to think about it. It sounded intelligent and the kitten was cute, so I adopted it as a general philosophy.
I now wonder what the creator’s rationale was for combining the kitten picture with the quote. Though we saw the same kitten in its reflection, perhaps the kitten saw something different. Lets say it saw a lion. We could say that it identified as a lion, and that it even felt like a lion. It wanted to be the featured attraction at a zoo. In the kittens own perception, it is a lion.
We, however, do not see a lion; we see a kitten. In our perception, it is a kitten.
It cannot be both a lion and a kitten at the same time. Both perceptions cannot be true. Based on the creator’s argument, however, we have no grounds to argue that the kitten is a kitten and not, in fact, a lion. The kitten’s perception is as true as ours. A child may look at the poster and exclaim “Look at the tiger!” We then have a creature that is a kitten, a lion, and a tiger. This may go on, and in the end no one really knows what it is.
But, of course, we do. We know its a kitten because we have seen thousands of kittens and they all look relatively the same. We also know lions and tigers and can declare with authority “That, little child, is not a tiger but a kitten!” If we went to the zoo where the kitten was featured as a lion, we would feel angry and betrayed. “That is not a lion,” one onlooker says. “It is merely a common kitten.” This actually happened, but rather it was a Tibetan mastiff being displayed as an African lion. Visitors to the Chinese zoo were outraged. They felt cheated. Nobody likes to be lied to.
We inherently know that perception is not truth. Truth exists apart from perception. A kitten and Tibetan mastiff are both not lions, even though they or someone else may think they are.