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“Data” aren’t simply “given”

There are no sensory “data”. Rather, there is an incoming challenge from the sensed world, which then puts the brain, or ourselves, to work on it, to try to interpret it. Thus, at first, there are no data: there is, rather, a challenge to do some­thing; namely to interpret. Then we try to match the so-called sense data. I say “so-called” because I don’t think there are sense “data”. What most people hold to be simple sense “datum” is in fact the outcome of a most elaborate process. Nothing is directly “given“ to us: perception is arrived at only as a result of many steps involving interaction between the stimuli which reach the senses, the interpreting apparatus of the senses, and the structure of the brain. So, while the term “sense datum” suggests primacy in the first step, I would suggest that, before I can realize what is a sense datum for me (before it is ever “given” to me), there are a hundred steps of give and take which result from the challenge pre­sented to our senses and our brain. [430]

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