To the Lighthouse

The Process of Perception: Cervantes' Don Quixote and Woolf's Lily Briscoe

The process of perception involves two steps: the recognition of sensory information and the interpretation of sensory information. In order for the truth to be perceived, or, in other words, for something to be perceived accurately, sensory information must be recognized or identified correctly and then interpreted faithfully according to that recognition. A faithful interpretation is one that does not negate the recognition of sensory information. Truth is not perceived if an inaccurate recognition is interpreted faithfully. An interpretation may take several forms, however, and truth still be perceived, if the recognition is accurate and if the interpretation does not negate that recognition.

In Part One, Chapter Eighteen of Cervantes' Don Quixote, when the title character enters into battle with a flock of sheep, his perception of the sheep is at first influenced by expectation. In this case the mode of perception is sight; vision is the sensory information that Don Quixote must recognize and interpret. Don Quixote and his squire Sancho at first cannot see the sheep because of the "clouds of dust they [the sheep] raised, which obscured and blinded their [Don Quixote's and Sancho's] vision" (Cervantes...

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