General Question

MrItty's avatar

How do you describe a sense to someone born without it?

Asked by MrItty (17356 points ) February 20th, 2009

How do you describe “sight” to a blind person? I’m not blind and don’t know anyone who is, but I have to assume that words like light, dark, color, see, look, watch, view, bright, .... are all meaningless. And those are what I would instinctively try to use.

Same goes for explaining “hearing” to someone who’s deaf. Sound, noise, hear, etc are nonsensical.

So if a blind person asked you to describe what it means to see, what would you tell him?

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14 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

People who are deaf can often pick up the different vibrations of tympani, double bass, and other percussion instruments, if played loudly.

You can explore texture, shape and relative size with the blind.

RandomMrdan's avatar

well, if you were to try and describe colors to a blind person…you could use it in terms like…if you look up to the sky and feel warmth, it would make me think of yellow, orange, or red….or if you touch something that is burning hot, that would be a bright red….or water, or something cold would be blue….so you could give them an idea based on how something feels… At least it’s how I’d try with a blind person, not sure how well it’d go over though.

toomuchcoffee911's avatar

The sound of a hiccup is like the feeling of a bellybutton.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@toomuchcoffee911 perhaps you’ve had too much coffee? haha, I’m kidding, but I think that is a weird analogy though.

toomuchcoffee911's avatar

Think about it.

Bri_L's avatar

Great question. I have no idea.

Standswithacane's avatar

A difficult question no doubt. I think you would have to use analogies to the other senses as best you could, as RandomMrdan suggested.

For instance… OK I just spent the last 15 minutes trying to write this out and totally failed so I erased it all.

My answer is therefor Taoist, that is to say: What does it mean to see, if not to understand. And if one is possessed of true understanding, no eyesight is required. In that sense, there are many people with perfectly good eyes who are as blind as bats.

fireside's avatar

I feel bad for the person that Random Mr Dan instructs. It sounds like they will be burned and then drowned to teach them the lesson.

I think light and dark would be easy enough to explain, but trying to explain various colors would definitely take a lot of time and effort.

scamp's avatar

What an excellent and thought provoking question! I have no idea how to answer it, but I wanted to give you kudos for asking it.

Mtl_zack's avatar

The first step is to associate something that is a relatively big part of society into their language. For instance water. Then, you make a sign in their hand, so that sign means water. Then, you can derive all sorts of other things using that one importance. However, in another culture this may not work because things have different meanings and importance.

fireside's avatar

@toomuchcoffee911 – Ok, now that you know what the word “water” means and you’ve dried yourself off, let’s go over the phrase “water pressure” – wait right there, I’ve got to get the hose…

After that we’ll cover “wedgie”

toomuchcoffee911's avatar

@fireside lol, but then can we do “chocolate”?

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