From the Testimonies of the Senses to the Paradoxes of World View

  • Herman Tennessen
Part of the Annals of Theoretical Psychology book series (AOTP, volume 4)


The Swiss fable of the frozen coach horn (das gefrorene Posthorn) is old and famous. It was so cold one day in the Alps, that when the postman tried to blow his horn to announce his arrival even the sound was frozen inside the horn. And it remained there all winter long. Until, one warm spring day, the horn suddenly sounded all by itself. I cannot help but feel that my shout of warning against the testimonies of the senses is somewhat like the frozen coach horn. For surely the very idea of attempting, one way or another, to base hypotheses, theories, or explanatory systems on anything resembling direct sense experience, sensa(tions), Konstatierungen, or the like was abandoned almost half a century ago. The proverbial “theory-ladenness” of observations was even extended to include cases whereon the observations were thought to be imbued with that very theory for which they were designed to serve as data. There was, for an honest theorist, only one way out of such an embarassing dilemma: to make his allegedly theoretical biases as transparently explicit as humanly possible. In other words, he found himself forced to produce a lucid outline of the dependency of his experiences, observations, empirical data, and motives on theoretical frameworks, conceptual schemes, world views and so on. But following that line he was soon bound to find himself entangled in a maze of even more discouraging conundrums. For, as I see it, such schemes either are unsatisfactory due to their incompleteness and inconsistency or aim toward global completeness and explicit consistency, which I for one see as an enterprise equal in fatuity to an attempt at eating not only part of myself but all of myself. Moreover, had an explicit, global, consistent system been logically possible, it should in the end have turned out to be entirely useless for any conceivable purpose. This is, in short, the extravagant vagary that I have endeavored to sketch out in my paper. And that is where I leave it.


World View Stimulus Object Perceptual Consciousness Veridical Perception Retinal Disparity 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Herman Tennessen
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Advanced Study in Theoretical PsychologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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