Viewing the world through a different lens – say, through the one of a different culture or concept – is not easy, yet achievable at the very least. However, when it comes to understanding of the way in which blind people envision, for the lack of a better word, the universe and the people around, one will most likely stumble over a serious obstacle.
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Indeed, with most people having little to no idea of how the blind manage to perceive the objective reality, it begs the question whether the blind might develop an extra sense that allows them to build their own idea of the world and human nature.
The Things to Learn from the Memoirs of Blind Authors
Sacks claims that, for a number of reasons, analyzing the stories told by blind people about their experiences that came close to actually seeing an object, i.e., acquiring the information that was, in some aspects, close to the visual one, is essential for closing the gap between the blind and the slighted.
To start with, Sacks makes it obvious that the people who have not been born blind and, therefore, have the memories of the shape of the objects, are able to retain and reconstruct these shapes in their memory, therefore, using the latter as a map, or, in other words, “to hold the image in a tentative way” (Saks 51).
Another important lesson concerns Braille. The method developed for the blind to be able to read, Braille, actually, serves as the link between the blind and the sighted. It would be wrong to assume that Sacks implies that every single person must learn Braille in order to be able to communicate with a blind person and get specific messages across.
Instead, the very fact that the blind people use their tactile abilities in order to acquire written data should be seen as the means of developing tactile abilities in the sighted so that the latter could be able to perceive the world in the same way as the blind and, therefore, communicate with the latter more efficiently.
The third revelation to be mentioned revolves around the emotional sensitivity of the blind. As Dennis’s case shows, due to their physical deficiency, the blind are able to get in touch with the emotional side of others relatively easier: “Dennis, earlier, had spoken of how the heightening of his other senses had increased his sensitivity to moods in other people” (Sacks 55).
The same case also mentions the ability to cognize one’s own self, which the sighted people should also develop. The last, but definitely not the least, the capability of not being tricked by the visuals and, instead, relying on one’s ability to think and connect emotionally, should also be mentioned and taken as a decent example from the given case to follow.
In its turn, Galton’s case should also be considered as the one giving a lot of food for thoughts. In this case study, Galton gives a very graphic example of how blurred the line between sight and blindness is – at least, if not restricting it to the concept of physical sight:
I have a cousin, a professional architect, who maintains that he cannot visualize anything whatever. “How do you think?” I once asked him. He shook his head and said, “I don’t know.” Do any of us, finally, know how we think? (Sacks 57)
The given statement shows that the concept of seeing goes beyond the ability to physically envision objects, relates to the ability to think in general and, thus, stretches back to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. With that in mind, one might consider sight as only the means to acquire a specific type of information, with its benefits and doubtless flaws.
As a matter of fact, Sacks makes it very clear in the given paragraph that sight as a source of information is more deceitful than it is trustworthy, whereas the way in which blind people acquire information allows them to avoid the traps of visual misconceptions. Thus, an old byword known as “appearances are deceitful” suddenly stops being as worn out as it used to.
Additional Understanding through the Anecdotal Evidence
Apart from the aforementioned ideas, Sacks provides his own interpretation of the evidence provided by blind people, therefore, allowing for drawing his own conclusions concerning the way in which the latter experience the phenomena that the rest of the people refer to as “visual.” Among the most notable issues to pay attention to, the concept of mental imagery in thinking must be named first.
According to Sacks, mental imagery in thinking occurs once a person, not necessarily a blind one, is trying to reconstruct a specific object in his/her mind based on the data other than visual one. Besides the fact that the given term helps link the perception of the world of a sighted and a blind person, the given notion also provides an opportunity to dive into the clockwork of human mind in general.
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Another peculiar idea, which one will be able to see if reading between the lines of Sacks’s article, is related to the concept of the universe in general. As Sacks’s research shows, blind people are also able to develop the skills that allow them to envision objects and people without the actual ability to see, which begs the question if the ability to see actually adds to being informed or being misinformed.
Function as “Metamodal” and not Fixed
In addition, a couple of words must be said about the way in which Sacks interprets the function of the brain. According to Sacks’s article, the latter works in the “metamodal” state instead of the “fixed” one; in other words, the functions of the brain are not tied to the actual organs that people get information from, whether it is tactile, visual or audio information.
Therefore, the blind can also acquire information concerning a specific image without having to see the object or person in question: “The world of the blind, of the blinded, it seems, can be especially rich in such inbetween states—the intersensory, the metamodal—states for which we have no common language” (Sacks 54). To paraphrase Sacks, the information that has been coded in the visual elements of a particular object or person can be transformed into a different form, i.e., audio, tactile, etc., and, thus, passed to the person who is unable to see.
If considering Sacks’ concept closer, one might spot the reference to the supernatural or, at the very least, the so-called sixth sense in the phrase “states for which we have no common language” (Sacks 54). However, such interpretation of Sacks’s words would mean reading too much into his assumptions.
The argument and synesthesia
In the aforementioned context, the function of synesthesia should be mentioned. Defined by Sacks as the “heightening” of imagery, or the ability to envision any phenomenon, down to the point of being able to envision sounds. While the given concept clearly works with the people who lost sight by accident after they have acquired enough visual information about the world around them, the concept of synesthesia, though, should be questioned when applied to the people who have been blind since their birth.
Sack’s thesis: the blind and the sighted
Reconsidering Sacks’s argument, one must admit that, in a very basic way, Sacks states that the difference between the blind and the sighted barely exists. While blind people are unable to perceive the world in an ordinary way, they develop the skills that allow them acquire the data that the rest of the people get from images.
Sack’s thesis and neuroscience
In terms of neuroscience, Sacks’s argument seems not quite legitimate. Despite the legitimate assumptions and the fact that he actually manages to substantiate his thesis in a very graphic manner by offering more than impressive case studies, Sacks goes into the territory where no actual proof except for the evidence from the blind exists, therefore, lacking in veracity.
Rhetorical Strategies and Their Use: Defining the Key Methods
What makes Sacks’s article so impressive is the choice of words and rhetoric devices. By using the latter carefully, he manages to create a strong and impressive argument. Analyzing some of his choices, one can explore the depth of what makes an academic argument compelling.
Sacks uses a number of expletives, such as “indeed” (Sacks 48) in order to emphasize certain parts of his argument and convince his reader.
Exploring Hull’s case, Sacks uses a number of elliptic structures for the readers to use their imagination and get invested in the story (Sacks 49).
“I would, I would, I would”: anaphora
Sacks uses repetition (“I would” (Sacks 56)) to create a character that the reader would sympathize with.
Summary/commentary in use
Summarizing his findings in the end of the article, Sacks demonstrates his ability to draw conclusions and comment on findings.
Sack’s use of definition
Sacks manages to offer rather viable definitions of mental imagery and sight. Moreover, Sacks provides a clear definition of the phenomenon of synesthesia.
Cause and effect at its best
Sacks displays the cause-and-effect link in his stories about the blind people who manage to get the information that other people acquire by sight. For instance, in Zoltan Torey’s case, Sacks specifies the effects that his being sighted before the accident helped Zoltan Torey continue acquiring visual information after he turned blind.
Sacks draws a number of comparisons between the world of the sighted and the one of the blind. To be more exact, he compares the experiences of the sighted and the ones of the blind in order to figure out at which point these experiences cross.
Judging by the case studies and the real-life narrations that the article by Sacks offers, blind people are able to experience the sensations that are to some extent similar to the ones of seeing objects, i.e., acquiring information concerning the shape and/or color of the object, though, technically, it does seem impossible.
It must be admitted, though, that the lack of means of representing the reality in which the blind live, as well as the inability to develop the same skills that blind people develop to interact with the world around them, the sighted are unlikely to ever understand how the blind perceive the environment in which they live.
Sacks, Oliver. “A Neurologist’s notebook: The Mind’s Eye. What Blind See.” The New Yorker 28 July 2003. Web. <https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2003/07/28/the-minds-eye>.