Sensibility & Rationality

Sensibility and rationality are considered, respectively, an animal instinct and a human character. Sensibility enables us to perceive time and space, while rationality enables us to understand logic and concepts. I use “sensibility” to describe those that are sensual, tangible, and instinctive, while using “rationality” to describe those that are conceptual, abstract, and thoughtful. Sensibility and rationality are both interconnected and contradictory.

Sensibility and rationality are inseparable: sensibility breeds cognition, while rationality serves as sensibility’s guide. Sensory-based information is crucial for human to perceive time and space. It is the universal law to understand our world by gaining experience through the senses, then shaping cognitions through experience, and finally forming concepts through cognitions. If one chooses to abandon sensory-based information and directly acquire concepts instead, he or she might feel conflicted or generate misunderstanding. We cannot make a blind person understand the colors of the world simply by describing them in words; nor can we be sure whether a law is fair when it is not associated with daily practices. Without rationality as guidance, the senses will lose their aims. The information in the world is infinite, while the capacity of the consciousness is limited. Rationality can mobilizes one's concentration and forms preconceptions, so that the senses can acquire information more efficiently. Through studying theory, musicians can notice more subtle melodic variations, and artists can perceive richer color compositions. The ability to coordinate sensibility and rationality is an innate talent of every human being, and every human being is, consciously or unconsciously, skilled in combining and utilizing them.

In our civilization, sensibility and rationality often stand against each other. The civilization as we have today is built upon words. The worship for word and book(literal information?) is constantly impacting the universal law of how human understand the world. Abstract content is delivered by words, and as concrete as the content could be, it is essentially abstract information. The concept built upon the abstract information delivered by words is detached from the first-hand experience, and it is also against the natural law of how human understand the world.

People often face such dilemma: when the sensory-based experience contradicts the concept obtained from words, they suddenly would not know which one to trust. For example, when people see an unfamiliar but fragrant fruit, they may instinctively decides to eat it because of its appealing scent, or they may refuse to do so out of rational judgment, wondering if the fruit is edible. This dilemma also deprives people of a sense of security and puts him or her in a state of ambivalence. It is too difficult to compare and measure sensory-based information and rational thoughts, for they belong to different system and thus hard to scale. Most of the people, when facing such dilemma, will try to solve it by favoring either sensibility or rationality.

If sensibility is regarded as the only truth, the world of science which relies heavily on concepts shall exist no more; meanwhile, if rationality is regarded as the only truth, our agitated feeling and bias of human understanding will be maximized, and will eventually distort our cognition of the world. As the only methods of perceiving the world, sensibility and rationality are not perfect, although each has its own strengths. Human beings are not designed to understand the truth of the world, they can only try to seek the truth of the world with these two less-than-perfect tools.

This exhibition is the first part of my series of exhibitions. The original intention of this exhibition series is to visualize the possibilities and limitations of human’s perception of the world. The series consists of four parts: "Sensibility and Rationality”, curated from a neutral perspective; “Criticism on Sensibility" which is biased towards rationality; “Criticism on Rationality”, which is biased towards sensibility; and "Human Limitations” that criticize both. In any discussion on consciousness, sensibility and rationality are the most fundamental and eternal topics.


感性是认知的起点,理性是感性的指引者,它们相互依赖、难以分离。由感官而生的直接经验是人认知时间与空间的必然条件。通过感官获取经验,再通过经验塑造表象,最终通过表象形成概念,是人理解世界的自然途径。人如果跃过感官的经验直接获取概念,则会易产生违和感以及理解偏差。我们无法仅仅通过语言的描述使一位天生的盲人理解到世界的五彩斑斓;我们也难以确信一则早已脱离自身日常的法律是否公正。没有理性的指引,感官也只会成为漫无目的的游荡者。意识的承载力是有限的,但这个世界上的信息却是无限的。理性可以调动人的注意力以及产生预判,使感官能够高效的获取有效信息。通过对理论的学习,音乐家能够捕捉到更微妙的旋律变化,艺术家也能察觉到更丰富的色彩构成。统筹感性与理性的合作是每一个人天生所具有的才能,每一个人都在自觉或不自觉间熟练的将它们组合运用。
在如今这个由文字建立的人类文明中,感性与理性时常会对立为矛盾的双方。当今人类对文字与书籍的崇拜正在无时无刻地冲击着人类认识世界的自然规律。文字是抽象内容的载体,由它所传达的内容无论多具象都是纯粹的抽象信息。完全由从文字而来的抽象信息所建立的概念是空浮于直观经验之上的,也是有悖于人类认知世界的自然规律的。当代人时常会遇到这种窘境:当由直观获得的经验与从文字中获得的概念不符时,自己不知该相信感性还是理性。例如,当人面对一种闻所未闻又香气扑鼻的果子时,有时会凭借嗅觉捕获到的香气而本能地决定将其食之,有时则会依据理性,因判断它不在已知的可食用范畴之内为由而拒绝品尝。这种窘境还会剥夺人精神上的安全感,并使自己处于矛盾的状态之中。因为感性与理性的答案是难以对比和衡量的,它们拥有着不同的维度,难以放入同一个公式之中。而处于其中的人,大多会采用偏袒感性或理性其中一方的方法得出确定的答案,从而逃离这个矛盾的困境。
如果将感性视为唯一真理,那么如今这个极度依赖从概念到概念的科学帝国将会化为海市蜃楼;如果将理性视为唯一真理,那么人内心中的不安和理解上的偏差将会被无限叠加,终将使世界的表象虚化扭曲。感性与理性作为人认知世界的唯二手段,虽各有所长但也皆不尽完美。人类并不是被设计用来理解世界真理的产物,人类只能凭借感性与理性这两件残缺的工具踉踉跄跄地追寻这个世界的真理。
本展览是我系列展览的一部分,也是其第一部分。此系列展览的初衷是可视化人类对世界认知的可能性和局限性。此系列展览由四部分组成:中立立场的“感性与理性”,偏袒理性的“对感性的批判”,偏袒感性的“对纯粹理性的批判”,以及批判两者的“人类的局限性”。感性与理性是讨论意识的最基础的话题,也是最永恒的话题。