Sensibility & Rationality

Exhibition 1: Sensibility and 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.


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