Esref Armağan

in Arts + Media
October 4th, 2011

Most would agree that the most important of our basic senses is sight. Without it, many basic forms of communication fall apart, the vibrance of the world around us dulls, and our understanding and ability to sense the complexity of the physical world diminishes. Without the ability to see, it would logically be impossible to portray our surroundings artistically in a coherent and visually realistic manner…


Esref was born without the privilege of sight. As a result, he never developed the thalamo-cortical projections from the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) to the primary visual cortex necessary for sight perception. However, instead of letting his occipital lobe go to waste, Esref’s brain adapted by using that same cortical real estate for other senses, primarily touch.

With Esref’s enhanced sense of touch he claims he can, “see more with his fingers than sighted people can see with their eyes.” A bold statement: after all, Esref has no idea what seeing is like. Conversely, sighted people don’t know what the sense of touch is like when the visual cortex becomes involved, so can we really deny his claim? The circular nature of this subjective discussion renders both opinions null but it does raise the question: is a subjective experience a product of the sensory modality involved or is it a product of the cortical area involved? And what exactly is Esref subjectively perceiving when he is feeling his way through a landscape? Is it as vivid as the subjective experience that sighted people perceive? It seems this question is impossible to resolve but seeing the landscapes Esref paints makes one believe that he is indeed sensing the world just as vividly as the rest of us.

Esref provides a new perspective on perception which throws a kink into anyone’s previously held beliefs about subjective experience and raises many internal questions. Personally, this new perspective leaves me with one question in particular: we can all agree that the 2003 blockbuster Daredevil was horrible, but wasn’t the rooftop rain scene where the blind Ben Affleck uses the sound of the raindrops on Jennifer Garner’s face to create a mental construct of her one of the most forward thinking, cognitive science-inspired scenes in all of cinematography?

Foreshortening, convergence and drawings from a blind adultPerception

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