We only observe the physical world because we have senses and a collective perception that projects a model for us to observe and interpret. Our five senses; Sight (ophthalmoception), hearing (audioception), taste (gustaoception), smell (olfacoception or olfacception), and touch (tactioception) are crucial in helping us to navigate and makes sense of the physical world. But what if these senses ceased to exist? Imagine this. You lose your sight and your hearing and you can now only find your way around by touching things (somatosensation). Imagine how you would interpret the physical world. People already do interpret the physical world without these senses. It would change your conception of the world indefinitely as you’re forced to rely on your alternate senses.
But let’s go further. Eventually you lose your sense of touch on your skin and throughout your entire body and you can no longer have the ability to taste objects. You wont suddenly feel hungry because you’re completely disconnected from your body. Now you feel nothing, weightless, not too far off how one might feel in a dark floatation tank except for you can’t get out and you really are just an existing state of consciousness that can conceptualise variations in aromas. You could be walking mindlessly into a field and the only connection you have to the physical world is the nostalgic scent of fresh cut grass as reminder it still exists.
Now let’s remove your final sense so now all you see is what you can visualise in your minds eye. You feel nothing, hear nothing, see nothing, taste nothing and smell nothing, all you have are your thoughts and whatever pictures, patterns or colours your minds eye as a product of cognition. How would you know you are even alive? You could mindlessly and uncoordinatedly manoeuvre into a wall or even in front of a moving car, get hit, but you would not feel the force of the of the car hit you and send you in the air. There is nothing to ground you in the physical world. You suffer a head injury and go into a coma but you will not be able to distinguish from the point of being conscious and going into a coma when you wake because a memory is based on a visual model of the physical world which requires perception. Therefore, likewise when you wake from your coma you will not be able to determine the point at which you woke from your coma either. Like a brain in vat, existing exclusively as a state of consciousness. You can think, you exist, but, you are living in a plane of existence distinct from that of the physical one, one which is based purely in a cognitive and dare I say, spiritual realm. Furthermore, I add again how would we know whether we were alive or dead to begin with?
We exist in a physical world only because we have the capacity to observe it. We know as a matter of fact there are things that exist that we do not have the capacity to observe with our 5 senses; infrared, radio-waves, UV light, antimatter, atoms etc which are all beyond our visual ability. So it’s not inconceivable, light years away or even billions of years in future, there may be organisms with all of our senses including additional senses to view the physical world and each other unimaginable ways. I have grappled with this concept in many abstract forms and have applied it to death and the possibility of an afterlife. We still don’t know what creates consciousness. We don’t know if it is even created by physical matter or if it exists without it. After death the senses, which are derived from physical matter, would cease to work, but consciousness may not. The “afterlife” could well be an eternal experience of many possible states of consciousness. To some this may not be as comforting as the thought of going to heaven, but its no less plausible and we are just as ignorant about the reality of both.