Will the Man With No Eyes See Darkness?


In my younger years, which is not that long ago for me, I first wondered if people saw different colours…because if you see red as I see green how am I to know the difference, because we both call the different colours the same thing. Now days I think science has already found that we do all, in fact, see the same colours (as far as we are able to tell with the eyes complexity and then translation through the brain)…although women see more shades of colours then men which is interesting…while at the same useless except for decorating

A few years ago I dwelled on the biggest question to strike me for a long time, if a man has his eyes removed, will he perceive darkness? I asked lots of people and most think that obviously he would see nothing…but even at that young age I knew the brain was needed to see, because we see in our dreams, so in that case what did the brain with no-input provide? I still haven’t answered that one, perhaps somebody knows?


These days I see that most people see the world through their frame of reference; TheTardyDodo put it nicely, in his story. Everybody has so many different experiences to draw from, different truths to which they live. It is a good thing that we all question each other from our difference perspectives; it is a good thing that we try to learn how others see things and question our own frame by doing so. My frame of reference has been turning around, knocked over a few times, and twisted down all sorts of spiritualist paths in my past. These days I embrace a logical frame of reference with plenty of space for endless possibilities, I am only matter turned to thought and movement, and yet I see things as whole and full. While a microbe passes through my sponge, I see it as a solid form…while the DNA replicates, I see only phonotypical flesh and features…I see a rock, a geologist sees history. How wonderful that we all have so much to learn from each other, that’s how I see it anyway.

smebro smebro
22-25, M
16 Responses Jun 26, 2007

Hi. I only a week ago had both my eyes removed. If anyone is still interested in this thread let me know and I'll send a fuller reply which may help answer some of the questions on here.

I would like to know more!

OK so it's been five weeks since I had a Bilateral Evisceration. That means I had the contents of my eyes removed and the Sclera (the white shell of the eye) remains and is used to encase an orbital implant at the back of the eye. This was done as it allows the Sclera to remain attached to the four eye muscles and the optic nerve as aposed to an Enucleation which is total removal of the whole eye and only leaves the muscles and cut optic nerve. Medically this is considered to be eye removal. Prior to the surgery I thought perhaps I was having some light perception in my left eye but nothing in my right eye. I lost all sight in my right eye 26 years ago due to a detached retina and other issues. My left eye lost it's sight fully 8 years ago also due to a detached retina and other issues. I was born with Toxoplasmosis which is what started the problems from birth and a degree of sight loss in both eyes due to scarring of the retinas. Five weeks on from the surgery I realise I wasn't having any light perception as interestingly I am still having what is just like light perception in my left eye and absolutely nothing in my right eye. As I move in to bright spaces I often get the sensation of things being too bright and occasionally I get very bright light which fills the whole of the left eye. This light can remain or even begin in very dark situations hence I know I'm not seeing anything for real. I would say that rather than ever seeing dark, I see nothing. If I try and think about the difference of what I'm seeing between my eyes and any other part of my body, there is no difference. If I were to say anything I'd say a level of grey but I'd say the same for any part of my body which sounds mad. Fortunately I'm totally fascinated with what I am or am not seeing and this curiocity has helped me to deal with the eye loss in a big way. It is sometimes distracting though. I also had my first phantom eye pain last week. It happened after I went back to work for the first time. I found going back to work very stressful and so ended up back on sick leave until the end of this week. Figners crossed it works out on Monday. I'm sure it will. The swelling is still going down and it will be a couple more months before I can even be measured up for my prosthesis. At the moment I have open eyes. I often don't even wear shades as people tell me it just looks like I have dark eyes all be it very bloodshot at times. In bright light I have been told I look like Satan. I'm happy to answer any questions if I can. I'm concious this is an old thread so if anyone thinks it would be worthwhile to start a new one and move this response then let me know.

Hello i have been searching for answers for this, my dear dog has glaucoma and was mostly blind for years and a few days ago had both eyes removed, i imagined she would just see complete darkness now, but it seems not the case, my dog rescue friends have been debating it in our online forums, its really overwhelming me to what she experiences now, what does she "see" now that both eyes are gone, i don't understand darkness as there is no eyes to send the message to the brain as darkness, i hope this makes sense.
Any advise would certainly help me understand. She finds her way around her home very well.

This post made me THINK. I like that. Thanks for sharing!

I think your man with no eyes probably wouldn percieve darkness while concious, but would probably dream in color. My friends mom, who has been blind since birth says she dreams in color. And, though this deals w/ ears, my friend who is deaf (born deaf) says she hears in her dreams. Weird eh?

The mind's eye, third eye sees visions, colors, movement..... one trained or gifted can see it with their eyes shut or open, it is a different focus. It is probably connected to when we dream for in dreams we can see things very vividly as though on a movie screen, yet our eyes are shut. Possibly dreams are played out in the mind's eye. If you a sighted person can dream and see visions with your mind's eye, then why not a blind person? With the mind's eye we can dream and see darkness so why not a blind person, likewise? The mind's eye is not a physical eye ball with optical nerve, It is unnecessary in its purpose to have those physical components.

I have always wondered exactly that- how do we know that everyone else is seeing what we are seeing? When I was really small I thought that the mirror could be lying and I could look completely different to what I was seeing, my only comfort coming from the fact that everyone else looked the same as their reflection. But then, that's just human logic isn't it?<br />
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I once asked a deaf person if he thought things in english or sign language (he has been deaf since he was born, so how is he to understand the experience of sound?) He shrugged and uncertainly chose english. Now i wonder did he mean words or sound? how can he mean sound?

this topic has been of great interest to me as well, though id like to add that there have been experiments where people were deprived of certain senses such as sight in this case and have after a while of no external stimuli experienced random stimuli. If you block off both sight and hearing especially, your brain has a tendency to create its own stimuli in order to replace it. After learning about this, I've been wondering whether or not people create their own stimuli even in the presence of external stimuli. In an extreme case, people could create their entire existence from the smell of cinnamon to the pain of a needle. There are other instances when the brain experiences things that aren't there which leads me to believe that the brain cannot be trusted in terms of reality. Simply, everything is relative to one's own self.<br />
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I thought this might be interesting to add to this discussion, although if anyone wants to discuss this in greater detail, please notify me.

i believe in order to find the answers to what a 'blind' person (both born blind and sight lost later in life) sees in their 'mind's eye' the place to go is to ask people with personal experience just as i did. while MRI and PET scans can show the 'activity' they cannot describe that which is perceived. HOWEVER!!! all good points, smebro and dodo. this has been an incredibly interesting topic and i look forward to more of these conversations with you.

Very thought provoking!! I'm sure that someone who had suffered from loss of both their eyes would be able to provide a fairly definitive answer to these musings. In the meantime though, I think it's important to remember that the sense are originally unified. Without actual input from the optical cortex, I suspect that the brain begins to combine other sensory clues, and augment these with visual clues, which would likely be unnoticeable to the person experiencing them - they would be sublimated into other senses. Which is to say that the idea of light and dark as we traditionally perceive them (absence or presence of a dectatble number of photons) would have no particular meaning when it is recombined into a more synesthetic mode. But I'm just speculating. Functional MRI and PET scanning could provide answers as to what the visual cortex does when disconnected from all inputs.

I was thinking about this last night and agree with you constant, the man that did see and the child that never saw are totally different. I waved my hands in front of my face in pitch black and just the expectation that I should see movement in front of my eyes was enough to see shifting shapes were there was no light to see by. I might have just been seeing my aura or energy, but It seemed like it was in my head. So I 'saw' what I thought was there, had I never seen my hand...I would have seen nothing. I saw an illusion by drawing from my memories.<br />
We had Helen Keller, the life story I think, read to us in Primary School, and maybe that's where I first asked the question, because in part of it she speaks to a group of people and claims she sees colours like blue when happy and red when angry. At that young age I probably wondered how she could see if her eyes didn't work...<br />
I agree on the final part as well constant, life is a light in itself, matter turned into movement which can think and ponder on ultimately irrelevant questions such as this. We are the light of observation, and that stay’s strong until we stop observing at death. What I mean by being in the dark was that perhaps, with no eyes (Although now I think it would be only in the person that never had eyes) would the eyeless individual ‘see’ darkness all around? 360 degree darkness through which their thoughts drift and interact with the unseen… In lucid dreams and apparently in astral travel (Not saying here that I believe the latter) people are able to alter their visual field to the point of perceiving the entire space around them with no body or limited range to block what they see. I never attempted this in lucid dreams (have wanted to, but those who Lucid Dream will know you can get a bit flustered in your own virtual reality), it always struck me as an experience that would be very…strange. As if you would become a giant floating eye that is nothing but iris. It seems the brain is capable of seeing much more, limited only by the hardware and accessaries, so when you are blind your reality is no less detailed then a sighted person because the brain is making up for the loss. <br />
Plus, colour is not necessarily for sight alone, some Scientists hypothesise that Dog’s smell with ‘colour’ because although they are colour-blind, the colour distinguishing regions of their brains are there and they are being used…similarly in bats, dolphins, whales for sonar and it is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to suggest that birds might also ‘see’ the right direction in the earths field as slightly brighter or perhaps a delicious red. We see what we have evolved to see, dogs might see smell colour, snakes might see heat colour, birds see ultra detailed colour. I recall an article that I could never reference because I read it about 5 years ago at school when I first fell in love with ‘New Scientist’, this article was about scientists conducting visual experiments with people and finding that people reported that their vision was slightly brighter when they faced north…believe it? Who knows, seems like it’s relevant here in some way.

forgot this part - in essence, until death, i don't believe we are ever truly in the 'DARK' ... the mind will not allow it. once the mind dies, the light will no longer exist for that person. and vice versa. and, NO, i'm not speaking spiritually. lol

this is an EXTREMELY intriguing topic ... here are my thoughts ... a child born blind and a man who later has his optical globes (eyes) removed, are apples and oranges. the child has no memory of what they once saw - nothing to refer to. the man, even if the optical nerve dies or is disconnected from the neurological force within, will still draw upon memories he once 'saw' ... with that said, i've known several blind people - people who were born blind and people who suddenly went blind. interestingly enough, those who were born blind described colors in their dreams! those who suddenly went blind, much like he who had his eyes extracted, did not develop new hues or colors but relied on their memory which greatly increased after incident allowing them to recall small nuances many take for granted and allowing them to remember things without fail (the enhancement of other senses in the absence of one.) smebro, your sarcasm or whatever you'd like to call it crack me up - bout your own satisfaction and ripping out one's eyes. ROFL! and again, your depth of thought is profound, unlike most. no doubt you are a great thinker ... feed that flame, indulge that hunger ... you never know what it will end up doing for you, your family and possibly this world!

I've wondered about this a lot too over the years. I've overall thought that visualization of other senses would form some sort of visual field other than strict darkness. Although I guess to some degree, would depend on the person themselves, how adaptive their brain is, as well as their self-awareness and understanding of how they think to analyze whether they are visualizing something in their mind from other input or just thinking about it. It seems a simple enough thing to differentiate, but its been surprising to me how many people don't think about how they think.

Maybe I'm just pondering sight in general, what sight is, seeing as our brain interprets the signals from our eyes and translates it as it sees fit...we are not seeing what is there...we are seeing what our senses have evolved to show us...but with no eyes, no feedback at all, I don't know...Sight is a simulation of what's real, what happens when you take that away? You are right slacker, you would just go on living as per usual by adapting, but I wonder how dark 'real' dark can be, as black as your brains vision is without input I suppose. It used to bug me a lot, but I am not curious enough to rip anyone’s eyes out for my own satisfaction.

Hmm, okay, so it would take complete disconnection, rather then partial disconnection from the sockets? If the brain still had some input from the eyes, even a little, it would give you feedback for that (Guessing?) but if there were no eyes or optic-nerve activity...then you would see 'real' dark? Or would you see nothing at all…what is nothing? Just musing.

Well, just because you have no eyes it doesn't mean you can't see. A man with their eyes removed just as a child born blind, has other senses that try to cope with the one lost. They expand farther than most people that rely on their eyes. A man with their eyes removed can still see where things are at and remember what they look like. I guess what I'm saying just because you have no eyes it doesn't mean you are blind or need help. It means you, unlike most, get to experience a world in a different light. The type of person usually determines the shade of light.

I think that a brain with no input would perceive darkness, because darkness is the absence of light, and perception. Like being in a room completely devoid of light. But the, I would not be surprised if the brain began to assign colors to words or feeling lacking sensory input from the optical nerves. I don't think we currently know enough about the brain to answer the question.