The Individuation of the Senses

In The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception. New York, NY: Oxford University Press UK. pp. 567-586 (2015)
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Abstract

How many senses do humans possess? Five external senses, as most cultures have it—sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste? Should proprioception, kinaesthesia, thirst, and pain be included, under the rubric bodily sense? What about the perception of time and the sense of number? Such questions reduce to two. 1. How do we distinguish a sense from other sorts of information-receiving faculties? 2. By what principle do we distinguish the senses? Aristotle discussed these questions in the De Anima. H. P. Grice revived them in 1967. More recently, they have taken on fresh interest as a result of a collection of essays edited by Fiona Macpherson. This entry reviews some approaches to these questions and advances some new ideas for the reader’s consideration. It proposes that the senses constitute an integrated learning system, membership in which answers question 1. It also proposes that the modalities can be distinguished from one another in two ways, by the means of information pick-up and by the kinds of activity that a perceiver undertakes to make use of them.

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Mohan Matthen
University of Toronto, Mississauga

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