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    Pavel Gregoric, Aristotle on the common sense

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    Johnathan R. Razorback
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    Date d'inscription : 12/08/2013
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    Pavel Gregoric, Aristotle on the common sense

    Message par Johnathan R. Razorback le Lun 15 Mai - 20:33

    "In the context of Aristotle's psychology, the expression "common sense" refers to a distinct perceptual capacity in which the five senses are integrated. It is called "common" because it is shared by the five senses, and it is called a "sense" because it is indeed a perceptual ability properly speaking. And because it is a perceptual ability, rather than a rational ability, it is shared by all animals, non-rational and rational alike. Obviously, what Aristotle calls the "common sense" is very different from what we call "common sense"." (p.VII)
    -Pavel Gregoric, Préface à Aristotle on the common sense, Oxford University Press, 2007, 252 pages.

    "Imagine what it would be like if your five senses -sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch- were completely independant from one another. You would not be a creature that wakes or sleeps, because your senses would not all be operating in the state of waking and all be resting in the state of sleep. Rather, each sense would operate for some time and then take a snooze, so that you spend a greater part of your life in an erratic state, neither fully awake nor entirely asleep. Moreover, you would not be able to tell that a piece of Camembert cheese is white and smelly, because you would have no means of relating what you see to what you smell. Each sense would create a phenomenal world of its won, and there would be nothing to mesh these worlds. What is worse, if you lived long enough with your senses cut off from one another, there would not be a "you" in the first place, because each sense would have its own subject of experience, oblivious of the others. Your body would be housing five yous, a visual you, a auditory you, an olfactory you, and so forth." (p.1)

    "This dire scenario [...] is developed from a suggestion made by Plato in his dialogue Theatetus, almost two-and-a-half millennia ago. Fortunetely, the suggestion was followed by Plato's proposal how to avoid the scenario. I suppose many readers would find his proposal congenial, since it consists of postulating a conscious subject which uses the senses and thinks about their reports. Aristotle proposed to avoid this scenario differently, by postulating a perceptual power over and above the five senses which monitors their and co-ordinates their reports. This perceptual power is known as the "common sense"." (p.2)

    "There are two essentially different cognitive processes, according to Plato. Perception is the passive process of grasping a limited number of features, namely basic sensible qualities. The graps of one kind of basic sensible quality is achieved by means of one sense only, and this graps is available to human beings as well to other animals from their birth. By contrast, there is the activity of grasping an entirely different sort of feature, namely the common features. This is achieved by the soul's own means, without any reliance on the senses, and it requires development through experience and education. It seems that Plato conceives of this latter activity as some sort of thinking.
    It is important to note Plato's insistence that the subject of both these kinds of cognitive process is one and the same. More precisely, Plato thinks that it is the soul that does both of them, only by different means. It perceives by means of certain bodily parts, namely the sense organs, whereas it thinks by means of its own resources. Myles Burnyeat rightly acclaims this as "the first unambiguous statement in the history of philosophy of the difficult bu undoubtedly important idea of the unity of consciousness
    "." (p.2-3)

    "To perceive by means of the eyes suggests that there is a subject that uses the sense of sight localized in the eyes. Indeed, it is the same subject that uses all the other senses, each couched in a different part of the body. Plato calls this subject "soul", and he says that the senses, each located in one sense organ, stretch from there and converge [...] in the soul. By converging in the soul, which is taken to be something conscious and active, the senses are integrated. And because they are integrated in the soul, they can be used by it." (p.5)

    "What is required for Aristotle's project is a notion of the soul in which co-ordination of the senses does not involve thinking, but is achieved entirely at the level of perception. For this purpose, and in line with the basic premisses of his philosophy, Aristotle proposes a significantly different picture of the soul and its relation to the senses. [...]
    Aristotle agreed with Plato that the senses must be used in various ways. He disagreed, however, about the nature and power of that which integrates the senses, and consequently, about the way the senses are co-ordinated. In Aristotle's theory, the senses are not integrated at the level of something that is the subject of both perceiving and thinking. Rather, the senses are integrated by the common sense. Thus integrated, co-ordination of the senses is achieved perceptually, and it can be attribuated to non-rational animals.
    " (p.6-7)

    "Plato located the rational soul, which seems to be the subject of sensory experience, in the head, and he attached special importance to the marrow of which the brain is made. Aristotle, by contrast, sided with the other school and located the common sense in the heart. One of the main reasons for Aristotle's choice of organ was his conviction, supported by his empirical research, that the heart is connected in one way or another with all the sense organs, whereas the brain is not. Hence, he thought that the heart is the central or master sense organ, and the seat of the common sense." (p.7)

    "We know that Aristotle got his physiology all wrong." (p.8 )

    "An attempt to summarize uncontroversial points concerning Aristotle's notion of the common sense yields a disappointingly short list. First, it is a perceptual power distinct from the five ordinary senses. Second, it is a perceptual power of a different type and order from the five senses. Third, it allows Aristotle to say that the five senses are not mutually independent capacities, but form some sort of unity. Fourth, it is closely connected with Aristotle's idea that the heart is the central sense organ. Fifth, it is in charge of certain function that, in Aristotle's view, go beyond the five senses taken individually. Every further point of specification is likely to be controversial." (p.13)

    "Living beings of différents kinds have différents souls, that is, souls with different capacities." (p.22)

    "Aristotle insists that the capacities into which he divides the soul are not spatially separable parts of the soul, but only its conceptually distinct parts." (p.24)

    "[For Aristotle] the sense of touch is ontologically prior to the other senses in that it is found to exist without the other senses, for certain kinds of animal were thought to pessess only the sense of touch, while the other senses are not found to exist without the sense of touch." (p.27)

    "Colour is the special perceptible of sight, sound is the special perceptible of hearing, and so on. Each kind of special perceptible is the type of feature that determines the essence of one sense. For instance, the essence of hearing is determined by sound, for hearing is defined as the capacity to perceive sounds. However, the fact that hearing is defined with reference to sound does not imply that sound is the only type of feature that can be perceived by the sense of hearing. What it implies, rather, is that all other types of feature in some way depend on sound for their being perceived by hearing. To understand what hearing is, therefore, one must understand first of all what sound is." (p.30)

    "Because the essence of each sense is determined with reference to one kind of special perceptible, the senses are infaillible with respect to their special perceptibles. Given that the sense of sight, for instance, is essentially the capacity to perceive colours, the idea that nature would furnish animals, in particular the most perfect ones, with a capacity which does not afford correct perception of colours in normal circumstances is repulsive to Aristotle's teleological view of nature." (p.30)

    "There are five kinds of special perceptible, each kind being a spectrum of qualities ranging between a positive and a negative extreme. Each kind of special perceptible is accessible to one sense only: colour is the special perceptible of sight, sound of hearing, odour of smell, flavour of taste, whereas three ranges of tactile qualities (warm-cold, wet-dry, and soft-hard) are the special perceptibles of touch. Although the special perceptibles largely correspond to the modern secondary properties, it is important to bear in mind that for Aristotle the special perceptibles are fully real and causally efficacious features of physical objets, not merely their phenomenology effects. For Aristotle, colours and sounds are out there to be seen and heard by any sentient being endowed with senses of sight and hearing respectively." (p.31)

    "Aristotle received the view that perceiving consists in some sort of being affected and changed by the objet of perception. However, he insists that it is not a standart sort of change. In the standart sort of change there is a process whereby the patient gradually becomes like the agent. For instance, water heated by fire gradually become like the agent. This process takes time, and it is terminated when the quality of the patient at the beginning of the process is replaced by another quality of the same kind at the end of the process. What happens in perception is nothing like that ; it is being affected or changed only in an extended sense." (p.34)

    "The exercise of a sense is not the standart sort of change, because it is not a process whereby one quality gets teplaced by another. There is no end result in which the activity terminâtes. When a sense is changed by the objet of perception, it is brought to perfection in that it actually does what it is the capacity for doing. In short, the sense is not really changed, but realized or activated. This activity of course occurs in time, but it does not take time for it to occur. It is that we have to look for some time in order to see at the end ; rather, we see at each and every moment for as long as we look. So, while it is true that in perception the senses are affected and changed by the objects, this is a special sort of change." (p.34)

    "The sense is essentially the capacity to receive perceptible forms." (p.35)

    "There are good reasons to suppose that perception does involves material processes." (p.36)

    "Given that colours, for instance, do not, and indeed could not, affect sight through contact between the coloured objet and the eye, there must be something between them that enables colours to affect sight. In analogy with the distal senses, Aristotle concluded that the contact senses also have a medium, only their medium is not external, but internal to the body. [...]
    For something to be a medium, it must have a particular quality which enables it to mediate perceptible qualities. This quality can be generally characterized as neutral, or mean, with respect to one rang of qualities that figure as one type of special perceptible. For instance, air and water serve as the media of colour because air and water are transparent. Transparency is the neutral quality with respect to the range of colours, and that iswhat enables air and water to be changed by colours. But again, the medium is not changed by colours in the standart sense: if we look at a red objet through a glass of water, water is not changed by the red colour in the same way in which it would change if we poured red ink in the water
    ." (p.37)

    "What must a body be like, then, if it is to be an animal's body, that is, of a living being capable of perceiving ? Clearly, it has to be such that a soul with a perceptual capacity can be realized in it. We have seen that the perceptual capacity can be realized in it. We have seen that the perceptual capacity of the soul is a unity with some internal complexity. So the animal body must be composed of such parts and structured in such a way as to accommodate both the unity and the complexity of the perceptual capacity of the soul." (p.41)

    "At a lower level of organization, the living body consists of the so-called "uniform" or "homoeomerous" parts. They are made of a single element, or of a mixture of elements, and they are called "uniform" because each piece of it is the same as the whole, for example any piece of flesh is flesh, any piece of blood is blood. Aristotle says that there are fluid and soft uniform parts, such as blood, flesh, marrow, semen, gall, milk, and so on, and solid and hard uniform parts, such as channels, blood-vessels, skin, bone, sinew, and so on. At a higher level of organization, uniform parts combine into non-uniform or anomoeomerous parts, such as hand, trunk, or head.
    Perception takes place only in parts that are uniform, the reason being that only uniform parts are receptive of perceptibles -and i assume Aristotle means the special perceptibles- because only uniform parts have the particular neutral quality, shared with the media, which allows them to be affected by perceptibles in the relevant way. We have seen that the medium of colours, for instance, has to be transparent, because transparency is the quality which enables the medium to be affected by colours so as to make them manifest. Similarly, the sense organ of colours, the eye-jelly [...], is made of water because water is transparent, and transparency is the quality which enables the eye to be affected by colours so as to see them. Or, to put it more precisely, transparency is the quality which enables the eye to house the sense of sight which can be activated by colours so as to make the animal see them. It follows that transparency is the quality a material substance must have in order to be able to mediate colours, if it is inanimate, and to perceive them, if it is animate, that is, if it belongs to a living body with a soul that has a perceptual capacity. In other words, transparency is hypothetically necassary both for the medium's hability to manifest colours, and for the sense organ's ability to see colours
    ." (p.42)

    "Aristotle seems to think that appropriate distribution of blood in the body is necessary for perception." (p.45)

    "If a living being is to have a soul with a perceptual capacity, which is itself a unity of some internal complexity, it must have a body equipped with a sensory apparatus [...] The sensory apparatus must be composed of uniform parts of a particular sort, because only such parts can reveice perceptibles. [...] The sensory apparatus must be internally continuous to ensure that perceptibles received by various uniform parts on the surface of the body are received also by the central sense organ inside the body. If this continuity is interrupted at any point, there can be no perception. [...] Individual senses [...] are conceptually distinct parts or aspects of the perceptual capacity of the soul." (p.47-48)

    "Perception does not really take place in the peripheral sense organs, but in the central sense organ." (p.49)

    "It is a standart view that imagination is a function of the common sense. I will presently show that this is a mistake, so i hope i will be excused for thinking that the preceding remarks on imagination suffice." (p.50)

    "Imagination is a capacity which dépends on perception." (p.54)

    "[Memory] requires joint activity of perception and imagination." (p.54)

    "Aristotle emphasizes the fundamental importance of touch as the sense which is indispensable for the preservation of animals. The sense of touch is said to be the only sense common to all animals because it is necessary for each and every animal to possess it. Without the sense of touch, no animal could survive." (p.65)

    "Some animals have poor perception because they have hard and thick hearts, whereas others have good perception because they have softer hearts." (p.88)

    "The fundamental cognitive capacity, namely, perception, dépends on the heart. But what sort of perception ? Since the heart is the proper sense organ of touch and taste, according to Aristotle, it must be the case that the perception of tangible qualities and flavours dépends directly on the heart. Moreover, the heart is not only the proper sense organ of touch and taste, but it is also the central sense organ receptive of all special perceptibles. This allows us to conclude that the perception of all types of special perceptibles dépends on the heart. Consequently, animals with more corporeal hearts are handicapped to the extent that they do not discriminate as sharply, or as many tokens of a given type of special perceptible, as animals with softer, thinner, and lighter hearts do." (p.89-90)

    "All functions of the perceptual capacity of the soul depend on the constitution of the heart." (p.90)

    "Since memory requires a perception of time together with an image of the thing remembered, it follows that memory is the proper work of the primary perceptual capacity, and only accidentally of the thinking capacity of the soul." (p.101)

    "[Common sense] refers to the sensory capacity of the soul which comprises the perceptual and the imaginative capacity and combines their activities." (p.107)

    "Without the joint work of perception and imagination, then, we would not be able to graps time with respect to things perceived, that is, we would not be able to tell that something we currently perceive has been experienced before." (p.108)

    "Things that are given to us by perception are properties and objets available to our senses, present here and now." (p.114)

    "Perception of something as pleasant ("affirming") is a form of recognizing it as good, whereas perception of something as painful ("denying") is a form of recognizing it as bad. So when an animal perceives something as pleasant, the animal recognizes it as good. Having recognized it as good, the animal desires it, which in turn explains why the animal moves in such a way as to get it." (p.114)

    "Aristotle conceives of simultaneous perception as a distinct perceptual function of the common sense." (p.129)

    "According to Aristotle, the is a capacity to perceive objets of a certain kind. When actualized by an objet of the right kind, that is, in an act of perception, the sense and its objets are one." (p.132)

    "Simultaneous perception is the work of the common sense." (p.139)
    -Pavel Gregoric, Aristotle on the common sense, Oxford University Press, 2007, 252 pages.


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