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Headword: Αἰσθήσεις
Adler number: alphaiota,326
Translated headword: 5 senses
Vetting Status: high
Translation:
Sight [is] clearer than hearing, and [hearing clearer] than smelling, and smelling [clearer] than taste and touch. However, touch does not seem to be a sense, for each of the other senses operates as a single opposition with regard to some of the sensible objects and is its intermediate. For instance, sight [operates as a single opposition] with regard to black and white, and the colors that are intermediate to black and white; hearing with regard to a bass or sharp sound, or its intermediates; smelling with regard to what has a good or bad odor; taste with regard to what is sweet or bitter, and what is intermediate to this. By contrast, touch contains oppositions regarding many things, since it is not subordinate [to anything else]. In fact it is present with regard to what is hot or cold, moist or dry, hard or soft, heavy or light, rare or compact, [properties] that, precisely, cannot be subordinated [to anything else]. The senses, in apprehending the greater sensible objects, cannot apprehend any more along with those [sensible objects] that are smaller. For the person tasting flavors that are more ready to strike than the gentler ones cannot have any perception. And the person who has heard the stronger sounds cannot perceive the weaker sounds; and the one who looked intently at the sun is incapable of recognizing [anything] and cannot accurately apprehend the other visible objects, either. In the case of touch occurs similarly, too. But the intellect opposes to these, for the more it apprehends the superior intelligible objects the more accurate it is with regard to the apprehension of the inferior objects. And the excesses of sensible things destroy the senses, for excess of light or darkness destroys sight. It occurs similarly in the case of the other [senses]. By contrast, the apprehension of the greater intelligible objects produces a more sharp-sighted intellect.
For other [details] on sense[s] search in the [entry] “membrane”.[1]
The common sensibles [are] 5: movement, rest, number, figure, magnitude.[2] These are called “common” not because each one of them falls under all the senses but because each one falls under many [senses], not under a single one, and some of them also fall under all the senses at once. For magnitude is a sensible common to sight and touch. In fact, we see that the man is by chance big and, by making use of touch, we perceive that the encountering bulk, that is, the extension, is big or small. We also say that we have already perceived a strong or a weak sound but the magnitude is apprehended in this case by analogy, not in a strict sense. For we say now that a magnitude is what is continuous to the common sensibles. A strong sound displays an intense and tenuous quantity; for that reason in the case of sounds it is stricter and suitable to say “faint” and “strong”. Figure is common to sight and touch. But a triangle or a circle is not a figure [in this sense] –- for it is reasonable to say that a figure is that which is limited by a single line, or by three, or whatever quantity of lines -–, but what is circumscribed without qualification, and every outline is produced according to some figure. Certainly, when the incommensurable [magnitudes] fall into a small height and hill of the earth arrive at passing through, for obviously they are known, insofar as the magnitude is circumscribed and it is possible to pass through [such magnitudes]. But when falling into a high or sheer [magnitude], one does not try to come to [something] perceiving simultaneously the figure of a magnitude. Number is a common sensible of all [sense-perceptions]. For we see five men by chance, but in feeling it (and certainly in hearing it too), we know it.
Sense-perception differs from presentation. Search under the [entry] “presentation”.[3]
Greek Original:
Αἰσθήσεις ε#: ὅτι τρανεστέρα ἡ ὄψις τῆς ἀκοῆς, καὶ αὕτη τῆς ὀσφρήσεως, ἡ ὄσφρησις τῆς γεύσεως καὶ τῆς ἁφῆς. ἡ μέντοι ἁφὴ δοκεῖ μηδὲ αἴσθησις εἶναι: ἑκάστη γὰρ τῶν ἄλλων αἰσθήσεων περὶ μίαν τινὰ τῶν αἰσθητῶν τὴν ἀντίθεσιν ἐνεργεῖ καὶ ταύτης μεταξύ, οἷον ὄψις μὲν περὶ τὸ μέλαν καὶ τὸ λευκὸν καὶ τὰ τούτου μεταξὺ χρώματα, ἀκοὴ περὶ τὸν βαρὺν καὶ τὸν ὀξὺν φθόγγον καὶ τοὺς μεταξύ, ὄσφησις περὶ τὸ εὐῶδες καὶ τὸ δυσῶδες, γεῦσις περὶ τὸ γλυκὺ καὶ τὸ πικρὸν καὶ τὰ τούτου μεταξύ. ἡ μέντοι ἁφὴ περὶ πλείους ἀντιθέσεις ἔχει οὐκ οὔσας ὑπαλλήλους: περί τε γὰρ τὸ θερμὸν καὶ τὸ ψυχρὸν καὶ τὸ ὑγρὸν καὶ τὸ ξηρὸν καὶ τὸ σκληρὸν καὶ μαλακόν, τὸ βαρὺ καὶ τὸ κοῦφον, τὸ μανὸν καὶ τὸ πυκνόν: ἅπερ ὑπάλληλα εἶναι οὐ δύναται. ὅτι αἱ αἰσθήσεις τῶν μειζόνων αἰσθητῶν ἀντιλαμβανόμεναι οὐκέτι μετ' ἐκείνων τῶν ἡττόνων ἀντιλαμβάνεσθαι δύνανται: ὁ γὰρ πληκτικωτέρων χυμῶν γευσάμενος τῶν ἠρεμαιοτέρων οὐκ ἐπαισθάνεται, καὶ ὁ μεγάλων ψόφων ἀκηκοὼς πρὸς τοὺς ἥττους ἐστὶν ἀνεπαίσθητος, καὶ ὁ πρὸς ἥλιον ἀτενίσας ἀναγνῶναι οὐ δύναται οὐδὲ τῶν ἄλλων ἀκριβῶς ὁρατῶν ἀντιλαμβάνεσθαι: ὁμοίως καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς ἁφῆς. ὁ δὲ νοῦς τούτοις ἐναντίως ἔχει: ὅσῳ γὰρ τῶν μειζόνων νοητῶν ἀντιλαμβάνεται, τοσοῦτον καὶ ἀκριβέστερός ἐστι πρὸς τὴν ἀντίληψιν τῶν ἡττόνων. καὶ τὰς μὲν αἰσθήσεις αἱ ὑπερβολαὶ τῶν αἰσθητῶν φθείρουσιν: ὑπερβολὴ γὰρ φωτὸς ἢ ζόφου ἔφθειρε τὴν ὄψιν: ὁμοίως καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ἄλλων: τὸν δὲ νοῦν τῶν μειζόνων νοητῶν ἡ ἀντίληψις ὀξυδερκέστερον ποιεῖ. ζήτει καὶ ἄλλα περὶ αἰσθήσεως ἐν τῷ μήνιγξ. ὅτι κοινὰ αἰσθητὰ ε#: α# κίνησις, β# ἠρεμία, γ# ἀριθμός, δ# σχῆμα, ε# μέγεθος. κοινὰ δὲ ταῦτα εἶναι λέγονται, οὐχ ὅτι ἓν ἕκαστον αὐτῶν πάσαις ταῖς αἰσθήσεσιν ὑποπίπτει, ἀλλ' ὅτι ἕκαστον πλείοσι καὶ οὐ μιᾷ, τινὰ δὲ καὶ πάσαις ἅμα. τὸ μὲν γὰρ μέγεθος κοινόν ἐστιν αἰσθητὸν ὄψεως καὶ ἁφῆς: ὁρῶμεν γὰρ ὅτι μέγας ἐστὶ τυχὸν ὁ ἄνθρωπος, καὶ ἁπτόμενοι αἰσθανόμεθα ὅτι μέγας ἢ μικρὸς ὁ προσπεσὼν ὄγκος, καὶ τὸ διάστημα. ἤδη δὲ καὶ ψόφου λέγομεν ᾐσθῆσθαι μεγάλου ἢ μικροῦ, ἀλλ' ἐνταῦθα κατὰ ἀναλογίαν τὸ μέγεθος εἴληπται, οὐ κυρίως. μέγεθος γὰρ νῦν λέγομεν τὸ συνεχὲς τῶν κοινῶν εἶναι αἰσθητῶν: ὁ μέντοι μέγας ψόφος ποσότητός ἐστιν ἐπιτεταμένης καὶ ἀνειμένης δηλωτικός, διὸ τὸ ἀμυδρὸν ἢ σφοδρὸν κυριώτερον ἐπὶ τῶν ψόφων ἁρμόζει λέγειν. τὸ δὲ σχῆμα κοινὸν ὄψεως καὶ ἁφῆς. σχῆμα δὲ οὐ τὸ τρίγωνον ἢ κύκλος [τοῦτο γὰρ λόγου ἐστὶ τὸ εἰπεῖν ὅτι σχῆμά ἐστι τὸ ὑπὸ μιᾶς γραμμῆς περιεχόμενον ἢ ὑπὸ τριῶν ἢ ὁσωνδήποτε], ἀλλ' ὅ τι ἁπλῶς περιγέγραπται, πᾶσα δὲ περιγραφὴ κατά τι τῶν σχημάτων γίνεται. καὶ τὰ ἄλογα γοῦν ὅταν ἐπὶ μικρὸν ὕψος καὶ ἐπανάστημα γῆς ἐμπέσωσιν, ἐπιβαίνουσι διελθεῖν, ἅτε δὴ ἐπιστάμενα ὡς περιγέγραπται τὸ μέγεθος, καὶ οἷά τέ ἐστι διελθεῖν: εἰς δὲ ὑψηλὸν καὶ ἀπόκρημνον ἐμπεσόντα οὐκ ἐπιχειρεῖ παρελθεῖν συναισθόμενα τοῦ μεγέθους τοῦ σχήματος. ὁ δὲ ἀριθμὸς κοινόν ἐστιν αἰσθητὸν πασῶν: ὁρῶμεν γὰρ ὅτι ε# τυχὸν ἄνθρωποι, ἀλλὰ καὶ ψηλαφῶντες τοῦτο αὐτὸ ἴσμεν, καὶ μὴν καὶ ἀκούοντες. ὅτι αἴσθησις διαφέρει φαντασίας. καὶ ζήτει ἐν τῷ φαντασία.
Notes:
The first part of this entry is taken from John Philoponus, Commentary on Aristotle's de anima 229.12-24 and 262.29-263.11 (with some minor variations); the second from 311.8-32.
cf. tau 905.
[1] mu 952.
[2] See Aristotle, de anima 418a17-18. Common sensibles provide the perception with the general objects of sense, so we can conceive of size, shape, movement, rest, and time in them. They are not proper to any particular sense, but are common to all of them (for example, movement is common both to touch and sight; see de anima 418a17). "Common sensible" is one of the meanings of the expression "object of sense", "sensible", or "perceptible" (αἰσθητόν ; de anima 418a7ff.). The other two are "what is proper of a single sense" and "the incidental object of sense". The former is that which cannot be perceived by other sense (color, for instance, is the proper object of sense of sight; this is why error is not possible with regard to it); the latter is "what happens" to a perceptible object which we perceive (for example, the white object we perceive turns out to be the son of Diares, i.e. "being the son of Diares" happens or occurs to -- and thus it is incidental to -- the white object we see). By “incidental perception” Aristotle appears to understand an association of memory that is present in the act of perception (de anima 425a). He argues that there are no other senses apart from sight, hearing, smelling, taste and touch; in other words, there are no organs of the sense for the general of sensation (de anima 424b22ff.). For instance, it is impossible to perceive whiteness without a magnitude or size (μέγεθος ); the property "white" is always the white of a perceptible object. There are no organs of senses for the general objects of sensation that we perceive collaterally: the five “common sensibles”. Actually, Aristotle suggests, we do perceive just a certain number of properties of the thing (one with each sense). Senses are not active by themselves; a certain stimulus is required so that senses are activated. This is why there is no perception of the perceptive faculties themselves, even though we are able to see the corporeal organs of perception. Sensible perception depends on touch or contact between the perceptible object and perception (which is exercized through each particular organ of the sense); Aristotle thinks that there is no movement at distance, and perception, in being a certain kind of alteration, is a movement). Thus the perceiving organ needs a means of being in touch with the object. In the case of sight, hearing, and smelling the means is air and water by virtue of their property: transparency (the organs of senses are constituted from air and water; de anima 425a3ff.). We perceive a certain number of qualities, one with each sense. Then we can separate or distinguish the thing (as if it were a substratum) from its affections, that are perceived by the five senses. We perceive a thing's size, shape, or movement through our senses; not through sight or hearing as such, but through perception as a whole. Finally, the common sense warns us that we are perceiving: perception goes towards things that are external to us, but incidentally we know that we are perceiving. We are aware of the process of perception, and we perceive that by means of the common sense (de anima 3.2). For more on Aristotle's theory of perception see Sorabji 1979 and Schofield 1979. Other studies on the issue can be found in the volume edited by Nussbaum and Oksenberg Rorty 1992.
[3] phi 84; see also phi 85.
References:
Nussbaum, M., Oksenberg Rorty, A. 1992. Essays on Aristotle’s De Anima, Oxford: Clarendon Press
Schofield, M. 1979. 'Aristotle on the Imagination', in Barnes, J., Schofield, M., Sorabji, R. (eds.) Articles on Aristotle 4. Psychology & Aesthetics, London: Duckworth, pp. 103-132
Sorabji, R., 1979. 'Aristotle on demarcating the five Senses', in Barnes, J., Schofield, M., Sorabji, R. (eds.) Articles on Aristotle 4. Psychology & Aesthetics, London: Duckworth, pp. 76-92
Keywords: medicine; philosophy
Translated by: Marcelo Boeri on 2 May 2002@21:41:42.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (some internal rearrangement; other cosmetics) on 3 May 2002@03:10:40.
David Whitehead (modified headword; consequent (and other) cosmetics) on 27 May 2003@04:30:43.
Marcelo Boeri (Expanded and corrected footnote 2.) on 16 December 2004@19:08:37.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics) on 17 December 2004@11:45:00.
David Whitehead (another keyword; tweaks and cosmetics) on 17 May 2012@04:28:22.
Catharine Roth (betacode) on 27 May 2012@23:45:26.
David Whitehead (another x-ref) on 27 January 2014@05:02:13.
David Whitehead (coding and other cosmetics) on 30 November 2015@06:57:56.

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