Aristotle, De anima 3. 2: How do we perceive that we see and hear?

Classical Quarterly 33 (02):401-411 (1983)
The most important things in this seminal paper are (a) showing that the first part of the chapter is only setting up the aporia and does not provide the solution; (b) showing that the rest of the chapter provides the material for resolving the aporia; (c) showing that the question is not about how we perceive that we perceive, but how we can distinguish between seeing and hearing—how we are aware that we are seeing rather than hearing; (c) showing that this is reducible to how we are aware that a colour is not a sound, and how we perceive the unity of objects that present themselves under more than one sense-modality. Hence the remainder of De anima 3.2 presents both the materials for the solution (actuality of sense and sensed object are one thing) and the solution (there is a common perceiver who receives the input from several senses and can unite them and also differentiate). De anima 3.2 is not about perceiving that we perceive, nor about reflexive self-awareness. The problems of interpretation and of the unity of the chapter are resolved once we see that the topic is how we can tell the difference between input from different sense modalities, how we distinguish between white things and sweet things, or between seeing and hearing, and how we perceive objects as a unity when they present themselves to separate senses.
Keywords Aristotle  De anima  self-awareness  perception
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DOI 10.1017/S0009838800034662
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