What is distinctive about the senses?


For the most part, philosophical discussion of the senses has been concerned with what distinguishes them from one another, following Grice’s treatment of this issue in his ‘Remarks on the senses’. But this is one of two questions which Grice raises in this influential paper. The other, the question of what distinguishes senses from faculties that are not senses, is the question I address in this thesis. Though there are good reasons to think that the awareness we have of our bodies is perceptual, we do not usually think of bodily awareness as a sense. So in particular, I try to give an account of what it is that is distinctive about the five familiar modalities that they do not share with bodily awareness. I argue that what is distinctive about vision, touch, hearing, taste and smell, is that perception in all these modalities has enabling and disabling conditions of a certain kind. These enabling and disabling conditions are manifest in the conscious character of experience in these modalities, and exploited in active perceptual attention— in looking, listening, and so on. Bodily awareness has no such enabling conditions. The five familiar senses having this distinctive feature, and bodily awareness lacking it is not a merely incidental difference between them. Nevertheless, I do not claim that having these enabling conditions is necessary and sufficient for counting some faculty as a sense, or, correlatively, for something being an instance of sense-perception. Rather, we can see why it would serve certain human interests for us to think of the faculties that involve these enabling conditions as instances of a single kind of thing, of which bodily awareness is not an instance



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Louise Richardson
University of York

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A Materialist Theory of the Mind.D. M. Armstrong - 1968 - New York: Routledge. Edited by Ted Honderich.
Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind.John R. Searle - 1983 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
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Reference and Consciousness.John Campbell - 2002 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics.Peter Frederick Strawson - 1959 - London, England: Routledge. Edited by Wenfang Wang.

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