Thursday, March 8, 2007

On sight and the division of the senses: From Cheselden's account of the boy whose vision was restored and from Berkeley's new theory of vision

" I will relate; Having often forgot which was the Cat, and which the Dog, he was asham'd to ask; but catching the Cat (which he knew by feeling) he was observ'd to look at her stedfastly, and then setting her down, said So Puss ! I shall know you another Time. " (William Cheselden)

"It is thought a great absurdity to imagine that one and the same thing should have any more than one extension, and one figure. But the extension and figure of a body, being let into the mind two ways, and that indifferently either by sight or touch, it seems to follow that we see the same extension and the same figure which we feel." (George Berkeley)

It seems to me to be obvious that the senses work hand-in-hand, that they interact and that they depend on one another. But now I learn that from Aristotle through the 1940s or so, it was most usual to ponder the senses as independent of one another and to theorize them as separate entities. It is as strange to me to think of the synthesis of the senses as an "absurdity" as it is to think about the senses' ability to compensate for one another... for example, hearing or touch for sight.

No comments: