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seeing - tasting - hearing - feeling - smelling

Related: experience - perception - sensation - synaesthesia

Film titles: In the Realm of the Senses (1976)

Non-fiction: The Senses of Modernism (2002)

Compare: nonsense

To arrive at the unknown through the disordering of all the senses, that's the point. --Arthur Rimbaud, 1871

(W)ith five feeble senses we pretend to comprehend the boundlessly complex cosmos, yet other beings with a wider, stronger, or different range of senses might not only see very differently the things we see, but might see and study whole worlds of matter, energy, and life which lie close at hand yet can never be detected with the senses we have ... strange, inaccessible worlds exist at our very elbows. Dagon and other macabre tales, 58). --HP Lovecraft

Un Chien Andalou (1928) - Luis Bu˝uel

Un Chien Andalou (1928) - Luis Bu˝uel [Amazon.com] [...]


Senses are the physiological methods of perception. The senses and their operation, classification, and theory are overlapping topics studied by a variety of fields, but most notably neuroscience, cognitive psychology (or cognitive science), and philosophy of perception.

There is no firm agreement amongst neurologists as to exactly how many senses there are. The disagreements stem from a lack of consensus as to what the definition of a sense should be. Although schoolchildren are still routinely taught that there are five senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste; a classification first devised by Aristotle), it is generally agreed that there are at least nine different senses in humans, and a minimum of two more observed in other organisms. --http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sense

List of senses

Several senses can be identified. This list begins with those five senses defined by Aristotle and hence probably most familiar to the reader.

Seeing or vision describes the ability to detect light and interpret it as "sight". There is disagreement as to whether or not this constitutes one, two or even three distinct senses. Neuroanatomists generally regard it as two senses, given that different receptors are responsible for the perception of colour (the frequency of light) and brightness (the energy of light). Some argue that the perception of depth also constitutes a sense, but it is generally regarded that this is really a cognitive (that is, post-sensory) function derived from having stereoscopic vision (two eyes) and is not a sensory perception as such.

Hearing or audition is the sense of sound perception and results from tiny hair fibres in the inner ear detecting the motion of atmospheric particles within (at best) a range of 20 to 20000 Hz. Sound can also be detected as vibration by tactition. Lower and higher frequencies than can be heard are detected this way only.

Taste or gustation is one of the two "chemical" senses. It is well-known that there are at least four types of taste "bud" (receptor) and hence, as should now be expected, there are anatomists who argue that these in fact constitute four or more different senses, given that each receptor conveys information to a slightly different region of the brain.

The four well-known receptors detect sweet, salt, sour, and bitter, although the receptors for sweet and bitter have not been conclusively identified. A fifth receptor, for a sensation called "umami", was first theorised in 1908 and its existence confirmed in 2000 (see [1]). The umami receptor detects the amino acid glutamate, a flavor commonly found in meat, and in artificial flavourings such as monosodium glutamate.

Smell or olfaction is the other "chemical" sense. Olfactory neurons differ from most other neurons in that they die and regenerate on a regular basis.

The remaining senses can be considered types of physical feeling.

Tactition is the sense of pressure perception.

Thermoception is the sense of heat and the absence of heat (cold). It is also the first of the group of senses not identified explicitly by Aristotle. Again there is some disagreement about how many senses this actually represents--the thermoceptors in the skin are quite different from the homeostatic thermoceptors which provide feedback on internal body temperature. How warm or cold something feels does not only depend on temperature, but also on specific heat capacity and heat conductance; e.g., warm metal feels warmer than warm wood, and cold metal feels colder than cold wood, because metal has a higher thermal conductivity than wood. Wind feels cold because of the heat withdrawn for evaporation of sweat or other moisture, and because an isolating layer of warm air around the body blows away; however, in the case of hot air, wind makes it feel hotter, for a similar reason as the latter.

Nociception is the perception of pain. It can be classified as from one to three senses, depending on the classification method. The three types of pain receptors are cutaneous (skin), somatic (joints and bones) and visceral (body organs).

Equilibrioception is the perception of balance and is related to cavities containing fluid in the inner ear. There is some disagreement as to whether or not this also includes the sense of "direction" or orientation. However, as with depth perception earlier, it is generally regarded that "direction" is a post-sensory cognitive awareness.

Proprioception is the perception of body awareness and is a sense that people rely on enormously, yet are frequently not aware of. More easily demonstrated than explained, proprioception is the "unconscious" awareness of where the various regions of the body are located at any one time. (This can be demonstrated by anyone closing their eyes and waving their hand around. Assuming proper proprioceptive function, at no time will the person lose awareness of where the hand actually is, even though it is not being detected by any of the other senses).

Based on this outline and depending on the chosen method of classification, somewhere between 9 and 21 human senses have been identified. Additionally there are some other candidate physiological experiences which may or may not fall within the above classification, for example the sensory awareness of hunger and thirst. --http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sense [2004]

"Lower senses"

The potential role of the proximity senses in the production and appreciation of art has been neglected, due in large part to the long-standing dictum in Western culture and philosophy that the "lower" senses cannot be media of aesthetic experience (Immanuel Kant, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View; Rudolf Arnheim, Visual Thinking).

While excluded from the aesthetics of "high" culture, smell, taste and touch have remained vitally important to popular culture. A number of studies have explored the vibrant life of the proximity senses in the popular imaginary from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century (Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and his World; Stallybrass and White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression; A. Corbin, The Foul and the Fragrant). Such studies have indicated that the experience of the multisensory plenitude of the fair and carnival - along with that of the manual labours of everyday life - formed a crucial element of working class aesthetics. In the twentieth century the distinction between high culture aesthetics and popular taste continues to manifest itself in many cases as a distinction between the "higher" and "lower" senses: visual rationality and visceral sensation (Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction; Anthony Synnott, The Body Social). --http://alcor.concordia.ca/~senses/Consert-Gaze.htm [Oct 2005]

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