Consciousness and the World

By Brian O'Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

24 The Sense of Touch

Through the phenomenon of proprioception we become aware of our bodies, and this is a necessary condition both of the physical actions which are such an important part of animal life generally, and of the individuation of the perceptual sensations which enable the attention to travel beyond its confines onto the world outside in perceptual experiences of a sensuous order. Meanwhile this immediate awareness of the body enables the attention to pass in a non-sensuous manner beyond the surface of the body onto nearby physical objects, for it is through these specific means that there comes to be such a thing as the sense of touch. These two senses, proprioception and touch, might with justice be described as primordial in character. Together they form a closed circle, a unit which stands in no need of epistemological input from the other senses. The discussion which now follows addresses itself to the second element in this 'unit'.


1 Pre-Eminence

(1) Which of the senses is No. 1? A silly question, no doubt; but since I have a weakness for picking X1's or XV's or XV111's as the case may be, let us pursue it a little further. Pretty plainly, by almost any yardstick smell and taste must share fourth and fifth position. And a good case can be made out for relegating hearing to No. 3: partly because we intuit sounds but not their source, and partly because auditory space perception is largely merely directional and is in any case rudimentary. Then the following are reasons why sight, the most brilliant of the senses, is a strong claimant for No. 1 position. Thus, it is far and away the most used of the senses, being far and away the most informative; for an entire sector of space, with its contents already labelled along with their spatial properties, is in sight with fine differentiation instantaneously presented to view. Indeed, epistemologically we conduct much of our lives through the sense of sight, precisely because it serves up a sector of the world directly to our awareness (as no other sense does). What more could one ask of a sense?

And yet by a different set of criteria touch is a strong contender for first place. It is not just that with touch we perceive material objects and their spatial properties, albeit less finely and abundantly than with sight. (These last, presumably, being

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Consciousness and the World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Consciousness and the World iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I Consciousness 35
  • 1: The Experience 37
  • 2: The Anatomy of Consciousness 68
  • 3: Self-Consciousness and Self-Knowledge 102
  • 4: 'Translucence' 164
  • 5: Consciousness and the Mental Will 200
  • 6: Interiority and Thinking 233
  • Part II the Attention and Perception 265
  • 7: The Attention 275
  • 8: The Attention and Perception (1) 291
  • 9: The Attention and Perception (2) 302
  • 10: Perception and Truth 318
  • 11: The Imagination (1) 339
  • 12: The Imagination (2) 362
  • 13: Imagination and Perception 371
  • 14: Active Attending or a Theory of Mental Action 379
  • Part III Seeing 407
  • 15: 'Blindsight' and the Essence of Seeing 415
  • 16: Seeing the Light 439
  • 17: Sense-Data (1) or the Ways of the Attention 465
  • 18: Sense-Data (2) 502
  • 19: Secondary Qualities 515
  • 20: The 'Perceptual Given' and 'Perceptual Mediators' or the Formation of the Visual Experience 538
  • 21: Appearances 570
  • 22: Perceptually Constituting the Material Object 592
  • Part IV Perception and the Body 621
  • 23: Proprioception and the Body Image 628
  • 24: The Sense of Touch 656
  • Conclusion 681
  • Index 697
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