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Are you thinking what I’m thinking? September 14, 2011

Posted by HSDC in Uncategorized.
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If from the readings I have learned anything, it is that the senses are truly indefinable. No one is certain how many senses there actually are, Aristotle categorized the sensorium into the now common five of hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste. However “Galen said there were six, Darwin thought there were 12 and Von Frey reduced them down to eight” (Synnott 155). Moreover the matter in which one defines the senses is dependent on a variety of different cultural factors; therefore each person has their own understanding of what the senses are and what they mean.  For example as Cassen states the Hausa of Nigeria recognize two general senses of visual perception and non-visual perception. To me the interesting aspect of this is how different cultures interpret the senses and what they mean that individual. I find that giving the senses a set number based on biological means or otherwise is redundant because what the senses mean and how they are interpreted will keep changing over time. Most likely this conflict arises from the human nature to categorize the world around us, think about it, we divide the world into the animal kingdom, plant kingdom  etc.  What do we stand to gain from this categorization of the senses? Will it somehow bring about a cure for deafness or blindness, probably not yet throughout history humans have been attempting to categorize the sensorium. The importance of the individual senses has varied throughout history “The history of the senses…reminds anthropologists that sensory models are not static, but develop and change over time. Within the West, as noted earlier, a rise can be traced in the cultural importance of sight and a decline in the importance of the non-visual senses from the middle ages to modernity”( Cassen 409).  The senses are vastly important to the human experience, they are our window into the world around us, and as such people view the world differently based on individual cultural backgrounds. Therefore I now understand all that anthropology has to gain from recognizing the importance of the senses and how this realization can help in conducting more informed fieldwork. Anthropologist can now factor in what it truly “feels” like to live in another sensory world.  However it is impossible to classify and accurately record all that the senses do and therefore it just adds to the unique nature of anthropology as a discipline that try’s very hard to be objective but is always susceptible to subjective interpretation. In my mind the issues surrounding the senses, the number of senses, their importance, and their meaning is a matter that is beyond human classification because of the complicated nature of the human brain, the mind resists such simplicity.

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1. Mr WordPress - September 14, 2011

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2. ds3560 - September 14, 2011

I just read your blog and I have to say I completely agree with you. I personally don’t see why there should be a specific number just based on senses that correspond with body parts. It seems logical but can kinda seem discriminatory in a way… considering there are so many different cultures and races with people that have so many different views and beliefs. It just seems like another form of implementation of a hierarchical system where the Western sensory model would end up being at the top. It just seems really pointless and redundant especially since everything changes over time like you said and it definitely won’t be bringing about some sort of cure for deafness or blindness that’s for sure. I feel like being so specific numerically would just lead to an unnecessary debate. I personally think that all that matters is that the senses lead to experience and different perceptions from those experiences that can just help us understand ourselves better and the world around us.


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