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Aristotle on the Common Sense$
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Pavel Gregoric

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199277377

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199277377.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Aristotle on the Common Sense

Pavel Gregoric

Oxford University Press

If your five senses — sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch — were completely independent from one another, you would not be a creature that wakes or sleeps because your senses would not all be operating in the state of waking or all resting in the state of sleep. Your body would be housing five yous, a visual you, an auditory you, an olfactory you, and so forth. Should your perceptual abilities be accompanied by other capacities, such as imagination and memory, these capacities would be bereft of their unity. Your body simply would not be able to serve all the yous at once, and there would be no means of reaching an agreement as to which you is going to use the body at what time. This scenario is developed from a suggestion made by Plato in his dialogue Theaetetus. The unpalatable suggestion is that the senses are sitting in us ‘as in a wooden horse’. Aristotle proposed to avoid this scenario by postulating a perceptual power over and above the five senses which monitors their states and co-ordinates their reports. This perceptual power is known as the ‘common sense’. Plato's Theaetetus is examined to see why Aristotle decided to avoid the described scenario in this particular way, rather than in the way proposed by his master.

Keywords:   Aristotle, Plato, Theaetetus, common sense, wooden horse, perception, imagination, consciousness, cognition

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