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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.202) Conclusion
Aristotle on the Common Sense

Pavel Gregoric

Oxford University Press

The conclusion discusses the common sense as envisioned by Aristotle, particularly what he himself designates with the phrase and what we should designate as the Aristotelian notion of the common sense. Aristotle designates three different things with the phrase ‘common sense’ and its variants. An individual sense, namely touch, is called a ‘common sense’ in Historia Animalium I.3 489 a 17. It is so called because it is shared by all animals, for the sense of touch is found in every individual animal of every species. Similarly, all the individual senses indiscriminately are called ‘common senses’ in Metaphysics I.1 I.1 981. In De Anima III.1 Aristotle distinguishes an aspect of the properly functioning individual senses according to types of features perceived, and calls it ‘aisthesis koine’, which is often wrongly interpreted as the ‘common sense’. Finally, the phrase ‘common sense’ is used in De Partibus Animalium IV.10 686 a 31, De Memoria et Reminiscentia 1 450 a 10, and De Anima III.7 431 b 5 consistently as a proper name for the sensory capacity of the soul which comprises the perceptual and the imaginative capacities. Paradoxically, Aristotle never uses the phrase ‘common sense’ to refer to the higher-order perceptual power which emerges from the unity of the perceptual capacity of the soul, which is how the common sense tends to be understood in later tradition. However, he does refer to it as a ‘common power which accompanies the individual senses’ in the De Somno et Vigilia 2. Four distinct functions of the common sense have been identified and discussed: simultaneous perception, perceptual discrimination, control of the senses in waking and sleep, and monitoring of the senses.

Keywords:   De Anima, De Somno et Vigilia, Historia Animalium, Metaphysics, De Partibus Animalium, De Memoria et Reminiscentia, perception, imagination, perceptibles, simultaneous perception, dicrimination, monitoring

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