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On The Soul   


This again shows that what has the power of perceiving the tangible is

seated inside. Only so would there be a complete analogy with all

the other senses. In their case if you place the object on the organ

it is not perceived, here if you place it on the flesh it is

perceived; therefore flesh is not the organ but the medium of touch.

What can be touched are distinctive qualities of body as body; by

such differences I mean those which characterize the elements, viz,

hot cold, dry moist, of which we have spoken earlier in our treatise

on the elements. The organ for the perception of these is that of

touch-that part of the body in which primarily the sense of touch

resides. This is that part which is potentially such as its object

is actually: for all sense-perception is a process of being so

affected; so that that which makes something such as it itself

actually is makes the other such because the other is already

potentially such. That is why when an object of touch is equally hot

and cold or hard and soft we cannot perceive; what we perceive must

have a degree of the sensible quality lying beyond the neutral

point. This implies that the sense itself is a 'mean' between any

two opposite qualities which determine the field of that sense. It

is to this that it owes its power of discerning the objects in that

field. What is 'in the middle' is fitted to discern; relatively to

either extreme it can put itself in the place of the other. As what is

to perceive both white and black must, to begin with, be actually

neither but potentially either (and so with all the other

sense-organs), so the organ of touch must be neither hot nor cold.

Further, as in a sense sight had for its object both what was

visible and what was invisible (and there was a parallel truth about

all the other senses discussed), so touch has for its object both what

is tangible and what is intangible. Here by 'intangible' is meant

(a) what like air possesses some quality of tangible things in a

very slight degree and (b) what possesses it in an excessive degree,

as destructive things do.

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