30 April 2005

"In Defense of Inner Sense": text and translations

"Inner sense theory", Johansen began his BACAP lecture, "holds that we are conscious of our own perceptions by virtue of further perceptions which have those first perceptions as their object." He claimed that a correct analysis of De Anima 3.2.425 b12-25 reveals that Aristotle held such a theory.

Inner sense theory stands in contrast to Victor Caston's view ("Aristotle on Consciousness"), according to which each act of sensation of each sense organ carries with it, inherently, an aspect of reflexivity, so that it is an act of perception of a proper sensible, and an act of perceiving that we perceive, at the same time. Caston claims that it's his view that is supported by a correct analysis of that De Anima passage.

I propose to test these views by placing them in opposition to each other. In this case, the exercise will not be solely my own construction, since many of Johansen's remarks in his lecture were explicitly directed against Caston's interpretation and arguments.

Here I give the necessary materials: the Greek text, and the translations of Johansen and Caston. It will be seen that (roughly) Johansen takes the passage to be principally about faculties or sense-capacities (a 'capacity reading'); Caston takes it to be principally about the structure of perceptions (an 'activity reading').

)Epei\ d' ai0sqano&meqa o3ti o(rw~men kai\ a)kou&omen, a)na&gkh

h2 th~ o1yei ai0sqa&nesqai o3ti o(ra~, h2 e9te/ra. a)ll' h( au)th_ e1stai
th~j o1yewj kai\ tou~ u(pokeime/nou xrw&matoj, w3ste h2 du&o tou~
au)tou~ e1sontai h2 au)th_ au(th~j. e1ti d' ei0 kai\ e9te/ra ei1h h( th~j (15)
o1yewj ai1sqhsij, h2 ei0j a1peiron ei]sin h2 au)th& tij e1stai au(th~j:
w3st' e0pi\ th~j prw&thj tou~to poihte/on. e1xei d' a)pori/an: ei0 ga_r
to_ th~ o1yei ai0sqa&nesqai/ e0stin o(ra~n, o(ra~tai de\ xrw~ma h2 to_
e1xon, ei0 o1yetai/ tij to_ o(rw~n, kai\ xrw~ma e3cei to_ o(rw~n prw~-
ton. fanero_n toi/nun o3ti ou)x e4n to_ th~ o1yei ai0sqa&nesqai: kai\ (20)
ga_r o3tan mh_ o(rw~men, th~ o1yei kri/nomen kai\ to_ sko&toj kai\
to_ fw~j, a)ll' ou)x w(sau&twj. e1ti de\ kai\ to_ o(rw~n e1stin w(j
kexrwma&tistai: to_ ga_r ai0sqhth&rion dektiko_n tou~ ai0sqhtou~ a1neu
th~j u3lhj e3kaston: dio_ kai\ a)pelqo&ntwn tw~n ai0sqhtw~n e1neisin
ai0sqh&seij kai\ fantasi/ai e0n toi=j ai0sqhthri/oij.

Since we perceive that we see and hear, it is necessary [b12] that one perceives that one sees either by sight (opsis) or by some other [sense]. But the same [sense] will be [b13] of sight and the underlying colour, so that either there will be two [senses] [b14] of the same thing or it [the sense] will be of itself. And furthermore, if indeed the sense of sight were different [b15], then either it will go on to infinity or some sense will be of itself, [b16] so that we should do this in the case of the first [sense]. But there is a puzzle (aporia): for if [b17] perceiving by sight is seeing, and colour or what [b18] has colour is seen, [then] something is going to see what sees (to horôn), then what first sees [or the first thing that sees] [b19] will also have colour. However, it is clear that perceiving by sight is not one thing; for even [b20] when we are not seeing, we discriminate both darkness and [b21] light by sight, but not in the same way. Moreover, what sees is actually (kai) coloured in a way [b22]: for the sense-organ is in each case receptive of the sense-object without [b23] the matter. That is why perceptions (aisthêseis) and appearances (phantasiai) are present in the sense-organs [b24] even when the sense-objects have departed.’

CASTON (b12-16 only)
Since we perceive that we see and hear, it is necessary either by means of the seeing that one perceives that one sees or by another [perception]. But the same [perception] will be both of the seeing and of the colour that underlies it, with the result that either two [perceptions] will be of the same thing, or it [sc. the perception] will be of itself. Further, if the perception of seeing is a different [perception], either this will proceed to infinity or some [perception] will be of itself; so that we ought to posit this in the first instance.

(I was not able to find in Caston's paper a translation of the remainder of the passage in accordance with the 'activity reading' .)


Anonymous said...

Just a little correction, it's 425b 12-26, not 435.

Anonymous said...

Thanks; it's been changed. 

Posted by Michael Pakaluk