10 May 2005

Awareness, Propriaception, Noticing

I'm increasingly convinced that the following are independent questions:

1. Is DA 3.2 425b12-7 about capacities or activities?

2. Does Aristotle think that our perceiving that we see is 'built into the structure of consciousness' or that it is the work of a separate aspect or part of the faculty of sight (an 'inner' or 'common' sense), the activity of which is in principle separable from the seeing of color?
Here's why. Suppose DA 3.2 425b12-17 is about capacities. Then it's claiming that we do not need to postulate any faculty besides vision to account for our perceiving that we see. But then consider a particular act of seeing, a particular actualization of this faculty: must this actualization include the perceiving that one sees? --The question is not answered by our simply accepting the capacity reading.

Again, suppose DA 3.2 425b12-7 is about activities. Then it's claiming that each act of perceiving a color includes also an act of perceiving that one sees that color. But are those two acts, or a single act? Furthermore, is the latter acquired (habitual, typical) or inherent? --The question is not answered by our simply accepting the activity reading. (I was suggesting in my post yesterday that it looks as though the question gets answered, because of a particular choice in translation that Caston adopts, which seems far from required or even natural.)

Here's another way of putting the point. The passage under consideration begins: "Since we perceive that we see and hear". As Kosman pointed out, everything hinges on what you take this to be. That's the explanandum. And then:
  • If you take Aristotle to be saying "since we are aware that we see and hear, always, whenever we see and hear..", then you get Caston's view. (And, indeed, in his article, Caston sets up this understanding by first discussing Physics 7.2 244b12-245a2, which he takes to be a reference to 'perceptual awareness.')
  • If you take Aristotle to be saying "since that we are seeing or hearing is something that we sense as well" (i.e. instead of infer or believe), then you get Osborne's view.
  • If you take Aristotle to be saying, "since we are capable of noticing that we are seeing or hearing", then you get Johansen's view.
But all of these views are consistent with an 'activity' or 'capacity' reading, because they depend, rather, on how one takes the line that motivates the inquiry in the first place. So the dispute over these two readings ends up being something of a red herring. Caston might concede all of Johansen's points and still hold out for his 'structure of consciousness' view.

Readers of Dissoi Blogoi who have been following this controversy so far: What is your sense of the matter? Do you agree or disagree with this assessment? Let me know.