The View on Human Senses Essay

Submitted By nsama766
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Pages: 7

There are many philosophical and scientific questions that have risen in regards to the senses and the role they play when it comes to differences among human experience. Although the topic has been debated among many individuals in varying professional fields there seems to “be an unbridgeable explanatory gap between what it is like to have a sensory experience and the neural correlates or physical mechanisms involved” (O’Regan et al. 2005). Some believe that to have a sense is to have a unique set of experiences associated with that sense (Keeley 2002). Others believe that the sensory modularity is related to things that in the world that affect behavior, regardless if an individual is consciously aware of the influence (Keeley 2002). Then comes the scientific approach in that senses are strictly related to sense organs and that there is no proof a sense really exists until the organ exists (Keeley 2002). Although there will probably never be universal agreement on what differentiates senses, it is important to acknowledge the different approaches that have been taken to try and understand this controversial topic.
The senses are apart of human life and the experience an individual has in the “involvement of the world in both an ordinary and everyday way” (Mason et al. 2009). For humans, the perceptual experience of the world is divided into modes; in which we receive perception through discrete classes known as sensory modalities (Keeley 2002). These separate sensory modalities are commonly known as vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell (Damann et al. 2008). Aristotle first defined these five exteroceptive senses in the book II De Anima as visus (sight), auditus (hearing), gustus (taste) and contactus (touch) (Damann et al. 2008). Since then, a number of other senses have evolved including a sixth exteroceptive sense generally known as equilibrioreception (balance) (Damann et al. 2008). Along this comes further classification used to identify senses based on measuring stimulation where hearing and balance are known as mechanosensation, smell as chemosensation and sight as photosensation (Damann et al. 2008). From the neurophysiological standpoint, each of the senses communicates with a specific receptor type that sends information through the nerve tracts to the brain in regards to the occurrence of events in the body or the surrounding world (Hinton et al. 2008). In other words, “any part of the nervous system that delivers information about the state of the body or the surrounding environment to the brain, which reaches some level of consciousness, is a sense” (Hinton et al. 2008).
One or more of these different senses contribute to each experience an individual has. For example, when you swim in the ocean you feel the temperature, smell the salt through your nose, and see the water with your eyes. Therefore, these are all different modes of experience. However, throughout history perceptual scientists and philosophers have not been able to give much insight into the nature of the differences between sensory modalities (Keeley 2002). What differentiates the senses from one another? Further, why or what influences the way individuals perceive senses differently?
It may be the case that we will never fully determine why individuals do not perceive senses in the same way, from the point that sensory experiences are essentially private (Hollingham 2004). For instance, you hand one individual a bottle of perfume and ask them what scents they absorb or to describe what the smell reminds them of. Then you took another individual and asked them the exact same questions, the individual’s answers, or furthermore their experience would never be the exact same. According to Paul Bensin, a neuroscientist at the Monell Chemical Senses Centre in Philadelphia: “The world you see, the foods you taste, the odors you smell--all are perceived in a way unique to you” (Hollingham 2004). You cannot taste a strawberry and assume that…