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On Sense and Sensible Objects

operation, since the heat which they excite tends to counteract the excessive coolness of the human brain.

Here Aristotle’s teleology seems to run away with him, since he does not mention (and apparently forgets) the class of essentially disagreeable smells until 444 b 29. The function of these is glossed over; we are told that animals are insensitive to such smells, although (like human beings) they are affected by any injurious quality in the substances which emit them. It is difficult to explain away the inconsistency which makes “scents” beneficial qua scents, but “stinks” injurious only incidentally.

Problems of Divisibility. The discussions which form the two last chapters bring out some points of importance. The first problem—Are sensible qualities infinitely divisible?—is satisfactorily answered in the affirmative, with the qualification that they are so potentially (and, it should have been added, incidentally, since it is in fact the coloured object, not the colour itself, that is divisible). The claim that the same argument explains why the species of sensible qualities are limited appears to be false. This view rests on the unproved assumption that the intermediates between contrary extremes are limited in number. The evidence cited by G. R. T. Ross from An. Post. 82 a 21 ff. is, as he concedes, inapplicable here. Aristotle is probably influenced (a) by his belief in the fixity of biological species, (b) by an instinctive dislike of the indeterminate, (c) by the analogy of the musical scale (see above, p. 210).

In answer to the question whether sensation is divisible as a process, Aristotle admits the possibility in the case of hearing and smelling, but reaffirms his

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conviction that sight is instantaneous, i.e., is not a process at all.

The last serious problem—whether more than one object can be perceived simultaneously—is treated at some length. The argument, partly because of textual uncertainties, is not clear in all its details, but it is finally decided that homogeneous objects can be perceived simultaneously as a blend or compound by their proper sense, and heterogeneous objects can be perceived simultaneously as separate by the common sense-faculty, which is essentially one but conceptually analysable in relation to its objects. Thus the doctrine of De Anima III is confirmed.

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.aristotle-parva_naturalia_sense_sensible_objects.1957