Volume 25, Issue 1, Fall 2020
Seeing Darkness, Hearing Silence
Meta-Sensation and the Limits of Perception in Aristotle’s De anima
This essay addresses the following questions: How does the meta-sensory function of koine aisthesis (sensing-that-I-sense) relate to its other functions? How can a meta-level arise from the immanence of sensation? Can we give an account of meta-sensation that doesn’t assume a transcendental plane? My contention is that (a) the representationalist model doesn’t apply to Aristotle and that (b) Aristotle offers an alternative that is worth exploring. I propose to interpret the meta-sensory power of the koine aisthesis in terms of the sensing of the limits of perception. The sensing of the limit of sensation is the sensing of sensation itself qua potentiality as exemplified by Aristotle’s observations on the experience of seeing darkness or hearing silence. If it is so, sensing-that-I-sense doesn’t require an appeal to a transcendent faculty and arises from the immanent experience of sensation itself.