Moving Beyond The Traditional 5 Human Senses

It’s time to stop thinking of just five human senses, since neuroscience is revealing we have many more.


Aristotle called them the five “outward wits,” and if you ask most people, they’ll tell you that we have a quintuplet of senses: hearing, sight, smell, touch and taste. They would, in a sense (ahem) be wrong. Neuroscientists, according to British philosopher Barry C. Smith, will give you a number of senses somewhere between 22 and 33. The big thing Aristotle missed, he says, is the way that traditional five interact, creating a variety of additional “outward wits.”

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As a philosopher, Smith is proud of the impact Aristotle’s view has had. It’s proof to him that philosophy isn’t just an academic pursuit, but one that’s had a real impact on the way we view our world and reality. On the other hand, this makes it all the more worrisome that, “One of the things we might be learning through neuroscience and its interaction with philosophy is that we’re not as good at knowing about our own experience as we think we are.” With experience so important as a starting point for philosophical thought, it’s past time for a more neurologically informed perspective.

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