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Monday, June 12, 2017

The Human Sensory Apparatus

I came across this article on the human sense of smell. It is pretty phenomenal, almost dog-like.

This got me to thinking about other human senses, in light of the Lorquian ideas that the poet should be "profesor en los cinco sentidos corporales."  

Vision: Our vision is intensely chromatic.  We make very fine distinctions between very small variations in color.  We have a very developed ability for secondary visual representation, beginning with the cave paintings and whatever came before that. We can extend and correct vision mechanically, and we can use the part of the brain devoted to vision to "see" with other senses, as I read about recently in the New Yorker. Vision can be used as vehicle for language (reading and writing) and even for musical notation.

Hearing: We have ability to hear with great specificity, and can train the ear to recognize relative pitches. We can process extremely complex semiotic systems (language) through what we hear. A dog can hear higher frequencies, but so what? We don't pine after those frequencies far above the soprano range (I don't at least.)

Taste:  I don't know much about this one yet.  Sorry.

Touch: I don't know much about that either.

A couple of things are key: the senses are cognitively, aesthetically, and affectively rich. We can talk about small gradations of difference because they matter to us. They are the entryway for information necessary for cognition.

There are secondary cognitive tasks that take sensory information as their foundation. The way an architect designs a building for example, through manipulating space in the head. This is a visual task, but it is not mere seeing (if there is such a thing).

Even the deprivation / repression of the senses is cognitively interesting.  The ascetic poet must still talk of "mil gracias derramando."

The senses are the realm of poetry in all its cognitive, affective, and aesthetic richness. We cannot separate out these three aspects from one another. The human sensory apparatus is the base of the anthropology of aesthetics.


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