Philosophical Studies

, Volume 153, Issue 1, pp 123–142 | Cite as

Taxonomising the senses

  • Fiona MacphersonEmail author


I argue that we should reject the sparse view that there are or could be only a small number of rather distinct senses. When one appreciates this then one can see that there is no need to choose between the standard criteria that have been proposed as ways of individuating the senses—representation, phenomenal character, proximal stimulus and sense organ—or any other criteria that one may deem important. Rather, one can use these criteria in conjunction to form a fine-grained taxonomy of the senses. We can think of these criteria as defining a multidimensional space within which we can locate each of the senses that we are familiar with and which also defines the space of possible senses there could be.


Senses Perception Experiences Phenomenal character Representation Proximal stimulus Sense organ 



Versions of this paper have been given at the Consciousness at the Beach 3 Workshop, Centre for Consciousness, Australian National University, Kioloa Campus; an interdisciplinary workshop on the senses arranged by the Philosophy Department, University of Toronto at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, France in 2009; and at the Pacific APA in San Francisco in 2010. I would like to thank the participants and in addition, Michael Brady, Jon Bird, Barry Smith and Susanna Siegel. The material in this paper comprises a portion of my “Introduction: Individuating the Senses” forthcoming in F. Macpherson (ed.) The Senses: Classical and Contemporary Philosophical Perspectives, Oxford University Press.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowScotland, UK

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