On Aristotle On Sense Perception (Ancient Commentators on Aristotle)
Alexander of Aphrodisias
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In his work On Sense Perception, Aristotle discusses the material conditions of perception, starting with the sense organs and moving to the material basis of colour, flavour and odour. His Pythagorean account of hues as a ratio of dark to light was enthusiastically endorsed by Goethe against Newton as being true to the painter's experience. Aristotle finishes with three problems about continuity. First, in what sense are indefinitely small colour patches or colour variations perceptible? Secondly, which perceptible leap discontinuously like light to fill a whole space, which have to reach one point before another; and do observers of the latter perceive the same thing if they are at different distances? Thirdly, how does the central sense permit genuinely simultaneous, rather than staggered, perception of different objects?
Alexander's highly explanatory commentary is most expansive on these problems of continuity. His battery of objections to vision involving travel, which would lead to collisions and interference by winds, inspired a tradition of grading the five senses in respect of degrees of immateriality and of intentionality. He also introduces us to paradoxes of Diodorus Cronus about the relations of the smallest perceptible to the largest perceptible size.
92,9 osmês dektikon, osphranton houtô ginomenon (Wendland). 352. Alexander means that air and water as media for the perception of smell do not themselves possess flavour. 353. The ‘moist bodies’ are air (cf. n. 346) and water, bodies which were described as transodorant by analogy with transparent bodies at 88,18-89,5. 354. cf. 57,1-2. 355. cf. 82,21-87,4 (commenting on Sens. 4, 442a29-b26). 356. Reading hupo tês enkhumou xêrotêtos paskhein ti in the lacuna in 94,7 (Wendland). 357. GC 2.3,
actually perceptible on its own. The excess which contributes to the perceptibility of the whole body of which it is part is not actually perceptible on its own but is potentially perceptible in the sense that it makes the aforesaid contribution. 405. Reading di’ hênômenôn for di’ hôn in 119,25 (Wendland). 406. Reading presbutera hê for hê hustera in 120,8 (Wendland). 407. Reading meros tou for meros autou in 122,13 (Wendland). 408. Diodorus Cronus, who was active around 300 BC, was an
cause as there are few sounds which go together harmoniously, or that all the colours are generated depending upon certain numbers of the
said to be generated in that way in accordance with the juxtaposition of the invisible
locomotion, but this is not so with visibles. He says: air and water, the media of hearing and smell, through which hearing and smelling come about when