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Sounds and PerceptionNew Philosophical Essays$
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Matthew Nudds and Casey O'Callaghan

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199282968

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199282968.001.0001

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Hearing Silence: The Perception and Introspection of Absences 1

Hearing Silence: The Perception and Introspection of Absences 1

(p.126) 7 Hearing Silence: The Perception and Introspection of Absences1
Sounds and Perception

Roy Sorensen (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

In the course of demarcating the senses, Aristotle defined sound in De Anima as the proper object of hearing: ‘sight has colour, hearing sound, and taste flavour’ (II.6, 418b13). Sound cannot be seen, tasted, smelled, or felt. And nothing other than sound can be directly heard. All subsequent commentators agree, often characterizing the principle as an analytic truth. This chapter argues that there is a single exception. We hear silence, which is the absence of sounds. Silence cannot be seen, tasted, smelled, or felt. It can only be heard. It is argued that hearing silence is the successful perception of the absence of a sound, not the failure to hear a sound.

Keywords:   sounds, hearing, De Anima, Aristotle, silence, absence, perception

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