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Observations placeholder

North Whitehead, Alfred – 09 The 5 senses and Reality



Type of Spiritual Experience


The system that is the five senses in the mind [actual entity human say] receives messages from the body [actual entity body] and more particularly the eye [actual entity eye], the ears [actual entity ear] and so on.  Although all these aggregates are grouped to belong, as an aggregate, to our mind, the system is still one requiring messages between sub-aggregates.

The functions provided by the 5 senses are particular to us.  A dog’s sense of smell is not the same as ours and the way it sees is very different.  A Dog’s eyes are geared to see movement [which is why they become hyperactive with excitement in a car, they are being overloaded with sensory data].

But as Whitehead says, functionally all dogs in the dog class get the same functions – the eternal objects – the dog master package function.

But the sensing of something has actually been achieved by another aggregate than our mind.  To a large extent, our mind is not actually experiencing reality, it is experiencing the reality our body aggregates have given us and as we know if these aggregates are faulty in some way, the messages can be confusing or invalid.  We are also not experiencing the here and now, there is also a delay, the processes to sense maybe in a different time slice to those where we receive them.

We do not in fact experience reality, because the sensory organs and the system of the 5 senses processes the information according to our needs.

A description of the experience


Chapter II The Extensive Continuum

Section I

The bare mathematical potentialities of the extensive continuum require an additional content in order to assume the role of real objects for the subject. This content is supplied by the eternal objects  termed sense-data. These objects are 'given' for the experience of the subject. Their givenness does not arise from the 'decision' of the contemporary entities which are thus objectified. It arises from the functioning of the antecedent physical body of the subject; and this functioning can in its turn be analysed as representing the influence of the more remote past, a past common alike to the subject and to its contemporary actual entities.

Thus these sense-data are eternal objects playing a complex relational role; they connect the actual entities of the past with the actual entities of the contemporary world, and thereby effect objectifications of the contemporary things and of the past things. For instance, we see the contemporary chair, but we see it with our eyes; and we touch the contemporary chair, but we touch it with our hands. Thus colours objectify the chair in one way, and objectify the eyes in another way, as elements in the experience of the subject. Also touch objectifies the chair in one way, and objectifies the hands in another way, as elements in the experience of the subject. But the eyes and the hands are in the past (the almost immediate past) and the chair is in the present.

Section I

The animal body is so constructed that, with rough accuracy and in normal conditions, important emphasis is thus laid upon those regions in the contemporary world which are particularly relevant for the future existence of the enduring object of which the immediate percipient is one occasion.

The source of the experience

North Whitehead, Alfred

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps