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Purification of the soul ... consists in scorning the pleasures that arise through the senses, in not feasting the eyes on the silly exhibitions of jugglers or on the sight of bodies which gives the spur to sensual pleasure, in not permitting licentious songs to enter through the ears and drench your souls. ~ Basil of Caesarea
Sense ... can perceive neither itself nor intellect and the objects of intellect; whereas intellect knows both. ... Therefore, intellect is ... more perfect than sense. ~ Marsilio Ficino

Senses are physiological capacities of organisms that provide inputs for perception. The senses and their operation, classification and theory are overlapping topics studied by a variety of fields, most notably neuroscience, cognitive psychology (or cognitive science), and philosophy of perception. The nervous system has a specific sensory system or organ, dedicated to each sense. Human beings have a multitude of senses, including the five traditional senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch, and other senses such as balance and the ability to note the passage of time.


  • Such and so many are the notions, then, which we have about Wisdom and the wise. Now of these characteristics that of knowing all things must belong to him who has in the highest degree universal knowledge; for he knows in a sense all the instances that fall under the universal. And these things, the most universal, are on the whole the hardest for men to know; for they are farthest from the senses.
    • Aristotle, Metaphysics 982a20, Complete Works, vol. 2, p. 1554
  • Within me I had a dearth of that inner food which is thyself, my God—although that dearth caused me no hunger. And I remained without any appetite for incorruptible food—not because I was already filled with it, but because the emptier I became the more I loathed it. Because of this my soul was unhealthy; and, full of sores, it exuded itself forth, itching to be scratched by scraping on the things of the senses.
    • Augustine, Confessions, A. Outler, trans. (Dover: 2002), Book 3, Chapter 1, p. 31
  • When the mind is not dissipated upon extraneous things, nor diffused over the world about us through the senses, it withdraws within itself, and of its own accord ascends to the contemplation of God.
  • Purification of the soul ... consists in scorning the pleasures that arise through the senses, in not feasting the eyes on the silly exhibitions of jugglers or on the sight of bodies which gives the spur to sensual pleasure, in not permitting licentious songs to enter through the ears and drench your souls.
  • In dependence on the sensuality element there arises sensual perception; in dependence on sensual perception there arises sensual intention; in dependence on sensual intention there arises sensual desire; in dependence on sensual desire there arises sensual passion; in dependence on sensual passion there arises a sensual quest. Engaged in a sensual quest, the uninstructed worldling conducts himself wrongly in three ways—with body, speech, and mind.
  • If someone asks us which of these is more perfect, intellect or sense, the intelligible or the sensible, we shall promise to answer promptly, if he will first give us an answer to the following question. You know, my inquiring friend, that there is some power in you which has a notion of each of these things—a notion, I say, of intellect itself and of sense, of the intelligible and the sensible. This is evident, for the same power which compares these to each other must at that time in a certain manner see both. Tell me, then, whether a power of this kind belongs to intellect or sense? ...

    Sense, as you yourself have shown, can perceive neither itself nor intellect and the objects of intellect; whereas intellect knows both. ... Therefore, intellect is not only more perfect than sense but is also, after perfection itself, in the highest degree perfect.

    • Marsilio Ficino, Five Questions Concerning the Mind, as translated by J. L. Burroughs in The Renaissance Philosophy of Man (1948), pp. 203-204
  • The cause of Sense, is the Externall Body, or Object, which presseth the organ proper to each Sense, either immediatly, as in the Tast and Touch; or mediately, as in Seeing, Hearing, and Smelling: which pressure, by the mediation of Nerves, and other strings, and membranes of the body, continued inwards to the Brain, and Heart, causeth there a resistance, or counter-pressure, or endeavour of the heart, or deliver it self: which endeavour because Outward, seemeth to be some matter without. And this seeming, or fancy, is that which men call Sense; and consisteth, as to the Eye, in a Light, or Colour figured; To the Eare, in a Sound; To the Nostrill, in an Odour; To the Tongue and Palat, in a Savour; And to the rest of the body, in Heat, Cold, Hardnesse, Softnesse, and such other qualities, as we discern by Feeling. All which qualities called Sensible, are in the object that causeth them, but so many several motions of the matter, by which it presseth our organs diversly. Neither in us that are pressed, are they any thing else, but divers motions; (for motion, produceth nothing but motion.) But their apparence to us is Fancy, the same waking, that dreaming. And as pressing, rubbing, or striking the Eye, makes us fancy a light; and pressing the Eare, produceth a dinne; so do the bodies also we see, or hear, produce the same by their strong, though unobserved action. For if those Colours, and Sounds, were in the Bodies, or Objects that cause them, they could not bee severed from them, as by glasses, and in Ecchoes by reflection, wee see they are; where we know the thing we see, is in one place; the apparence, in another. And though at some certain distance, the reall, and very object seem invested with the fancy it begets in us; Yet still the object is one thing, the image or fancy is another. So that Sense in all cases, is nothing els but originall fancy, caused (as I have said) by the pressure, that is, by the motion, of externall things upon our Eyes, Eares, and other organs thereunto ordained.
    • Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651), Chap. 1: Of Sense
  • It is because we are predominantly purposeful beings that we are perpetually correcting our immediate sensations. But men are free not to be utilitarianly purposeful. They can sometimes be artists, for example. In which case they may like to accept the immediate sensation uncorrected, because it happens to be beautiful.
    • Aldous Huxley, “One and Many,” Do What You Will (1928), p. 11
  • People are plagued by their senses if they act without restraint to attain their desires. ... If one is dragged along as the victim of his natural five senses, his adversities wax like the moon in the bright fortnight.
  • A chariot, king, is a person's body:
    The soul is the driver, the senses his horses;
    Undistracted by his fine horses a driver
    Who is skilled rides happily, if they are trained.
  • Senses out of control suffice to bring one to grief, as untrained and disobedient horses bring a driver to grief on the road. A fool who, guided by his senses, sees profit arising from the unprofitable and the unprofitable from profit mistakes misery for happiness.
  • When the mind maintains awareness, yet does not mingle with the senses, nor the senses with sense impressions, then self-awareness blossoms.
  • Certain good qualities are like the senses; those who lack them can neither appreciate nor understand them.
  • The gentleman knows that whatever is imperfect and unrefined does not deserve praise. ... He makes his eyes not want to see what is not right, makes his ears not want to hear what is not right, makes his mouth not want to speak what is not right, and makes his heart not want to deliberate over what is not right. ... For this reason, power and profit cannot sway him, the masses cannot shift him, and nothing in the world can shake him.
    • Xun Zi, An Exhortation to Learning, in Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy (2001), p. 260

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 697-98.
  • I am almost frightened out of my seven senses.
  • Take care of the sense and the sounds will take care of themselves.
  • He had used the word in its Pickwickian sense … he had merely considered him a humbug in a Pickwickian point of view.
    • Charles Dickens, Pickwick Papers (1836), Chapter I. The quarrel in the Pickwick Club is a literal paraphrase of a scene in the House of Commons during a debate, April 17, 1823, when Brougham and Canning quarreled over an accusation which was decided should be taken as political, not personal.
  • Him of the western dome, whose weighty sense
    Flows in fit words and heavenly eloquence.
    • John Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel (1681), Part I, line 868.
  • They received the use of the five operations of the Lord and in the sixth place he imparted them understanding, and in the seventh speech, an interpreter of the cogitations thereof.
    • Ecclesiasticus, XVII. 5.
  • Be sober, and to doubt prepense,
    These are the sinews of good sense.
  • Rarus enim ferme sensus communis in illa
    • Generally common sense is rare in that (higher) rank.
    • Juvenal, Satires (early 2nd century), VIII. 73.
  • If Poverty is the Mother of Crimes, want of Sense is the Father.
    • Jean de La Bruyère, The Characters or Manners of the Present Age (1688), Volume II, Chapter II.
  • Entre le bon sens et le bon goût il y a la différence de la cause à son effet.
    • Between good sense and good taste there is the difference between cause and effect.
    • Jean de La Bruyère, Les Caractères, XII.
  • Il n'est rien d'inutile aux personnes de sens.
  • Whate'er in her Horizon doth appear,
    She is one Orb of Sense, all Eye, all aiery Ear.
  • What thin partitions sense from thought divide.
    • Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man (1733-34), Epistle I, line 226. And thin partitions do their bounds divide. Dryden—Absalom and Achitophel.
  • Good sense which only is the gift of Heaven,
    And though no science, fairly worth the seven.
  • 'Tis use alone that sanctifies expense
    And splendor borrows all her rays from sense.
  • Fool, 'tis in vain from wit to wit to roam:
    Know, sense, like charity, begins at home.
  • Oft has good nature been the fool's defence,
    And honest meaning gilded want of sense.
  • Huzzaed out of my seven senses.
    • Spectator, No. 616. Nov. 5, 1774.
  • Le sens commun n'est pas si commun.
    • Common sense is not so common.
    • Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, Self Love.
  • Sense is our helmet, wit is but the plume;
    The plume exposes, 'tis our helmet saves.
    Sense is the diamond, weighty, solid, sound;
    When cut by wit, it casts a brighter beam;
    Yet, wit apart, it is a diamond still.
    • Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night VIII, line 1,254.

See also

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