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Herder's Theory of sensorium commune : The Birth of the Concept of Synesthesia


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  • ヘルダーの共通感覚論 : 共感覚概念の誕生
  • ヘルダー ノ キョウツウ カンカクロン キョウカンカク ガイネン ノ タンジョウ

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This paper reflects on Herder's concept of "common sense", understood in terms of sense common to all the senses. His saying "we are a thinking sensorium commune" from his Treatise on the Origin of Language (1772) has received increasing attention in recent years as it is thought to be at the origin of the concept of synesthesia. But why so? According to contemporary medical-psychological research, synesthesia is the concrete experience of fusion of the senses located in the limbic system. This means that synesthesia is the opposite of the Aristotelian conception of common sense, because the latter is the faculty to grasp abstract qualities. Herder's "sensorium commune" has a different connotation. By using this expression he meant that all the senses are originally one and the same (=feeling); they become differentiated from this and work together. This level is prior to both the birth of language and the judgment of beauty. Herder is the one who formulated such a conception of common sense, (which is not the faculty to grasp abstract qualities), for the first time in the history of ideas. This is why his "sensorium commune" is at the origin of the idea of synesthesia.


  • Aesthetics

    Aesthetics 57 (1), 1-14, 2006

    The Japanese Society for Aesthetics

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