Acts of Mind
The Acts of Mind
George Elder Davie

The acts of mind which are involved in our experience of touching things, acts by which we are aware of the things as hard or soft and having certain palpable shapes without our as yet being properly aware of how they function as acts of mind, nevertheless make the person who does the touching aware, in regard to his visual, auditory and olfactory experience, and of the relationship between the eye, the ear, the nose as the respective means or organs of our colour-consciousness. They do so, on the one hand, as related to the body which touch reveals as existing independently of outside these sense organs in our own bodies, and on the other, as qualified by, or as providing a location for, the colours and other qualities known to us as perceived by our sense organs. The important point here is that touch, not sight, which is in a position to inform us of the existence, location and function of our eyes because of the impossibility of our discovering through our own visual experience, e.g. We cannot watch ourselves switch on the light in a completely dark room; the same principle seems to hold for hearing and smell.

But now, what is it that reveals to us the distinction between the finger or whatever organ makes us conscious of tactual feeling, on the one hand, and on the other, the extra-organic body, the existence and nature of what is revealed to us by the organ of touch? Apparently, the knowledge here cannot, in fullest extent, be acquired by us without Some distance-sense like vision which is in a position to tell us what our touch can never tell us, that our experience of the bodies felt-- their shape, hardness etc, -arises when they come into contact with our hand or other organ of touch, and that when we cease to feel the bodies through the sensation of their contact with our organ of touch they still continue to exist as objects of our vision even when they are quite beyond our reach. This knowledge of continuing existence out of reach would also doubtless be in some way learned by hearing and smelling as well as some sight. This information that the bodies exist out of reach is no doubt the key fact for the understanding of the distinction between the act of touch and the object of touch. But what have to note also, is that the tactual sense is what the old philosophers called a general sense (meaning that our whole bodily surface is tactually sensitive), our hands, as well as co-operating with one another as one complex organ of touch in the exploration of the world, can also work as independent organs of touch which can engage in the tactual explorations of one another in the sense that the left can supply us tactually with knowledge of the relations of our right hand to the bodies whose tactual qualities this latter is revealing to us. There are, however, limitations on the knowledge which our tactual organs of sense (hands) acting separately, can give in regard to one another. That is the reason why the key to the paradoxes of touch is given us in regard to ourselves by our eyes and our other distance-senses and not by touch alone.

George Elder Davie, The Crisis of The Democratic Intellect, Polygon, Edinburgh, 1986.
Bury Bury town centre Bury town centre Bury town centre Peel Tower, Holcombe Hill
Peel Tower, Holcombe Hill, from Ramsbottom