The Five Senses

Quotations, Sayings, Quips, Poems, Reflections, Notes, Facts


Compiled with Comments by Michael P. Garofalo, M.S. 


Body-Mind, Embodied Cognition, Somaesthetics, Somatic Psychology and Philosophy

Touch, Fingers, Hands, Skin, Feeling, Proprioperception

Vision, Seeing, Sight, Perspective, Watching, Observing

Hearing, Sounds, Silence, Speech, Music, Noise

Smell, Scents, Fragrance, Odors, Perfume

Taste, Flavor, Tasting

The 31 Senses

Memory, Remembrance, Sensations, Perceptions, Learning

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"The object of our lives is to look at, listen to, touch, taste things.  Without them, - these sticks, stones, feathers, shells, - there is no Deity."
R. H. Blyth, Zen in English Literature and Oriental Classics, p. 144.


"We live on the leash of our senses.  There is no way in which to understand the world without first detecting it through the radar-net of our senses."  
-  Diane Ackerman



The 31 Senses


From Guy Murchie’s The Seven Mysteries of Life, An Exploration in Science & Philosophy.  Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company, c1978.  Pages 178-180.  Guy Murchie, 1907- 1997.  

"A lot of people seem to think there can be none but the five traditional senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. In a way they are right, I suppose, if you assume that only the ones most obvious to humans are to be included. But surely there are more senses in Heaven and Earth than you or I have dreamed of. And I have increasingly had the feeling that the time has come when someone should pioneer into the subject as a whole with a fresh, untrammeled outlook. So, out of more than idle curiosity, I've jotted down a list of all I could think of and it came to 48, not even counting the "stage-in-space sense" previously described. Then, by combining the most closely related ones, I trimmed the number to 32. Of course a lot depends on how one defines a sense, and on arbitrary choices, like whether you decide to lump the sense of warmth and coolness or the sense of dryness and dampness in with the sense of feeling, and whether you want to include the senses (or are they instincts?) that animals, plants and (conceivably) rocks have but most humans evidently don't.

"Here is my list of the principal senses of all creatures:


The Radiation Senses

1.  Sight, which, I should think, would include seeing polarized light and seeing without eyes, such as the heliotropism or sun sense of plants.

2.  The sense of awareness of one’s own visibility or invisibility and the consequent competence to advertise or to camouflage via pigmentation control, luminescence, transparency, screening, behavior, etc.

3.  Sensitivity to radiation other than visible light, including radio waves, x-rays, gamma rays, etc., but omitting most of the temperature and electromagnetic senses.

4. Temperature sense, including ability to insulate, hibernate, estivate, etc. This sense is known to have its own separate nerve networks.

5.  Electromagnetic sense, which includes the ability to generate current (as in the electric eel), awareness of magnetic polarity (possessed by many insects) and a general sensitivity to electromagnetic fields.

The Feeling Senses

6. Hearing, including sonar and the detection of infra- and ultrasonic frequencies beyond ears.

7. Awareness of pressure, particularly underground and underwater, as through the lateral line organ of fish, the earth tremor sense of burrowers, the barometric sense, etc.

8. Feel, particularly touch on the skin and the proprioceptive awareness of intra- and intermuscular motion, tickling, vibration sense (such as the spider feels), cognition of heartbeat, blood circulation, breathing, etc.

9. The sense of weight and balance.

10. Space or proximity sense.

11. Coriolis sense, or awareness of effects of the rotation of the earth.

The Chemical Senses

12. Smell, with and beyond the nose.

13. Taste, with and beyond the tongue or mouth.

14. Appetite, hunger and the urge to hunt, kill or otherwise obtain food.

15. Humidity sense, including thirst, evaporation control and the acumen to find water or evade a flood.

The Mental Senses

16. Pain: external, internal, mental or spiritual distress, or any combination of these, including the impulse and capacity to weep.

17. The sense of fear, the dread of injury or death, of attack by vicious enemies, of suffocation, falling, bleeding, disease and other dangers.

18. The procreative urge, which includes sex awareness, courting (perhaps involving love), mating, nesting, brooding, parturition, maternity, paternity and raising the young.

19. The sense of play, sport, humor, pleasure and laughter.

20. Time sense and, most specifically, the so-called biological clock.

21. Navigation sense, including the detailed awareness of land- and seascapes, of the positions of sun, moon and stars, of time, of electromagnetic fields, proximity to objects, probably Coriolis and other sensitivities still undefined.

22. Domineering and territorial sense, including the capacity to repel, intimidate or exploit other creatures by fighting, predation, parasitism, domestication or slavery.

23. Colonizing sense, including the receptive awareness of one's fellow creatures, of parasites, slaves, hosts, symbionts and congregating with them, sometimes to the degree of being absorbed into a super-organism.

24. Horticultural sense and the ability to cultivate crops, as is done by ants who grow fungus, or by fungus that farms algae.

25. Language and articulation sense, used to express feelings and convey information in every medium from the bees' dance to human literature.

26. Reasoning, including memory and the capacity for logic and science.

27. Intuition or subconscious deduction.

28. Esthetic sense, including creativity and appreciation of music, literature, drama, of graphic and other arts.

29. Psychic capacity, such as foreknowledge, clairvoyance, clairaudience, psychokinesis, astral projection and possibly certain animal instincts and plant sensitivities.

30. Hypnotic power: the capacity to hypnotize other creatures.

31. Relaxation and sleep, including dreaming, meditation, brainwave awareness and other less-than-conscious states of mind like pupation, which involves cocoon building, metamorphoses and, from some viewpoints, dying.

The Spiritual Sense

32.  Spiritual sense, including conscience, capacity for sublime love, ecstasy, a sense of sin, profound sorrow, sacrifice and, in rare cases, cosmic consciousness."



"Furthermore, the very notion that there are five senses is purely arbitrary (see Classen 1993; Geurts 2003). Why only five? If we wished to, it seems we could at least identify eight, and perhaps divide them into two categories. The taken-for-granted five senses belong to those sensory modes that provide information about the world external to the individual. Those are our exteroceptive senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. It is easy enough to identify at least three more senses that provide information about the internal world of the human body, our interoceptive senses: the sense of pain (nociception), thirst, and hunger. Yet, eight is not nearly enough. What about our sense of our own internal body’s muscles and organs (proprioception)? What about the sensations that mediate between conditions in the external world and internal body, such as our sense of balance (equilibrioception), movement (kinesthesia), temperature (thermoception), or even our sense of time (at least in terms of polychronicity and monochronicity, if not more)? Now our list has grown from five senses to thirteen, and still I experience senses that are not clearly accounted for in these categories. After all, which category accounts for the sensual experience of orgasm? Assuming I can come up with an answer, which is doubtful, it is unlikely that we would agree—especially considering that even within the experiences of one individual, not all orgasms are the same. Or perhaps we could even suggest that to divide the senses into categories is itself an arbitrary act that reproduces our cultural codes. In fact, why divide at all “external” from “internal” senses? Is that not, after all, an exercise in atomism and individualism so typical of Western culture? And because most of our sensations, and thus our senses, depend so heavily on the language that we use to make sense of their operation (Geurts 2003), should we then not treat the senses in their own cultural contexts and within “their own foundational schemas through which the world is… sensed as a continuous whole” (Edwards, Gosden, and Phillips 2006:6)? And finally, are we even so sure that sensations can be so clearly separated from emotions, or even from the material things that are the object of sensations (see Geurts 2003)? What we do know for sure is that to think of the senses as only confined to five exteroceptive sensory modes is to grossly oversimplify human sensual experience, both within anyone culture and across cultures. Maybe that is the key point: modes of sensing inevitably blend and blur into one another, thus making their alleged boundaries fuzzy and indistinct in experience. It is this ecology of sensual relations that should be the focus of our attention (see Howes 2003; Ingold 2000)."
Somatic Work: Toward A Sociology of the Senses, Phillip Vannini, Dennis Waskul, and Simon Gottschalk




Research by
Michael P. Garofalo, M.S.

Green Way Research, Red Bluff, California

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This webpage was first distributed online on March 20, 2013.

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