Fusion of the Senses : updated version

This revised version of the Fusion of our senses-model starts with the concepts movement and orientation in the center, to underline embodied reasoning. It then rotates clockwise from the top through Tactile/touch, Haptic/grasp, Audio/ hear, Olfactory/smell, Gustatory/taste, Visual/see.

According to Richard Shusterman, in 1734 Alexander Baumgarten recognised the importance of aesthetic reasoning to “promote greater knowledge”during scientific studies. Baumgarten understood the value of developing sensory skills that improved an individual’s ability to discern relationships between features, and to develop improvisation and imaginative capacity. Baumgarten suggested that aesthetic reasoning could offer ways to go beyond the established norms of order that scientists often rely on. He also proposed that aesthetic experience prepares individuals to deal with relative values as a useful way of reasoning when one deals with new territories that challenge conventions (Shusterman 2000, 263–7 [1992]).


The mind is inherently embodied, reason is shaped by the body, and since most thought is unconscious, the

mind cannot know simply by self-reflection. Empirical study is necessary. (Lakoff and Johnson 1999, 5)

Embodiment is a growing field of study that recognizes the role the body and perception play in developing the

way we conceptualize the world. Strong evidence from scientific research is challenging the idea that the mind is

separated from the body (Norman 2002 [1988]). Instead, scientists such as neurologist Antonio Damasio (2005

[1994]) state that our ways of reasoning arise from the commonalities between our mind and body immersed in

the environment we live in. Through perception and motor activity, we build up a pool of experience that forms our

cognitive unconscious (see figure 9). This pool of unconsciousness greatly affects how we act and think. As we

shift our understanding of how reason is shaped through embodied experiences, society is changing the way it looks

at the fields of art, design, and crafts. These fields have a long history of gaining knowledge through embodied

processes and therefore have a wealth of experience to share with the academic world.

Today there is no firm agreement as to how many senses we have. According to Passar and Smith (2001 chapter 4), the entire sensory system includes: vision, hearing, taste, smell, touch, kinaesthetic (move), haptic (grasp) and equilibrioception senses, involving single and multiple organs. Recent research in perception shows that our senses are task-oriented and interact together in accordance with performance (Motluk 2001). Since my work builds on Alexander Baumgarten’s definition of aesthetics as the fusing together of our senses (Shusterman 1992/2000 p. 263-7),

Questioning Vision

It is through movement and interaction we can fuse our senses together . Dewey (1980, 118–25 [1934]) claims that “vision is a spectator,” offering only a passive view of our world. This spectator view has dominated philosophy, aesthetics, and education for centuries (Levin 1999). Today, there is greater awareness of how our conceptual language has been controlled by visual metaphors that reflect a shallow experience (Smith 1999). In line with this reasoning, I have come to question the way vision has previously dominated my theoretical aesthetic approach.