What kinds of kind are the senses?

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Keeley, Brian L.
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conference paper description
In Western common sense, one speaks of there being five human senses, a claim apparently challenged by the biological and psychological sciences. Part of this challenge comes in the form of claiming the existence of additional senses (proprioception, pain, a human pheromone sense). Part of the challenge comes from positing multiple senses where common sense only speaks of one, such as with the fractionation of “touch” into pressure and temperature senses. One conceptual difficulty in thinking about the number and division of senses is that it's not clear whether the different senses constitute natural kinds and, if not, what kind of kind they are. Should we favor antirealism with respect to the senses, akin to the arguments of some concerning the nature of species or race? I will argue that this first problem is compounded by another: that we ought to be pluralists with respect to the senses—what is meant by the term “sense” varies from context to context, varying even between scientific contexts.