What Makes us More Human, Hearing or Seeing?

Aristotle, 437a On Sense and Sensible Objects

“Of the senses, sight is more important for necessities and on its own, but for the mind and for indirect reasons, hearing is more important. For, while the power of sight introduces many differences of every kind because of the fact that all bodies have color of some sort and as a result we perceive things which are common through this sense (And by “common” I mean aspects of shape, size, movement and number), hearing only informs us about difference of sound, and to minor differences in creatures’ voices.

But, indirectly, hearing is most important for understanding. For speech is responsible for learning when it is heard. But it is not this way on its own but indirectly. For it is comprised of words, and and each word is a symbol. As a result, when people are deprived of one of the senses from birth, the blind are wiser than the deaf and mute.”

Αὐτῶν δὲ τούτων πρὸς μὲν τὰ ἀναγκαῖα κρείττων ἡ ὄψις καὶ καθ᾿ αὑτήν, πρὸς δὲ νοῦν καὶ κατὰ συμβεβηκὸς ἡ ἀκοή. διαφορὰς μὲν γὰρ πολλὰς εἰσαγγέλλει καὶ παντοδαπὰς ἡ τῆς ὄψεως δύναμις διὰ τὸ πάντα τὰ σώματα μετέχειν χρώματος, ὥστε καὶ τὰ κοινὰ διὰ ταύτης αἰσθάνεσθαι μάλιστα (λέγω δὲ κοινὰ σχῆμα, μέγεθος, κίνησιν, ἀριθμόν)· ἡ δ᾿ ἀκοὴ τὰς τοῦ ψόφου διαφορὰς μόνον, ὀλίγοις δὲ καὶ τὰς τῆς φωνῆς. κατὰ συμβεβηκὸς δὲ πρὸς φρόνησιν ἡ ἀκοὴ πλεῖστον συμβάλλεται μέρος. ὁ γὰρ λόγος αἴτιός ἐστι τῆς μαθήσεως ἀκουστὸς ὤν, οὐ καθ᾿ αὑτὸν ἀλλὰ κατὰ συμβεβηκός· ἐξ ὀνομάτων γὰρ σύγκειται, τῶν δ᾿ ὀνομάτων ἕκαστον σύμβολόν ἐστιν. διόπερ φρονιμώτεροι τῶν ἐκ γενετῆς ἐστερημένων εἰσὶν ἑκατέρας τῆς αἰσθήσεως οἱ τυφλοὶ τῶν ἐνεῶν καὶ κωφῶν.

Human ear complaining to Nature from the Spiegel der Weisheit manuscript (Salzburg, 1430). <em></dt><dd class=

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