Sat on the dirty ground in an open field, I wonder what the nature of things is. It is best to begin with discovering the certainties of my existence. It seems obvious that I exist. I could not correctly think that I do not exist, or think that I am not thinking. Therefore if I can think, I must exist.
The dominant aspect of my existence is that which I can see. I see the green field before me rolling up to where it suddenly meets the sky. I see the sky’s gradual change in colour from bright pale blue to a darker blue. When I look down I find my own body, and beside it I notice the bits of twigs and small stones in the dirt.
The noises of the field are also apparent to me. I hear the rush of wind, the sharp, melodic singing of a bird, and a coarse scrape as I extend my leg in the dirt.
When I put my hand down on the ground, I notice that I feel the ground with my hand, as I can with my legs and my rear. I can displace more of my body weight onto my hand, which intensifies the deepness of the feeling of touch, meaning I have a sense of pressure. If I lean too hard with my hand, a small stone pushes into my hand and causes a feeling of pain which compels me to stop leaning.
After deciding to pick up some of the dirt, I hold it close to my nose. It has the familiar odour of earth, which I am diffusely aware of inside my nasal cavity, and can be felt more vividly if the smell is strong. I put a bit of the dirt on my tongue, which is accompanied by a sensation of the very same nature as that in my nose, only more densely and vividly. The sense of taste can only be felt on my tongue and is, like smell, a disperse sensation.
When a breeze blows past, I feel a combination of its gentle touch across my body and a unique cold sensation, which has a quality of sharpness. This seems to be relieved or even reversed, to a pleasant softer feeling of warmth when I am bathed in light as the sun emerges from behind the clouds. If I run around while in the warm sunshine I feel warmer until I feel hot, a distinctly uncomfortable feeling which causes me to seek a colder state.
Harder to notice is that I seem to be instinctively aware of where my arms and legs are with respect to the rest of my body. Similarly, if I lie down on the sloped part of the field nearby with my head below my feet, I feel a distinct disorienting sensation, the feeling of which is localised within my head.
These senses, which shall subsequently be referred to as sensory modalities, seem to be indescribably different from one another and each have their own localization of feeling, or their own field in which sensations appear, although these fields can overlap. These sensory fields have the property of acuity, or sensitivity: they can be precise or imprecise, disperse or acute.
Returning to what I see, my intention is to describe in more detail the peculiarities of this sensory modality. Overbearingly apparent is the variety of colours and shapes I see. The blue sky begins at the horizon as a pale, bright blue and gradually and imperceptibly becomes a deeper, darker blue as I look directly overhead. On the ground, beneath the grass lies the soil, composed of specks of dirt, which are distinguished from one another by sharp borders defined by the edge between two shades of brown, one darker than the other. Other pieces of dirt, or regions within a piece of dirt, may differ not in their brightness as above, but in their exact colour, or hue.
Brightness and hue can be demonstrated to be separate properties by approaching the nearby tree. The tree casts a shadow. This shadow appears flat on the ground imposed through an angle, and the grass underneath it appears darker than the grass outside it. When the grass moves out of the shadow, it appears brighter but could not have changed colour. If I hold a green leaf from the tree against a blade of such grass, they both appear green, but different hues, and the leaf too changes to a darker shade when moved under the tree’s shadow. In addition, the leaf has a distinct, singular border against the grass, defined by their differences in hue or by different brightness.
In contrast, the soil has no distinct edge; it appears to be a bland mass of brown, just as the hue of the sky gradually changes in brightness from its horizon to its zenith. But if the soil is looked at closer, the different hues and shades can be seen. Edges therefore represent a boundary in brightness and hue, since the world is not a diffuse blur and only those things which are composed of many tiny particles appear blurred, gradual and lacking distinct borders.
The borders of objects can change together in space, as an object moves. Therefore such movement is a mere change in the position of objects in my visual picture and does not seem to be a unique property of the vision modality.
Further, if I divide white light by shining it through a glass prism, I see that white light is merely my own coinciding perception of all the separate colours, which are far fewer in number than the infinite palette of hues I see around me. If brightness is one submodality which varies one-dimensionally in magnitude, then how many of these purified colours are their own submodality which likewise have a magnitude or intensity? These colours seem to blend continuously into one another. But they cannot all be one submodality of hue which varies with magnitude for they are not all of the same nature. Some areas of the colour band seem distinct or unique from one another. Hence there must be more than one submodality of colour. I can identify six distinct areas, starting from the inside of the refracted band of light: purple, blue, cyan, green, yellow and red. These colours can turn to one another, and when perceived outside of the colour band of diffracted light, red can turn to purple. So we can assume that within the mind these colour groups interact to produce an infinite range of hues between colours. But, if these submodalities interact this would produce twelve colours, and indeed between the colour groups, new hues can be identified, such as those of orange, turquoise and violet. However, six submodalities are not necessary to perceive all of these colours: only three submodalities are required to perceive the six colours originally listed.
In conclusion my visual world is uniquely characterised by innumerable hues of colours and shades of brightness or darkness, with brightness having the property of extent and the hues accounted for by the three colour submodalities, also possessing extent. Its field has a very high degree of acuity.
Two birds sit on adjacent branches in the tree I am looking at, on the left a magpie, on the right a sparrow. When the magpie moves its beak I hear a rattling, chattering croak, more prominent in my left ear than in my right. When the sparrow calls, I conversely hear a punctuated, melodic series of tweets. This time I hear the bird with greater intensity in my right ear, and with the understanding that the noise is coming from in front of me.
The magpie’s croak had a duller quality than the sparrow’s tweet, while the sparrow sounded sharp, such that a sound could not have both of these qualities. This level of “dullness” or “sharpness” of the noise is its frequency. At very low frequencies, sounds can cause mechanical vibration as bass and are heard as having a “deep” quality.
I am able to spatially locate a noise, in that my ears seem to each inform me of its location, although the precision of this ability is less than that for what I can see. I can feel an object move around me by virtue of hearing its position change in a particular direction, because my ears seem to have in place a map on which they can point in any direction around me.
Some more birds sing in the trees on the eaves of the forest far behind me. The frequency and melody of their songs sound identical to those birds nearby, with the exception of being dimmed, as though weakened by their distance from me. If I move away they sound dimmer still, until their songs become inaudible. If I approach the two birds in front of me their songs become fuller, as if strengthened. Should I click my fingers at arm length, the noise created is diminished compared to doing so right next to my ear. All sounds then, which could not have changed in frequency according to their distance from me, have this quality of fullness against weakness, that we call volume.
Some sounds are very short in duration like the sparrow’s individual noises, while others are gentle in arising, such as a wind’s breeze. This represents the speed with which the volume of the sound increases and is not a fundamental property.
Hearing then has the unique submodalities of frequency and volume, both of which have the property of magnitude, or intensity. There is an audible sensory field felt within each ear which locates a noise in space similarly to the visual field, but has less acuity.
The ranged sensory fields, the visual and auditory, have the property of having an inversely asymptotic increase in size or volume with regard to the distance away from the stimulus. For example, if I walk to the nearby tree it will get slowly larger and as I draw near it will gain in size very quickly until it can get no larger when I am right next to it. Similarly, if I hear the wind blowing through trees from a distance and approach, the volume of the noise will get louder until I am sat in the branches of the trees, but no louder than that.
All over and within my body, I can feel soft or hard touches. Unlike sight or hearing, they are felt on the body itself. As I put my hand on the ground, it first brushes past blades of grass. The grass feels soft and offers no rigidity, which is also felt everywhere my body is in contact with my clothes, or the wind, such that the feeling gives an impression of the shape of my body. Once my hand meets the ground and I displace my weight onto it, this sense of gentle touch transitions into a feeling of pressure, a greater extent of feeling. As I press harder on my hand, the feeling of hardness intensifies. This feeling can be reproduced anywhere in my body.
The modality of touch therefore has the unique submodality of pressure, having magnitude, allowing things to feel soft or hard. Its sensory field is universal in the body and has a varying acuity.
A touch is often accompanied in the same sensory field location by a feeling of warm or cold and can be accompanied by pain. If I press too hard into the ground, an additional, dull sensation which is abhorrent and urges me to release pressure on my hand arises. The same sensation occurs if I should lean on a smaller stone, but more severe with a feeling of sharpness and greater urgency. This feeling can also be felt anywhere in my body, however it is most intense upon and after an injury and diminishes the more time passes from the injury, still being present without the affected area being touched. Therefore, despite the identical sensory field as touch, the modality of pain is not a submodality of touch and is characterised by its own unique submodality of pain, which has magnitude, the “sharp” feeling described earlier.
Additionally a similar but tolerable irritating and unpleasant sensation which compels me to scratch can arise on my skin if I am in a position of discomfort. This irritation can arise on its own and varies in degree and also can be felt anywhere in the body.
The pleasant feeling of heat in my body when the sun shines on it transitions to feeling of coldness gradually as I move into a colder area or as the night draws on. Because holding a warm or cold object can result in a warm or cold feeling as well as a feeling of touch in the same area, I could think that this feeling of warmth is a submodality of the touch modality. But as in the case of basking in the sun, I can feel warm or cold without being touched. Sensation of temperature seems less accurate or defined as that of touch or pain, and is less sensitive as temperatures seem to blend into each other whereas touch and pain do not. Thermoception is not always felt, like touch and pain, but is less noticeable or vivid than either. It is only really vivid at extremes. Therefore, the modality of thermoception has the unique submodality of warmth, which has magnitude and is felt within a universal sensory field and is less acute, sensitive and vivid than touch or pain.
I could sample many objects to taste, but some underlying properties of different tastes can be found, and these are sweetness, saltiness, sourness, bitterness and savouriness. Each type of object seems to have a compound taste composed of any of these five basic flavours. Flavours and odours are perceived as having the same fundamental nature, the same submodality. However, I can recall many more individual smells than I can tastes, they have such variety that I cannot list them. While many things can taste partly sweet, savoury, bitter, sour or salty, they are constrained by these submodalities. However, odours each have their own nature in addition to these submodalities and they can only be known by smelling them. In addition each odour and each taste may evoke an inherent sensation of disgust or pleasure or neither. I am able to detect fainter odours in my nose than in my mouth, so olfaction must be more sensitive than gustation because odours are stimulated by less matter. Yet the sensation of soil on my tongue is much more present than its odour in my nose, so smell is less vivid than taste. In both cases the perception of flavour or odour is felt generally in the mouth or nasal cavity. It is easy to think that olfaction is merely taste at a distance, but in fact I can only perceive odours that have reached my nose and has no more a ranged sensory field than touch or taste do.
Therefore gustation and olfaction both have in common the unique submodality of flavour or odour, which has magnitude. The olfaction modality has a sensitive sensory field in the nasal cavity and taste has one which is less sensitive but has stronger vividness on the tongue, and both have low acuity.
Proprioception, my awareness of where my body parts are in relation to my other body parts, has a barely perceptible phenomenology, and its presence can only be noticed if focused on. However it is precise and sensitive, since I am always aware of where my body parts are. The vestibular sensation however, when invoked has a definite feeling which urges the correction of the body posture, but it has little range of magnitude and is insensitive since it can only be felt when off balance.
Some unifying properties of the senses have therefore been identified. All senses depend on time to make sense; they are impossible to imagine without time.
Sensory acuity refers to the level of discernment between different points in the sensory field. For example, my visual sensory acuity is very high (seemingly the highest of all the senses), while the sensory acuity in my fingertips is also high while in my lower back I struggle more to discern between stimuli. By comparison, my auditory sensory acuity is much less precise than my visual acuity.
Each submodality seems also to have a typical vividness, how intense its magnitude most often feels. For instance, the vestibular sense is not very noticeable to me, while pain, or anything in my visual experience will immediately grab my attention. It is the modal magnitude of the submodalities.
Sensations cannot be infinitely large and an infinitely small sensation cannot be felt. Therefore, each submodality has a magnitude range. In the dark, even the tiniest of lights can be seen within my visual field. Similarly, very small things can be felt that come into contact with me, especially for the submodality of pain. By contrast, it is not uncommon for small noises to go unheard and the same applies to tastes. Submodal sensitivity is therefore very difficult to compare between senses, but principally it is the lower limit of perception of the submodality. Upper magnitude limits on the submodalities are bound by pain. Pain begins before the upper limit of a submodality is met.
Certain separate submodalities, including different odours, different tastes and different colours, are of the same fundamental nature, yet different, like separate submodalities within a common theme. The three basic colour submodalities, through which’s magnitude variations and interactions produce the innumerable hues we see, are alike in all fundamental ways but one. Something ineffable differs between them. Similarly, the five gustatory submodalities and the many olfactory submodalities all have the same essence, yet each of them is unique. Unlike the colours however, they do not interact. I can smell both smoke and food at the same time; they overlap, they do not congeal into a new odour. Touch and pain however, are separate submodalities of the same sensory field as they can both be felt in one location within that field, for example the tip of a finger.
Generally, it appears that the more submodalities within one modality, and the greater the interaction between those submodalities, the richer the experience within that modality.
Each sensory modality has its submodalities, some of which are unique to the modality, defining it. Submodalities are identified by separation according to how they feel, and have the property of magnitude in which they vary and all modalities have their sensory fields.
Therefore I propose the sensory modalities, followed by their submodalities and sensory fields to be thus:
|Submodality||Three colours, brightness||Frequency,
other odours (nose).
|Sensory field||Eyes (ranged)||Ears (ranged)||Whole body||Whole body||Whole body||Mouth, nose
|Sensory acuity||Highly acute||Acute||Acute||Acute||Less acute||Imprecise||Imprecise|
|Vividness||Highly vivid||Vivid||Vivid||Highly vivid||Less vivid||Vivid (mouth), less vivid (nose)||Dull/not vivid|
There are however, similar feelings which arise within me that are time-dependent and not dependent on the exterior environment. As the hours go by I begin to feel an uncomfortable gnawing emptiness in the stomach, which compels me to think of, find and ingest food. If I do not drink, I will slowly begin to feel an intense dryness in my mouth which will drive me to find and drink water. I also feel a growing and unpleasant watery sensation in my bladder and a push in my bowels, which urges me to relieve it by finding a place to excrete. Finally, as the day becomes dark, I feel a dulling sensation in the head and body, causing me to desire to lie down somewhere comfortable and close my eyes.
Once again, each inner bodily sensation has its own anatomically-relevant sensory field. Each of the sensations of hunger, needing to urinate or excrete and tiredness are accompanied by an urge which is separate from their pain-like submodalities, and this urge acts as motivation to act to find relief from the sensation.
There are other internal feelings which do not appear to serve a simple biological function. Instead, these are produced in response to something I have seen, heard or thought. They are characterised by their inner richness and they fill me on the inside. These are the emotions and their function is to determine my behaviour, such that the outer behaviour resembles the unseen inner feeling of the emotion. Emotions have a deeper sense of meaning than the senses.
The emotions are many separate submodalities, and disentangling them is exceptionally difficult as many of them occupy the same sensory fields. Additionally, many of these submodalities are alike. The emotional sensory field is typically within the stomach and heart and on occasions, in the arms, throat or head. Their vividness can be all-consuming but varies to the fullest degree possible and their sensitivity is questionable because their stimuli are complex and they can be induced by thought alone.
I will nominate five most basic emotions, or five submodalities of emotion. This shall be based on their distinctness of feeling from one another and that each of the many other emotions seem alike to one of these five. These emotions are love, happiness, sadness, anger and fear. These are the emotions which are most like themselves, but all other emotions have them as a part of their whole. Examples of other emotions related to these basic five are compassion, like love, nostalgia and amusement, like happiness, shame, like sadness, jealousy, like anger, and anxiety and disgust, like fear. Although, I will not try to categorize or rationalise the non-basic emotions any further here. All of these emotions have effects on thought. Anger can severely hinder thought while fear causes it to prioritize survival. Love, sadness and happiness affect thought in other ways.
Other internal feelings which are more mental than visceral yet still have a huge effect on behaviour are concentration and absent-mindedness, motivation and lethargy, and expectation and surprise. These are not truly emotions because they are typically much less vivid than the emotions, and their sensory field is within the mind. Their submodalities are difficult to describe because they are not very vivid and their main effect is to evoke action, thought or inaction. There are other emotions, which could be the result of combinations between the more basic emotions, such as wonder, courage, pride and excitement (accompanied by a rushing feeling of adrenaline), and are likewise difficult to describe. Other examples include familiarity, panic, pity and gratitude.
I notice that sensations conveying a change in the environment from the separate modalities coincide with and give evidence for one another. If I pick up a twig fallen from the nearby tree, its appearance suggests to me how it shall feel, and the tactile impression upon my hands agrees with its appearance. And should I snap the twig, the noise heard gives evidence that the twig is thin and brittle, and I hear, feel and see the twig snap all simultaneously. My sensual impressions are autonomously synchronized together, giving me a sense that I am one self. But, if I sit and meditate, I can experience a greater awareness of my senses and feel greater presence of a process of meta-cognition which oversees them. To contrast, if I take a hallucinogenic drug, I can enter into a depersonalized state which lacks self-awareness and lacks the integration between my senses. Additionally, if I were to lie back on the grass in the warm sun, I could fall asleep and have a dream. During the dream I will experience sensory impressions, perhaps touch and certainly visual silhouettes, but I will lack most of my self-awareness and cross-integration between my senses and thoughts. Therefore, self-awareness, which oversees the senses and all other mental states, and leads one thought to another and one memory to another, is only a malleable mental state employed to facilitate my own individual agency, but it is that which can most accurately be called my-self.
For some, certain letters or numbers appear only in particular colours. Red ink, when drawing symbols, may turn blue for some people when a certain number is drawn. Even fewer people see colours when a particular sound is heard, sometimes colours unknown to anyone else. I, however, only experience synaesthesia which is associative rather than directly perceptual: I associate blueness with coldness, yellow with happiness, particular hues of brown with sophistication and spicy tastes with redness. It could then be suggested that submodalities are not truly separate or independent, and our senses are all just an indescribable mix lacking true boundaries. But they clearly are separate by nature; in both weak and strong forms of synaesthesia, each submodal sensation is still only itself, and is felt within its own sensory field boundary or the imagination, just, for unclear reasons, two sensations are being perceived simultaneously.
The senses also impart to me an awareness that I am in a singular location, due to the fact that I can see both parts of my own body and things which are not my body but can only feel things which touch my body. This also makes me aware that the soil my hand rests on is not me, because I only feel within my hand and not within the soil.
Whenever I decide, I can recall sensations I have perceived in the past, which is the recalling of a memory. Any memory has a diminished sensitivity relative to the sensation that was actually perceived in the modality, as if it is not an authentic sensation. For example I can remember the birds in the tree I listened to, but I cannot hear or see them with the same vividness as I did in the field. It additionally lacks detail from that which was perceived, if I imagine the tree I approached, I can only see within my memory’s eye parts of it at any one moment and not the entire thing. Therefore memory can take on the form of any submodality or sensory field but has diminished acuity and sensitivity.
Imagination operates in much the same way but instead the sensations called upon do not need to have been felt in the past. It can further be distinguished from memory in that I have a distinct feeling of whether or not some sensation has truthfully been felt before when I remember it, while when I imagine a perception I know that I have created it.
As I sit here in the field thinking, each thought has associated with it the imagined sound of my own voice speaking each thought. Apart from that, thinking has a submodality which is phenomenologically thin, that is to say, it can barely be felt. Its vividness is therefore minuscule and its sensory field is within the head. When I am thinking I am trying to make a connection between two or more things in a causal sense, and until that connection is made there is a sense of confusion. Under some conditions a completed thought can be accompanied by a large feeling of surprise, and very occasionally, a strong feeling of understanding. All of this applies equally to the thoughts which do not require narration by my mind’s voice. Examples of such thoughts include performing actions or watching events that I am familiar with. Often the connection a thought makes is made before I verbalise the thought. A further instance would be that if I look down at two bits of grass in the dirt below, I have a non-verbal thought which bestows me the understanding that there are two of them. But if I were to count many this would require language in my thoughts. Thought therefore becomes language as it becomes more intricate, which leads on to logic. Thinking is the only mental state which infers; it makes the connections between the sensations we perceive.