Saturday, May 18, 2013

"A History of the Senses"

Can anything good be learned from a book that takes certified crackpots completely seriously? That's the case with Robert Jütte's book A History of the Senses: From Antiquity to Cyberspace. Among the discredited ideas he finds completely reasonable: the ESP research of the Rhine Institute and other parapsychology research. He's a bit cagy on the subject of aromatherapy and its implications, but a firm believer in homeopathic medicine. (I think he works for a homeopathic training institute.) I'm suspicious about his views on some of the other marginal disciplines too.

My main problem with the book is its diffuseness. It covers all ages, all history, all literature, eastern and western philosophers, and so much more. Of course every sentence isn't untrue: there are lots of insights and quotations that are thought-provoking and worth looking at, and some quite nice historical summaries. But on the whole, I think it's a dubious book.

It did remind me that the five senses are the subject of the fabulous unicorn tapestries in the Cluny Museum in Paris, for which I'm grateful, and I'll have to work on that subject soon.

Cluny Museum:
The Lady and the Unicorn, Sense of Smell (WikiMedia)

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