People tend to give so much emphasis on the importance of sight that they consequently ignore the relevance of the other senses. From the earliest prominent philosophers until many of today’s respected thinkers, the idea being upheld is that vision is the greatest of the senses…
By establishing a hierarchy in the appreciation of the senses though, there is also the propensity for man to detach himself from his inherent humanness. Apparently, it is not just vision that makes a human being; it is also the other four senses. Aside from sight, man can only enjoy his existence and make it relevant if he has the senses of hearing, touch, scent, and taste. In fact, he can even discern further on the existence of other things by using not just his eyes but all the other faculties related to the other four senses. This is the point raised by Juhani Pallasmaa in the book The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses. In Vision and Knowledge, which is a definitive portion of the book, the renowned architect provides valuable philosophical inputs on the dominant mode of thinking regarding the designs of buildings and other works of architecture. Pallasmaa categorically expresses the perspective that the overemphasis on vision and the tendency to set aside or to relegate the other senses to a minor role can be seen in the very architectural designs that are prevalent. As a consequence, building designs too are no longer anchored on comprehensive humanness but only one aspect, vision, which is often associated to aesthetics when it comes to architecture. Pallasmaa’s view, however, is not only relevant to architecture. It may even be considered as a current truth seen in how human beings actually treat themselves and everything else that surrounds them. By ignoring the importance of the other four senses, people are predisposed to lose their human rootedness. By losing such rootedness, they drift towards the creation of objects that are not really founded on the most positive and innate characteristics of humans. The feeling of the alienation and detachment not just from others but from one’s own humanness can be attributed to environmental factors. Ironically, such external conditions are not natural but are made by man too. As an architect, Pallasmaa points out that the man’s own products in building design and construction have led to such situation. He writes that “the growing experiences of alienation, detachment, and solitude in the technological world today, for instance, may be related with a certain pathology of the senses.” (284) It is clear that technology is a product of man’s ingenuity. Since it is always associated with the future, technology is a product of man’s vision. The other senses could only appreciate the present; it is vision that is capable of grasping the things that has yet to come. However, alienation and solitude are obvious symptoms of the lack of human rootedness. Human rootedness is the condition in which an individual is in touch with himself and with the world around him. This can only be achieved by relying on all his senses and not just sight. Sight can take one’s attention away from objective conditions but the other senses would certainly keep him grounded. It is true that having sight means having sense of direction. With it, man is able to build and travel from the present to the future. However, “the art of the eye has certainly produced imposing and thought-provoking structures, but it has not facilitated human rootedness in the world.” (Pallasmaa 286) There are beautifully designed buildings that satisfy the sight but have failed to provide contentment to the individual. There are structures that may be visually appealing but also strike a feeling of loneliness and of isolation. There are imposing buildings that convey authority but these also trigger the sense of isolation of those who do not own or control it. All these are proofs that the neglect of other senses and the overemphasis on sight can adversely affect ...
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