Photographing sunset at Kippford.

What is a rose?

No-one ...confuses the scent of the rose with the rose. Nor do you identify the scent of the rose with the molecules that come from it to stimulate olfactory receptors in our nostrils. It is obvious that the scent of the rose is neither the rose nor the molecules, but just the impression these create in your mind.

Jeffrey Gray (2004)

Gray is asking why should we attribute a different and privileged relationship to vision. We know the smell is not the rose, but with vision we cling dearly to the idea that the sight is the rose, that we are seeing an independent object directly; an object which also exists when humans are absent. We have known since the century before last that this is not the case, that there is a web of complex links at play between matter and sense, between sense and perception, between perception and conception, and between concept and language. Juliet's plea that a rose 'By any other name would smell as sweet' operates on the last of these links, but every one of the steps in that chain is as profoundly and equally problematic. Smell and sight are equal, both point to a 'rose' across a gulf; a gulf across which perception does not operate.


Gray, J. A.   Consciousness: Creeping up on the hard problem   OUP ISBN 0-19-852 090-5. (p 58)     Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet II ii 44.
The pictured rose has provenance. Grown in the southern Vietnamese city of Đà Lạt, transported a thousand miles to Tĩnh Gia where it was photographed, to be used in this page written in Kirkcudbright, for you to see on the internet. A journey of a 'rose', but a journey only made by human thought.


Saturday 23rd
March 2019

Murphy on duty

Details of the
Greeting Card

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