Saturday, May 9, 2009

Silence of the Lambs analysis - part 39: Augustine on the senses; rel. to Lecter


St. Augustine by Peter Paul Rubens. [Image from the Wikipedia 'Augustine of Hippo' page, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.]

In part 38 of the analysis, a few examples of how bodily senses (sight, smell, etc.) are used in the movie were pointed out. As it turns out, St. Augustine has something to say about the five senses. Below, I quote portions of three different chapters from Book 10 of his Confessions (Outler translation):

[10.7] "But there is, besides the power by which I animate my body, another by which I endow my flesh with sense - a power the lord has provided for me, commanding that the eye is not to hear and the ear is not to see, but that I am to see by the eye and hear by the ear; and giving to each of the other senses its own proper place and function, through the diversity of which I, the single mind, act."

[10.8] "[L]ight and all colors and forms of bodies [enter the memory] through the eyes; sounds of all kinds by the ears; all smells by the passages of the nostrils; all flavors by the gate of the mouth; by the sensation of the whole body, there is brought in what is hard or soft, hot or cold, smooth or rough, heavy or light, whether external or internal to the body. The vast cave of memory, with its numerous and mysterious recesses, receives all these things and stores them up, to be recalled and brought forth when required. Each experience enters by its own door, and is stored up in the memory. ..."

[10.35] "For seeing is a function of the eyes; yet we also use this word for the other senses as well, when we exercise them in the search for knowledge. We do not say, "Listen how it glows," "Smell how it glistens," "Taste how it shines," or "Feel how it flashes," since all of these are said to be seen. And we do not simply say "See how it shines," which only the eyes can perceive; but we also say "See how it sounds, see how it smells, see how it tastes, see how hard it is." Thus, as we have said before, the whole round of sensory experience is called "the lust of the eyes" because the function of seeing, in which the eyes have the principle role, is applied by analogy to the other senses when they are seeking after any kind of knowledge."

Note a few things about the above: in the first passage, there is a distinction being made between parts of the physical body (the sense organs) on the one hand, and 'control' of the body (that which animates or powers it) on the other. This is reminiscent of Marcus Aurelius on material and cause.

In the second excerpt, a connection is made between the senses and memory. This brings to mind Lecter's statement, "Memory, agent Starling, is what I have instead of a view." Since Lecter is imprisoned alone in his cell, under very high security, his sensory experiences are very limited, so he is dependent upon his memories of them to 'experience' the satisfactions that they provide.

As shown at left, one of the drawings lying on a table in Lecter's cell, is the view of the Duomo from the Belvedere in Florence, Italy. The point is that Lecter drew it from memory, not from an actual recent viewing.

Finally, in the third passage quoted, the subject is the dominance of vision over all of man's other senses. This pertains to the movie in that visual stimuli such as colors and lights are very prominent therein (for example, as discussed in the posts on color mixing).

The Confessions of Saint Augustine (Outler)


1) In certain instances it has been determined that the creators of some of the productions analyzed on this blog, and/or the creators of source material(s) used in the making of these productions, may be making negative statements about certain segments of society in their productions. These statements should be taken as expressing the opinions of no one other than the creators.

2) This blog is not associated with any of the studios, creators, authors, publishers, directors, actors, musicians, writers, editors, crew, staff, agents, or any other persons or entities involved at any stage in the making of any of the media productions or source materials that are analyzed, mentioned, or referenced herein.

3) In keeping with the policies of the filmmakers, authors, studios, writers, publishers, and musicians, that have created the productions (and their source materials) that are analyzed, mentioned, or referenced on this blog, any similarity of the characters in these films or source materials to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


All images on this blog are used solely for non-commercial purposes of analysis, review, and critique.

All Wikipedia content on this blog, and any edits made to it, are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Marcus Aurelius's Meditations - from Wikisource (except where otherwise noted); portions from Wikisource used on this blog are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Saint Augustine's Confessions and City of God from Wikisource (except where otherwise noted); portions from Wikisource used on this blog are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Saint Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica from the 'Logos Virtual Library' website (except where otherwise noted), compiled and edited by Darren L. Slider; believed to be in public domain.