When we talk about scientific methods, we are talking basically about how we gather and analyze objective data. Thus, validity of method is something that can be held to objective standards. Nevertheless, the data points are only a part of the “big picture” of scientific practice. Most of the time is spent communicating about data and analyses, rather than collecting and analyzing; and language is a far more slippery tool than any scientific instrument. Furthermore, as we know from the research of George Lakoff, we are capable of lapsing into instances of what Giambattista Vico called “poetic wisdom,” often without explicitly recognizing them. (Lakoff’s favorite example is that we use metaphorical language as if it were literal.)
In this context we should consider the following statement by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the founder of the Futurist movement:
Everybody can feel that sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste are modifications of a single, highly perceptive sense: the sense of touch, which splits into different ways and organizes into different points.
Let us give Marinetti the benefit of the doubt and assume that he knows the rudiments of the excitation of neurons and the fact that such excitations can pass from one neuron to another. One might then say that neuronal excitation may be viewed as a generalization of touch, particularly since such excitation does not depend on direct physical contact. That being the case, Marinetti’s reductive hypothesis is not as crackpot as it may seem at first glance. This does not escalate him to the ranks of what society calls “serious scientists;” but it means that, on a plane other than the simplest literal interpretation, he may have been on to something that we now recognize as a perfectly legitimate way to approach the processing of sensory signals.