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Experiencing Things Together: What Is The Problem?

Research paper by Peter Baumann

Indexed on: 20 Feb '07Published on: 20 Feb '07Published in: Erkenntnis



Abstract

Suppose someone hears a loud noise and at the same time sees a yellow flash. It seems hard to deny that the person can experience loudness and yellowness together. However, since loudness is experienced by the auditory sense whereas yellowness is experienced by the visual sense it also seems hard to explain how – given the difference between the senses – loudness and yellowness could possibly be experienced together. What is the solution to this problem? I start with some short remarks about what is not the problem (Section 2) and continue to argue that, given one sense of “experiencing two qualities together”, there is no philosophical problem at all (Section 3). An objection against this (Section 4) says that all this only concerns one kind of consciousness, “access consciousness”, while what is relevant here is a different kind of consciousness, namely “phenomenal consciousness”. I answer this objection by presenting another aspect of the unity of consciousness (Section 5). This case raises puzzling further questions (Section 6) but it can help to answer the objection presented in Section 4. I will end with some brief general speculation in a Kantian spirit (Section 7). The main upshot of this paper is a deflationary one: Where we thought to be confronted with a serious philosophical problem there really is none. What will emerge through the argument is a graded and functional view of the unity of consciousness.