A theory of sentience by Austen Clark

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By Austen Clark

Austen Clark bargains a basic account of the varieties of psychological illustration that we name "sensory." Drawing at the findings of present neuroscience, Clark defends the speculation that some of the modalities of sensation percentage a commonly used shape that he calls "feature-placing." Sensing proceeds by way of selecting place-times in or round the physique of the sentient organism, and characterizing features (features) that seem at these place-times. The speculation casts mild on many different tricky phenomena, together with the kinds of phantasm, the matter of projection, the concept of a visible box, and the life of sense-data.

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Is that the centre of my visual field, or does it merely appear to be there? Please proceed gingerly! Until such tests are complete, picking up a pencil, turning a knob, or grasping a coffee cup would be activities fraught with peril. These qualms all arise from the same indigestible implication: that during any normal visual perception, each particular spatial quale must occur exactly once. Whereas your typical quality can have several instances, or none at all. This is our first clue. The problem with spatial qualia, I will suggest, is that they are not qualities.

Certainly not. Only when a second point is felt to arise can the first one acquire a determination of up, down, right, or left, and these determinations are all relative to that second point. . This is as much to say that position has nothing intrinsic about it; and that, although a feeling of absolute bigness may, a feeling of place cannot, possibly form an immanent element in any single isolated sensation. (James 1890b: 154) But in one sense this seems plainly wrong. Late at night the solitary siren still sounds as if it is out there, in one particular direction, all by itself.

Your auditory sensations are utterly dependent on events within your cochlear nucleus, inside your inner ear. But what you hear seems to happen out there in space. How is this possible? How can you auditorily locate sounds outside your skin, given that all your auditory experience is dependent upon events inside your cochlear nucleus? I think we are here asking for a psychological model, and indeed there are various accounts of the cues used by the nervous system to manage this remarkable feat.

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