The Contents of Olfactory Experience

Journal of Consciousness Studies 17 (11-12):173-79 (2010)
Abstract
Clare Batty has recently argued that the content of human olfactory experience is 'a very weak kind of abstract, or existentially quantified content', and so that 'there is no way things smell'. Her arguments are based on two claims. Firstly, that there is no intuitive distinction between olfactory hallucination and olfactory illusion. Secondly, that olfaction 'does not present smell at particular locations', and 'seems disengaged from any particular object'. The present article shows both of these claims to be false. It shows that naïve subjects find it quite natural to draw a distinction between olfactory hallucination and olfactory illusion. And it argues that the phenomenology of normal olfactory experience is of particular objects as having smells. Two confusions are responsible for Batty thinking otherwise: (1) Batty's examples are cases of extreme pungency, and she mistakes a peculiarity of intense perceptions for a property of olfaction more generally; (2) Batty focuses on very short time slices and so confuses limitations on the information carried by a single sniff for a limitation on the logical form of all olfactory content.
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