The Space of Sensory Modalities

In Dustin Stokes, Mohan Matthen & Stephen Biggs (eds.), Perception and Its Modalities. Oxford University Press (2014)
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Abstract

Is there a space of the sensory modalities? Such a space would be one in which we can represent all the actual, and at least some of the possible, sensory modalities. The relative position of the senses in this space would indicate how similar and how different the senses were from each other. The construction of such a space might reveal unconsidered features of the actual and possible senses, help us to define what a sense is, and provide grounds that we might use to decide what is one token sense rather than multiple token senses. In this paper, I explore, refine, and defend the idea that we can construct such a space—an idea that I briefly proposed in earlier work (Macpherson 2011a and 2011b). In doing so, I defend the idea from an objection that Richard Gray (2012) has voiced. Gray claims that the dimensions of the space of sensory modalities must generate a non-­‐arbitrary ordering of the senses. He argues that we cannot find dimensions that do so. I disagree. I identify different ways in which a space could be arbitrary but I argue that we can define a space of the sensory modalities in a non-arbitrary manner. I give examples of what the dimensions might be.

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Fiona Macpherson
University of Glasgow

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