Beyond Transparency: the Spatial Argument for Experiential Externalism

Philosophers' Imprint 13 (2013)
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I highlight a neglected but striking phenomenological fact about our experiences: they have a pervasively spatial character. Specifically, all (or almost all) phenomenal qualities – roughly, the introspectible, philosophically puzzling properties that constitute ‘what it’s like’ to have an experience – introspectively seem instantiated in some kind of space. So, assuming a very weak charity principle about introspection, some phenomenal qualities are instantiated in space. But there is only one kind of space – the ordinary space occupied by familiar objects. And the only objects appropriately located in ordinary space are outside the subject’s mind. This entails experiential externalism, the view that at least one phenomenal quality is instantiated outside the subject’s mind. Experiential externalism is incompatible with many leading theories of experience, including certain mental paint theories; some forms of representationalism; paradigmatic versions of sense-datum theory; and views on which no phenomenal qualities are instantiated. My argument is structurally similar to familiar arguments based on the ‘transparency of experience.’ However, I suggest, phenomenological intuitions about spatiality are considerably more stable than phenomenological intuitions about transparency. For many philosophers, transparency intuitions fade markedly with respect to non-standard experiences, including experiences associated with blurry or double vision. But spatiality intuitions remain robust even for these experiences. Thus, spatiality intuitions should be more dialectically effective than transparency intuitions for supporting experiential externalism



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Neil Mehta
Yale-NUS College

Citations of this work

Blur and interoceptive vision.Błażej Skrzypulec - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (10):3271-3289.
Phenomenal, Normative, and Other Explanatory Gaps: A General Diagnosis.Neil Mehta - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 98 (3):567-591.

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