Sounds: a philosophical theory

New York: Oxford University Press (2007)
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Abstract

... ISBN0199215928 ... Abstract: Vision dominates philosophical thinking about perception, and theorizing about experience in cognitive science traditionally has focused on a visual model. This book presents a systematic treatment of sounds and auditory experience. It demonstrates how thinking about audition and appreciating the relationships among multiple sense modalities enriches our understanding of perception. It articulates the central questions that comprise the philosophy of sound, and proposes a novel theory of sounds and their perception. Against the widely accepted philosophical view that sounds are among the secondary or sensible qualities, and against the scientific view that sounds are waves that propagate through a medium such as air or water, the book argues that sounds are events in which objects or interacting bodies disturb a surrounding medium. This does not imply that sounds propagate through a medium, such as air or water. Rather, sounds are events that take place in one's environment at or near their sources. This account captures the way in which sounds essentially are creatures of time and situates sounds in the world. Sounds are not ethereal, mysterious entities. It also provides a powerful account of echoes, interference, reverberation, Doppler effects, and perceptual constancies that surpasses the explanatory richness of alternative theories. Investigating sounds and audition demonstrates that considering other sense modalities teaches what we could not otherwise learn from thinking exclusively about the visual. This book concludes by arguing that a surprising class of cross-modal perceptual illusions demonstrates that the perceptual modalities cannot be completely understood in isolation, and that a visuocentric model for theorizing about perception — according to which perceptual modalities are discrete modes of experience and autonomous domains of philosophical and scientific inquiry — ought to be abandoned.

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Casey O'Callaghan
Washington University in St. Louis

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