Rethinking synesthesia

Philosophical Psychology 26 (2):171 - 187 (2013)
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Abstract

Synesthetes are people who report having perceptual experiences that are very unusual, such as ?seeing? sounds as colors or ?smelling? colors as odors. It is commonly assumed these days that such synesthetic experiences must be instances of misperceptions. Against this widespread assumption, I will highlight that there is reason to think that at least some synesthetic experiences can be viewed as truly veridical perceptions, and not as illusions or hallucinations. On this view, which I will back up by conceptual arguments and empirical data, synesthesia does sometimes enable the individual to truly pick up on worldly features. In failing to take this possibility on board, the participants in this debate have thus unduly restricted the scope of dialectical options. Finally, the reassessment of synesthetic experiences that I defend in this paper will turn out to have important ramifications not just for synesthesia research, but also for perception theories more generally

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Michael Sollberger
University of Lausanne