Synthetic unities of experience

Inspired by Kant, Merleau-Ponty and Sellars, I illustrate and identify certain kinds of unity which are typical (if not universal) features of our conscious experience, and argue that Kant was right to claim that such unities are produced by unconscious processes of synthesis: A perceptual experience of succession is not reducible to a succession of perceptual experiences. The experience of perceiving one object as having several features is not reducible to a conjunction of perceptual experiences of those features. A cross-modal perceptual experience is not reducible to a conjunction of single-modality perceptual experiences. Incoming perceptual information is synthesized into a single scene-a representation of the world as perceived from a spatio-temporal point of view. Any two of the simultaneous features of the experience of a subject S can be thought of together by S. Many of the experiences of a subject S can be thought of by S at a later time as part of his or her history of experience. These can be summarized in the general principle: An experience of a complex is not a complex of experiences. This is consistent with Sellars’ principle that: A sense-impression of a complex is a complex of impressions because the latter applies at the sub-personal, unconceptualized level, and the former at the conscious level of conceptualized experiences
Keywords Experience  Metaphysics  Kant  Merleau-ponty  Sellars, W
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DOI 10.2307/2653487
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