It's All in the Brain : A Theory of the Qualities of Perception

Jesper Östman
Umeå University
This dissertation concerns the location and nature of phenomenal qualities. Arguably, these qualities naively seem to belong to perceived external objects. However, we also seem to experience phenomenal qualities in hallucinations, and in hallucinations we do not perceive any external objects. I present and argue for a theory of the phenomenal qualities, "brain theory", which claims that all phenomenal qualities we experience are physical properties instantiated in the brain, regardless of whether they are experienced in veridical perceptions or in hallucinations. I begin by more carefully identifying the phenomenal qualities, discussing how they are related to "qualia" and "phenomenal character". Then I present brain theory, and investigate its implications for the perceptual relations we stand in to external objects, noting that it is mostly neutral. I also compare brain theory to a similar theory of perception advocated by Bertrand Russell. Next, I provide an overview over the competing theories of phenomenal qualities, and relate them to theories of perception, such as representationalism, qualia theory, sense data theory and disjunctivism. The majority of my argumentation for brain theory focuses on arguing that the phenomenal qualities are instantiated in the brain, rather than on arguing that they are physical properties. Instead, I largely assume physicalism. However, even independently of the physicalism assumption, I show that we have reason to believe that phenomenal qualities are experienced in hallucinations, and that qualities experienced in hallucinations are instantiated in internal objects, such as our brains or sense data. In the first step towards this conclusion I argue that theories which deny that phenomenal qualities are experienced in hallucinations face serious problems. In the next step I argue that theories which deny that phenomenal qualities experienced in hallucinations are instantiated in internal objects face serious problems. Finally, an important part of the argumentation is my replies to objections against brain theory, including common sense objections and the "observation objection". From these conclusions, together with the physicalism assumption, I infer that we have reason to believe that brain theory is true about hallucinations. On this basis, I then argue, through a generalizing argument, that the same is the case for veridical perceptions.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories No categories specified
(categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 46,355
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Significance of Consciousness.Charles Siewert - 1998 - Princeton University Press.
Knowledge and Its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Philosophy 76 (297):460-464.
The Visual Brain in Action (Precis).David Milner - 1998 - PSYCHE: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Research On Consciousness 4.
Materialism and Qualia: The Explanatory Gap.Joseph Levine - 1983 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 64 (October):354-61.
Which Properties Are Represented in Perception.Susanna Siegel - 2005 - In Tamar S. Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Perceptual Experience. Oxford University Press. pp. 481--503.

View all 55 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Unsensed Phenomenal Qualities: A Defence.Michael Lockwood - 1998 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 5 (4):415-418.
Sense-Data.Paul Coates - 2007 - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
A Theory of Secondary Qualities.Robert Pasnau - 2006 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73 (3):568-591.
Phenomenal Externalism's Explanatory Power.Peter W. Ross - 2018 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (3):613-630.
Phenomenal Blending and the Palette Problem.Luke Roelofs - 2014 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 3 (1):59-70.
Real Acquaintance and Physicalism.Philip Goff - 2015 - In Paul Coates & Sam Coleman (eds.), Phenomenal Qualities: Sense, Perception and Consciousness. Oxford University Press.
An Argument for Idealism.John Bolender - 2001 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 8 (4):37-61.


Added to PP index

Total views
6 ( #998,565 of 2,286,113 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #838,750 of 2,286,113 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature