Some sensory experiences are pleasant, some unpleasant. This is a truism. But understanding what makes these experiences pleasant and unpleasant is not an easy job. Various difficulties and puzzles arise as soon as we start theorizing. There are various philosophical theories on offer that seem to give different accounts for the positive or negative affective valences of sensory experiences. In this paper, we will look at the current state of art in the philosophy of mind, present the main contenders, critically (...) compare and contrast them. In particular, we want to examine how they handle the reason-giving power of affective states. We will look into two representationalist proposals (Evaluativism and Imperativism) and a functionalist proposal, and argue that, contrary to their own advertisements, the representationalist proposals don’t have good accounts of why and how sensory affect can motivate, rationalize, and justify subsequent behavior and intentional mental activity. We will show that our own functionalist proposal does a much better job in this regard, and that when the representationalist proposals are modified to do a better job, they fare better not because of their representationalist credentials but due to their functionalist ones. (shrink)
It is through touch that we are able to interact directly with the world; it is our primary conduit of both pleasure and pain. Touch may be our most immediate and powerful sense—“the first sense" because of the central role it plays in experience. In this book, Matthew Fulkerson proposes that human touch, despite its functional diversity, is a single, unified sensory modality. Fulkerson offers a philosophical account of touch, reflecting the interests, methods, and approach that define contemporary philosophy; but (...) his argument is informed throughout by the insights and constraints of empirical work on touch. Human touch is a multidimensional object of investigation, Fulkerson writes, best served by using a variety of methods and approaches. -/- To defend his view of the unity of touch, Fulkerson describes and argues for a novel, unifying role for exploratory action in touch. He goes on to fill in the details of this unified, exploratory form of perception, offering philosophical accounts of tool use and distal touch, the representational structure of tangible properties, the spatial content of touch, and the role of pleasure in tactual experience. -/- Fulkerson’s argument for the unique role played by exploratory action departs notably from traditional vision-centric philosophical approaches to perception, challenging the received view that action plays the same role in all sensory modalities. The robust philosophical account of touch he offers in The First Sense has significant implications for our general understanding of perception and perceptual experience. (shrink)
Representationalism is the view that the phenomenal character of experiences is identical to their representational content of a certain sort. This view requires a strong transparency condition on phenomenally conscious experiences. We argue that affective qualities such as experienced pleasantness or unpleasantness are counter-examples to the transparency thesis and thus to the sort of representationalism that implies it.
Haptic touch is an inherently active and exploratory form of perception, involving both coordinated movements and an array of distinct sensory receptors in the skin. For this reason, some have claimed that haptic touch is not a single sense, but rather a multisensory collection of distinct sensory systems. Though this claim is often made, it relies on what I regard as a confused conception of multisensory interaction. In its place, I develop a nuanced hierarchy of multisensory involvement. According to this (...) hierarchy, touch turns out to be a single modality in that its various receptors assign their features to the same tangible objects. When we grasp an object a range of distinct properties?shape, warmth, heft, texture, etc.?are all felt to belong to the object, just as different visual properties are associated with a visual object. Paradigm multisensory experiences, on the other hand, involve associations between distinct perceptual experiences, as when the way something looks affects the way something sounds. Thus despite its functional and physiological diversity, haptic touch can be regarded as a single sense. (shrink)
I argue for sensory pluralism. This is the view that there are many forms of sensory interaction and unity, and no single category that classifies them all. In other words, sensory interactions do not form a single natural kind. This view suggests that how we classify sensory systems (and the experiences they generate) partly depends on our explanatory purposes. I begin with a detailed discussion of the issue as it arises for our understanding of thermal perception, followed by a general (...) account and defense of sensory pluralism. (shrink)
Many sensory states motivate. I offer an account of how such states compel intentional action. I focus on thirst as it is relatively simple in physiological and behavioral terms, it carries little theoretical baggage, and the motivational story for thirst seems likely to generalize. I argue that thirst motivates using a variety of flexible strategies, and that no single explanatory mechanism fully captures its motivational force. The resulting view, the aggregation model of sensory motivation, offers the most plausible account of (...) how sensory states motivate. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that in touch, as in vision and audition, we can and often do perceive objects and properties even when we are not in direct or even apparent bodily contact with them. Unlike those senses, however, touch experiences require a special kind of mutually interactive connection between our sensory surfaces and the objects of our experience. I call this constraint the Connection Principle. This view has implications for the proper understanding of touch, and perceptual reference generally. (...) In particular, spelling out the implications of this principle yields a rich and compelling picture of the spatial character of touch. (shrink)
Recently, a number of writers have presented an argument to the effect that leading causal theories make available accounts of affect’s motivational role, but at the cost of failing to understand affect’s rationalizing role. Moreover, these writers have gone on to argue that these considerations support the adoption of an alternative (“evaluationist”) conception of pleasure and pain that, in their view, successfully explains both the motivational and rationalizing roles of affective experience. We believe that this argument from rationalization is ineffective (...) in choosing between evaluationist and causal theories of affective experience, and that the impression to the contrary rests on a serious misunderstanding of the dialectic between the two views. We’ll describe general forms of causal and evaluationist theories, set out the argument that has been deployed by evaluationists against causal theorists, and then show how that argument rests on crucial and highly controversial presuppositions. (shrink)