Philosophical Studies

, Volume 149, Issue 1, pp 19–48 | Cite as

The particularity and phenomenology of perceptual experience

  • Susanna SchellenbergEmail author


I argue that any account of perceptual experience should satisfy the following two desiderata. First, it should account for the particularity of perceptual experience, that is, it should account for the mind-independent object of an experience making a difference to individuating the experience. Second, it should explain the possibility that perceptual relations to distinct environments could yield subjectively indistinguishable experiences. Relational views of perceptual experience can easily satisfy the first but not the second desideratum. Representational views can easily satisfy the second but not the first desideratum. I argue that to satisfy both desiderata perceptual experience is best conceived of as fundamentally both relational and representational. I develop a view of perceptual experience that synthesizes the virtues of relationalism and representationalism, by arguing that perceptual content is constituted by potentially gappy de re modes of presentation.


Perceptual experience Perceptual content Gappy content Particularity Relations Representations 



This article has a long history and so I am indebted to an unusual amount of people. I thank Keith Allen, Kent Bach, Alex Byrne, Herman Cappelen, David Chalmers, Bill Fish, Jim John, Heather Logue, Gurpreet Rattan, Jonathan Schaffer, Susanna Siegel, Daniel Stoljar, Crispin Wright, and Wayne Wu for discussions and comments on a draft of this paper. Particular thanks are due to John Campbell and Terry Horgan who both commented on this paper at a refereed symposium at the APA Pacific Division meeting 2008. I am grateful to the audience at that event for suggestions and questions as well as audiences at the Arché Research Centre at the University of St. Andrews, NYU, Rutgers University, UC Riverside, University of Leeds, Monash University, Université de Fribourg, University of Melbourne, University of Sydney, and Yale as well as audiences at the Australasian Association for Philosophy Meeting 2007, the Bled Epistemology Conference, the Russell IV Conference, the Tucson Toward a Science of Consciousness Conference 2008, and the ANU workshop on the Relational and Representational Character of Perceptual Experience. The early versions of this paper were presented under the title “Perceptual Content, Representations, Relations”. This paper is a development of the central chapter of my dissertation. I thank Robert Brandom, Anil Gupta, John McDowell, and Stephen Engstrom for their help with that project.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy Program RSSSAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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