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Can We Hear Silence?

  • Daniela ŠterbákováEmail author


We can hear silence because silence, an absence of sound, causes our hearing of it. Advocating this position, Roy Sorensen puts to use his own theory of the direct perception of absences. Sorensen’s theory, which relies on two theories of perception (the causal theory of perception and the theory of non-epistemic perception), certainly has its appeal. However, it also has its problematic aspects. On my reading, a weak point of his theory is that it does not provide a criterion for the identification of what exactly we hear. By elaborating this objection in detail, I intend to demonstrate that Sorensen’s theory (i) does not concern direct (non-epistemic) perception, and (ii) does not show that silence is causally efficient. Therefore, (iii) it fails to show that silence is the genuine negative object of hearing. I conclude by giving two further reasons for why the ontology that underpins Sorensen’s theory should not be endorsed.


Silence Perception Absences Causal theory of perception Non-epistemic perception 



This article is a result of research funded by the Czech Science Foundation as project GA ČR 17-05919S ‘Between Perception and Propositional Knowledge’ carried out at Charles University in Prague. I would like to thank Karel Thein, Katia Saporiti, Christoph C. Pfisterer, and the reviewers of this journal for many helpful comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of ArtsCharles UniversityPragueCzech Republic

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