Explaining what people say about sensory qualia

J. Kevin O’Regan

in Perception, Action, and Consciousness

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780199551118
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191594960 | DOI:
Explaining what people say about sensory qualia

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This chapter discusses three problematic aspects of sensory experiences: their ineffability, structure, and ‘what it's like’ to undergo the experiences. It argues that these features of sensory experiences seem to admit of no explanation in terms of brain mechanisms. However, the sensorimotor account of phenomenal consciousness provides a satisfactory account of these puzzling features of sensory experience by proposing that the experienced ‘feel’ of a sensation derives from the laws of dependency that govern an observer's current active engagement with the environment. The sensorimotor approach emphasizes the distinction between two steps involved in an account of conscious experience: firstly characterizing the quality of sensory feels as enabled by the quality of the sensorimotor interaction involved; and secondly determining the requirements for an agent to be conscious of this quality.

Keywords: sensory experiences; sensorimotor approach; consciousness; sensation; conscious experience

Chapter.  12712 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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