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DOI: 10.4324/0123456789-V047-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2018
Retrieved April 22, 2024, from

Article Summary

Apart from the common use of ‘sensation’ to refer to bodily feelings, the word has been adopted by philosophers and scientists to talk about specific feelings arising from stimulation of the sensory organs. Sensations are often ascribed particular properties: of being conscious and inner, of being more immediate than perception, and of being atomic. In epistemology sensations have been taken as infallible foundations of knowledge, in psychology as elementary constituents of perceptual experience. Critics have argued that, given the nature of knowledge and of perceptual experience, sensations are unfit to play these roles.

Some philosophers have ascribed mistaken theorizing about sensation to the tendency to conceive of sensations as inner objects of experience. As an alternative the adverbial theory of sensations has been proposed. According to it sensations are ways of experiencing, rather than objects of experience. Representationalism proposes to conceive of sensations as representations. Yet another way of thinking about sensations is to characterize them as embodied reactions of organisms to specific stimuli. An important issue that needs to be addressed by all general accounts of sensations is whether it is legitimate to treat theoretical posits such as colour sensations on a par with bodily sensations such as pain.

Citing this article:
Myin, Erik and Karim Zahidi. Sensations, 2018, doi:10.4324/0123456789-V047-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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