Alice looking at the Cheshire CatPhenomenal Presence: What is Phenomenally Given in Experience?

Conference: 7th - 10th June 2010

University of Fribourg (Switzerland)


Martine Nida-Rümelin and Fabrice Theler (University of Fribourg)
Fiona Macpherson (Centre for the Study of Perceptual Experience, University of Glasgow)
Fabian Dorsch (Fribourg/Glasgow)


Monday 7 June 2010
Jérôme Dokic (L’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris)
Fiona Macpherson (University of Glasgow)
Michelle Montague (University of Oxford)

Tuesday 8 June 2010
Daniel Stoljar (Australian National University)
Galen Strawson (University of Reading)
Pär Sundström (Umea University)
Discussion with Martine Nida-Rümelin (University of Fribourg)

Wednesday 9 June 2010
Amy Kind (Claremont McKenna College)
Alexander Staudacher (Otto-von-Guericke-Universität, Magdeburg and Humboldt Universität zu Berlin)
Craig French (University College London)
James Stazicker (University of California, Berkeley)

Thursday 10 June 2010
Richard Gray (University of Cardiff)
Jon Bird (The Open University)
Mark Kalderon (University College London)
Robert Hopkins (University of Sheffield)

Download the detailed Phenomenal Presence Programme.

The topic of this conference is what it is for something to be phenomenally present in experience. Something's being phenomenally present in experience should be contrasted with cases in which one merely comes to believe that something is present. For example, if I look at the kitchen floor and see muddy footprints on it, but I don't see you, typically, the shape of the footprints will be phenomenally given to me in my visual experience. Now, I may form the belief that you are in the house because I see the footprints, but arguably, you would not be phenomenally present in my visual experience.

One reason that this question is interesting is that one might think that there are different ways in which things can be phenomenally present in experience. For example, imagine looking at an apple. The colour of the front face of the apple is something that is phenomenally given to you in a typical visual experience of an apple. This is a property that the facing surface of the apple seems to have and to which we seem to have direct access in visual perception. Furthermore, colours are very distinctive qualities. This example illustrates a central way in which something can be phenomenally present. But are there other ways?

Some people think that when looking at an apple it is part of the way that the apple appears that it is a whole round object even though there is clearly a sense in which we don't see the whole round object - we don't see the back side of the apple. Such people would think that the back side of the apple is phenomenally given in experience but it isn't given in the same way that the colour of the front surface of the apple is given. Let us say that the colour of the facing surface of the apple is sensorily given and the back side of the apple is non-sensorily given. Are there these two different ways of being phenomenally given? Or is it simply the case that we form a belief about the backside of the apple, based on our knowledge of what apples are like?

Take another example: some people think that apples can be phenomenally presented as existing independently of our experience. If this independent existence is phenomenally present, it doesn't seem to be sensorily presented, so how is it presented? Is there a distinctive quality associated with this independence from experience in the way that there are distinctive qualities associated with colours? If so, what is this quality exactly, and is it different to the quality that seems to be associated with the non-sensorial phenomenal presence of the backside of the apple? Is the way that this is non-sensorily given the same way in which the back side of the apple is non-sensorily given?

Finally, consider that the phenomenon of phenomenal presence might not be restricted to perceptual experience. For example, some people think that when I perform an action being the author of what happens can be phenomenally present to me. Similarly, some people think that there is phenomenology associated with having conscious thoughts, beliefs or desires. What is phenomenally present, if anything, in such cases and in what ways are such cases different to sensory and non-sensory perceptual presence?

In the conference we would like to discuss these issues using concrete examples. We wish to develop our understanding of the issue in order to clarify more general theoretical questions about the relation between the phenomenal and the intentional and about the nature of phenomenal consciousness.

If you would like to come, please e-mail