Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)
Philosophy (Arts and Sciences)
Date of Defense
First Committee Member
Second Committee Member
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In this dissertation, I defend two theses: first, that experiences with spatial phenomenology represent space as single and unitary, and, second, that every experience has a spatial phenomenology. The two theses entail the conclusion that the unity of conscious spatial representation is necessary for the unity of consciousness. This means that unified consciousness has a (partially) spatial structure. In what follows, I adopt the mereological conception of unified consciousness according to which experiences are unified just in case they are parts of a subject’s total phenomenal state. I also assume that the unity relation is a relation among experiences. Most philosophers working on the unity of consciousness reject the conclusion that unity of consciousness requires the unity of spatial representation. But in my dissertation I show that there are compelling reasons to accept the two theses that jointly entail it. First, I argue that all spatial perceptual representations represent space as single and unitary. Then, I argue that non-perceptual spatial experiences: imagination experiences, recollective experiences, as well as experiences of afterimages and phosphenes have the kind of spatial content that relates the locations represented in these experiences to the locations represented in perception. In short, the locations represented in perceptual and non-perceptual experiences are represented as belonging to the same space. Secondly, I argue that experiences standardly taken not to possess spatial phenomenology, such as conscious thoughts and moods, either do in fact possess such phenomenology (thoughts), or wholly depend for their own phenomenology on spatially unified experiences (moods). When it comes to conscious thoughts, I argue that the view that they exhibit spatial phenomenology is dialectically privileged over its denial. This means that granting spatial phenomenology to conscious thoughts is a more reasonable default starting position. Considerations marshalled from the philosophical accounts concerning what it’s like to have conscious thoughts, as well as those marshalled from the literature on the pathologies of cognitive experience (especially schizophrenia) strongly suggest that what it’s like to have thoughts does involve awareness of the thoughts’ locations (typically in one’s head). When it comes to mood experiences, I argue that all it takes to account for the phenomenal character of such experiences are modifications to other, non-mood experiences. Such modifications are not, however, free-standing experiences for which the question of unity arises. This is because the unity relation is a relation between experiences, not between non-detachable aspects of a single, free-standing experience. Hence, the view that for the mood experience to obtain, other experiences must simply be modified in certain ways is compatible with the view that spatial unity is necessary for phenomenal unity. This is because the relation between an experience and its modification is not the phenomenal unity relation. The way mood experiences are unified with other experiences is wholly captured by the way in which a modification of an experience is unified with that experience. And this is not a phenomenal unity relation. On the other hand, the experiences that collectively give rise to the mood experience are spatially and phenomenally unified. Hence, mood experiences do not pose a special problem for my account. I conclude that unified consciousness requires unified conscious spatial representation. Consciousness has a spatial structure.
spatial experience; consciousness; unity of consciousness
Chomanski, Bartlomiej, "The Spatial Structure of Unified Consciousness" (2016). Open Access Dissertations. 1580.
Available for download on Monday, March 12, 2018