“Bodily Sensation Objects” by Kranti Saran

Philosophy Seminar Series: 26 Jan 2012, 2-4pm, Philosophy Resource Room; Speaker: Kranti Saran, Fellow in Philosophy, Harvard University, Department of Philosophy; Moderator: Dr. Ben Blumson

According to the dualist, bodily sensations are mental objects. On the ‘accepted view’ of sense-data spelled out by Moore (1953) they only exist when they are perceived, are private to the perceiver, have no distinction between their appearance and reality, and do not exist in physical space. In contrast, physicalist theories of bodily sensations are motivated by the desire to avoid positing mental objects (Kim (1972)). Physicalists typically hold that all bodily sensations are only properties or states of the body (Aune (1967), Nagel (1965)), or brain events (Smart (1959)). Against the dualist, I argue that bodily sensations are not mental objects; against the physicalists I argue that (some) bodily sensations have an objectual character. I speak of those that do as bodily sensation objects. I explain the sense in which such sensations are objects and defend the cogency of the idea of bodily sensation objects from a slew of objections. I then go on to provide a positive argument for the existence of bodily sensation objects: if some experiences of bodily sensations representing bodily sensation objects are veridical, then bodily sensation objects exist; some experiences of bodily sensations representing bodily sensation objects are veridical; hence bodily sensation objects exist. In addition to defending each step of the argument, I also defend the claim that experience represents bodily sensation objects at all, by using the method of phenomenal contrast as developed by Siegel (2010).

About the speaker: Kranti completed his Ph.D. in philosophy at Harvard University in May 2011 and is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Philosophy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and a Fellow in Philosophy at Harvard University. Kranti’s dissertation focused on the nature of bodily sensations. More generally, he is interested in questions about the metaphysics and epistemology of experience.


More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.