Philosophical Studies

, Volume 130, Issue 2, pp 285–295 | Cite as

Representationalism, Supervenience, and the Cross-Modal Problem

  • John W. O’dea


The representational theory of phenomenal experience is often stated in terms of a supervenience thesis: as Tye has recently put it, “necessarily, experiences that are alike in their representational contents are alike in their phenomenal character”. Consequently, much of the debate over whether representationalism is true centres on purported counter-examples – that is to say, purported failures of supervenience. The discussion here focuses on one important representationalist response to a striking class of these, namely, perceptual states in different sensory modalities that, despite differing phenomenally, share at least some content – for example, the visual and tactile sensations of motion. Some representationalists reply to these cases, in effect, by widening the supervenience base of phenomenal experience to clusters of perceptual contents. However, I argue that this reply radically undermines the representational theory of experience by, among other problems, ruling out its construal as an identity thesis, and leaving the supervenience claim apparently ungrounded.


Perceptual Experience Tactile Sensation Visual Sensation Phenomenal Character Representational Content 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy Program, RSSSAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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