Senses and Sensations: On Hegel’s Later Account of Perceptual Experience

  • Luca CortiEmail author
Part of the Studies in German Idealism book series (SIGI, volume 20)


In recent decades Hegel has been the subject of a revival of interest by a number of scholars in the Anglophone philosophical world who claim that he can provide us with conceptual resources for answering particular problems concerning the philosophy of mind, the nature of our conceptual activity, and the character of knowledge. One of these problems concerns the nature of perceptual experience, and it is the core of a controversy called “the debate over non-conceptual content”.

In my paper I will focus on Hegel’s later picture of perceptual experience, by taking into account his Philosophy of Subjective Spirit. Most scholars who have addressed it in the last decades seem to agree precisely on a reading of Hegel as sharing many important views with the non-conceptualists. Such readings seem to challenge the standard McDowellian picture of Hegel.

I will look at what has come to be seen as the basic non-conceptual component in Hegel’s theory of mental activity, namely sensation (Empfindung). Contrary to some contemporary interpretation, from my point of view Hegel’s texts on Empfindung must not be taken primarily as theorizing a non-conceptual component that has to be “processed” by some further activities in order to acquire intentional and conceptual content. By showing the difficulties inherent to this way of reading Hegel’s Anthropology, I will make room a different approach to Hegel’s text. This will result in a different picture of Hegel’s theory of perceptual experience, which will be closer to McDowell’s than what has been considered until now.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mind Language Action GroupUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.International Center for Philosophy NRWUniversity of BonnBonnGermany

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