Synesthesia, Experiential Parts, and Conscious Unity

Philosophy Study 2 (2):73-80 (2012)
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Abstract
Synesthesia is the “union of the senses” whereby two or more of the five senses that are normally experienced separately are involuntarily and automatically joined together in experience. For example, some synesthetes experience a color when they hear a sound or see a letter. In this paper, I examine two cases of synesthesia in light of the notions of “experiential parts” and “conscious unity.” I first provide some background on the unity of consciousness and the question of experiential parts. I then describe two very different cases of synesthesia. Finally, I critically examine the cases in light of two central notions of “unity.” I argue that there is good reason to think that the neural “vehicles” of conscious states are distributed widely and can include multiple modalities. I also argue that some synesthetic experiences do not really enjoy the same “object unity” associated with normal vision.
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