Dual Structure of Touch: The Body vs. Peripersonal Space

In Frédérique de Vignemont (ed.), The World at Our Fingertips. Oxford: Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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The sense of touch provides us knowledge of two kinds of events. Tactile sensation (T) makes us aware of events on or just below the skin; haptic perception (H) gives us knowledge of things outside the body with which we are in contact. This paper argues that T and H are distinct experiences, and not (as some have argued) different aspects of the same touch-experience. In other words, T ≠ H. Moreover, H does not supervene on T. Secondly: In T, we are aware of immanent, phenomenal qualities; in H, we come to know of transcendent qualities in things that exist independently of ourselves. Finally: T is non-spatial; it is indexed by parts of the body, but not by position in space. H, by contrast, is spatial. This brings to mind Kant’s contention that things are presented as existing objectively when they are represented spatially.

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Mohan Matthen
University of Toronto, Mississauga


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