Pure Awareness Experience

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-23 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

I am aware of the red and orange autumn leaves. Am I aware of my awareness of the leaves? Not so according to many philosophers. By contrast, many meditative traditions report an experience of awareness itself. I argue that such a pure awareness experience must have a non-sensory phenomenal character. I use Douglas Harding’s first-person experiments for assisting in recognizing pure awareness. In particular, I investigate the gap where one cannot see one’s head. This is not a mere gap because I seem to be looking from here. Critically, I claim, the experience of looking from here has a non-sensory phenomenal character. I argue that this sense of being aware cannot be reduced to egocentric visual spatial relations nor the viewpoint because it continues when I close my eyes. Neither is a multisensory origin sufficient to explain why I seem to be at this central point rather than elsewhere. Traditionally, claims of a pure awareness experience have been restricted to highly trained individuals in very restricted circumstances. The innovation of Harding’s approach is that it reliably isolates a candidate for pure awareness using methods which can be replicated at any time.

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Brentyn Ramm
Witten/Herdecke University

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