The Auditory Field: The Spatial Character of Auditory Experience

Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 9 (40):1080-1106 (2023)
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It is widely accepted that there is a visual field, but the analogous notion of an auditory field is rejected by many philosophers on the grounds that the metaphysics or phenomenology of audition lack the necessary spatial or phenomenological structure. In this paper, I argue that many of the common objections to the existence of an auditory field are misguided and that, contrary to a tradition of philosophical scepticism about the spatiality of auditory experience, it is as richly spatial as visual experience—and in some ways even more so. By carefully considering the spatiality and boundedness of audition, along with how sounds or their sources are experienced as occurring within the surrounding acoustic environment, we can gain a better understanding of (i) our auditory experience of space and (ii) the conditions for the existence of spatial sensory fields in general in a way that does not privilege vision over the other senses.

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Keith A. Wilson
University College Dublin


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