What We Hear

Presenter: Jason Leddington, Bucknell University


Commentator 1: Matthew Nudds, University of Edinburgh

Commentator 2: Casey O’Callaghan, Rice University

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10 Comments

  1. Hello, everyone.

    I’ll begin by thanking Richard Brown for organizing this conference. I’ve really enjoyed its previous incarnations, and I’m very glad to be a part of CO3.

    I’d also like to thank Matt Nudds and Casey O’Callaghan for their very thorough and insightful comments. I’m working on my replies, and I hope to have both posted by sometime tomorrow.

    I’m looking forward to the discussion!

  2. Here’s the first of two installments in my reply to Matt’s commentary. The second to come tomorrow, along with (I hope!) my reply to Casey.

    *Reply to Matt Nudds*

    — PART ONE – Phenomenological Independence —

    One of the main difficulties I encountered in writing this paper was trying to state precisely—but with sufficient generality—the view shared by philosophers who endorse something like Phenomenological Independence (P-Independence). I’ve long suspected that further development of the paper would require more explicit discussion of different ways in which P-Independence might be understood. Matt’s commentary confirms this, and I’ve found his discussion of this point very helpful.

    Matt suggests that the version of P-Independence that I attribute to him and other like-minded philosophers is stronger than the version that they actually defend. Furthermore, he argues that, even if I’m right that the strong version of P-Independence is in deep tension with Phenomenal Intimacy (P-Intimacy), this is not true of the weak version that people actually endorse. If he’s right, then I’ve attacked a straw man. However, I think there’s a problem here: it seems to me that the distinction between the strong and weak versions of P-Independence cannot be sustained. Properly considered, the weak version collapses into the strong one.

    Here are the two versions of P-Independence as Matt presents them:

    (1) Hearing “presents sounds as independent of material objects”; and

    (2) Hearing “presents sounds without presenting material objects.”

    The idea is that, on (2), but not on (1), auditory phenomenology is simply quiet on whether sounds are somehow dependent on material objects.

    The first thing to notice is that (2), as formulated, doesn’t seem to be a claim about auditory phenomenology, but about what is actually presented to us in auditory experience—namely, sounds, and not material objects. Now, it’s true that (1), my original formulation of P-Independence, also says that hearing presents sounds, but its main point is to say something about how sounds seem, auditorily. Thus, we need to reformulate (2) so that it speaks to what sounds are like, auditorily. Here’s my best shot: (2’) hearing presents sounds *seemingly without* presenting material objects.

    According to (2’), sounds auditorily seem to be the sorts of things that can be presented without concurrent presentation of material objects. But what sorts of things are these? Not properties of material objects or events (since you can’t present a property-instance without presenting what instantiates it). And not mereological parts of material objects or events (since you can’t present a mereological part of A without presenting A). But if sounds auditorily seem to be neither properties nor mereological parts of material objects or events, then the conclusion seems irresistible: sounds auditorily seem to be (non-material) entities at a remove from the material world. (Or, as Matt himself writes in his 2001 paper: “Sounds may appear to be, as Strawson says, correlated with the material world, but they do not appear to be part of it.”)

    If this is right, then, even on Matt’s version of P-Independence, auditory phenomenology is not quiet on the question of whether sounds are somehow dependent on material objects. Once reformulated as a claim about auditory phenomenology, his version of P-Independence collapses into something like the stronger version that I discuss—though never very clearly formulate—in my paper. So, even if we disagree on this point, I’m very grateful to Matt for prompting me to think more carefully about how to characterize P-Independence. I think I’ve got a much better grasp of it now. So much so that I plan to revise my characterization of P-Independence to reflect the content of the previous paragraph.

    — PART TWO – Phenomenological Independence, Phenomenological Intimacy, and Acquaintance —

    If I’m right that Matt’s version of P-Independence collapses into something like the one that I discuss in my paper, then my argument against the compatibility of P-Independence and P-Intimacy is still intact. However, Matt provides other reasons for concern. Before I get to these, though, I want to briefly restate my argument—in part because I can now better say exactly what P-Independence involves, and also because I want to make a minor but important clarification.

    If P-Independence is true, then sounds auditorily seem to be neither properties nor mereological parts of material objects or events. If P-Intimacy is true, then hearing presents sound sources as available for primitive demonstrative reference. Is P-Independence compatible with P-Intimacy? As such, arguably yes. And here’s the minor point of clarification. Matt says that I argue that P-Intimacy “is not consistent with” P-Independence. Not so. I argue only that they are mutually inconsistent on the assumption that auditory phenomenology is non-illusory—that is, on the assumption that hearing and sound are as they auditorily seem. In any case, here’s the argument: suppose auditory phenomenology is non-illusory; then, if P-Independence is true, sounds are neither properties nor mereological parts of material objects or events; but then hearing a sound cannot make its material source available for primitive demonstrative reference; therefore, and again on the assumption that auditory phenomenology is non-illusory, P-Intimacy must be false. And now to Matt’s next challenge to this argument.

    Matt’s question is: why would the independence of sounds from their material sources entail that auditory experience alone could not make sound sources available for primitive demonstrative reference? As he rightly notes, everything depends on what is required for primitive demonstrative reference. If, as my paper suggests, all that is required is avoiding explicit deferred ostension, then I think Matt is right: the independence of sounds from their sources does not prevent primitive demonstrative reference to sound sources on the basis of auditory experience alone. A representational account such as the one Matt describes on the second page of his commentary accomplishes precisely this.

    However, Matt seems to suspect that I would set the bar for primitive demonstrative reference higher than simply avoiding explicit deferred ostension. He’s right, and I’d set it precisely where he suspects I might: at the level of acquaintance. Matt writes:

    “Understood this way, the claim of phenomenological intimacy is not simply the claim that [it auditorily seems that] we can think [primitive demonstrative thoughts]…about sound sources, but the claim that [it auditorily seems that] auditory experience relates us to sound sources in…[an] experientially direct way…. The experientially direct relation to an object is one that involves the kind of acquaintance with…an object that John Campbell has emphasized (in *Reference and Consciousness*). Perhaps this kind of acquaintance with sound sources is what Jason has in mind when he says that auditory experience makes sound sources available for primitive demonstrative reference.” (3)

    Guilty as suspected! This is, indeed, precisely my view. Acquaintance is really what’s at issue. And even if, as I think, our grip on the notion of perceptual acquaintance is inseparable from our grip on the notion of perceptually-based primitive demonstrative thought, Matt is quite right to point out that “the experiential relation—direct relation to an object—doesn’t consist in being in a position to think demonstratively about it,” primitively or otherwise (3). So, here’s another change that Matt’s commentary is prompting me to make in my paper: I now think it’s necessary to give an explicit role to the notion of acquaintance in making my argument for the tension between P-Independence and P-Intimacy. Once this role is made explicit, it will be clear why I think that representational views such as the one that Matt discusses are inadequate: they cannot accommodate P-Intimacy (on the assumption that auditory phenomenology is non-illusory).

  3. Here’s the second of two installments in my reply to Matt.

    *Reply to Matt Nudds* (cont’d.)

    — PART THREE – Epistemic Concerns about P-Independence —

    On page seven of my paper I write that, if P-Independence is true and auditory phenomenology is non-illusory, then, “[l]ike a fire obscured by its own
    smoke, a sound source lies hidden behind the sound that it makes.” On the final page of his commentary, Matt argues that there is no reason to think that this would undermine our ability to recognize sound sources by hearing the sounds that they make. I agree, and I never meant to suggest otherwise. My argument here is restricted to primitive demonstrative reference. It is not meant to raise difficulties for knowledge.

    — PART FOUR – The Argument for P-Binding: The Bell Case —

    Part of my argument for P-Binding involves an imaginative exercise: “Imagine striking a bell. Now try to imaginatively subtract away the sound. This is just as difficult as picturing a tomato and trying to imaginatively subtract away its color.” From this I conclude that “[s]ounds auditorily seem no less bound to the events that cause them than colors visually seem bound to their bearers” (9).

    Matt’s reply is that he has no trouble imagining what I’ve proposed: “All I need to do is imagine striking the bell with my ears plugged, or striking the bell in a vacuum. Why aren’t these cases of the event without the sound? It might be argued that these are cases of sounds existing unheard; if that’s right, it’s because it follows from our account of what sounds are and not because of what we can or can’t imagine” (4). I’ll take these cases one at a time.

    As Matt suspects, I believe that to imagine striking the bell with your ears plugged is not to imagine “the event without the sound,” but to imagine the sound “existing unheard.” Why think this? Not on the basis of a theoretical account of what sounds are. I agree with Matt that the imagination is generally unconstrained by such theorizing. However, the imagination does *not* operate independently of our pre-theoretical, everyday understandings of things. (If it did, what would be left to constrain it? What would it have to work with?) Moreover, I think it *is* part of our pre-theoretical, everyday conception of sounds that they are independent of our experience of them, so that subtracting my experience of the sound is not the same as subtracting the sound. If I’m right, then to imagine plugging your ears is not to imagine away the sound of the bell, it’s only to imagine away your experience of it.

    (Of course, one might deny that it is part of our pre-theoretical, everyday conception of sounds that they are independent of our experience of them. After all, what of the old “puzzle” about the tree that falls in the woods when there’s no one there to hear it? Well, I don’t think that this puzzle is a good guide to our pre-theoretical, everyday conception of sounds; rather, I think it’s a good example of how quickly theoretical reflection can go awry if it’s not guided by careful attention to our everyday conceptions of things. All you have to do to confirm that sounds as we ordinarily understand them exist independently of our experiences is to consider the ways in which we ordinarily talk about sounds. For these reasons, I’d actually argue that, if you want to defend the claim that we can imagine away the sound of the bell by imagining our ears plugged, then you owe us an account of sounds that somehow trumps our ordinary, everyday understanding, an understanding on which this isn’t the sort of thing that one *can* coherently imagine.)

    But what if we imagine striking the bell in a vacuum? Do we thereby imagine the sound away? As I see it, the problem is that, pre-theoretically, we don’t know what to say about this case. Our pre-theoretical, everyday conception of sounds doesn’t demand that we answer one way or another. So, I don’t think it’s determinate *what* we’ve imagined here. And that it’s not determinate doesn’t mean that we can imagine things however we like. It means that there’s *no determinate answer* to whether we’ve imagined the sound away. (For these sorts of reasons, I don’t think that the vacuum case is a good test case for a theory of sounds. In fact, I’m not even convinced that our best theory of sounds *needs* to give us a clear answer about the vacuum case. It might simply leave the answer open.)

    In sum, I think it’s much harder than Matt does to vindicate the claim that one can imagine striking a bell and then imaginatively subtract away its sound.

    — PART FIVE – Matt’s Objection to P-Binding —

    Matt describes a scenario in which “a sound that is in fact produced by two distinct sources—the two loudspeakers—may seem to come from a single source somewhere between the speakers” (4). He thinks that the right thing to say about this case is that “our experience of the sound is veridical, but our experience of the source is not,” and he thinks that accepting P-Binding prevents us from saying this. Is he right in his characterization of this case? And is he right about what P-Binding commits us to?

    P-Binding tells us that hearing presents sounds as bound to, or fused with, their sources. And it may seem that Matt has described a case in which a sound *does not* seem to be bound to its source (the speakers). I disagree: in this case, the sound seems bound to its source, but the source has a misleading appearance: it seems to be located where it is not.

    Here’s a parallel case in vision, adapted from an example of Michael Tye’s. Sid sees what seems to be a red cube directly in front of him. Actually, the cube is to his right, but it is reflected in a mirror positioned directly ahead of him. Conditions are otherwise normal. In particular, the cube looks just the color it is. Is Sid’s experience of the color veridical? Well, arguably, it’s not the color of the cube that has the misleading appearance! It’s the cube. However, one might argue that the color seems to be located where it is not—namely, in front of Sid—and that the color therefore *does* have a misleading appearance. But I’m inclined to say that colors could have misleading location-appearances only if they could visually seem to be located somewhere other than where their bearers seem to be located, which is impossible if colors always visually seem fused to their bearers. Therefore, it’s not the color, but the cube that has the misleading location-appearance. Returning to the case of sounds, I think that they, too, could have misleading location-appearances only if they could auditorily seem to be located somewhere other than where their sources seem to be located. If P-Binding is true, then this is impossible. Therefore, in Matt’s loudspeaker case, it’s not the sound that has the misleading appearance, it’s the sound source. And just as the color still seems bound to the cube, so the sound still seems bound to its source!

  4. I many ways I think I agree with Jason. I have previously argued that the function of auditory perception is the perception of sound sources rather than the perception of sounds; I think that in auditory experience we are aware of the sources of sounds; I think we can attend to them in a distinctively perceptual way (which we might characterize as involving some kind of acquaintance with the sources); and I suspect that the representational account that I sketched cannot do justice to this.

    We disagree about what is required for this. Jason thinks this kind of awareness of sound sources shows that sounds are phenomenally bound to their sources, whereas I don’t.

    –Phenomenal Independence–

    Partly this is because Jason thinks that someone who accepts phenomenal independence is committed to something that I think they are not committed to. Jason argues that if sounds don’t seem to be material, then sounds seem to be non-material in such a way that if in fact sounds are material then the phenomenal independence conception of experience is non-veridical. I’m not sure I see the force of his argument.

    There’s no general perceptual principle that if x doesn’t perceptually seem F then x perceptually seems not F. One reason for this is that only certain properties of things are visible, audible, etc. The instantiation of non-visual or non-acoustic properties by an object makes no difference to its visible or audible appearance.

    So if an object doesn’t look F (where F is not a visible property), then it doesn’t follow that it looks not-F. Similarly, if a sound doesn’t seem F (where F is not an audible property), then it doesn’t follow that it seems not F.

    The particular things (sounds) present in auditory experience instantiate acoustic properties: pitch, loudness, timbre, etc. The phenomenology of auditory experience is silent about what other non-audible properties they may have. In particular it doesn’t rule out the possibility that sounds instantiate non-audible properties; so it doesn’t imply that if in fact sounds are material then the phenomenal independence conception of experience is non-veridical.

    What is it for something to have the appearance of a concrete material object? Something that appears extended in space, solid, etc., has the appearance of a concrete material object.

    Are acoustic properties the only properties of sounds that are audible? I think that this follows from the fact that two sounds are auditorily indiscriminable if they match in their acoustic properties.

    Could something that instantiates acoustic properties have the appearance of a concrete material object? Not if having that appearance requires appearing extended in space, solid, etc.

    –Phenomenal Binding–

    We may disagree partly because I think phenomenal binding isn’t required for the kind of ‘acquaintance’ with sound sources provided by auditory experience. Consider the following example.

    Suppose that you are standing looking at a statue, completely covered by an opaque dustsheet. The sheet is independent of the statue, and yet the statue and its features are still present in experience in a way that makes it possible to perceptually attend to the statue and its features (or in a way that grounds primitive demonstrative reference). The fact that we see the statue by seeing something else independent of it doesn’t undermine our ability to perceptually attend to the statue; that suggests that perceiving something by perceiving something distinct from it doesn’t in general undermine this kind of perceptual relation. Clearly more needs to be said about what grounds our perception of the statue in this kind of case. It may be that the auditory case is not analogous, but I think this example suggests that someone might accept the actual independence of sounds from their sources, consistently with embracing phenomenal intimacy.
    But, on Jason’s understanding of it, does the apparent connection between the sheet and the statue count as a form of phenomenal binding?

    –The Speaker Example–

    The challenge raised by cases like the speaker case is not that it presents a sound that doesn’t seem to be bound to its source; it is that the view of sounds that Jason (and others) defends seems committed to saying that it involves a non-veridical experience of a sound.

    The experience seems to be of a single sound, and so it is veridical only if there is a single sound. Yet the apparent sound has two sources. If sounds are bound to their sources this experience of a single apparent sound is actually brought about by two distinct sounds. It isn’t plausible to say that the experience is of only one of the sounds, or that it is of the two sounds mixed together in such a way that we can’t distinguish them (the example can be tweaked to show this). So it seems that the experience of the sound is non-veridical. I think that experiences of such sounds is veridical, so if I am right that Jason’s view has this commitment, then this constitutes a deeper point of disagreement between us.

  5. Here, finally, is my reply to Casey’s very helpful commentary.

    *Reply to Casey O’Callaghan*

    — Part One: The Spirit of P-Independence —

    Casey, like Matt, focuses the first part of his commentary on exactly how to understand P-Independence. Again, this is very helpful to me, as I struggled with this while writing the paper, never feeling quite certain that I had satisfactorily identified the position under attack.

    Casey begins by saying that he no longer accepts the strong formulations of P-Independence expressed in his earlier work, and that he thinks I’m right to attack them. However, while I’m keen to discard P-Independence altogether, he’d like to preserve what’s plausible about it. Thus, he suggests that we retain the idea that hearing presents sounds as distinct from, or “non-identical with sound sources” (2). This, he thinks, would be to preserve the spirit, if not the letter, of P-Independence. I have three points in response to this.

    First, I should say that I think that it is absolutely correct to say that hearing presents sounds as distinct from their sources. In fact, I take it that this is actually entailed by P-Binding. After all, if hearing presents sounds as bound to, or fused with, their sources, then it necessarily presents sounds as distinct from, or non-identical with, their sources. To hear A as bound to/fused with B is, in part, to hear A as non-identical with B.

    Second, if I’m right about this, then we probably shouldn’t take the idea that hearing presents sounds as distinct from their sources to capture the spirit of P-Independence, since this idea is just as much a part of P-Binding.

    Third, as I write in the paper, what I seemed to find in some of Casey’s and Matt’s work (and elsewhere) is the idea that sounds not only “seem to be distinct from particular material things, but that they seem to be independent of—somehow *apart from*—the ordinary material world altogether” (5). Note that I don’t, as Casey says, gloss ‘distinct’ as “somehow apart from.” Rather, the point is that Casey, Matt, and others seemed to find in auditory experience an apparent independence of sounds from sources that is a matter of more than distinctness, in the sense of non-identity. They seemed to think that sounds are presented as somehow removed from ordinary material reality. Or, as I’d like to put it now: their characterizations suggest that hearing presents sounds as neither mereological parts nor properties of ordinary material objects or events, and so, as Casey puts it, as having a certain autonomy from the material world. This, as I see it, is the real spirit of P-Independence, and it is not something shared by P-Binding.

    — Part Two: “Acousmatic Experience” —

    Despite rejecting P-Independence, I agree with Casey that “sounds are capable of being heard independently from their sources in certain forms of listening” (2). In fact, I think we can do the same thing with color. Arguably, certain kinds of painting and filmmaking encourage this. And sitting on one side of the stadium, you can look across at the crowd on the other side and attend simply to the play of colors. But ordinary “embedded” seeing is not like this, and the possibility of this sort of “disengaged” seeing is, I think, derivative of, or parasitic on, our ordinary visual experience, in which colors visually seem bound to, or fused with, their bearers. So, too, for something like Scruton’s “acousmatic experience” in relation to ordinary engaged hearing.

    — Part Three: P-Binding —

    There is significant agreement here between me and Casey. We both think that P-Binding is true. Like colors, sounds auditorily seem to be bound to their sources. Our differences arise when it comes to saying just how much hearing sounds is like seeing colors. To this end, Casey helpfully distinguishes between two different ways in which A can seem bound to, or fused with, B: (1) by seeming to be a property of B; and (2) by seeming to be a mereological part of B. Casey claims that we hear sounds as bound to their sources in the latter sense. And he’s right to suspect that I incline in the other direction: in particular, I’m inclined to say that we hear sounds as properties of ordinary material events. Now, I am deliberately non-committal about this in “What We Hear,” in part because I had thought to save this issue for another paper. However, I now think that I should conclude the paper by at least mentioning that, as stated, P-Binding doesn’t fix the specific sense in which we hear sounds as bound to their sources, and that there are at least two competing views on this. (I don’t *think* that any of my current arguments for P-Binding prejudice the case one way or another. I should also note that there’s a third possibility: perhaps we hear sounds as bound to their sources, but auditory phenomenology is not specific about the type of binding.)

    In any case, I’d like to raise a question about what seems to be Casey’s main argument for the view that we hear sounds as “audible individuals”—or, more specifically, as “mereological parts of complex environmental events” (3). He only briefly indicates this argument in his commentary, having expressed it at greater length in a number of publications (see, for instance, chapter one of his book Sounds: A Philosophical Theory); so, I hope he’ll forgive me for raising questions about the argument as he expresses it here. (In any case, I had the same question on reading the published versions.)

    Casey writes: “I want to argue that we hear sounds themselves as audible individuals to which audible qualities such as pitch, timbre, and loudness belong. Such audible individuals persist through time and survive change, and since sounds seem to require time to unfold or to occur, the manner in which they audibly appear to persist differs from that of ordinary visible objects. So, I want to resist the claim that sounds are heard as bound to sound sources in the first sense—the sense in which sensible properties are perceptually experienced as being bound to the sensible individuals that are their bearers…” (3). In other words, the fact that sounds unfold over time makes trouble for the view that sounds are properties of their sources. However, this argument seems to presuppose that to hear sounds as properties of their sources would be to hear them as properties of “ordinary visible objects.” But I agree with Casey that sounds are not plausibly properties of ordinary objects. (This view is apparently held by Robert Pasnau; and, in places, it seems to be Locke’s view.) Instead, I think that sounds are properties of ordinary events. (After all, as I say in the paper, it is part of our ordinary pre-theoretical understanding of sounds that events, not simply objects, are what make them.) And now it seems that Casey’s objection no longer goes through: if we take sounds to be properties of events, then this accounts for the fact that sounds unfold over time, since, of course, events do, too. Consider the fact that we are prepared to individuate events just as finely or coarsely as we individuate the sounds that they produce. Whenever we are prepared to recognize a change in our auditory experience as a matter of hearing a distinct sound, we are prepared to recognize this as the result of a distinct event. And whenever we are prepared to recognize a change in our auditory experience as a matter of hearing a change in an ongoing sound, we are prepared to recognize this as the result of a change in an ongoing event.

    I’m very interested to know exactly where Casey would locate the trouble with this sort of proposal. I apologize in advance if I’m overlooking or forgetting something that has already appeared in print, but from what I can remember of his work on sound (I’ve read pretty much all of it), his attack on the property view is almost exclusively focused on treating sounds as properties of objects, not events.

  6. Jason, good to see you here. I have a methodological question. The structure of your paper is that if we reflect on our phenomenology of hearing, we can figure out something about ‘what we hear’. This seems to me to be a question-begging strategy for the following three reasons:

    1. our phenomenology when we hear something, if we take multimodality seriously, is something that depends on a number of sense modalities: hearing, seeing, etc. But then one may worry whether we are entitled to use whatever we figure out about our phenomenology of hearing for settline the debate about what we hear – a claim about the auditory sense modality only.

    2. It seems possible to me that the object our auditory sense modality attribute properties to (consciously or unconsciously) (I assume that this is what you mean by ‘what we hear’) is different from what we experience hearing. For two reasons: (i) the former is defined in terms of content, the latter in terms of phenomenology, so these can in principle come apart. (ii) the former is defined in terms of the auditory sense modality only, the latter in terms of ‘overall’ phenomenology (this (ii) is really the point of my previous quesiton). How can you rule out these possibilities?

    3. What do we do if we disagree about phenomenology? You say you hear the Mercedes, I say I hear a humming sound. What could possibly settle this disagreement? (I guess this is a special case of the mistrust about intuitions that I write in my own contribution here).

    Thanks for the great paper. I think my sympathies are basically with you and with Heidegger (I wouldn’t have thought I’d ever utter this sentence…)

  7. Thanks, Matt, for your interesting reply. (I’m going to adopt the second person here and address these comments directly to you.) I think I’m starting to get a much better idea of how your view differs from mine.

    — P-Independence and Audible Properties —

    Clearly you’re correct to say that it doesn’t in general follow from the fact that A does not perceptually seem to be F that A perceptually seems to be not-F. For one thing, as you point out, this happens whenever an object of perception instantiates imperceptible properties. In special circumstances, it can also happen with perceptible properties. The silhouetted car on the hilltop doesn’t look red, but it also doesn’t look not-red. And so on. (Does it look colored? Harder to say.) Note, however, that under what we could call “normal conditions,” it follows that, if the car doesn’t look red, it *does* look not-red.

    Turning to sounds, you claim that they *never* auditorily seem to be material, and that this doesn’t mean that they *ever* auditorily seem to be non-material. That’s because, as you see it, sounds just can’t be heard to have—or to lack—material properties. Sounds can only be heard to have acoustic properties such as pitch, loudness, and timbre; material properties are, in general, auditorily imperceptible.

    I see how this view works, but I don’t think it amounts to anything deserving of the name of P-Independence. After all, if it’s correct, then sounds don’t auditorily seem to be dependent on or in any sense independent of material objects. Now, perhaps you’re happy with this, and perhaps you’d be happy to give up any claim to something called P-Independence, but I think there are further reasons for concern. Here are two. The next section discusses a third.

    First, it’s hard to see how you could be entitled to some of the claims that you make in “Experiencing the Production of Sounds.” Consider the two that I quote in my paper. The first: “[T]he idea that our experience of sounds is of things which are distinct from the world of material objects can seem compelling. All you have to do to confirm it is close your eyes and reflect on the character of your auditory experience” (2001, 210). However, if neither the presence nor absence of material properties is auditorily perceptible, then reflecting on the character of your auditory experience should suggest nothing at all about the relationship of sounds to the material world. Here’s the second claim: “Sounds may appear to be, as Strawson says, correlated with the material world, but they do not appear to be part of it” (2001, 215). But it seems that if sounds do not auditorily appear to be either part of or apart from the material world, then they also cannot auditorily appear to be correlated with it. The material world just isn’t relevant to what auditory experience is like. (But perhaps the idea is that it’s by multimodal experience that the appearance of correlation arises?)

    Second, are acoustic properties the only properties we hear sounds to have, as you suggest? You claim that “this follows from the fact that two sounds are auditorily indiscriminable if they match in their acoustic properties.” But is that really a fact? Is it really impossible to discriminate two acoustically identical sounds, A and A’, on the basis of auditory experience alone? Isn’t it possible to hear A as coming from a different direction, or as differently located, than A’? If so, then we can hear sounds as belonging to the material world: we can hear them as, at the very least, located where their sources seem to be. I agree that it is implausible to think that we ever hear sounds as having the appearance of “concrete material object[s].” But we needn’t hear them this way in order to hear them as part of the material world. The same goes for colors, which don’t visually appear to be concrete material objects but nonetheless visually seem to be part of the material world.

    — P-Independence and P-Intimacy —

    As you note, we both agree that hearing involves “some kind of acquaintance with” sound sources, but “[w]e disagree about what is required for this.” Thus, I think a third reason for concern about your view on P-Independence is that it still seems incompatible with P-Intimacy (on the assumption that auditory phenomenology is non-illusory). Here’s why: according to P-Intimacy, hearing *auditorily seems* to make sound sources available for primitive demonstrative reference. But in this case it can’t be that hearing only auditorily seems to be of the acoustic properties of sounds. That’s because, according to P-Intimacy, part of what it’s like to hear is that material sound sources seem to be given to us, and your view denies just this. Of course, it’s compatible with your view that we are *actually able* to make primitive demonstrative reference to sound sources on the basis of hearing alone; however, your view seems to be that auditory phenomenology alone *cannot* suggest this, which is precisely what P-Intimacy is all about.

    So, I have two questions. First, of course, have I misunderstood your view? Second, if not, are you prepared to reject P-Intimacy—at least as I characterize it? This question is closely related to what you say in your discussion of the statue example, so I’ll turn to that in my next post (tomorrow), where I’ll also address the speaker example.

  8. Hi, Matt. Here’s the continuation of my last post.

    — The Statue Case and P-Binding —

    You ask me to suppose that I am “standing looking at a statue, completely covered by an opaque dustsheet,” and you wonder whether, on my view, “the apparent connection between the sheet and the statue count[s] as a form of phenomenal binding.” This is a great question. My tentative answer is: “It depends!” Specifically, it depends on whether I count as seeing the statue even though it’s under the dustsheet, and this, I think, is an occasion-sensitive matter. There is no general rule that fixes whether I would count as seeing the statue. Consider these cases:

    – Case 1: A lover of Renaissance sculpture, I travel to Florence to see Michelangelo’s David. Unexpectedly, it’s being restored and has been draped with a dustsheet. None of its parts are visible. I leave Florence, my wish unfulfilled.

    – Case 2: Horrified by Renaissance sculpture, I travel to Florence to vandalize Michelangelo’s David. I decide to shoot off its left arm. On arriving at the Accademia, I discover that the statue is being restored and has been draped with a dustsheet. This obscures many of its features (the nose is not visible), but I can still see the left arm. I aim at it and fire.

    I think that either of these cases could be varied to deliver a different result. Now, turning to perceptual phenomenology, I suspect that whether the dustsheet visually seems bound to the statue is occasion-sensitive in a parallel way. In cases where I count as seeing the statue, it’s fair to say that the dustsheet visually seems bound to it. Otherwise, not. So, in Case 2, I might say, “That bulge in the dustsheet *is* the left arm;” but, in Case 1, I might be more likely to say, “The left arm of the statue is *under* that part of the dustsheet.” Another way to put this is to say that, according to occasion, the dustsheet can be seen as either obscuring the statue (Case 1) or presenting it, even if a bit obscurely (Case 2).

    Now, you seem to suggest that admitting the possibility of something like Case 2 threatens my argument against the compatibility of P-Independence and P-Intimacy. I disagree. The problem with P-Independence is that, if it’s true, hearing does not auditorily seem to present us with anything material. This is very different from what goes on in Case 2, in which seeing does visually seem to present me with the statue’s left arm *as* that bulge in the dustsheet.

    — The Speaker Example —

    You write: “The experience seems to be of a single sound, and so it is veridical only if there is a single sound. Yet the apparent sound has two sources.” This can seem to make trouble for my view. However, I don’t accept your characterization of the case. Suppose we agree that there is (or seems to be) one sound. How many sound sources are there? I don’t see any problem with saying that there is just one: the speakers. As I see it, if there is (or seems to be) one sound, then there is (or seems to be) one sound source. We individuate sounds just as coarsely as we individuate sound sources, and vice-versa. So, I can accommodate your intuition that the experience of the sound here is veridical. (At the same time, however, the experience of the sound source might be said to be illusory: it depends where we are willing to say that *the speakers* are located.)

  9. Hi, Bence. It’s nice to see you here, too. Sorry it’s taken me so long to get around to replying to your comment. I think the issues you raise are very important, even if I haven’t thought about them very deeply in some time. In fact, I’ve got a draft of a paper on this question that I’ve been sitting on (and avoiding!) for a while. So, I’m grateful for your comment, and for your paper, for forcing me to revisit fundamental features of my own approach, and for prompting the return of that now too-long-repressed draft. (Once I’ve got the paper in shareable form, I’ll pass it along to you. I’d be very keen to hear your thoughts.)

    IN any case, you suspect that my strategy of drawing conclusions about what we hear from how things auditorily seem is question-begging. Your main reason for this has to do with taking multimodality seriously. I’ll return to this below, but let me say, first, that my overall strategy is to follow what I take to be a straightforward and unobjectionable methodological principle: that, ceteris paribus, we should take things—for instance, perceptual experiences—to *be* as they *seem*. One question is then whether, in the case of perceptual phenomenology, anyone is ever entitled to claim that other things *are* equal, particularly these days, in light of the kinds of phenomena that you cite in your paper. Obviously, I think the answer is “yes,” but I can accept that this might require some arguing.

    Next, let me say something about there’s the question of how to adjudicate disputes about what figures in the phenomenology of a perceptual experience. To begin with, I suspect that *many* disputes about this result from describing experiences at such a high level of generality that they are divorced from the particular contexts in which they occur. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I think that what counts as a correct description of “what an experience is like, perceptually” is an occasion-sensitive matter (as I suggest in one of my replies above). In this case, what an experience is like, perceptually, cannot be assessed independently of the particular purposes and interests of the perceiver together with relevant aspects of the circumstance of the experience, which typically can’t be exhaustively specified in advance. This doesn’t mean that we can’t arrive at *some* conclusions about what, say, hearing is typically like; though, as I acknowledge above in reply to Casey, there are certain “disengaged” ways of listening that do not fit these descriptions. So, the point of my paper is to claim that, *typically*, under roughly normal conditions, sound sources seem to be given to us in auditory experience in a way that is incompatible with the apparent independence of sounds and sources that philosophers have claimed to find in their own auditory phenomenology. In fact, I suspect that one main reason that philosophers “find” this sort of independence in auditory phenomenology is that, in their attempts to inspect the phenomenology of auditory experiences they assume a certain “disengaged” posture, which, I think, rather than giving them an accurate, objective picture of what their experiences are like, actually serves to alter the very phenomenology they wanted to study.

    Finally, to your main question: can we really separate auditory phenomenology from, say, visual phenomenology, as I pretend to do? Well, this much I can admit as reasonable: my auditory phenomenology wouldn’t have been as it is if I had never enjoyed visual and/or tactile experience. However, this doesn’t mean that when I hear someone call me from downstairs that my hearing them (and their calling) as available for primitive demonstrative reference is actually phenomenologically multimodal. After all, I neither see nor feel them, yet they seem perceptually given to me in a cognitively basic way. (That said, I can at the same time acknowledge that some auditory experiences (for instance, speech perception, as in the McGurk effect) are multimodal.)

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