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Perceiving Immaterial Paths



In what sense does empty space feature in visual experience? In the first part of this essay I sketch a view advanced by Soteriou (2011) and Richardson (2009) on which one's visual awareness of empty space is explained by appeal to ‘structural’ features of the phenomenology of visual experience, in particular the phenomenology of experiencing one's visual field as bounded. I suggest that although this ‘structuralist’ view is silent on whether empty space has a phenomenal appearance, the very appeal to structural features seems a natural foil to some such thought. In the second part, I outline a view on which it can be granted that empty space does, after all, have a phenomenal appearance and, so, is not best cast as a species of absence perception as the structuralist avows, at least on a certain construal of ‘absence perception’. After O'Shaughnessy (2002), I contend that although some privations have a phenomenal appearance, ‘absence perception’ should single out the putative perception of phenomena that lack phenomenal reality. I finally consider how the descriptive phenomenology that the structuralist points to, and which I urge should be embraced, can nonetheless be reconciled with the view I spell out.