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Casati, R., Dokic, J., & Di Bona, E. (2005). Sounds. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved October 27, 2021, 
Added by: sirfragalot (6/3/14, 8:22 PM)   Last edited by: sirfragalot (10/27/21, 11:17 AM)
Resource type: Web Encyclopedia Article
Peer reviewed
BibTeX citation key: Casati2005
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Categories: General
Keywords: Definition of sound
Creators: Di Bona, Casati, Dokic, Zalta
Collection: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
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Philosophy of perception typically centered on colors, as did the metaphysics of mind when discussing the mind-dependence of secondary qualities. Possibly, the philosophical privilege of the visible just reflects the cognitive privilege of the visible—as vision is considered to account for most of useful sensory information gathering.

This neglect of sounds is at times a regrettable state of affairs, as sounds are not only an important element of the perceptual scene but are also philosophically idiosyncratic in many intriguing ways; in particular, their temporal and spatial unfolding, as presented in perception, has interesting metaphysical and epistemological aspects. There is, however, an advantage of the neglect. Many philosophical aspects of sound and sound perception are not idiosyncratic and indeed make for general issues in philosophy of perception. Hence in this article we will take advantage of the many discussions that have used other sensory features such as colors as a paradigm of a sensory feature. For instance, we shall not rehearse the discussion about the subjectivity of secondary qualities, as the example of sounds does not seem to introduce new philosophically interesting elements that could challenge generalizations obtained, say, from the example of colors.

The main issues which are on the table concern the nature of sounds. Sounds enter the content of auditory perception. But what are they? Are sounds individuals? Are they events? Are they properties of sounding objects? If they are events, what type of event are they? What is the relation between sounds and sounding objects? Temporal and causal features of sounds will be important in deciding these and related questions. However, it turns out that a fruitful way to organize these issues deals with the spatial properties of sounds.

Indeed, the various philosophical pronouncements about the nature of sounds can be rather neatly classified according to the spatial status each of them assigns to sounds. Where are sounds? Are they anywhere? The main relevant families of answers include proximal, medial, distal, and aspatial theories. Proximal theories would claim that sounds are where the hearer is. Medial theories – exemplified by mainstream acoustics – locate sounds in the medium between the resonating object and the hearer. Distal theories consider sounds to be located at the resonating object. Finally, aspatial theories deny spatial relevance to sounds. There are significant variants of each of these. Sound theories can also be classified according to other dimensions, such as the metaphysical status they accord to sounds (for instance, as occurring events as opposed to properties or dispositions). We shall see some of the interactions between these different accounts.

Some of this appears in (Casati & Dokic 2009).

Casati, R., & Dokic, J. (2009). Some varieties of spatial hearing. In M. Nudds & C. O'Callaghan (Eds), Sounds & Perception (pp. 97–110). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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