Philosophy

Articles

Experiences in the Cave, the Closet and the Vat—and in Bed

Leslie F. Stevensona1

a1 University of St. Andrews

The notion of experience plays a deeply ambiguous role in philosophical thinking. In ordinary discourse we say that applicants for employment as joiner, farmhand or nanny should have some previous experience with carpentry, livestock or children. Such uses of the word clearly presuppose the existence of the relevant objects of experience. In other usages the focus is more on the mental effect on the subject (without doubting the existence of the relevant objects), as when someone says that they have had several unpleasant experiences that day–a wetting in a thunderstorm, an altercation with a traffic warden, and a long wait at the station.