Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-cf9d5c678-ljdsm Total loading time: 0.721 Render date: 2021-08-04T20:19:10.326Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

The Microstructure of Experience

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 June 2019

E-mail address:


I argue that experiences can have microphenomenal structures, where the macrophenomenal properties we introspect are realized by non-introspectible microphenomenal properties. After explaining what it means to ascribe a microstructure to experience, I defend the thesis against its principal philosophical challenge, discuss how the thesis interacts with other philosophical issues about experience, and consider our prospects for investigating the microphenomenal realm.

Copyright © American Philosophical Association 2019 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


I am very grateful to David Chalmers for comments and discussions across numerous drafts of this paper. I have also benefited from comments and discussions with Ned Block, Kyle Blumberg, Philip Goff, Hedda Hassel-Mørch, Grace Helton, Daniel Hoek, Ben Holguín, Pierre Jacob, Arden Koehler, Uriah Kriegel, Harvey Lederman, Geoffrey Lee, Robert Long, Daniel Muñoz, Thomas Nagel, Luke Roelofs, Peter Unger, James Walsh, two anonymous referees, and audiences at the City University of New York, Institut Jean Nicod, and New York University.


Auvray, M., and Spence, C.. (2008) ‘The Multisensory Perception of Flavor’. Consciousness and Cognition, 17, 1016–31.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Byrne, Alex. (2009) ‘Experience and Content’. Philosophical Quarterly, 59, 429–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chalmers, David J. (2003) ‘The Content and Epistemology of Phenomenal Belief’. In Smith, Quentin and Jokic, Aleksandar (eds.), Consciousness: New Philosophical Perspectives (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 220–72.Google Scholar
Chalmers, David J. (2013) ‘Panpsychism and Panprotopsychism’. The Amherst Lecture in Philosophy, 8, 135. Available at: Scholar
Dainton, Barry F. (2000) Stream of Consciousness: Unity and Continuity in Conscious Experience. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dennett, D. C. (1978) ‘Why You Can't Make a Computer that Feels Pain’. Synthese, 38, 415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Goff, Philip. (2017) Consciousness and Fundamental Reality. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Grahek, Nikola. (2007) Feeling Pain and Being in Pain. 2d ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hardcastle, Valerie Gray. (1997) ‘What a Pain is Not’. The Journal of Philosophy, 94, 381409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jackson, Frank. (1982) ‘Epiphenomenal Qualia’. Philosophical Quarterly, 32, 127–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Klein, Colin. (2015) ‘What Pain Asymbolia Really Shows’. Mind, 124, 493516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kupers, R. C., Konings, H., Adriaensen, H., and Gybels, J. M.. (1991) ‘Morphine Differentially Affects the Sensory and Affective Pain Ratings in Neurogenic and Idiopathic Forms of Pain’. Pain, 47, 512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lee, Andrew. (manuscript under review) ‘First-Person Technology’. New York University.Google Scholar
Lee, Geoffrey. (2015) ‘Experiences and their Parts’. In Hill, Bennett (ed.), Sensory Integration and the Unity of Consciousness (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press), 287322.Google Scholar
Lockwood, Michael. (1993) ‘The Grain Problem’. In Robinson, Howard M. (ed.), Objections to Physicalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 271–91.Google Scholar
Marks, L. E. (1987) ‘On Cross-modal Similarity: Auditory–visual Interactions in Speeded Discrimination’. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 13, 384–94.Google ScholarPubMed
McGinn, Colin. (2006) ‘Hard Questions: Comments on Galen Strawson’. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 13, 9099.Google Scholar
Nida-Rümelin, Martine. (2018) ‘The Experience Property Framework: A Misleading Paradigm’. Synthese, 195, 3361–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Parise, Cesare V. (2016) ‘Crossmodal Correspondences: Standing Issues and Experimental Guidelines’. Multisensory Research, 29, 728. ScholarPubMed
Ploner, M., Freund, H. K., and Schnitzler, A.. (1999) ‘Pain Affect Without Pain Sensation in a Patient with a Postcentral Lesion’. Pain, 81, 211–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Price, Donald. (2000) ‘Psychological and Neural Mechanisms of the Affective Dimension of Pain’. Science, 288, 1769–72.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Roelofs, Luke. (2014) ‘Phenomenal Blending and the Palette Problem’. Thought: A Journal of Philosophy, 3, 5970.Google Scholar
Schaffer, Jonathan. (2010) ‘Monism: The Priority of the Whole’. Philosophical Review, 119, 3176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sibley, Frank, Benson, J., Redfern, B., and Roxbee Cox, J., eds. (2006) Approaches to Aesthetics: Collected Papers on Philosophical Aesthetics. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
Smith, Barry. (2013) ‘The Nature of Sensory Experience: The Case of Taste and Tasting’. Phenomenology and Mind Online Journal, 292313.Google Scholar
Spence, C. (2011) ‘Crossmodal Correspondences: A Tutorial Review’. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 73, 971–95. ScholarPubMed
Spence, C., Auvray, M., and Smith, B.. (2015) ‘Confusing Tastes with Flavours’. In Stokes, D., Fullford, M., and Matthen, M. (eds.), Perception and Its Modalities (New York: Oxford University Press), 247–74.Google Scholar
Strawson, Galen. (2006) ‘Realistic Monism: Why Physicalism Entails Panpsychism’. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 13 331.Google Scholar
Williamson, Timothy. (2000) Knowledge and its Limits. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

The Microstructure of Experience
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

The Microstructure of Experience
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

The Microstructure of Experience
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *