So that’s What It’s Like!

Authored by: Sean Allen-Hermanson

The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Animal Minds

Print publication date:  July  2017
Online publication date:  July  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138822887
eBook ISBN: 9781315742250
Adobe ISBN:


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The example of bat echolocation is commonly used to set up discussions of the explanatory gap, the subjective-objective distinction, and the ultimate nature of consciousness. Many philosophers have held that we cannot say what it is like to be a bat since it presents a fundamentally alien form of life (Nagel, 1974/1998). Another view held by some philosophers, bat scientists, and even many laypersons is that echolocation is somehow, at least in part, a kind of visual experience. Either way, bat echolocation is taken to be something very mysterious and exotic. However, I contend that we can say something about what it is like to be a bat. Though highly plausible, this view has mostly been overlooked by philosophers of mind. That they might be so mistaken about something often taken as obvious and certain is rather curious! If many or most philosophers are in error about what it is like to echolocate, this calls for reflection on philosophies dependent on immediate knowledge of our ongoing conscious states.

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