Seeing Through the Illusion of Transparency: The Opacity of Emotion and Perception

Sarah Arnaud (Clemson)

Abstract: The “transparency thesis” asserts that through introspection, one can only become aware of the object of experience or its properties. It has been used in the explanation of the phenomenology of perceptual states to offer a materialist account of the mind. However, researchers have refused its applicability to emotions, conferring to the phenomenology of emotions an idiosyncratic character, thus threatening materialism. Most of them have explained such idiosyncrasy by the predominance of the body in emotion experiences. I consider that this conclusion is based on simplistic comparisons between emotion and perception. In this paper, I argue that the transparency thesis does not divide emotions from perception. I suggest that the differences between perception and emotion phenomenology lies in the degrees of permeability of their objects. This entails that their phenomenology differs in terms of degree of affectivity.