Oct 25 Colloquia – Fréderique Vignemont

Embodied Presence

You see a tree. You see the painting of a tree. Only in the former case do you experience the tree as being present. But what do we mean by that? Most literature takes the sense of presence as a unified phenomenon. Nonetheless, there are, at least conceptually, two different interpretations. The sense of presence can simply assert that one is spatially connected to the tree (sense of spatial presence). So far there is no ontological commitment. The sense of presence can also assert that the tree actually exists (sense of real presence). Then only does it express that what one perceives exists materially or independently of one’s perception of it. The centre of my interest will be only the sense of spatial presence, which is less committing than the sense of real presence. The question that I will ask is the following: how far do we experience the sense of spatial presence? Clearly I experience the person on the other side of the room as being present. However, I propose that when this person is next to me, I experience her not only as being present but also as being « here » . There is a primitive type of spatial presence, which consists in the awareness of the object as being in one’s immediate surrounding of one’s body, in what is known as peripersonal space.