Space doesn't have a taste, a smell, a sound or a "shape". Anything we experience and think seem to require it. It doesn't have any experiential property whatsoever, but we still normally refer to it as "perceived". In fact it seems to be the framework in which we perceive rather than something with perceptible qualities. The container of any "thing" with properties.

Is space experienced or is it an imposed framework of experience? Is there anything with properties that is not in space?

By experience I mean: "awareness of perceptible properties"

Can we be aware of any perceptible property of space?

  • 4
    Hi, welcome to philosophy SE. Pain does not have a taste, a smell, a sound or a "shape", and neither do integers or socialism. It is common to all abstractions. Are you asking about philosophical views on whether space is intersubjective (it does not match the title)? That space is "an imposed framework through which we experience" is Kant's thesis, not very popular today, but whether it is or isn't is completely irrelevant to that question.
    – Conifold
    Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 18:00
  • @Conifold I've edited a little bit. Pain is an experience that still has a spatial location. My question is: If space isn't experienced then isn't it indipendent of individual experience?
    – urhen
    Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 18:13
  • 2
    @Conifold Computer skills can be "experienced". Why do you think the opposite? They still are a set of behaviours in space. But space itself isn't. Why is philosophy still debating whether space is indipendent of experience or not? What are the compelling arguments still alive today that see space as experienced?
    – urhen
    Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 18:38
  • 2
    @Conifold Even Socialism can be experienced as a set of spatial events by the way. Even thoughts and ideas require space as a framework.
    – urhen
    Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 18:40
  • 2
    I can not think of any philosopher who thought that space has no properties. After all, Euclidean geometry is all about its properties: it is homogeneous, isotropic, flat, and so on. And they are perceptual properties. Flatness, for example, may not be as directly perceived as seeing a shape or color, but reading numbers off a ruler or protractor is still "experiencing". "Infinite set of points" is not a definition of space at all. Integers are such a set, and nobody thinks of them as "space". On Aristotle's view, which was dominant before Cantor, space does not consist of points at all.
    – Conifold
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 23:56

4 Answers 4


Is "space" directly accessible to the senses?

It is not because it is the absence of sensation. Much as one can sense small quantity through subitizing, one can also be keenly aware that nothing is present, so too can one see motion and length or feel force, but be keenly aware that none occurs or exists. Is it true to say that the property of lacking sensation is itself a sensation?

No, because if one accepts the law of non-contradiction one cannot accept these two propositions: "space is not sensing" and "space is sensing". Hence, the simplest dichotomy for apprehension is the language of the mind-body duality, it is a conception (mind, not sensation) characterized by the absence of perception (body, sensation). This is why it is considered an abstraction and not a physical thing.

See this SE post for more details about how the concept is computed neurally

Whether you are talking about "void" discussed in Antiquity, "absolute space" during the 17th and 18th centuries, or " relativistic space-time" of the last century, the notion is essentially the same. A space or discontinuity in matter is what a pit is to the ground, emptiness, and the more sophisticated the philosopher, the more complex the constructed concept.

According to the SEP on Newton's Views on Space, Time, and Motion:

The most important question shaping 17th-century views on the nature of space, time and motion is whether or not a true void or vacuum is possible, i.e., a place devoid of body of any sort (including rarified substances such as air). Ancient atomism, dating back at least to the pre-Socratic philosopher Democritus (5th century, B. C.), held that not only is such possible, but in fact actually exists among the interstices of the smallest, indivisible parts of matter and extends without bound infinitely. Following Plato, Aristotle rejected the possibility of a void, claiming that, by definition, a void is nothing, and what is nothing cannot exist.

In modern physics, space is often conceptualized either as a discontinuity of atoms and other particles or as a field which is continuous everywhere echoing the ancient debate.


The mathematician and physicist Hermann Weyl would answer that space-time is not experienced as extended. The 'arithmetical' continuum of mathematics and mathematical physics would be a fiction and a paradoxical one, while the 'intuitive' or 'empirical' continuum of experience would be unextended. This view accords with our experience.

If we could experience space-time as an extended object this would falsify the Perennial philosophy and probably also Solipsism. Extension is a theory to explain experience, not an experience, as Kant notes.

  • And how does Weyl characterize "intuitional experience"?
    – J D
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 17:09
  • 1
    @JD - It would be what we experience stripped of the theories that we overlay on our raw sensory data. I don't like his use of the word 'intuitive' and would use 'directly experienced'.
    – user20253
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 11:14
  • Ah, now your "direct experience" makes more sense. You mean perception divorced from conception. That's a difficult thing to achieve. Very Zen.
    – J D
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 17:27
  • @JD That's it. Weyl endorses the Zen view of the continuum.
    – user20253
    Commented Oct 6, 2019 at 8:42

A current view on space is due to General Relativity. Here space is united with time to the physical concept of spacetime. In that context your original question reads:

Is spacetime experienced? And converted to a question from physics:

Does spacetime have any detectable properties?

The answer is: Yes! Everybody is aware of perceptible properties of spacetime.

Gravitational forces indicate the curvature of spacetime.

Even more: Spacetime is a physical object like other physical objects. Each mass acts on spacetime by changing the curvature of spacetime. The most spectacular result is the 2017-detection of gravitational waves created by the merging of two black holes.

For some basic information on spacetime see




Is space experienced or is it an imposed framework of experience?

Space is experienced. And our eye is the sense that creates its experience. You wouldn't be aware of even the space right in front of you if you close your eyes. Sometimes it will be your skin, nose or ears that makes you aware of the distance from a familiar object. When you realize the timeless state, space becomes meaningless. Its (space's) experience ends. So we can say it is an experience. If you don't have the experience of time, you can't experience space also. It is because, if you experience time you are in duality; and space exists only in duality.

Is there anything with properties that is not in space?

If you can't call the greatest property that gives all the properties that create the experience of space a property, there is no such thing. If anybody has mentioned such a thing, we can't say "that thing is 'in space'". C.f. : Gita Chapter 9 Verse 4.

Since everything we know is within the frame work of time and space there must be no such thing with properties that is not in space.

Can we be aware of any perceptible property of space?

Property is an attribute, quality, or characteristic of something. Often we are aware of the incomparable vastness of space. Vastness is a property that is perceptible with our eyes.

  • "And our eye is the sense that creates its experience" debatable
    – H Walters
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 19:01
  • Yes, it is debatable. Often, variations in temperature sound or smell help a blind man in his spatial-perception. I had given its hints in my first answer. Without brain, nerves or consciousness eyes won't work. I was mentioning the importance of eyes. A blind man uses a white-cane or a stick for his spatial-perception. This has its limitations. This is the 'basic thing' he often needs for spatial-perception. So we can say that his spatial-perception is in terms of length. It would be impossible to create a clear awareness in him about space as we have. Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 10:11
  • Unicellular organisms have no eyes. Their outermost part functions as the receptors of all their sense organs. If you search its roots you would reach the consciousness and its manifestations. Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 10:12
  • @SonOfThought So we experience space in the same way we experience a cup of coffee? I doubt that. With my question I want to challenge the very possibility for space to have qualities in the first place. Vastness seems to be the property of something in space like the vastness of an ocean.
    – urhen
    Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 13:53
  • @SonOfThought Space doesn't seem to disappear when I close my eyes. I don't find that convincing.
    – urhen
    Commented Sep 29, 2019 at 13:57

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