By experience, I mean all the content that I receive, which I have sub-divided into three categories:

  1. Percepts, the content corresponding to the different senses (sight, hearing, olfaction, taste, tactile sensation, etc.)
  2. Emotion, including content like happiness, sadness, anger, etc.
  3. Thoughts, further sub-divided into the categories of concepts and propositions (strings of concepts).

I have a few problems with these divisions. First of all, I wonder if I am missing something. I haven't exactly sat down and thought about this really hard (although I intend to, I just want to do some research, hence my post here). I have thought of at least one category that seems to not really fit in anywhere. If I, in my head, exclaim; what does the exclamation constitute? If I say ouch, that constitutes an experience; I can "hear" it in my head. Is it merely a percept then? But it has meaning beyond that; associations. Does that matter? This also raises the question of whether things we hear/see in our heads are percepts, or thoughts. If they're thoughts, that suddenly makes whether a given object of experience is a thought or a percept, which is problematic.

Another problem is whether or not emotions and percepts are really distinct. Their experienced difference seems (to me) to stem from the experience that emotions are internal, but percepts external. But I don't know; their difference seems weaker than that between emotions/percepts versus thoughts.

So, in summary, I am just looking for treatments of experience and how it can/ought to be divided.

  • I think you should first research a bit by yourself on Google or the SEP and then come back with any, more specific, doubts that may have arised. Otherwise, I feel this question is too broad.
    – user64708
    Feb 25, 2023 at 17:32
  • i don't think that the experience is the "content someone receives". Experience is something that not a content, mistakes for example. Feb 25, 2023 at 17:52
  • @άνθρωπος The word experience is ascribed to many things. One of those things is the practical knowledge gained through life, for example; i.e. "I have 50 years of experience in IT". I am not talking about that. I am talking about something more fundamental; I am talking about the totality of all the content you receive. In there, is the knowledge gained from your mistake, as well as your memories pertaining to it. The mistake itself was, from your point of view, a collection of experiential objects across time. Externally, the mistake was a series of action(s). Feb 25, 2023 at 18:23
  • 1
    Emotional feelings are certainly a part of the content of experience. Feb 26, 2023 at 0:42
  • 1
    @άνθρωπος, you have clearly never read any philosophy about this topic and are appealing to how the word is used generically or possibly in psychology. Please stop pretending to have expertise that you don't have. You will spread misinformation. Feb 26, 2023 at 1:19

1 Answer 1


One way to approach these kinds of questions is to break things down into contrary alternatives: is it X or not X? The nice feature of this approach is that it lets you be confident that you have covered all of the possible cases if not all of the interesting divisions. In this example, I would suggest:

  1. All experience is either perceptual or non-perceptual. What I mean by perceptual is not that it comes from the senses, but that it has the quality of sense perception, like a sound or a sight. Dreams and hallucinations are perceptual in this sense.
  2. All perceptual experience is either sensory or non-sensory. Non-sensory perceptual experience includes dreams and hallucinations. Note that this is a logical distinction. There is no implicit claim that it is always possible to tell which perceptual experiences are sensory and which are not.
  3. All experience is either propositional or non-propositional. Propositional experience is a thought that may be true or false. It includes things like beliefs, knowledge, speculation, etc.
  4. All non-perceptual, non-propositional experience is either aesthetic or non-aesthetic. An aesthetic experience is some sort emotional reaction or desire. Note, it's not any experience that provokes an emotional reaction or desire such as the (perceptual) sight of a puppy or the (propositional) belief that you have been wronged, it is the emotional reaction or desire itself.

Sometimes you have overlapping categories such as the perceptual/non-perceptual and propositional/non-propositional categories. In these cases, you have four potential categories: perceptual & propositional, perceptual & non-propositional, non-perceptual & propositional, and non-perceptual & non-propositional. Logically all four categories exist, but you might use insight to argue that, for example, no perceptual experience is propositional. In such a case, you might want to recategorize and say, for example, that propositional/non-propositional is a subcategory of non-perceptual.

  • Interesting. Where do you think exclamations would fit in? Feb 26, 2023 at 2:07
  • @user1113719, I don't know what experience you are referring to as an exclamation. The only meaning I can give to that word is a verbal behavior. Feb 26, 2023 at 5:59
  • I was also willing to write it off as simply a verbal behavior which is only extrinsically experienced (that is, you perceive the sound of the exclamation). After thinking however, I believe exclamations are actually propositions. Thinking ouch is the same as thinking that hurts, and thinking hurray is the same as thinking that's fantastic. They're just synonymous propositions. Feb 26, 2023 at 14:50

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .