Subjective character of experience

The subjective character of experience is a term in psychology and the philosophy of mind denoting that all subjective phenomena are associated with a single point of view ("ego"). The term was coined and illuminated by Thomas Nagel in his famous paper "What Is it Like to Be a Bat?"[1]

Nagel argues that, because bats are apparently conscious mammals with a way of perceiving their environment entirely different from that of human beings, it is impossible to speak of "what is it like to be a bat for the bat" or, while the example of the bat is particularly illustrative, any conscious species, as each organism has a unique point of view from which no other organism can gather experience.[citation needed] To Nagel, the subjective character of experience implies the cognitive closure of the human mind to some facts, specifically the mental states that physical states create.

Subjective realityEdit

Subjective character of experience implies that the perception of all things, concepts, and "truths" in the universe differs between individuals: we all live in different worlds, each of which may have things in common, because of our unique perspectives on our worlds. The only thing to which one can hold oneself is something one has experienced or perceived. Until someone has had an experience of something the object or concept within itself is not "real." Someone in Africa is aware of the existence of fire and sees it but for an Inuit who has never seen fire before the fire does not exist in the same way. The idea of the subjectivity of one's "reality" also hints at an aspect of moral relativism, that each person's opinions are the only things they can hold themselves to.

Dual-subjective realityEdit

A dual-subjective reality arises when an individual's mind interprets information and, instead of creating only one interpretation that the conscious mind can make sense of, creates several. These differing "realities" then cause conflict in that individual who may confuse what is actually happening around them with alternative realities formulated in their mind.

See alsoEdit


  • Michael, L.A. The Principles of Existence and Beyond. 2007
  1. ^ Nagel, Thomas (1974) What is It Like to Be a Bat? The Philosophical Review LXXXIII, 4 (October): 435–50.