This essay focuses on the feeling of presence, its relation to the feeling of reality, and the implication and alterations of both types of feelings in virtual reality environments. The feeling of presence is a pervasive aspect of our ordinary experience of the world, although it does not always accompany what otherwise seem like genuine perceptual experiences. It involves the feeling that objects are available to bodily action, but also the experience of being spatially connected to them and the experience of self-identification with a living body. It is often the feeling that the perceived objects are really there, but the feeling of reality is a distinct experience, which may not involve the feeling of presence. Finally, virtual reality is a good test case for exploring the subtle phenomenological variations with which feelings of presence and reality accompany our perceptual experiences. The phenomenology of virtuality is not homogeneous but can be shaped in different ways by these feelings.
When we look around us, objects in our environment normally feel present to us. It is not as if we were watching a film, for instance. What is the nature of the feeling of presence? Is it part of the essence of perception? How does it relate to the spatial content of perceptual experience and to our capacity to act on its objects? These are the main questions to be addressed in what follows.
Traditional analytical philosophy of perception has largely missed the phenomenological subtilities associated with the feeling of presence. In contrast, traditional phenomenology has studied what was considered to be…
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