Schott tr. His work is an exercise in the conceptual analysis of the image. Wiesing considers what things belong to the category of images. What this exercise reveals is the existence, explicitly and often implicitly, of competing understandings of what an image is.
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Reviewed by Nico Orlandi, University of California, Santa Cruz Looking at the history of analytic philosophy of perception we can easily find two recurring issues. One is the investigation of the objects of perception -- for example, whether they are ordinary objects or sense data. The other is the investigation of what the subject needs to do in order to perceive.
In this book, Lambert Wiesing proposes that we switch paradigms. Rather than focusing on the object or on the subject of perception or on both , we should focus on perception itself and on its significance for perceivers. Wiesing understands perception as a "mental state or experience" in which subjects take "a particular, describable object to be present and extant" p.
Given this characterization, he proposes that we focus on what consequences the reality of perception has for a subject, or more pointedly, that we focus on what perception condemns us to. The answer, according to Wiesing, is that perception condemns us to a physical and embodied existence p.
Just as the birth of a child makes one a father, the existence of perception makes one a perceiver -- a spatio-temporal and embodied entity that is part of the physical world p. Importantly, perception condemns us to be more than mere spectators. Perceiving involves participating p. As perceivers we are public, visible actors p. The world of perception is itself present and real, in the sense of being a material cause of our experiences that is independent of our consciousness pp.
Thinking of perception as a mere objectless sensation is, according to Wiesing, like thinking of triangles that do not have three corners. He maintains that his outlook on perception guarantees a genuine and unmediated being-in-the-world. This makes the book a stimulating contribution.
The proposal of focusing on the reality of perception -- and on its consequences for perceivers -- is discussed primarily in Chapter 3, which is central to the book. Chapter 1 identifies a critical target. In it, Wiesing presents what he calls the Myth of the Mediate. According to this Myth, "being-in-the-world is a mediated being-in-the-world" p. A human being possesses points of access to the world, but nothing, either in perception, action or imagination is immediately present to her.
Although subjects are not aware of this mediation, their contact with the world of objects is always filtered p.
The myth of the mediate is widespread in philosophy, according to Wiesing, held in various forms by Hegelians, Kantian, pragmatists, deconstructivists and analytic philosophers of various stripes p. Its causes are to be found in an attempt to model how perception comes about -- that is, in an attempt to trace the genesis of perception p. This, according to Wiesing, is misguided and, in fact, all philosophy that attempts to build third-personal models -- in a similar fashion to how science builds models -- is engaging in a dubious enterprise.
He argues that such philosophy unreflectively uses the assumptions embedded in its models, when the assumptions should be questioned p. To the third-person methodology of scientific or quasi-scientific models, Wiesing contrasts phenomenology. Phenomenology consists roughly in self-reflecting. When a subject self-reflects on her perceptual experience, she is unaware of the genesis of her experience, but she can uncover fundamental and necessary truths about it.
Self-reflection brings phenomenal knowledge. This knowledge is better described as certainty p. Using phenomenal knowledge means concerning oneself only with what is certain. Anything else, according to Wiesing should not be addressed in philosophy at all p. In the next step, one fantasizes or imagines variations to this situation as in a thought experiment. Could one, for example, imagine the tomato to be differently colored, differently shaped, not present at all, not in space and time?
The goal of this imaginative enterprise is to find the limits of the variation, and presumably, the limits and essences of the notions in play. Central to this method is that subjects are encouraged to experience for themselves. After applying this methodology to trace what perception condemns us to in chapter 3, chapter 4 closes the book with an interesting discussion of image perception. While ordinary perception forces us to be real participants in the world, viewing images is not as demanding.
It allows a pause in participation, where we can afford a more contemplative stance p. In looking at images, we are the kind of detached spectators that we cannot afford to be when we perceive. It is as if Husserl met Merleau-Ponty in this poignant work. By engaging in phenomenological reflection we find ourselves as fully embodied, active participants in the real world.
While I find the positive claims of the book interesting, some of the polemical points are a bit hard to follow and, in my opinion, not sufficiently justified.
For example, in chapter 1, Wiesing suggests that philosophers who engage in modeling are doing something that is not just questionable, but also contradictory p. It is unclear, however, why this is the case, and it is further unclear why modeling a certain mental process -- or trying to understand its origins -- is in any way bad, or to be contrasted with a phenomenological approach. It is also not clear why philosophy should concern itself only with what is certain.
Even granting that phenomenology, self-reflection and eidetic variation deliver indubitable certainty -- something that it would have been interesting to problematize -- I am unsure as to why philosophers should restrict their interest only to this type of certainty. Is any paradigm that thinks of perception as involving mental representations, an instance of this myth?
Because it is not clear what kind of positions count as belonging to the myth of the mediate, it is also not clear how the shift in paradigm proposed by Wiesing helps. Consider, for example, the common idea in cognitive science that perceptual processing involves an unconscious interpretation.
As Wiesing concedes, proponents of interpretationism tend to admit that interpreting is not something that perceivers are aware of. As a result, interpretationism seems to be compatible with the conclusions Wiesing draws about perception by using phenomenological self-reflection. That an unconscious interpretation is needed for us to reconstruct the appearance of an object from retinal stimulation is compatible with the fact that, in first-person awareness, the object is immediately present.
Without some further explanation of what the Myth of the Mediate consists in, it is not clear that the shift in paradigm proposed by Wiesing helps to avoid it. In addition to finding the polemical points in the book somewhat under-argued, I have questions concerning the method employed by Wiesing.
First, it seems that experiential self-reflection and eidetic variation allow him to draw conclusions that are either compatible with some of the positions that he wants to criticize, or orthogonal to some traditional debates in the philosophy of perception.
The debate on the nature of the objects of perception, for example, concerns -- at least in part -- whether perceptual objects are the ordinary, physical and material entities that we seem to encounter in perceptual experience. Yet what is questioned is whether this appearance is correct. It is not clear how a phenomenological approach would help in this context. Further, it is dubious that the ordinary nature, and the physicality and materiality of objects would even be what we find when we simply reflect on the reality of perception -- even when perception is understood as a state of taking an object to be present and extant p.
A second question about the method employed by Wiesing concerns the status of the conclusions that are drawn from it. That we are embodied and existing subjects in a real, material world is supposed to be a phenomenally necessary truth. It is an a priori truth and not a mere empirical finding p.
When first reading this, I thought that this kind of position evoked the synthetic a priori that we find in Kant. The idea would be that, by engaging in eidetic variation and in self-reflection, we uncover the conditions for the possibility of perception.
But this is not quite consistent with what Wiesing says. Wiesing talks of the various claims he makes about perception as if they were logical necessities p.
This is puzzling because the phenomenological method Wiesing uses is tangled up with experiences. The method seems incapable of delivering purely conceptual truths. Self-reflection in perception involves reflecting on experiences.
The presence of an object in perception, for example, is a truth based on the manner in which an object is given. The method of eidetic variation has similar experiential elements, as it employs imagination. It seems to then follow that truths derived by these means are not logical or analytic.
Indeed, the more general question is how the phenomenological method and the method of eidetic variation relate to pure conceptual analysis. Further clarification would be helpful here. Chapter 4, which has been neglected for reasons of space, should be of interest to anyone studying aesthetics and image theory. More generally, philosophers interested in phenomenology and in the situatedness of perception -- particularly from a historical point of view -- should find this book useful and stimulating.
Being there: putting brain, body, and world together again. MIT Press. Clark, A. Predictive brains, situated agents, and the future of cognitive science. Fodor, J. Moore, G. Orlandi, N.
Oxford University Press, Palmer, S. Vision science: Photons to phenomenology. MIT Press, Rock, I. Indirect perception. Rowlands, M. The body in mind: Understanding cognitive processes. Cambridge University Press, Russell, B.
The Problems of Philosophy. London: Home University Library, Thompson, E. Mind in life.
The Philosophy of Perception
Reviewed by Nico Orlandi, University of California, Santa Cruz Looking at the history of analytic philosophy of perception we can easily find two recurring issues. One is the investigation of the objects of perception -- for example, whether they are ordinary objects or sense data. The other is the investigation of what the subject needs to do in order to perceive. In this book, Lambert Wiesing proposes that we switch paradigms.
Please note there is a week delivery period for this title. Instead of attempting to understand how a subject perceives the world, Wiesing starts by taking perception to be real. He then asks what this reality means for a subject. In his original approach, the question of how human perception is possible is displaced by questions about what perception obliges us to be and do. He argues that perception requires us to be embodied, to be visible, and to continually participate in the public and physical world we perceive. In addition to identifying common ground among diverse philosophical positions, he identifies how his own, phenomenological approach differs from those of many other philosophers, past and present. As part of the argument, he provides a succinct but comprehensive survey of the philosophy of images His original critical exposition presents scholars of phenomenology, perception and aesthetics with a new, important understanding of the old phenomenon, the human being in the world.
His areas of specialisation are phenomenology, cognitive and image theory, and aesthetics. From to Wiesing was president of the German Society for Aesthetics. Instead of attempting to understand how a subject perceives the world, Wiesing starts by taking perception to be real. He then asks what this reality means for a subject. In his original approach, the question of how human perception is possible is displaced by questions about what perception obliges us to be and do. He argues that perception requires us to be embodied, to be visible, and to continually participate in the public and physical world we perceive.