Lecturer in History and Philosophy of Art at University of Kent.
‘Seeing-in’ is a transparency effect
Wednesday, 12 October 2011
16:00-18:00 at Stewart House, Room 274
Philosophers of art use the term ‘seeing-in’ to describe an important part of our experience of pictures: we often ‘see’ a picture’s subject matter ‘in’ its surface. This paper proposes that seeing-in, so far as it is a twofold experience, is an example of a perceptual phenomenon that has received extensive attention in perceptual psychology: the perception of transparency. Seeing-in and transparency perception invite comparison initially on account of their twofoldness. I go on to show that seeing-in is subject to the same laws of ‘scission’ that are widely accepted as governing transparency perception. On this basis I argue that seeing-in can be understood as a kind of transparency effect, and that our ability to understand pictures might thus be understood as a spandrel associated with the evolution of transparency perception in our distant pre-human ancestors.