Perplexities of Consciousness, Chapter Two:
Do Things Look Flat?Eric Schwitzgebel
Does a penny viewed at an angle in some sense look elliptical, as though projected on a two-dimensional surface? Many philosophers have said such things, from Malebranche (1674/1997) and Hume (1739/1978), through early sense-data theorists, to Tye (2000) and Noë (2004). I confess that it doesn’t seem this way to me, though I’m somewhat baffled by the phenomenology and pessimistic about our ability to resolve the dispute. I raise a geometrical objection to the view and conjecture that, maybe, the view draws some of its appeal from the over-analogizing of visual experience to painting or photography. Theorists writing in contexts where vision is analogized to less projective media – signet ring impressions in wax in ancient Greece, stereoscopy in introspective psychology circa 1900 – seem substantially less likely to attribute such projective distortions to visual appearances. Stereoscope enthusiasts do, however, seem readier than scholars in other eras to attribute a pervasive doubling to visual experience – like the doubling, perhaps, of an unfused image in a stereoscope.
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