Perplexities of Consciousness, Chapter Two:

Do Things Look Flat?

Eric Schwitzgebel

in draft


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 No (2004).  I confess that it doesnt seem this way to me, though Im 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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