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Messengers, Mirrors and Light: Alexander of Aphrodisias on Visual Perception

Crampton, EA; (2017) Messengers, Mirrors and Light: Alexander of Aphrodisias on Visual Perception. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This is a study of Alexander of Aphrodisias’ writings on visual perception. It focuses on the way in which, for Alexander, the medium and eye are changed by the objects of visual perception. The main claim is that, according to Alexander, the eye and medium are changed in a genuine and physical way through their reception of light and colour. This claim constitutes a rejection of certain recent interpretations of Alexander on vision, most significantly Richard Sorabji’s. Sorabji has claimed that Alexander presents a non-physical, ‘spiritualist’ view of the way in which the eye and medium are changed by the objects of perception. The thesis highlights two significant ways in which Alexander’s view goes beyond mere interpretation of Aristotle’s texts. The first is that, for Alexander, the mirror images perceptible in the eye play a role in perception. This is an explicit divergence from Aristotle’s view. The second is Alexander’s introduction of the concept of change by virtue of relation to explain the way in which the eye and medium receive colour. The task of the latter chapters is to explain Alexander’s concept of change by virtue of relation, which has been understood, falsely, as equivalent to the concept of mere Cambridge change. Change by virtue of relation ought to be understood, not in terms of the distinction between relative and intrinsic properties, but rather in terms of Alexander’s distinction between receiving forms as matter and receiving forms not as matter. The thesis also presents Alexander’s solutions to the problem of simultaneous perception and argues that these solutions do not involve the medium or the sense organs receiving the forms of perceptible objects in a non-physical way.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Messengers, Mirrors and Light: Alexander of Aphrodisias on Visual Perception
Event: University College London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Alexander of Aphrodisias, Aristotle, Perception, Visual Perception, Mirrors, Change
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1541254
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