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Appearance and Representation

Steenhagen, M; (2015) Appearance and Representation. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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At the intersection of aesthetics and the philosophy of perception lies a problem about representational images. When you look at Vermeer's View of Delft, do you in fact get to see Delft? It would be nice if we could answer in the affirmative, as it would so neatly explain many of our practices in engaging with images. Be it in churches, advertising, or psychology labs, we typically use images as substitutes for the immediate perception of things. Here is what I claim: Images make it possible to see the objects they represent, and they do so because they can function in vision as perceptual mediators. A perceptual mediator is an object of perception by means of which we can perceive something wholly distinct from it. I show that, while such perceptual mediators may be exceptional in vision, in other sensory modalities they occur universally. Our sensory lives would be impoverished without the possibility of perceiving things mediately. In Chapter 1 I identify a fundamental dispute about images. The dispute is about whether images represent by making absent scenes appear to a viewer, or by merely copying the way an object or event looks. Many philosophers favour the idea that images merely copy how things look. In Chapter 2 I explain my dissatisfaction with the copy view. I lay out my main positive proposal in Chapter 3. How does the idea that images make absent objects visible fit with our current concept of perception? I formulate my answer through a study of the other sensory modalities. In audition, it is no mystery that sounds can make other things heard. My arguments forge a connection between images and sounds that has not been explored in recent work on representation or perception. I show how it offers an attractive solution to our problem. In Chapter 4, I argue that moreover, we may regard mediate perception as a purely sensory mode of perception. There is no need to rely on non-sensory or quasi-sensory effects of thought or cognition. Instead, coming to see a painted surface as an image consists in no more than discovering a previously unseen aspect of our visible surroundings. In Chapter 5 I consider at a more general level how visual images contribute to visual perception. Overall, I establish how visual representation has a structural place in our visual world.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Appearance and Representation
Event: UCL
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1470246
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