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The Whereabouts of Pictorial Space

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Abstract:

This paper deals with the perception of depth in two-dimensional pictures. Two indirect theories of perception, the Mainstream Theory and the Projection Theory, are compared with a direct Adverbial Theory. Apart from seeming to be the philosophical counterpart to present-day empirical theories of perception, the first two theories seem to be tailor-made to deal with this phenomenon, where the perceived space is certainly not out there, on or behind the canvas: they claim that pictorial space is constructed by the brain as the direct object of perception. In contrast, the Adverbial Theory seems unsuited to deal with this phenomenon. I argue, however, that both constructivist theories are incoherent. They misconstrue the intentionality of perception, and fail to attend to the perceptual experience itself. The version of the Adverbial Theory that I defend claims that nothing needs to be constructed: the picture is the direct object of perception, but we perceive it in a certain way. The brain creates no pictorial space; there is only a perceptual experience as of a three-dimensional scene. The Adverbial Theory can thus account for the empirical data, without suffering from coherence problems.

Keywords: Adverbial theory of perception; constructivist theory of perception; depth perception; intentionality; linear perspective; phenomenal experience; pictorial perception; seeing-in

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, Section Philosophy of Mind, University of Tilburg, Weezenhof 3713, 6536 HH Nijmegen, The Netherlands, Email: M.A.M.M.Meijsing@uvt.nl

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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