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The Historicity of the Eye

A Phenomenological Defense of the Culturalist Conception of Perception

Back to issue: Phänomenologische Forschungen 2009
EUR 14.90

Against a stream of culturally oriented scholars some scholars in aesthetics, such as Arthur Danto and Noel Carroll, have maintained that there is a sense of “seeing” and visual recognition that does not depend upon historical and cultural practices. This essay shows that Danto’s assumption of a difference between a “core” and an “extended” form of perception and visual recognition should be rejected. The underlying argument of my considerations in this essay is the following: the distinction between a “pure” and an “extended” perception or visual perception is untenable, since, as a phenomenological reflection can reveal, our normal mode of perception is always extended. In this vein, it is argued here that there is, after all, only one mode of perception and that Danto’s position is based on abstractions from the real phenomenon. Consequently, whereas Danto maintains that it makes sense to talk about a “natural” form of seeing, this essay argues that “seeing” is itself a culturally defined way of comportment, and that assumptions about naturalistically defined perceptual core processes turn out to be idealized constructions.