Seeing what is not there : pictorial experience, imagination and nonlocalization

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Journal article

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British Journal of Aesthetics

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Pictures let us see what is not there. Or rather, since what pictures depict is not really there, we do not really see the things they are pictures of. Ever since Richard Wollheim introduced the notion of seeing-in into philosophical aesthetics, as part of his theory of depiction, there has been a lively debate about how, precisely, to understand this experience. However, one (alleged) feature of seeing-in that Wollheim pointed to has been almost completely absent in the subsequent discussion, namely that seeing-in allows for non-localization. When looking at a picture, Wollheim says, there is not always an answer to the question of where one sees a certain thing in a picture. If Wollheim is right in this, pictures indeed let us see what is not there: we see things in pictures, but there is no ‘there’ where we see those things. In this paper I argue against Wollheim's claim that object-seeing-in allows for non-localization. But there is, I argue, a pictorial experience, which is closely tied to seeing-in and which is non-localized, namely (what I call) pictorial perceptual presence.



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Copyright © British Society of Aesthetics 2011. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Society of Aesthetics. All rights reserved.

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Pettersson, M. (2011). Seeing what is not there: Pictorial experience, imagination and nonlocalization. British Journal of Aesthetics, 51(3), 279-294. doi: 10.1093/aesthj/ayr014