Consciousness and the World

By Brian O'Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

21 Appearances

The visual experience in the instant comes into existence thanks to the joint efforts of the attention and understanding, prompted into operation in the first place by the emergence in/for consciousness of visual sensations given merely directionally in body-relative physical space. In this way consciousness becomes aware, not just of objects at a distance in three-dimensional physical space, but of structured objects in a structural mode. In short, typically we recognize those objects: we see them, and with justification, as what they are; and tend to acquire knowledge with matching content. In this way the cognitive function of perception is discharged. But what exactly is it that we see? We do not see the temperature or electrical charge of the object. By contrast, we see its colour and lay-out in space. Wherein lies the difference between properties of this kind? The natural answer is, that these latter form part of the appearance of the object: it looks red, round, but scarcely anything else in the same sense. Indeed, this seems strictly to be all that one gets from the object in the visual experience, nothing but its look. Not its temperature, or its valency if it is an element, or a limitless array of other properties. Merely its look, its appearance, behind which lie an unending array of properties of diverse kinds. These considerations lead me into an inquiry into the nature of the whatever it be that the object does thus give to consciousness in visual perceptual experience. What is this badge of sorts which 'doubles', and look-alikes generally, share?


1 The Nature of Appearances

(a) Introduction

What is an appearance? Some will say that there is no such thing, counselling us not to be bemused by what is a mere manner of speaking. Whether or not this is how matters stand, the concept of the appearance seems nonetheless to be completely indispensable to us, given the kind of lives humans lead. How could we make use of the sense of sight if we could not register and compare the look or appearance of things? In any case, it is certain that appearances matter vastly to us. Think of 'the face that launched a thousand ships'. Here we are talking of the peculiar efficacy in human life of a mere visual appearance. It was the look of Helen's face, rather than its chemical or electrical or pheronomic properties, that caused such a furore.

-570-

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Consciousness and the World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Consciousness and the World iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I Consciousness 35
  • 1: The Experience 37
  • 2: The Anatomy of Consciousness 68
  • 3: Self-Consciousness and Self-Knowledge 102
  • 4: 'Translucence' 164
  • 5: Consciousness and the Mental Will 200
  • 6: Interiority and Thinking 233
  • Part II the Attention and Perception 265
  • 7: The Attention 275
  • 8: The Attention and Perception (1) 291
  • 9: The Attention and Perception (2) 302
  • 10: Perception and Truth 318
  • 11: The Imagination (1) 339
  • 12: The Imagination (2) 362
  • 13: Imagination and Perception 371
  • 14: Active Attending or a Theory of Mental Action 379
  • Part III Seeing 407
  • 15: 'Blindsight' and the Essence of Seeing 415
  • 16: Seeing the Light 439
  • 17: Sense-Data (1) or the Ways of the Attention 465
  • 18: Sense-Data (2) 502
  • 19: Secondary Qualities 515
  • 20: The 'Perceptual Given' and 'Perceptual Mediators' or the Formation of the Visual Experience 538
  • 21: Appearances 570
  • 22: Perceptually Constituting the Material Object 592
  • Part IV Perception and the Body 621
  • 23: Proprioception and the Body Image 628
  • 24: The Sense of Touch 656
  • Conclusion 681
  • Index 697
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