Wollheim on Seeing-In
In Stecker and Gracyk, Aesthetics Today (2010)
(The background to this discussion is Ludwig Wittgenstein's influential discussion of "seeing as." Wittgenstein discussed the case of the duck-rabbit figure, which we can see as a duck, or see as a rabbit, but not both at the same time.)
In earlier writings, Wollheim used the phrase "seeing-as" to ALSO cover the case of seeing who is pictured in an ordinary pictured. Wollheim now thinks that this approach was too crude. We can see the duck-rabbit as a duck, but we also see the duck in the picture.
KEY IDEA: Our ability to see pictures is due to a general psychological ability of seeing x in y, which is not the same as seeing x as y. Seeing-in is REPRESENTATIONAL SEEING. Seeing-as isn't.
Three reasons to make the distinction when discussing pictures and paintings:
With seeing-in, the intentions of the creator give us a standard for correctness. (This is basically Iseminger's point that I need the intentions of the creator to remove ambiguity.)
Arguments in favor of the two-fold thesis:
This is a distinction between two kinds of perception, not two kinds of object. In some cases, a single object can facilitate both seeing-as and seeing-in (e.g., clouds). (The duck rabbit!)
Interesting case: Jasper Johnsí flag paintings. We can see them as a flag! So is it a representation at all? Of course, it is intentionally raising this issue.
Last updated June 30, 2011 ~ All text © 2011 Theodore Gracyk