Seeing through eyes, mirrors, shadows and pictures

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JournalPhilosophical Studies
DateAccepted/In press - 20 Jun 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print - 11 Jul 2017
DatePublished (current) - Aug 2018
Issue number8
Number of pages26
Pages (from-to)2017-2042
Early online date11/07/17
Original languageEnglish


I argue that we can see in a great many cases that run counter to common sense. We can literally see through mirrors, in just the same way that we (literally) see through our eyes. We can, likewise, literally see through photographs, shadows, and (some) paintings. Rather than starting with an analysis of seeing, I present a series of evolving thought experiments, arguing that in each case there is no relevant difference between it and the previous case regarding whether we see. In a sense, my arguments can be thought of as akin to the Extended Mind Hypothesis (Clark and Chalmers 1998). But instead of arguing that our minds can extend into the world, I argue that our sensory organs can extend into the world. Among the things that emerge from this discussion are (1) that—contrary to Currie (1995) and Carroll (1996)—seeing an object O doesn’t require being able to locate O with respect to yourself, (2) that—contrary to Sorensen (2008)—we can see objects by seeing their shadows, and (3) that—contrary to Walton (1984)—it doesn’t matter whether the causal relation between O and yourself is mediated by beliefs.

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2017

    Research areas

  • Perception, Photography, Seeing, Shadows

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