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How vision collaborates with thought to bring information into the mind



ID: <10670/1.hzd3p6>


International audience “To gaze is to think” notes Salvador Dalí. The artist’s observation is illustrative of the tradition of representing perception as analogical with thinking. Analysing perception, Arnheim, for example, claims that there is no difference between a percept and a concept inasmuch as “perception consists in fitting stimulus material with templates,” also called “visual concepts” (Arnheim 1997 [1969]: 27-28). The question that concerns us here is – how can the same visual pattern yield different concepts for different interpreters? In an attempt to answer this question the paper examines the complex dynamics involved in the perception of one of the most controversial works in the history of art – Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. To account for divergent interpretations of an image, we introduce a dichotomy of immediate and dynamical propositions of perception, a distinction inspired by the Peircean semiotic theory. Immediate propositions (IPs) of perception consist in the attribution of qualities to the perceived object as they are immediately present in the field of vision, as opposed to dynamical propositions (DPs) which bear on the qualities of the given object not necessarily perceived at the instance of perception but rather attributed to it in the past experience. By examining some various ways in which Leonardo’s image has been interpreted, we demonstrate how experience of prior perceptions interferes with the present perception to construct the meaning of a visual pattern.This paper falls within what is considered as the new paradigm of cognitive semiotics inasmuch as it deals with cognitive issues such as visual perception, the processing of visual information and the construction of meaning while taking a semiotic approach, notably, inspired by Charles Sanders Peirce. Our key endeavour consists in determining how the process of visual perception is accomplished. For a thorough consideration of this issue, it was divided into distinct questions as follows: what is information; how is it perceived; what are the constituent elements of perception; what is the role of thought in perception; and what exactly does the collaboration of vision and thought in the process of visual perception consist in? We throw a look at the functioning of the senses, and in particular the sense of vision, so as to determine the role of the senses, as well as the nature of their interaction with the mind in the process of perception.

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