January 29, 2010
The book, The Magic Eye*, gives us actual sightings of things in space, and as clearly as you might see anything in space before you, e.g., the lamp or the tree, and yet they appear in a funny sort of space. Is it an illusion? No, it is not an illusion, it is just the way that we see things. Itâ€™s the way our brains work. It would be an illusion only if we took the space in the magic eye as something real on its own. That would be an illusion. It would be an illusion if we took the Necker Cube on a piece of paper as really extended in a real space. It is not a real space at all. It is an envisagement or Anschauung. It is the way we see things when we look at them, and we donâ€™t know what they are when we are not looking at them. Are all things flat like the Cube when we are not looking at the Cube? Is that what it is? Well, who can tell? The only thing we know is our own way of picturing the world, our way of seeing it, or looking at it, along with what we call space is nothing more than this way we have of looking at external things.**
[* See http://www.magiceye.com/index.htm]
[** We canâ€™t get our knowledge of space empirically through exposure, for here and there and now and before are not in things or even in their relationships, but only in the way we notice things. You can imagine the absence of all things except space and time, and that you cannot do. They are the forms of our looking and so precede all actual sightings of objects and are at play in all our looking whasoever. Space and time are not like other concepts where we think of something as composed of parts (like a table of legs and top), for all parts of space are spaces, and so it would be like saying tables where composed of tables. All parts of space are simply a limitation of this single all encompassing space (and time). And we donâ€™t think of time and space as we do other things. The concept of table can be conceive as having infinite possible examples, and so is the common mark and thus has these example under itself, while space (and time) are conceived to contain a infinitude within itself. So the only solution: space and time are nothing more than the ways that humans look at the representations within the brainarium within their skulls. And we havenâ€™t even considered that our knowledge that any two sides of any triangle are greater than the third cannot be obtained by analysis of the concepts of three lines with common endpoints, and we certain havenâ€™t learned it via exposure where all we could say is that so far any two sides have been greater. It is a sheer envisagement which is also the form of all our sightings of objects in space in general, and thus hold in that way for all objects which can ever appear to us.]
And so illusion only arises when we take the space and time of all our sensitive looking as something real on their own. Itâ€™s not; it is only our way of looking at things (which for us are only appearances or Erscheinungen). So illusion arises when we begin to take the time and space of our own looking as something real on its own, a so-called real space or real time. The only time and space for us is within the bainarium, the projection of objects we call appearances (interpreted impressions on our retinas), and that is the same space and time of the Necker Cube. It is the only space there is. It is merely an envisagement.
Illusion arises if we were to take the appearances or specters in the brainarium as things on their own as they appear to us, as though, for example, the red of the rose belonged to the rose as a thing on its own and yet which could be different in different eyes, or that things get smaller on their own at a distance, and not consider the relationship to the onlooker. Then we have illusion. It would arise only if we considered space and time to be real things on their own, independently of our looking, and forget that they are nothing other than the way we see things, and the way that things appear to us. What is really there on its own independently of our peculiar form of looking (space and time) is unknowable, but about which in experience no question ever arises.
We are dealing merely with the appearance of things in space and time and not with things on their own. We are dealing with objects in space and time and we speak generally of the object being smaller at a distance and know, without mentioning it, that we know and mean the objects merely seem to get smaller or get smaller in the eye, and that they remain the same size. It is with these objects that we are concerned with in experience and science and not what things might be on their own.
So we are not calling these objects illusions. And the soul is not a specter, but it only appears as a specter to our (internal) looking, and it is certainly not an illusion.
Berkeley decided that the objects of our sightings were illusions and did not exist as things on their own because it otherwise it was necessary that an infinite nothing, space, exist in order to contain all that does exist, a sentence that is difficult even to understand. A nothing must exist in order for all that I see to exist? Or: nothing must exist in order for all that does exist to exist?
Indeed, if the â€œgood bishopâ€ had carried his own thinking further with the logic he would have to write himself off as a mere illusion. For time, so conceived as real on its own, would mean: in order for my soul to exist it is necessary that nothing (time) exist. Kant observed that Berkeley had too much good sense to go that far in his refutation of Newtonâ€™s space and time.
The lesson? What we know as objects of experience do not exist on their own as unobserved things, but only in the space and time of our own looking, and although we know that there is a thing on its own, we know absolutely nothing about it. All we know is the appearance of an object in the space and time which are connected to our subjective nature as onlookers, the mere appearance of that thing to us in our own space and time.
Afterthought. I don’t confuse the envisagement with the imagination, even if the imagination plays a role in the fashioning of an object. I don’t just imagine that I see the Necker Cube as a box occupying space, I actually see it. That is the difference between the imagination and the envisagement or Anschauung. Likewise I do in fact see a face in the cloud, or on the front of a person’s head. I know that my imagination put it together, but I actually see the appearance of a face in the cloud and on the front of a person’s head. Now it is true that I can imagine a circle in the air, but it is still another thing to “see” it suspended in mid air and point it out to others. That is an envisagement. A constructed, a priori pure envisagement. The imagination does its job, but then it is a different matter to actually see it before your eyes.
A reflection. I wonder if “projection” might be a good way to render “Anschauung” (the “at/on look). The Necker cube is a projection and so all that we see we project into space. and so space is a pure projection and the illusion then arises when we forget this and think that the ordinary scenes before our every day eyes exist on their own exactly as we see them. For example I see a dog and as I get closer I see instead a mail box.
Filed under: Kant