Dr. Kim H. Veltman
Thus far we have focussed on the uses and applications of linear perspective and its variants in a technical sense. In some positivist programmes of the nineteenth century this focus would have defined the limits of the field. Metaphorical uses of perspective in terms of point of view, standpoint, position, or even plan, either of an individual or a society, would not have been included. Our reason for doing so is simple. Metaphors of perspective have become much more than clever or elegant turns of phrase. Particularly in the twentieth century a significant number of authors in various fields of the humanities and social sciences have developed what they believed to be coherent systems based on this metaphor and used these to explain basic aspects and developments in the history of literature, philosophy, ethnology, anthropology, psychology, psychiatry, linguistics, sociology and even theology. These attempts are the more significant because they are intimately connected with fundamental debates concerning methodology in all domains of the arts and sciences and closely related to important trends toward psychological and sociological interpretations.
In the Sources we distinguished between pseudo-perspective (non-homogeneous representations of space), proto- or empirical-perspective (early approximations of perspective), and technical use of linear perspective. In the case of metaphorical perspective. analogous distinctions are necessary between pseudo-metaphorical perspective (notions of viewpoint in unhomogeneous space), empirical metaphorical perspective (the emergence of an approximately accurate viewpoint) and metaphorical linear perspective (conscious, systematic use of viewpoints). By way of context we shall mention in passing some basic examples of pseudo- and empirical metaphorical perspective in literature. Our emphasis will be on the development of conscious metaphorical perspective, major authors who use the term in the titles of their works and specifically with regard to systematic methods. Since a search for every reference to viewpoint or perspective merely used in passing would expand the topic far beyond the bounds of this study, there will be no attempt at completeness as was the case with the sources.
In literature, the origins of pseudo-metaphorical perspective in the sense of point of view are not clear. Among the earliest examples of looking at things from changing points of view, first from the earth and then with increasing distance from the heavens can be traced back to the fragments of a Babylonian poem. While the oldest surviving manuscript of this story comes from the library of King Assurbanipal (660-627 B.C.), it is linked with a fragment over a thousand years earlier (c. 1750 B.C.). In the poem, Etana, the father of the future king of the world attempts to bring a magic plant back from heaven. Schäfer (1974), who includes this text in an appendix, describes it vividly: "The eagle tells Etana to look down three times each time after a league’s ascent. Each time the world appears smaller. Thus after the first league the land mass and the ocean surrounding it are like an island in the river; the next time like a garden with a ditch around it; then in succession like a hut in a courtyard and a roll on a plate".
Plato, in his literary theory, introduced a dichotomy between narrative (diègèsis) and drama (mimèsis) with epic poetry as an intermediate form (modus mixtus). Aristotle made a related distinction between epos (diègèsis) and drama (direct imitation ). These have formed a starting point for more recent distinctions among literary historians concerned with point of view theory (see Appendices 6-8). Kurth-Voigt (1974) argued that the principle of confronting different viewpoints in the sense of differing levels of knowledge became a basic theme in the dialogues of Plato, Cicero and Lucian and that these three authors provided: "diversified, at times highly controversial models for the art form of the dialogue and the presentation of various subject matter from multiple points of view". Hanfmann (1957) argued that the development of realism in Greek sculpture and painting affected the development of new narrative techniques in Greek literature: i.e. that the mastery of spatial viewpoints in art led their being used in literature. On the other hand, Gombrich (1960) suggested that the converse occured: namely that new narrative techniques in literature inspired the so called revolution in Greek art. Others have claimed that the Greek dialogues were rhetorically and logically constructed in such a way that they excluded the existence of personal viewpoints, let alone the comparison thereof. Auerbach (1945), for instance, in his great Mimesis, suggested that there was a fundamental distinction to be made between the one dimensional literature of the Greco-Roman tradition and the spatially much more realistic literature of the Judaeo-Christian tradition and if he be right then it was in this latter tradition that the notion of point of view in literature had its roots.
De Folter (1983) claimed that the problem of reciprocity of perspectives went back to the Greek sceptical tradition founded by Pyrrho of Ellis. He noted, for instance, that the Greek verb from which scepticism derives, skeptomai (to look around, to spy, to observe), is etymologically linked the Latin verb, specio, (to see), which is one of the roots of the noun 'perspective'. It was no co-incidence, therefore, claimed de Folter, that sociologist-philosopher, Schutz (see below p. ), in his Problem of Relevance, should have dealt with Carneades of Cyrene, the founder of the third Academy, who introduced new elements into the sceptical tradition.
Stempel (1972), claimed that the earliest concrete evidence for literary perspective—we would say empirical or proto metaphorical perspective—could be traced back to French literature in the twelfth century; that in the writings of Chrétien de Troyes (c.1135-1183), one found a deliberate mixture of indirect and direct speech which should be seen as a branch of perspective in the sense of point of view technique. Meanwhile, Kuhn (1949,1966,1973), placed these discussions in a larger European context, noting that the mediaeval courtly love poetry which evolved with the Provencal troubadours in the twelfth century spread throughout the whole of Europe and in Germany inspired a particular form of lyric love poetry (Minnesang). Kuhn was careful to insist that the mediaeval concept of objectivity was not to be equated with that introduced by Renaissance perspective. Nonetheless, he compared the courtly epics of Chrétien De Troyes with those of Hartmann von Aue (d. c.1210-1220), the first of the German courtly love poets; Wolfram von Eschenbach (c.1170-1220), the author of Parsifal; and Gottfried von Strassburg (fl. c.1200), the author of Tristan. In the case of Hartmann von Aue, he drew attention to a dialectic between the viewpoint in the opening stanzas of the poem and the main body of the poem. Green’s (1982), study of Wolfram’s Parsifal remains the most thorough examination thus far of these point of view techniques in mediaeval German literature.
As we have noted earlier (see above p.27**ff.), this French connection with the origins of point of view in literature is the more interesting through parallels with art history. Saint Francis of Assisi, it will be recalled, received his name because of his relations with Provencale French culture, particularly in terms of their storytelling. It can therefore be no coincidence that it was precisely in the Franciscan tradition radiating from Assisi that a new approach to pictorial narrative emerged in which spatial aspects and subsequently perspective played a central role? Or that the advances in secular art in Italy were frequently linked with France, as in the cycle by Azzo in the old town hall (now Civic Museum) of San Gimignano (c. 1295-1300)? This was also reflected in the art of Simone Martini, whose predella of the altarpiece of Saint Louis of Toulouse Crowning Robert of Anjou (1317) was described by White (1957, 83) as "the first surviving example of the perspective grouping of several scenes about a clearly defined central axis" and whose later activities included a period at the court of Avignon. In Florence, the French courtly love poem, The Chatelaine of Vergi, was the inspiration for narrative scenes on the walls of the Palazzo Davanzati (Florence, 1395), on the occasion of the marriage of Francesco Tommaso Davizzi with Castelana degli Alberti, scenes which were among the first to use illusionistic treatments of architectural space somewhat systematically. Or one thinks of the frescoes in the Palazzo Trinci in Foligno (c. 1400-1450), with their French captions.
In Italy, as Parronchi (1960), showed (see p. 43*), Dante made some of the earliest literary references to perspective in the sense of optics. Guillen (1968), noted that the metaphor of linear perspective evolved in sixteenth century Tuscany both in the cultured writing of a Giovan Maria Cecchi (1518-1587), and in popular carnival songs with stanzas such as the following:
If wealth, wisdom and faith are falsely rendered from the outside by colour, then he who believes in the clothing of those [deceivers] errs more than the others; for their langauge, intellect and heart are full of unpleasant traits and their being so pure and neat is but a sign of this; and it all derives solely from the fact that the whole world is done in perspective.
Constance (1976), analysed how literary perspective in the sense of point of view evolved in Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso; how the protagonist’s quest embroiled them in a complex play of masks and veils which multiplied the number of literary viewpoints and how this related to other examples of Renaissance romance notably Malory’s Le morte Darthur, and Spenser’s The faerie queene. Spenser’s use of literary perspective in The faerie queene was also outlined by Kamholtz (1980).
It has been suggested that because protestantism made them so sceptical of visual images the English became champions of visual imagery in their literature, thus compensating for perspective in painting with literary perspective. Whatever the cause, the phenomenon emerged clearly in the last three decades of the sixteenth century. As Weimann (1970), noted these decades brought a volley of new literary forms: the euphemistic story (Lyly); courtly-gallant romance (Sidney), prose pastorale (Greene, Lodge), homely novel (Gascoigne), tradesmans’ romance (Deloney), picaresque genre (Nashe) and jest books. Of these, particularly the jest books introduced a new level of first person narrative and a more developed point of view. In a subsequent article, Weimann (1976), argued that the tensions between first person narrative and a represented point of view increased the gap between true meaning and fictive representation, thereby heightening the significance of both fiction and truth. Unfortunately he offered few examples.
Kayser (1963), considered perspective in terms of different spatial relations between viewers and the stage, noting that in the Mediaeval period viewers walked around the stage whereas in the Renaissance they were limited to fixed seats. Pfister (1974), building on this and the ideas of Klotz (1969), Van Laan (1970), and Pütz (1970), produced a typology of Elizabethan and Jacobean comedies. Pfister claimed that drama potentially involved an interplay of two communication systems: one, interior in which the persons on stage communicated with one another directly; the other, exterior in which the author indirectly steered the reactions and interpretations of the audience. He then outlined three variants: an a-perspectival drama, a closed perspective structure and an open perspective structure. In the first of these an author makes no distinction between interior and exterior communication systems, such that the author’s thoughts and intentions are indistiguishable from the words of the figures on stage. Pfister suggested that this structure obtained in the early morality plays of the period.
In a closed perspective structure the author consciously distinguishes between the two systems (inner and outer), and structures the play such that there is a growing discrepancy between the knowledge of the audience and the lesser knowledge of any of the figures on the stage. The knowledge which the audience gains is moreover clearly planned by the playwright to lead to fixed conclusions and in this sense is a closed perspective structure. This, Pfister claimed, obtained in Elizabethan comedies such as Jack juggler, Ralph roister doister and Grammar Gurton’s needle. By contrast, when the interplay between inner and outer communication systems is much richer, and no longer limited to a fixed conclusion, it entails an open perspective structure. This was the case in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Richard II, Julius Caesar; his problem plays such as Measure for Measure; a romance drama such as his Tempest and contemporary works such as The revenger’s tragedy, The white devil and Bussy D’Ambois.
A quite different approach was taken by Gilman (1978), who was concerned with specific examples of perspectival images in English literature of this period. Gilman noted the development of anamorphic methods in painting and explored the spread of this curious perspective in England. He claimed that Shakespeare, particularly in Richard II, was concerned with perspectives of history, whereas in his comedies, Shakespeare aimed at a natural perspective. Gilman claimed that Donne, Herbert, and Greville explored a Pauline perspective, while Marvell developed a perspective of the mind.
As the reader will have noticed there are really two stories that need to be told: one, how the authors themselves became conscious of the potentials of combining different viewpoints in writing their plays, poems and stories; the other, how critics became aware that viewpoints offered a powerful tool in analysing works of the past. It is important to remember that while the evidence cited above suggests that the first of these stories emerged in the twelfth century, the second of these stories did not begin until the latter half of the eighteenth century, and then quite specifically in Germany. Böckmann (1966), in a fundamental article has demonstrated that German authors of the latter eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries played a seminal role in developing this interest in metaphorical perspective as a tool for both the criticism of existing and production of new literature.
Prior to Lessing, the German stage was dominated by a tradition that came from the Italian opera, either directly or via Paris, as Smart (1989) has shown, and emphasized the literal use of perspectival scenery. Lessing, according to Böckmann, applied what had been an external use of space to the interior world and developed a perspectivism of passions (Leidenschaften). For instance, in his Seventeenth letter on literature, Lessing asked how the German mind could utilize the possibilities of drama for itself and apply perspective to the basic principles of tragedy. Lessing’s search led him to re-interpret Shakespeare whose role he likened to that of a perspectival instrument: "If we have genius then Shakespeare must be that which the camera obscura is for the landscape painter: let him look carefully in it in order to learn how Nature projects itself onto a wall in all cases". Elsewhere Lessing articulated precisely wherein lay this new perspectival goal of the dramatist for which Shakespeare offered a model: "What then is perspective for a poet or an author? It lies therein that he sometimes interrupts the temporal sequence of events in which his imitation develops and goes to other periods in which the objects which he wishes to describe found themselves earlier, until he once again takes up the thread of his present temporal sequence".
Böckmann has shown how Lessing’s perspectivism of passions was developed into a perspectivism of individualism and history by Herder in his Pages of German kind and art (1773); a perspectivism of art and life by Goethe in his Shakespeare and no end (1813-1816); a perspectivism of phantasy and dreams by Tieck in his Poet’s life and how Schlegel subsequently went on to make perspectivism a basic principle of Romantic art in his Lectures on dramatic art and literature. Renaissance authors had frequently compared sculpture and painting (paragone). Schlegel contrasted ancient sculpture and theatre with Romantic painting and literature:
Sculpture directs our attention exclusively to the group that has been represented, stripping it as much as possible from all its surrounding contexts.... By contrast, painting prefers to represent the principal figures and all the surrounding features thoroughly and to open up views into an endless distance in the background. Lighting and perspective are its actual magic. Hence the dramatic, particularly the tragic art of the ancients, destroys to a certain extent the surroundings of time and space, while the Romantic decorates its more complex pictures through the interplay thereof [i.e.space and time].
This was clearly one of the starting points for the later nineteenth and twentieth century contrast between Ancient sculpture which was supposedly tactile and Renaissance painting which was supposedly visual—a distinction which Gombrich (1960), reviewed and challenged.
Kayser (1954), related the development of a specific viewpoint with the rise of the modern novel in the eighteenth century. He pointed out that in 1740 there were 10 new novels a year in Germany, by 1770 this had risen to 100 and that by 1800 there were some 500 new novels each year (17):
This appears to us what is the particular and new in the narration of Cervantes, Fielding and Wieland: that a much more personal narrator emerges as intermediary, whose being is many sided; that the narrated story is placed in multiple perspectives and that the language thereby becomes buried; that the reader becomes drawn in and must remain attentive in order to grasp the buried meaning, such that notwithstanding all the surprises that the narrator allows himself with the reader, given a belief in nature, there is achieved a commonality of indication and considerate evaluation on both sides.
Kayser argued that the crisis of the modern novel lay therein that this notion of a personal narrator had died, "as if the opacity of the world had become so strong and the question of meaning so unsolvable, that it was impossible to gain a proper survey through a more distant standpoint (namely that of the epic narrator)." It was as if it was only when the reader was drawn into the uncertainties of life that reality could be achieved.
Other authors have explored an eighteenth century trend towards various literary viewpoints. Langen (1934), related the problem of viewpoints (Anschauungsformen) to different frames of reference (Rahmenschau) which evolved in late eighteenth century rationalism. Kurth-Voigt (1965), explored the use of viewpoints in W. E. Neugebauer’s German Don Quixote (1753), and in a book on Wieland (1974), where she examined both the philosophical (see below p. 166*) and the literary background, noting how Platonic dialogue had, via Cicero and Lucian, affected Erasmus’ Colloquies. Kurth-Voigt pointed to the significance of Erasmus’ Praise of folly, Brandt’s Ship of fools; Pope’s Essay on criticism, the third Earl of Shaftesbury’s Characteristicks of men, manners, opinions, times; the role of the epistolary novels by Richardson and Rousseau. Kurth-Voigt focussed on Wieland’s Don Sylvio (1764), and his Aurora and Cephalus (1765), making a larger claim that the: "omniscient narrator of the seventeenth century Romance is gradually replaced by a more personal, often ironic and even fictive third-person narrator who betrays a subjective point of view and frankly, inadvertently, admits the limits of his insights". Hence the same Wieland who wrote On a passage in Cicero concerning perspective in the works of Greek painters (1840, see above p. 38*), and whom Kayser associated with the rise of a systematic viewpoint crucial for the rise of the novel, was portrayed by Kurth Voigt as undermining that tradition with a subjectivizing trend.
Dargan (1985), explored the relation of narrative perspective to authorial vision in works by Balzac, Louis Lambert (1832), Colonel Chabert (1832) the trilogy, Story of the thirteen (Histoire des treize, 1833-1835), and Eugénie Grandet (1839). In Louis Lambert, the narrator struggled unsuccessfully to integrate various forms of expression (14): "letters, philosophical tenets, and speculation, poetical myth and mimesis." By contrast the narrator of Colonel Chabert was more forceful in an integrating role (14): "Through a perspective that explores the relationship of many different levels of meaning, the novel explores linguistic ground beyond the mere recognition of the denotative relation of sign to referent". The trilogy, according to Dargan addressed "the problem of fragmented perspective; they relate stories in which chronology, or the rearrangement of it, requires obvious and concerted shifting of the narrator’s point of view". In Eugénie Grandet, the interest shifted (16): "away from the gradual resolution of an open conflict, such as Chabert’s personal war against society, towards the drama of discernment, through the narrator’s eyes, of hidden conflict, passion and the silent depths of experience".
This emphasis on the subjective impressions of an individual was taken much further by James (1889), who in his letter to Deerfield Summerschool, urged:
Oh, do something from your own point of view....Any point of view is interesting that is a direct impression of life. You each have an impression colored by your individual conditions; make that into a picture framed by your own personal wisdom, your glimpse of the American world. I don’t think I really do know what you mean by materializing tendencies any more than I should by spiritualizing or etherealizing. There are no tendencies worth anything but to see the actual or the imaginative, which is just as visible, and to paint it.
As Spencer (1971), pointed out, James and other great novelists of the late nineteenth century such as Flaubert, Turgenev and Conrad heightened the illusion of the novel as a closed entity by removing the overt presence of the author (55): "to give the impression of autonomous characters involved in dramatic, as opposed to narrated actions". The ways in which illusions of reality in a novel could be heightened by various narrative approaches were explored by Henry James in his prefaces to the New York edition of his works (1907-1909). These ideas were systematized and analysed in terms of technical possibilities by Lubbock, in The craft of fiction (1921), who claimed that: "The whole intricate question of method, in the craft of fiction, I take to be governed by the question of point of view -the question of the relation in which the narrator stands to the story". Lubbock, using an inductive approach, described this relation as a dichotomy of telling (picture) and showing (drama), within which there was a spectrum of four possibilities that ranged from panoramic survey and dramatized narrator to dramatized mind and scenic narration. Rather than being concerned with the character’s viewpoints in a novel, Lubbock’s attention was focussed on the relationship between narrator and material and this focus has continued to dominate the way point of view is used by various authors such as Dorothy Richardson, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner, who developed these techniques of changing perspective by limiting, expanding or contrasting viewpoints. Critics who have further explored these themes include Shipley’s Dictionary (1943); Carolyn Gordon and Alan Tate, in The house of fiction (1950), Leon Edel, in The modern psychological novel (1959), and Wayne C. Booth, in The rhetoric of fiction (1961). They use point of view as a basic tool of formal analysis in Anglo-American criticism. Pouillon (1947), in Time and the novel, also developed his vision theory which was one of the starting points for Lämmerts (1955, 70-73, 87 ff.), discussion of these themes in his Building forms of narrative, who significantly devoted only a few pages to the subject.
Ortega y Gasset, in his essay On point of view of the arts (1947, English 1949), described history as an elaboration of cinema and argued that what moved or changed in painting was point of view; that the history of European painting could be seen as a shift from proximate to distant vision or as "a retraction from the object towards the subject, the painter" and hence painting (826): "which begins with Giotto as painting of bulk, turns into painting of hollow space". In this development he outlined seven stages: the Quattrocento, Renaissance, Transition, Chiaroscurists, Velazquez, Impressionism and Cubism. In this he saw a distinct evolution (834): "First things are painted; then sensations; finally ideas. This means that in the beginning the artist’s attention was fixed on external reality; then on the subjective; finally on the intrasubjective". Ortega y Gasset claimed that there was a strange parallelism in philosophy from the nominalists at the time of Giotto who believed in the reality of individual substances; then Descartes, with his emphasis on space; Leibniz with his monadic concept of viewpoints, and finally Husserl’s intersubjective realities of phenomenalism. His aim was primarily to draw attention to these striking parallels between art and philosophy and raise the question of where one could go from here. In another of his fundamental essays On the dehumanization of art (1947), Ortega y Gasset, drew attention to a problem that had also concerned Panofksy in a different context (see p. 239*), namely the objectification of the subjective:
if, in turning our back on alleged reality, we take the ideas for what they are -mere subjective patterns- and make them live as such...then we have dehumanized and, as it were, derealized them. For ideas are really unreal. To regard them as reality is an idealization, a candid falsification. On the other hand, making them live in their very unreality is, -let us express it in this way- realizing the unreal as such. In this way we do not move from the mind to the world. On the contrary, we give three-dimensional being to mere patterns, we objectify the subjective, we worldify the immanent.
Type Description Author
1.history of books any catalogue of writers or books Cave
2.intellectual history jurisprudence,mathematics,philosophy Bacon
3.history of nationalism tracing of national spirit,ideals Schlegel
4.sociological method political,social,economic causes Marxists
5.historical relativism enter into mind of past age Meinecke, Craig
6.internal history internal development in isolation Grierson
Fig. 40. Six types of literary history outlined by Wellek (1946,113).
Wellek (1946), listed six types of literary history (fig. 40) and saw a need to avoid both false relativism and absolutism. For our purposes, this list is the more interesting because some of the categories clearly relate to methodological debates in other fields. For instance, five and six relate to debates of vertical and horizontal history among historians and debates of external vs. internal history among historians of science, who are also discovering the attractions of alternative four. Wellek’s solution was to adopt Ortega y Gasset’s concept of perspectivism (121): "we must be able to refer a work of art to the values of its own time and of all the periods subsequent to its own, convinced as we are that a work of art is both ‘eternal’ (that is preserves a certain identity) and ‘historical’ (that is passes through a process of development which can be traced)".
This approach was developed by Wellek and Warren (1949), in their Theory of Literature,and formed a point of departure for Guillen (1968, 1971), whose deeply learned and subtle essay related historical developments in art and philosophy with those of literature. Spencer’s (1971), Space, Time and Structure in the Modern Novel, was another early attempt in English at synthesis on this topic. Spencer distinguished between closed and open structures. In a closed structure (26): "only one perspective is permitted as a point of view upon the subject", which gives the novel intensity and autonomy, there is often an emphasis on the extraordinary, characters may be ruthlessly subordinated to a theme. Open structures (52): "embody multiple perspectives, some of which are actually contradictory, whose purpose is to expose the subject from as many angles as possible-and ideally, with an impression of simultaneity". Spencer went on to discuss perspectives of the architectonic novel; perspective and narrative point of view; perspectives of the camera and perspectives provided by the book itself.
In Hungary, Lukacs, a professor of aesthetics, gave perspective rather different meanings, claiming that it was characterized by three qualities:
First, something is described as a perspective by the fact that it does not yet exist. Were it to exist it would not be a perspective for the world which we create. Secondly, this perspective is not, however, a mere utopia, but rather.. the necessary consequence of an objective societal development, which expresses itself objectivally in poetic form in the development of a series of characters in given situations, and third: it is objective, but not fatalistic....it is the tendency in reality towards actualisation...through deeds and handlings.
Perspectivism, in this sense is "directed towards the future" or a "plan for the future," a meaning which arose in the early nineteenth century, but which subsequently became particularly popular in communist countries in Eastern Europe. In Western Europe, attempts at systematization evolved to alarming complexity. Lubbock (1921), was clearly a starting point for Stanzel’s (1955), basic dichotomy between telling (berichtend, panoramatisch) and showing (darstellend, mimetisch), and probably for his three basic categories: authorial narrative situation (auktoriale Erzählsituation), I-narrative situation (Ich-Erzählsituation) and personal narrative situation (personale Erzählsituation). Friedman (1955, 1975), also began with Lubbock’s basic distinction between telling and showing which he then spanned with a spectrum of eight possibilities: editorial omniscience, I as witness, I as protagonist, multiple selective omniscience, selective omniscience, dramatic mode and camera. Dolozel (1967, 1973), according to Lintvelt, began with two basic narrative forms, the He-Form and the I form each of which was subdivided into objective, rhetorical and subjective to produce six basic categories of narrative, namely, three pertaining to the He form: objective, rhetorical, subjective and three pertaining to the I form: objective (i.e. of the observer), rhetorical, subjective (i.e. personal).
Meanwhile, according to Lindemann (1987), Dolozel actually had eight categories.: first person active narrator; first person passive narrator; first person passive character; first person active character; third person active narrator; third person active character; third person passive character; third person passive narrator. An important article in French on "Point of view or narrative perspective", by Van Ressum-Guyon (1970), provided a survey of these developments.
Leibfried (1970, 1972), used a combinatorial play of narrative characteristics. He started with two basic concepts: perspective narrative and grammatical form. Perspective narrative he defined as either internal, when the narrator participates in the action; or external, when the narrator plays no role in the story. Grammatical form was divided into a first person, I form (Ich-Form), and a third person He form (Er-Form). These were then combined to produce four alternatives: internal perspective with I form, internal perspective with He form, external perspective with I Form, and external perspective with He form. Füger (1972), used a similar combinatorial method with three basic categories: narrative position, depth of the perspective narrative and grammatical form. Narrative position he divided into external narrative position and internal narrative position. Depth of the perspective narrative was defined whether the centre of orientation had superior knowledge, adequate knowledge or inferior knowledge. In grammatical form he defined the first person (Ich-Form) and second person (Du-Form) as personal and the third person as impersonal (Er-Form). These were then combined to produce twelve alternatives (fig. 41).
External Superior Knowledge Personal grammatical form
Position Impersonal "
Adequate Knowledge Personal "
Inferior Knowledge Personal "
Internal Superior Knowledge Personal "
Position Impersonal "
Adequate Knowledge Personal "
Inferior Knowledge Personal "
Fig. 41. Twelve combinations of perspectival structure from Füger (1972).
In Russia, inspired partly by Bakhtin, Uspensky,(1966, English translation 1970), published his Poetics of composition. The structure of the artistic text and typology of a compositional form.Uspensky identified four planes on which point of view could be analysed: ideological, phraseological, psychological, and spatial-temporal. The ideological plane he also called evaluative (8): "understanding by evaluation a general system for viewing the world conceptually". He described the phraseological level in terms of naming; correlation between the speech of the author and the speech of the characters in the text; the influence of someone else’s speech on authorial speech; the influence of authorial speech on someone else’s speech; internal and external authorial positions. In the spatial-temporal plane he considered the concurrence and non-concurrence of the spatial position of the narrator and a character; the sequential survey, bird’s eye view and silent scene. In terms of time he outlined multiple temporal positions as well as tense and aspect and the temporal position of the author. On the psychological plane Uspensky returned to his earlier distinction between internal and external to identify four different cases of authorial position in narration: 1) unchanging and consistently external; 2) unchanging and consistently internal; 3) changing in sequence; 4) changing with simultaneous use of different positions.
Pfister (1974), whose important work on perspectival structures in Elizabethan plays has already been cited above, offered a concise summary of the various meanings of perspective among literary theorists:
The concept of perspective is used in the jargon of literary criticism as often and usually as imprecisely as the concept of structure. Both reveal themselves to be highly polyvalent in meaning and constantly require, if they are not to flow into the uncommitted and general, precision through definition. The concepts perspective and perspectivism appear in the most varied of contexts and with the most diverse of meanings. In the theory of literary history perspectivism refers to a scientific position which is as far removed from historical relativism as it is from unhistorical doctrinaire absolutism. In Marxist literary theory perspective refers to the progressive, anticipatory direction of works of socialist realism and frequently perspective is also merely used as a vague metaphor for a given viewpoint or interpretative approach, from which a work or a group of works is considered. Nonetheless, in the recent theory of the novel the concept of perspective has evolved to a generally acknowledged category of analysis of high heuristic value.
Lanser (1981), developed a much more complex typology consisting of three basic elements: status, contact and stance. Status used Plato’s basic distinction between diegetic and mimetic as its starting point. Contact involved mode, attitude and identity of narratee. Stance subsumed Uspensky’s four planes: phraseological, spatial-temporal, psychological and ideological. Diegetic authority was then divided into authorization and social identity. Psychological was divided into information, focalization, attitude and expression. Ideological was divided into relation to culture, text and authority. Each of these categories was further subdivided partly on the basis of Chatman’s oppositions. For instance authorization was divided into authorial equivalence; representation (hetero- vs. auto-diegesis); privilege (limited vs. omniscient); reference (report vs. invention). There were thirty one further categories (Appendix 6). The full complexity of Lanser’s system only becomes apparent when it is realized that each of the basic oppositions can in turn be subdivided into an entire spectrum of distinctions. Hence, the opposition heterodeigenesis-autodiegenesis can be further subdivided into six variants: uninvolved narrator (no place in the story world); uninvolved eyewitness; witness participator; minor character; co-protagonist; sole protagonist.
Lintvelt (1981), reviewed the majority of these developments and produced the most complex system to date. He began with a distinction between cases where the narrator does not enter into the story (narration heterodiégétique) and those in which the narrator is also the actor of the story (narration homodiégétique). The first of these he subdivided into three categories: authorial, actorial and neuter; the second of these he subdivided into authorial and actorial thus producing five basic categories. Each of these was then analysed in terms of four planes, namely, perceptual-psychic, temporal, spatial and verbal and further subdivided to create a system of labyrinthine complexity (Appendix 7).
Lindemann (1987), surveyed these developments and produced a chart to make visible common aspects among various authors (Appendix 8). He also noted that this great proliferation of terms and methods had actually focussed on a relatively small section of potential literary experience, which he sought to clarify by a concept of three worlds, reality, fiction and represented world, arguing that literature was ultimately about all the relations in all three worlds and not just about fictive narrators and listeners (fig. 39).
III Represented World Agent Patient
II Fiction Fictive Narrator Fictive Listener
I Reality Author Reader
Fig. 42. Lindemann’s (1987,19) diagram to illustrate three worlds of literature in connection with his distinction between authorial and actorial narration.
Implicit in these attempts at systematization, was an assumption that one could catalogue and classify the viewpoint of an individual. Kayser (1954), had argued that the disappearance of a clear narrative viewpoint signalled a crisis in the modern novel, intimating that the very concept of the individual was at stake. Guillen (1971), who saw the same problem, was more careful and raised the question what might happen next.
One development has been increasing attention to multiple viewpoints using a variety of terms. Mandelkow (1960), and Kimpel (1967), referred to polyperspective. Stanzel (1964), in his Typical forms of the novel, spoke both of multiperspectival, and multiple perspective. Lange (1965), preferred many-perspectival; while Schmidt-Henkel (1965), used polyperspectivism. Neuhaus (1971), attempted to classify these developments in his Types of multiperspectival narrative.
The rise of cinema has obviously played its part in the development of interest in multiple perspectives. We noted that Ortega y Gasset used the image of film to characterize developments in literary pointy of view. Spencer (1971), claimed that John Dos Passos "was among the first novelists to understand how the simulation of the camera could extend the range of the novel’s perspectives"; that his trilogy, U.S.A: The 42nd Parallel; Nineteen nineteen and the big money (1930), employed two perspectives which were prose approximations of camera techniques, namely, the newsreel and the camera eye.
Eisenstein (1957), claimed that "Language is much closer to film than to painting"; that montage is the structural principle of all the arts and took a radical position in a debate about the nature of montage, arguing that the participating elements should be varied "so that their combination provides contrast, conflict, tension and explosion", whereas others insisted that these elements should be similar to one another such that their ensemble resulted in an impression of harmony.
Under the heading viewpoint, in the Dictionary of world literary terms, Shipley (1955), reported that critics see this concept as governing the method and character of a work. He distinguished between internal and external viewpoints and identified three kinds of internal viewpoint: where the story is told by the leading actor, a pretended autobiography; a first person story, which is told by a minor character or where the story is told by several characters, each taking a different part in the adventure. This he contrasted with the external or Olympian point of view in which a superior narrator views all the characters from an equal distance. The advantages and disadvantages of both methods were outlined and mention made of an alternative where a shifting view-point is used.
While some authors, such as Guillen (1968), described Robbe-Grillet (1959, 1964), as (355): "one of the first important writers who has tried to separate seeing from knowing", Spencer (1971), claimed that (107-108): "since his novels actually evolve from a blended perspective that combines the subjective human view of the novelist with the objective, non-human view of the camera, his works provide some of the best available examples of how the novel may expand its powers by using the perspectives of the camera". The tremendous literary possibilities of cinema were very vividly described by Monique Nathan (1958):
Refusing all interpretative commentary, it [the novel] ought not to give one something to think about, but something to see. It exposes reality at a glance; it multiplies points of view; it varies appearances; it unmasks what no one sees, the underside, the upperside, the horizontal and the vertical, the inside and the outside, making the distant seem near-at hand and the near seem distant; it amplifies, in a word, all the variations of incident and the limited distances of the human visual field, and in so doing it amplifies the apprehension of the real.
Hönnighausen (1976), saw the emergence of multiple viewpoints as part of a larger shift in philosophy and world views. He argued that this could be traced to the end of the nineteenth century which introduced a new positive view towards both lying and masks in the writings of Oscar Wilde and Friedrich Nietzsche. The demise of first person discourse and authorial narrative generally, which Kayser had bewailed, was now linked to the development of various narrative masks in James and related to the rise of relativistic criticism. James’ contemporary, Walter Pater, for instance, had asserted that: "the aim of right criticism is to place Winckelmann in an intellectual perspective of which Goethe is the foreground". Matthew Arnold and H. A. Taine had made similar assertions.
Hönnighausen argued that this nexus of developments went much deeper; that it was bound up with tendencies to separate the sphere of art from the sphere of ethics; that the suppression of the narrator was linked with developments in criticism such as T.S. Eliot’s (1917), Tradition and the individual talent, whereby: "Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality"; which according to Hönnighausen led to the New Criticism and its ahistorical approach to aesthetics. He claimed that in terms of literature the suppression of the narrator was linked with the emergence of multiple personalities in literature as in Stevenson’s, Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde,and Wilde’s, Picture of Dorian Gray, to whom "man was a being with myriad lives and myriad sensations, a complex multiform creature that bore within itself strange legacies of thought and passion"; which, claimed Hönnighausen, was ultimately the source of Pound’s Personae; concepts of transformation and cloaking in Barth’s (1960), Sot weed factor,and the impersonations in Pynchons’ V (1963).
This fascination with masks should perhaps be linked with a growing attention to the experience of circus in semiotics; where students have become increasingly uncertain about where reality lies: on stage, where the circus members are clearly acting; off-stage when they are consciously letting themselves be interviewed and playing the part of circus performers; or in their everyday life when the magic of their profession is least in evidence. Masks have also become an increasingly dominant theme in the cinema with films such as Darkman and the Invisible Man.
Meanwhile, Nathalie Sarraute (1956), took further the approach of multiple viewpoints with her technique of sub-conversation (sous-conversation) intended to explore: "the region of awareness that is conscious but consists of thoughts that have not yet been censored, edited, trimmed, or made respectable enough for use in actual speech"—a method which sounds suspiciously like the subsequent quests for sub-texts à la Derrida. In any case, these developments confirm that if the repression of a dominant narrator in modern literature involves the demise of a particular kind of static individualism, it appears also to herald new dynamic, polyvalent forms of individualism. Persons who answer calls on the cellular telephones while driving along highways in their automobiles or write reports on computer screens while flying in a jet, cannot be described with the same frameworks as a person who was born, lived and died on the same farm. In the most advanced technological societies these modes of communication are changing so fast that our rules of interaction, e.g. answering machines and even our concepts of sincerity are constantly being revised and we lack models because the rules keep changing.
Among those who have studied the use of perspective in modern literature, most scholars have focussed on individual authors and texts beginning with a study by Wickardt (1933), on Dickens. However, it was not until the 1970’s, the very decade that saw a flowering of systematic theories of point of view theory, that this approach became a serious international trend. In English literature there was Ehlers’ (1977), work on Gothic fiction and a decade later, Hale’s (1987), study of perspective in Beckett. In German literature, there were studies by Schmidt-Brümmer (1971), on Fontana; Kurth-Voigt (1974), on Wieland; Sämmern-Frankenegg (1976), on Storm, and Kristiansen (1977), on Broch. In Russian literature, there was Imendörffer (1973), on Gorkij. In French literature, there was Dargan (1985), on Balzac (cf. fig. 43).
Author Works Scholar
Balzac Eugénie Grandet Dargan (1985)
Beckett Endgame, Rockaby Hale (1987)
Broch Death of Virgil Kristiansen (1977)
Dickens Pickwick Papers Wickardt (1933)
Donne Obsequies Gilman (1978)
Fontana Irrungen Wirrungen Schmidt-Brümmer (1971)
Gorkij Zizn Klima Samgina Imendörffer (1973)
Greville Caelica Gilman (1978)
Herbert The Elixir Gilman (1978)
Marvell Upon Appleton House Gilman (1978)
Shakespeare Richard II Pfister (1974), Gilman (1978)
Spenser Fairie Queene Constance (1976), Kamholtz (1980)
Storm Immensee Sammern-Frankenegg (1976)
Wieland Don Sylvio Kurth-Voigt (1974)
Fig. 43. Alphabetical list of some authors who have been studied in terms of literary perspective, and their works.
A few thinkers have reflected on general issues relating to perspective in modern literature (and art), notably Alewyn (1957), Adorno (1958) and Jeziorkowski (1967). Two authors focussed specifically on space. Bachelard (1958), explored different kinds of space that attracted and concentrated the poetic imagination, notably, various aspects of the house and hut, drawers, chests, wardrobes, nests, shells and corners; questions of miniature spaces; of intimate immensity and the inherent interplay between outside and inside created by such spaces. McLuhan and Parker (1968), noted that, while Piaget had outlined the development of spatial concepts in children (3): "there has thus far been no guide to the changing spatial experience that adults typically encounter in poetry and painting". This quest led them to reconsider perspective (13):
Perspective itself is a mode of perception which in its very nature moves towards specialism and fragmentation. It insists on the single point of view (at least in its classical phase) and involves us automatically in a single space. Inasmuch as a three-dimensional space is a concomitant of one dimension in time, we find fragmentation developing in both space and time, and in both poetry and painting. Because of the insistence on single times and single spaces, the possibility of "self-expression" arises. In mannerism, this possibility manifests itself in an insouciant violation of the canons of proportion and color, and a realization of the potential inherent in a variety of visual spaces within a single visual space- fragmentation within set parameters.
In McLuhan’s analysis, this perspectival space, which he also linked with neutral Newtonian space, was replaced by the rise of formal space through both Seurat’s painting and Hopkin’s poetry. Abstract art, he claimed, could be seen as an internalization of visual space (28): "Whereas in the Renaissance it was the encounter with the new pictorial or visual space that created discomfort and dismay, the reverse is true in our time. It is the rediscovery of non-visual, multi-sensuous spaces that bothers and confuses us". Throughout his book, McLuhan stressed the peculiar characteristics of the visual sense (221): "In cultures that give much less stress to the visual sense, ‘rational’ connectedness exercises much less authority" or (249): "The visual sense alone of all our senses, creates the forms of space and time that are uniform, continuous and connected. Euclidean space is the prerogative of visual and literate man. With the advent of electric circuitry and the instant movement of information, Euclidean space recedes and the non-Euclidean geometries emerge".
According to McLuhan the electronic age brought a return to a non-visual society, which entailed (250): "the dropping not only of representation but also of the story line. In poetry, in the novel, in the movie, narrative continuity has yielded to thematic variation". He returned to this theme a few pages later (254): "Visual orientation has simply become irrelevant".
While many of McLuhan’s claims in terms of the effects of these new technologies have with hindsight acquired a prophetic quality, his fundamental claims about the rejection of the visual sense, representation and narrative in electronic culture are very much open to debate. Even if we acept his analysis (266-267) that television involves tactile rather than visual perception, it is striking how the electronic technologies created new spatial worlds not just on television and computer screens but equally in the cinema. Perspective which was once a matter of textbooks has now been integrated into both CAD programs and popular drawing packages. Some of these even allow one to transform a scene from linear to spherical perspective. These technologies also removed what were once clear boundaries between different media such as photographs, slides, images on a computer screen and printed images. If authors are now reading their texts on computer screens rather than on printed pages, this does not mean that they are less visual. Vision and perspective may have new guises, but they are more central than ever to modern culture.
In the context of philosophy and history of science, we noted that Cassirer (1910), in his Structure and Function, traced a shift from an emphasis on substance in antiquity to relations in the early modern period. In the context of the history of literature, Jaap (1980), explored a similar shift in his Relational meaning (Beziehungssinn. Ein Konzept der Literaturgeschichte). Cassirer was one of Jaap’s points of departure, as was Nietzsche’s question: "Is not meaning, that is relational meaning and perspective necessary?" This concept was more complex than it appeared at a first glance (13):
Hence relational meaning involves something completely different than simply speaking of relations. Hence it is not just a losing oneself in anything at will (in relativism), but rather a discursive principle of constituting meaning, which we describe as relational reflection. The meaning that concerns us here is that of literature and history as history of literature. Thus the answer to our questions can be reduced to a shortest formula: the history of literature is the history of relational meaning.
Jaap’s basic claim was that the metaphysical claims for the truth of literature which had been articulated from the time of Aristotle through to the nineteenth century were outmoded and had to be avoided. To achieve this it was not a question of abandoning the history of literature but rather of historicizing them. Visions of the whole were no longer to be sought, instead one needed attention to the parts and the relationships between them. He argued that images of a continuous line of thought and tradition needed to be replaced by a view of historical discontinuities whereby there were important jumps from one period to the next; indeed that the history of literature could be seen as a history of crises in and of meaning. While the notion of truth was to be replaced by a history of images of truth (Wahrheitsfiguren), this was not to say that these images were merely random. Their choice was closely linked with rules of logic, ethics and aesthetics. Admittedly, they were interpreted rules, but this interpretation was itself an element and result of a combinatorial process, which changed in the course of history. In Jaap’s view, literature and history were inextricably linked through changing relations or perspectives.
Perron, Gordon and Danesi (1994) argued that commonplaces, in the sense of locus communis, (3):"generally entail a subjectivized perspective that reveals a deeply embedded need to literally externalize the subject's feelings by bringing the interlocutor into the subject's domain of experience." According to the authors (3): "Commonplaces constitute evidence in favor of the view that verbal communication is not a script based, disembodied, information transferprocess. SF [situational focusing], like other 'creative' discourse phenomena, leads us to believe, on the contrary, that verbal communication is hardly ever a neutral, information transfer act." They claimed that work in cognitive science by communications engineers and artificial intelligence researchers had (4):
rekindled what is perhaps the oldest debate in philosophy: Is 'meaning'a derivative of individual experience (the experientialist perspective)? or is it 'out there', waiting for the innate machinery of the mind to capture and store it independently of bodily processes and individual feelings (the literalist/objectivist perspective)?
In conclusion, the authors suggested that subjectivized commonplaces seemed (7) "to show that ego dynamics are at the basis of human cognition. Like in a novel where the author's feelings and perspective shape the form and contents of the storyline, so too SF is one of the means by which the 'author' of an utterance reveals his or her feelings and perspectives in an artful manner." They noted how their approach differed from that of Lakoff, Langmacher and other experientialists but made no mention of the many authors cited in the foregoing pages. In a world where so much has been written there is an ever greater danger of re-inventing the wheel.
The above all too summary treatment gives some idea of how pervasive has been interest among historians of literature in metaphorical applications of perspective, particularly in terms of viewpoint theory and levels of discourse. To a certain extent this work dovetails directly with work on the history of scenography considered elsewhere (see above p. 108-112*). Even so it is important to note that there is still much more to be known about the complex interplays among perspective and narrative in literature and painting. There is, for instance, a very interesting etymological history that deserves to be written for the figurative use of terms such as prospect, perspective and perspectives in major languages. For our purposes it will be enough merely to outline a few notes in terms of their appearance in book titles. In English, the use of prospect in a political sense emerged shortly after the Restoration in 1664 with a book entitled, A prospect of Hungary and Transylvania, followed by, A prospect of government in Europe (1681), and a Prospect of the state of Ireland (1682). In Germany, there was one seventeenth century title, A Prospect of the entire globe (Prospect des gantzen Erdkreises, 1686). In England, there were at least seven titles in the eighteenth century, and it then died out, although the literal sense, as in A prospect from Malvern Hill (1829) continued. In Italy, by contrast,there were but two eighteenth century titles (1752, 1761), with at least twenty titles in the first half of the nineteenth century (e.g.1802, 1804, 1806, 1808, 1811, 1813 1813 etc.), and a marked decline with only seven titles in the latter half of the century (e.g. 1855,1868,1878,1886 and 1890).
Among the early Italian titles was Angelo Ridolfi’s (1818), Prospect of German literature (Prospetto della letteratura tedesca). In the twentieth century, this image shifted from prospect to perspectives. Hence there were Perspectives of French literature (Prospettive della letteratura francese, 1946), and Perspectives of English literature (1947). One of the earliest uses of perspectives (Prospettive) in Italy was for the name of a journal (1939). During and immediately after the war the term was used in an economic context: Economic perspectives of a new Europe (1940) and Economic perspectives of peace (1945). In the 1950’s perspectives occured in at least 6 titles. In these years the scope of the term increased dramatically. It was applied to pedagogy (1957), culture (1959), sociology (1959), communism (1960), history (1960) and philosophy (1964). So too did the number of titles. From 1960-1963 there were a further eight titles. In 1964 alone there were at least eight more. From the mid 1960’s onwards the metaphor of perspectives was universally applied. How these developments varied in different countries would require a major study in itself.
Just as there are historians of art who claim that perspective died in the twentieth century there are historians of literature who act as if the same applied in their field. So-called Post-Modernists, for example, have been troubled by all attempts at separating subject and object, nature and nurture and have made it part of their agenda to conflate such oppositions. In the process, they deny the validity of individual viewpoints because they are supposedly biased. The Deconstructionists take this approach even further when they emphasize the pitfalls of subjectivity to such an extent that any viewpoint at all seems hopeless.
It may be no co-incidence that members of the deconstructionist school (e.g. Liotard, Lacan, Jameson) are committed to a privileging of the now, to the extent that, not only are the historical roots of a subject frequently ignored, but the very term has a negative connotation. To say: "It’s history " is to dismiss something as "no longer important", "no longer a threat", finished, forgettable. Ironically, it is precisely this attitude of emphasizing the ephemeral, the ephemeroptera as Leonard flightily calls them, that this school removes the possiblity of having the evidence of other standards by which to weigh and balance the modes and fashions of contemporary subjectivity. In destroying the viewpoints of the past, other viewpoints, they condemn themselves to the subjectivity that they lament in others.
It is instructive that the emerging field of Cultural Studies has not failed to notice some of these dangers. Their basic insight is that even though we admit that a voice is biased and limited this does not mean the voice should not be heard; that it is not significant or perhaps even important. Hence, whereas the deconstructionists are bent on our being so aware of our subjectivity that we dare not say anything, even about the irony that they as deconstructionists are happily carrying on saying what we cannot say; the proponents of cultural studies would argue that being biased is not an insuperable problem as long as we are honest about what this is and as long as we do not stop other persons from expressing their biases freely. Only some members of this school talk about different perspectives. Others use auditory terms rather than visual images, referring to voices (marxist, feminist, queer, black) or more general terms (class, race, gender, generation), instead of viewpoints.
As with the de-constructionists there is a tendency to emphasize the now to the extent that the historical roots of their ideas are frequently overlooked or rather not known. Names such as Adorno, Nietzsche, Hegel and Kant hover amidst philosophical movements as clouds in a mountain range. Some acknowledge roots in the Russian structuralism and the Culturology movement of the 1930’s, the Frankfurt School, Birmingham, the Deconstructionists in Paris (fig. 44) or the Kameritu Centre in Kenya. Some emphasize the role of performance of acts, performative acts, the role of theatre and dance as well as activism, in a critique of traditional scholarhip which strives for a certain distance, to be removed from the everyday hurlyburly, in order to achieve a reflective state. Often it is forgotten that this view of scholarship as both reflective and active was espoused by earlier scholars such as Alexander von Humboldt who, along with his colleagues, resigned from the university when a colleague was wrongfully dismissed, led to his re-instatement and thus established the principle of tenure in the 1840’s. Even so one senses that cultural studies could implicitly accept the methods that have been developed by other branches of literature studying perspective. So a new synthesis could be expected.
Moscow Futurism (Florensky, Shegin)
Prague Structuralism (Jakobson)
Paris Annales School (Braudel)
Structuralism (Levi Strauss)
Post Structuralism, De-Constructionism (Foucault, Derrida)
Post-Post Structuralism, Post-Modernism (Lacan, Liotard, Beaudrillard))
New Haven (Yale) Structuralism (Bloom)
Psychoanalysis applied to History of Art (Blatt)
Birmingham Cultural Studies (McNeill)
Fig. 44. One outline of some of the influences leading to Cultural Studies from the 1920’s to the 1990’s.
Kurth-Voigt (1974), traced the origins of (pseudo-) metaphorical perspective in the sense of point of view back to the Socratic dialogue made famous by Plato and developed by Lucan. This view was impicitly challenged by both Auerbach (1945), and Polka (198*), who noted that Greek dialogue was fundamentally different from the balanced interplay of two points of view that we associate with modern dialogue. Instead the Socratic method was concerned with a systematic destruction of other persons’ points of view, such that what seemed an open conversation between equals was actually an a priori trap whereby the protagonist gradually eliminated other views and replaced them by a single, closed position. This claim has interesting parallels to the pseudo-perspective of the Greco-Roman art, where a series of positions were conflated together, rather than involving an individual viewpoint.
Nonetheless, it is noteworthy that de Folter traces the concept of reciprocity of perspectives (cf. below p. 205*) has its roots in the Greek sceptical tradition founded by Pyrrho of Elis. Etymologically the word "skepsis" is related to the Greek verb "skeptomai" (to look around, spy, oberve) and with the Latin verb "specio" (to see) which underlies the words "perspicere"and "perspectiva" (perspective). According to Giannaras (1969), the Sceptics were the first to recognize the perspectival character of knowledge. Hence, de Folter (1983), has claimed that it is no co-incidence that Schutz should deal with the sceptic Carneades of Cyrene, in his Problem of Relevance.
We would suggest that the developments of the dialogue form as they emerged in scholasticism from the twelfth century onwards might be seen as as a metaphorical version of proto- or empirical perspective. On the surface, the dialogues of Abelard, Peter Lombard and their successors are merely protracted versions of the Socratic technique, where the argument is slowly manouevred in favour of one position. On closer study, however, fundamental differences become apparent. Whereas the Greco-Roman tradition effectively produced monologues in the guise of dialogues, mediaeval disputations in dialogue form gave increasing independence to the interlocutors to the extent that it was not always clear who had actually won. And whereas the purpose of Greek dialogues lay solely in the domination of one position, mediaeval disputations were more concerned with testing the validity and strength of contesting viewpoints without always claiming to know which was ultimately right. This marked a significant step toward the ideal of Oxbridge debating clubs where individuals were trained consciously to defend either side of an argument: where what counted was the consistency of the viewpoint that was developed and it was assumed that this was something that was independent of the individual person, just as in linear perspective it was assumed that if someone else stood at the same viewpoint they would see that which the other person had seen.
If we be right there were parallels between technical and metaphorical developments of perspective, between developments in art and those in literature, philosophy and other fields. Hence the shift from proto-perspectival viewpoints in painting at the time of Giotto to the ever more frequent use of linear perspective in the generations following Brunelleschi, was paralleled by a shift from approximate viewpoints in discourse to the development of conversation as an art in which no single person was meant to dominate the other. Some scholars would of course react strongly against these suggestions, claiming that it was precisely this quest to see parallels between different fields of human endeavour, coupled with a (neo-Hegelian) type of evolutionary reasoning that prepared the way for the totalitarian horrors of the 1930’s. To which we would reply that distinctions clearly need to be maintained between forms of thought and their contents. Inevitability and the fatal side of totalitarianism only enters when these categories are conflated and one destroys all opposing viewpoints. By contrast, our concern is to explore how philosophers increasingly became aware of the need to include other viewpoints as a basic dimension of the search for truth, without necessarily subscribing to the complete relativism of multiculturalists in the contemporary American sense (cf. above p. 8*).
Boehm (1969), has claimed that Witelo’s concept of perspectiva (optics) and Nicholas of Cusa’s paradigmatic figure of triangles marked two important impulses towards perspective in late mediaeval thought and indeed that there were several aspects of Cusa’s metaphysics that were linked with concepts of perspectivity. According to Boehm, the writings of Montaigne were also important philosophical expressions of perspectival ideas in literary form. According to Smith (1981) the mediaeval optical tradition which included Alhazen, Grosseteste, Peckham and Witelo, was linked with theories of knowledge.
The first systematic demonstration of the general principles of perspective occured in Paris with Desargues (1636), and it is striking that one of the first mentions of perspective in a philosophical context occured in the same city. For Pascal, in the Thoughts (c. 1658-1663, 381; Part 1, art.6, "Feebleness of man"), perspective was limited to art: "if one is too young one does not judge well; if too old, likewise....Thus panels seen from too far and from too close. And there is but one indivisible point which is the true place. The others are too close, too far, too high or too low. Perspective assigns it in the art of painting. But in truth and morals who will assign it?"
His younger contemporary, La Rochefoucault (1665), in the Moral Maxims,observed that: "Men and their affairs have their point of perspective: there are those which one must see from close by to judge, and others of which one never judges so well as when one is far away". This idea he pursued in his Diverse Reflections (1678): "Just as one needs to maintain distance in order to see objects, one needs to do the same for society: each has its point of view from which it wants to be seen. One is usually right not to wish to be lighted from too nearby and there is scarcely anyone who wishes in everything to let themself be seen as they are".
The philosopher, Leibniz (1646-1716), who also wrote on linear perspective, used metaphorical images of perspective throughout his writings. Between 1668 and 1671, he developed the idea: "that the soul is like a mathematical point-i.e. non-extensive - on which all perceptions converge as perspective lines do on a point of view". In his Théodicée, Leibniz (1710), drew on analogies with anamorphosis to claim that apparent disorder in the universe could be corrected by a different viewpoint:
It is as in those inventions of perspective, where certain beautiful drawings only appear confused until one brings them back to their true point of view and observes them using a certain lens or a mirror. It is in placing them and in using them as one should that they become the ornament of a cabinet. Thus the apparent deformities of our little worlds are united in the beauties of the large world and have nothing which opposes itself to the unity of a principle that is infinitely perfect.
He also used the example of conic sections to illustrate his principle of how relations between perceiver and perceived could be different and simultaneously truthful:
Projections of perspective which in the circle come from conic sections, let us see that a same circle can be represented by an ellipse, a parabola and by a hyperbola and even by another circle, a straight line and a point. Nothing appears so different, so unalike as these shapes and yet there is a precise relationship from each point to each point. In like manner one needs to admit that each soul represents the universe according to its own point of view and by a rapport which is proper to it but a perfect harmony always subsists.
In Leibniz’ (c. 1714), Monadology, this individual being became the monad which was also governed by perspective:
Just as the same city regarded from different sides offers quite different aspects, and thus appears multiplied by the perspective, so also it happens that the infinite multitude of simple substances creates the appearance of as many universes. Yet they are but perspectives of a single universe, varied according to the points of view, which vary in each monad. This is the means of obtaining the greatest possible variety, together with the greatest possible order; in other words, it is the means of obtaining as much perfection as possible. Only by this hypothesis (which I dare to call demonstrated) can the greatness of God be exalted as it ought to be.
Hence for Leibniz the infinity of perspectives were a sign both of God’s pre-established harmony and a proof of God’s greatness. Leibniz proved a starting point for a number of later commentators. One was Litt (1926, see below) who saw Leibniz as a first step towards the ideas of Shaftesbury and Herder. Kaulbach (1968), examined the development of Leibniz’ concept of the standpoint particularly in relation to the idea of subjectivity as independence. Nieraad (1970), studied Leibniz in relation to Standpoint-consciousness and world connections. Schneiders (1971), considered "Leibniz’ double standpoint", one absolute and the domain of God, the other relative and the realm of humans. One of Schneider’s points of departure was how Leibniz treated knowledge (Erkenntnislehre) as a problem of standpoints. The absolute standpoint was a way of understanding the mysteries of religion that pointed to God.
Meanwhile, as Kurth-Voigt (1974), noted (see above p. 155*), the empiricist school was providing more secular incentives for perspective in the sense of viewpoints. Gassendi, citing the ancient philosopher Epicurus, had claimed: "Nothing is in the intellect that was not previously in the sense", an idea usually associated with the Aristotelian tradition. Locke (1632-1704), developed this approach by emphasizing the role of experience. Since this differed from person to person, it followed implicitly that there were potentially as many viewpoints as there were persons. Locke’s most avid champion in England, Joseph Addison (1672-1719), pursued these ideas in an article on the "Pleasures of the Imagination": "Our sight is the most perfect and the most delightful of all our senses. It fills the mind with its objects at the greatest distance and continues the longest in action without being tired or satiated with its proper enjoyments".
Addison’s conclusion that we cannot "have a single image that did not make its first entrance through the sight" was a paraphrase of Epicurus. By implication sight was now a key to both the imagination and different viewpoints. And there was a connection between the sceptical empiricism of Hume (1711-1776), and his subtle treatment of different points of view in the Dialogues concerning natural religion, where the persona was to "deliver the sentiments of sects that naturally form themselves in the world and entertain different ideas of human happiness." Indeed, Kurth-Voigt (1974), claimed that Hume’s aim was "to have each speaker offer from his point of view the perspective he represents in the complex realm of philosophy".
It was in Germany, however, where the metaphor of perspective gradually acquired an important role in discussions of method. Johann Martin Chladni (Chladenius, 1710-1759), a professor of church history and later professor of theology at Wittemberg, was one of the first to expressly discuss the metaphor of perspective in terms of systematic method in his Introduction to Correct Explanation of Good Speech and Writing (1742):
Those circumstances of our soul, body and our whole person which make or are the cause that we suppose a thing to be so and not otherwise, we wish to name the see-point (Sehe-Punkt). Namely, just as the position of our eye and in particular, its distance from an object is the cause that we receive such an image and no other, so too is there with all our conceptions, a reason why we should recognize a matter so and not otherwise and this is the see-point of the same matter.
Chladni became an important writer on the theory of history, mainly through his General Science of History (1752), in which he specifically acknowledged Leibniz as one of the early users of the perspective metaphor:
The see-point is the inner and the outer condition of the observer, insomuch as there flows therefrom a given and particular way of looking at and observing the things that came before one. This is a concept that goes together with the most important concepts of the whole of philosophy, but which one is not yet accustomed to employ usefully, except that Leibniz used it here and there in his metaphysics and psychology. However, in historical knowledge almost everything depends upon it.
Meanwhile, Christian August Crusius (1715-1775), professor of philosophy and theology at Leipzig and Meissen, had explored the perspective metaphor as a way " to explain the difficulties that persons do not sufficiently understand," in his Way to the Certainty and Reliability of Human Knowledge (1747), where he too used the phrase see-point:
Now when persons wish to share such concepts with one another then it is unavoidable that each person in terms of the concepts with which they are already familiar, because of the different approach, needs to see the matter to a certain extent with different eyes and so to speak from a different see-point
For Crusius, this see-point or viewpoint became synonymous with a method for explanation or interpretation, which arose as he put it: from a comparison of all the circumstances to determine the correct see-point from which the author has seen a matter and place oneself in the thoughts of the same."
It was particularly through through various strands of the idealist school that this metyaphor of perspective was developed in a philosphical context. Kant (1724-1804), in the introductory section to his Critique of judgement (1781), formulated the concept of a ground (Boden), which served as a point of departure for both objective and subjective positions. Hence, when in modern English we speak of the grounds of an argument, we usually refer to the basis for another person’s (often opposing) viewpoint. This idea he developed more explicitly five years later in his essay, What does it mean to orientate oneself in thinking? (October 1786), in which he articulated his notion of a standpoint (Standpunkt). Orientation, claimed Kant, begins quite simply with a geographical orientation. In an everyday situation a person looks around to discover where they stand with respect to up and down and the four directions, North, South, East and West. This method of geographical orientation, he claimed, could be extended to dark rooms, i.e. situations where the eye cannot see surrounding objects, but again uses up-down, and the points of the compass to determine where they stand. This idea he developed: "Ultimately I can extend this concept even further such that he would then be in a position not only to orientate himself simply in space, i.e. mathematically, but also in thinking, i.e. logically". (It is useful to recall that Kant’s essay on orientation in space was one of the starting points for Cassirer’s discussion of space in his Philosophy of Symbolic Forms,1923-1929, 1955, vol.2, p. 93). Meanwhile, four years later, Kant returned to this problem in his Critique of the Power of Judgment (1790):
Under the common sense one must, however, understand the idea of a social sense, that is a capacity for judgment, which in its reflection takes into account, (a priori) the modes of presentation of every other person, in order to hold one's view equally concerning the whole of human reason, and thereby to avoid the illusion which arises from subjective, private circumstances that could easily be held as objective and which would have a negative influence on one's judgement. Now this occurs because one's judgement of another person exists not only out of actual but much more out of possible judgements and one puts oneself into the position of the other [person], in order that one can abstract from the limitations which may by chance happen to adhere to our judgement:
As Blankenburg (1991,3) has noted, Kant's transcendental view, when transposed to the sphere of everyday experience, readily lends itself to the concept of perspectival exchange. Indeed the notion of putting oneself into the place of another person, "standing in their shoes", has become a basic aspect of modern discussions.
Litt (1926), in his Modern Ethics, noted the contribution of Herder (****) to the metaphor of perspective in philosophy:
When Herder formulated the famous phrase, that each nation had the middlepoint of its own happiness-- and for the disciples of Shaftsbury and Leibniz this coincides with manners, in itself, just as every sphere has its centre of gravity, so he fulfills that which was prepared by Leibniz' concept of the perspectivism of the monadic world view, without being able to be developed within the framework of his system.
Hegel (1770-1831), in his Phenomenology of the spirit, pursued the idea of a standpoint (Standpunkt). In terms of the standard reference works it is noteworthy that Zedler (1732-) in his Universal lexicon had entries for the terms eye-point (Augen-Punkt), principal point (Haupt-Punkt) and standpoint (Standpunkt), but no figurative meanings for these. Adelung, in his Attempt at a complete grammatical critical dictionary (1774-1781), included figurative uses of viewpoint (Gesichtspunkt) and standpoint (Standpunkt). The brothers Grimm (1897), in their etymological dictionary traced the figurative use of the term viewpoint (Gesichtspunkt) through Leibniz, Gellert, Lessing, and Möser and also used the term horizon (Horizont) figuratively.
According to Ferrator Mora (1958), it was Gustav Teichmüller, a professor of philosophy at the University of Dorpat, who first coined the term perspectivism in The real and the apparent world. A new foundation of metaphysics (1882). Teichmüller was very conscious of giving a new meaning to the traditional term of perspective as becomes clear from the following passage (185):
Now if we stood on the sun, the Copernican world view would be apparent to us. Since we stand on the earth the Ptolemaic version is apparent to us. If we stood on Venus or Jupiter we would on each occasion gain a different perspectival view of the world. The mouse cries when it is caught by the cat. The cat, however, is very happy about it. When the progressive party praises a bill, the conservatives are dismayed and conversely. In short, the view of things is always taken from a given standpoint and is therefore perspectival.
Now we know that our opinions, views or concepts are not the true things themselves, but rather that reality shows itself only in the elements of sense, that is in the so-called, sensations, by means of which something corresponding to the real things or events is unleashed within us. Hence all opinions or views of real things are only hypotheses used to explain our own situation. As a result the concept of perspective can no longer be used to describe the relation of the real thing as an object to the viewpoint of the subject, since real things do not exist for us until have already used them hypothetically as an explanation of our sensations. It therefore but remains for us to take the multitude of sensations themselves as the object, and explain its composition by the subject as the perspectival image. This more refined definition of perspective will meet with no opposition since such a composition of our sensations brings the reception and view of the real world, which nonetheless is only held to be a perspectival image by all scientific researchers.
Teichmüller considered the major contending philosophical systems and concluded: "Hence we place idealism in a row with materialism and Spinozism and declare all these world views as perspectival since they allow us to enter into the world view such as it appears from our standpoint". His system was remarkable for a number of reasons. One of its points of departure was the concept of being (Sein as well the seiende) in relation to consciousness, themes that Husserl would take up a generation later. Teichmüller drew consciously on Eastern religions, notably Buddhism. He saw his system as based on ontology, from which Nature Philosophy (Naturphilosophie) derived and from which, under the title of phenomenology, the perspectival categories were produced. In this view space, time and motion were perspectival.
Teichmüller’s book was one of the sources of Nietzsche (1844-1900), began with the notion of perspective as visual illusion, and ever changing appearances which led him to assert, in his Joyful wisdom (1882): "It is we who think and feel, who actually and unceasingly make something which did not exist before: the whole eternally increasing world of valuations, colours, weights, perspectives, gradations, affirmations and negations....One must admit this much: there can be no life at all except on the basis of perspectival estimations and appearances". Elsewhere in the same book Nietzsche noted:
How far the perspective character of the existence extends or whether it has any character at all, whether an existence without explanation, without sense does not just become nonsense, whether on the other hand, all existence is not essentially an explaining existence-these questions as is right and proper, cannot be determined by the most diligent and severely conscientious analysis and self-examination of the intellect, because in this analysis the human intellect cannot avoid seeing itself in its perspective forms and only in them.
Nietzsche expressed a similar opinion in *** (1885):" In short we achieve an estimate, also for the not knowing, for the rough and the seeing roughly, the simplified and false, the perspectival." That same year he also referred to "the perspectival, the foundation (Grundbedingung) of all life" in the preface of his Beyond good and evil (1885). In the next three years his ideas slowly clarified. In a fragment written between the end of 1886 and the spring of 1887, Nietzsche claimed: "To the extent that the word knowledge is meaningful, the world is knowable: but its meaning is variable. It has no [inherent] meaning behind it, but countless meanings, perspectivism."
In The genealogy of morals (1887), Nietzsche restated this idea even more forcefully: "There is only a seeing from a perspective, and the more emotions we express over a thing, the more eyes, different eyes we train on the same thing, the more complete will be our ‘idea’ of that thing, our ‘objectivity’ ". In the spring of 1888 he went on to claim that there is a "perspective-setting force" from which "every centre of force and not just a person, going out from oneself, constructs the whole of the remaining world." As Guillen pointed out, Nietzsche’s perspectivism also went in the direction of pragmatism; that perspectives were vehicles of biological and vital impulses (Triebe) which work within the limits and needs of each being: "Perspectivism is only a complex form of specificity. My conception is that each specific body strives in the direction of being master of the complete space and to use his force (his will to power)". Hence perspectivism in this sense was much more than a figure of speech or even a personal view point. It related to non-conscious, collective needs and involved what Guillen has termed an ultrapersonal point of view; biologically based and utilitarian in its aim. Meanwhile, Litt, who was critical of trends toward relation in sociology (see p.*** below), offered a brief assessment of Nietzsche's contribution:
That perspectivism of looking at the world and norming of life, in which Nietzsche believed he had found the most sublime expression of the drive to power, does not exclude ideal, fundamental principles of knowledge and formation, but rather includes them. Were it otherwise, then it would not be view and will led formation but rather blind going forth, that would improperly being laying claim to spiritual action.
The twentieth century saw an enormous rise in the philosphical use of perspective meatphors. For instance, Hartmann (1909), writing On Method in the History of Philosophy, claimed that "all factual things first require viewpoints."
The year 1912 saw the appearance of three significant books on philosophical aspects of perspective by Gehler, Petzoldt and Pollack. The most complex of these was by Gehler entitled, The apparent image. A philosophical-perspectival study. Apparent world and real world. The foundation of a new critical-philosophical world view. Together with a critical explanation of Kantian criticism. This was the same Gehler whose debates with Hauck concerning spherical perspective were discussed earlier (p. 123), and indeed a large section of this book continued a polemical attack on Hauck and his followers. Gehler saw his deeper purpose in creating a philosophical approach that improved on Kant. Knowledge, claimed Gehler (137), involved three worlds: an apparent world (Erscheinungswelt), the shape of which was certainly recognizable and dependent upon the kind of reception of external stimuli on the organ of vision; a real world (wirkliche Welt), which was ultimately unknowable, corresponding to Kant’s thing in itself (Ding an sich), the form and position of which was nonetheless most certainly conjectured to exist behind the apparent world and an inner world (Innenwelt), the primary and secondary forms of which were normally identical with those of the apparent world. The structure of real space was straight, parallel, endlessly long. This he called geometrical. The structure of apparent space was curved, converging and only went as far as the vault of the heavens. This he called perspectival.
Conscious that this was different from the regular usage, Gehler proposed to call this spherical perspective based on retinal images absolute perspective and refer to traditional linear perspective of painters’ as relative perspective. Gehler cited the work of Schultze to point out that Kant used the concept of space in no less than fifteen ways (fig. 45). Hence while Kant had claimed to deal with space in one sense only, namely, the special space of persons (der spezielle Menschenraum), he had, claimed Gehler, dealt with at least four basic types: apparent space (1, 3, 6, 10 above); what was presumably real space (2, 4); combinations of apparent and real space (7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14) and impossible space (5, 11, 15).
Gehler noted other problems with Kant’s approach: that his concept of perception was sometimes based on observation of the real world and sometimes of the apparent world. He went on to cite (197) Kant’s fundamental claim in the Prolegomena:
The starting point of all true idealists from the time of the Eleatic school until Bishop Berkeley is contained in the formulation: all knowledge through the senses and experience is mere appearance and only in the ideas of pure understanding and reason is truth [found]. The fundamental premise that reigns and determines my idealism is, by contrast: All knowledge of things based on pure understanding or pure reason is nothing other than mere appearance, and only in experience is truth [found].
1) space as it appears to everyman
2) the continuous extension that stretches out in all three dimensions of height, breadth and depth
3) space which each person necessarily puts forward (vorstellt)
4) a three dimensional space which finds its midpoint in every individual and which stretches out from
5) an individually determined space that depends on each subject and their view (Anschauung)
6) the space that every person truly sees perspectivally; actual appearance which we improve upon with
judgement based on experience
8) the sense of space that is corrected by judgment, which first arose through experience and reflection
9) my improved observation (Anschauung)
10) space that represents itself perspectivally
11) the fully subjective space determined by the standpoint of the observer
12) the perception of our senses, the errors of which we correct and balance on the basis of experience and
the judgement based thereon in our thoughts
13) the subjective perception of space corrected in our thoughts
14) our visual space in which our judgement is continuously and unconsciously active
15) the totality of spatial perceptions that each person naturally has, which are thoroughly individual and
Fig. 45. Fifteen ways in which Kant used the concept of space according to Gehler (1912).
Kind of Nexus Cause Effect Name of Nexus
Completely 1. Two real objects Real object or Thoroughly conjectured
objective in opposition condition of same causal nexus
2. One real object and Apparent Image Causal nexus of perspectivist
a standpoint in
Partially objective 3. Apparent image and Psychic thing in itself Psychophysical-causal nexus
partially eye (centre of vision) (not conscious seeing)
subjective nexus in opposition
Completely 4. Psychic thing in itself Our reality Causal nexus of understanding
subjective and understanding (conscious seeing)
causal nexus in opposition
5. Our reality and Our Idealism Causal nexus of reason.
Fig. 46. Five kinds of nexus according to Gehler (1912, 243).
In Gehler’s view the answer lay not in one or other side of this supposed opposition, but rather in a combination of the two, or in his own terms, in a perfect fit between real object, apparent object and that recognized by the intellect. Gehler went on to chart no less than five different possibilities, describing the kind of nexus involved in each one (fig. 46).
Whether or not we agree with his distinctions, Gehler’s efforts are of considerable interest because they make perspective, in his special sense of the term, fundamental to the process of knowing. Gehler drew upon the work of Helmholtz, Mach, Wundt, and a number of major philosophers and indeed, as we have seen, felt convinced that he had corrected Kant in this matter and that his new critical real-idealism (kritischen Real-Idealismus) would replace Kant’s empirical criticism.
Vaihinger (1911) in his Philosphy of as If explored what he termed fictionalism and noted that "every fiction also contains a seeing of things 'as if they were so'."
Pollack (1912), in his book on Perspective and Symbol, began with a chapter outlining his "Theory of viewpoints". He was against a purely relativistic position and wanted to re-establish a positivistic approach. To achieve this he argued that one needed to take relativism as a point of departure. It was not enough to recognize the historical limitations of earlier views: it was necessary to acknowledge the historical limitations of contemporary views. Only by taking this into account could one hope to achieve an enduring approach to knowledge and not fall a prey to American pragmatism against which he warned. Pollack noted that Nietzsche, who had been viewed by many as a peripheral figure, was in fact central to these philosophical questions. Petzoldt (1912), pursued similar ideas in his Problem of the world from the standpoint of relativistic positivism (142): "We can only think of the world from the standpoint from which we truly stand and not from a standpoint from which we cannot think ourselves as standing or from no viewpoint at all. There is no absolute viewpoint and there is no absence of viewpoint: there are only relative viewpoints".
Two years later, Ortega Y Gasset, outlined the idea of different perspectives in his Meditations on Don Quixote (1914), with his theory of depth (teoria de la profundidad). This he developed in Truth and perspective (1916), where he insisted that perspectivism permitted one to avoid the twin poles of relativism (there are only individual opinions, hence truth does not exist), and dogmatism (a single body of truth exists, hence individual opinions do not matter). He suggested that: "The personal viewpoint is the only one from which the world, as it truly is, can be observed. Everything else is pretence". He admitted that there were problems with this diversity, and urged: "Yet if, rather than getting angry with one another, we unite our views in a selfless spiritual co-operation, we will build together the stream of reality, just as out of different streams the wide, stately river emerges.
Ortega Y Gasset pursued these problems in The theme of our time (1923) where he claimed: "Perspective is one of the components of reality. It is not its distortion; it is its ordering schema:" He saw only one negative kind of perspective: "Just as a landscape has an endless number of perspectives whcih are all equally true and viable. Only the perspective is false which claims that it is the only one." He was conscious that his approach to perspective was a recent development: "Until today all philosophy was utopian. Each system pretended to be valid for all times and all peoples. The teaching of the standpoint requires, rather, that within a system, the vital perspective from which it stemmed, is expressed clearly."
Kant, in his Critique of pure reason, had insisted that we cannot know things in themselves: "We know nothing more than our mode of perceiving them, which is peculiar to us and which, though not of necessity pertaining to every animated being, is so to the whole race". Hinton (1888), had noted that: "if our intuition of space is the means whereby we apprehend, then it follows that there may be different intuitions of space." He was convinced, moreover, that Gauss and Lobachevsky had shown that "we are quite capable of conceiving different kinds of space". These ideas of Kant and Hinton, combined with the psycho-physical claims of Mach were the starting point for Ouspensky’s (1920), Tertium Organum, in which he related four levels of consciousness with different senses of space and time and corresponding stages of psychology, logic, mathematics, forms of actions, morals, forms of consciousness, forms of knowledge, forms of science, and different beings to create a single metaphysical whole (fig. 47).
1. The sense of one-dimensional space
The world on the line
The line as space, everything alse as time
Everything except things lying on this line in motion
2. The sense of two-dimensional space
The world on the plane
The plane as space, everything else as time
Angles and curves as motions
3. The sense of three-dimensional space
The world in an infinite sphere
The sphere as space, everything else as time
Phenomena as motions. A becoming and changing universe
4. The sense of four dimensional space
Spatial sensation of time
Fig. 47. Four forms of the manifestation of consciousness and their relationship to a sense of space and time according to P. D. Ouspensky.
Meanwhile, Karl Mannheim (1919), explored philosophical and sociological aspects of perspective in his seminal Ideology and utopia. One of his basic premises was that value free studies were impossible; that all attempts to identify objective actions were imbued with future intentions in the form of both political goals (ideology) and other dreams (utopia). This led him in the final section to a critique of existing theories of knowledge. It had been generally assumed that the exact sciences, with their emphasis on objectivity and truth, offered a paradigm for all knowledge. This had overlooked the interdependence between truth and social-historical dimensions. In the humanities the origins of a field (Genesis) were often necessarily value laden. One needed to recognize the active element in knowledge (Erkennen). Moreover he argued that there existed an intrinsic perspectivity of certain kinds of knowledge (255):
In certain areas of historical-social knowledge it is not a defect for a discipline (Wissenschaft) to maintain within itself its intrinsic point of view. On the contrary in these fields the possible points of view are intrinsically perspectival and the problem lies not in trying to suppress this perspectivity and to apologize for it, but rather to ask how in the element of this perspectivity, knowledge and objectivity are possible. Similarly, in the case of a visual image of a spatial object, it is hardly a source of error that the essential aspects of this spatial object can only be rendered perspectivally. Hence the problem lies not therein how one could produce a non-perspectival image but rather how one in comparing the different views one can arrive at seeing the perspectival as such and thus arrive at a new kind of objectivity. Hence here again the false ideal of an absolute, removed and impersonal view has to be replaced by the ideal of an intrinsically personal but at the same time constantly unfolding personal view.
Mannheim claimed that there were basically two paths for the theory of knowledge. One could emphasize the importance of normative personal aspects of knowledge (Seinsverbundenheit) and insist on point of view (Standpunkt), arguing that this continued with the evolution of the social process of knowledge. In which case the accompanying theory of knowledge required revision insomuch that one needed to (258): "establish the essentially relational structure of human knowledge (in the way that the essential perspectivity of visual objects are accepted without question". The second path was that one need not insist on the absolutization of these personal aspects of knowledge (Seinsverbundenheit). Indeed the discovery of these personal factors in different viewpoints could mark a first step towards no longer being bound by them: "By adding a point of view indicator to a view that had taken itself as absolute, in a certain sense I neutralise the particularity of the view". Mannheim did not feel that one could know which of these two paths would be followed in future. In his view, the important fact was that both alternatives spelled the end of naive claims that there existed a sphere of truth per se. In his view, it was significant that in the exact sciences such naive claims had already been swept away by Heisenberg’s indeterminacy principle. In conclusion, Mannheim mentioned some of the key thinkers who had made possible his new approach to a sociology of knowledge, including Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Lukacs and Scheler.
Mannheim (1921-1922), pursued these ideas in an important article on "Contributions to the theory of world-view interpretation", where he outlined a struggle for synthesis, noting seeming tensions between rationalism and irrationalism because fields such as religion and art, although alogical and atheoretical were by no means irrational. Mannheim argued that there were three kinds of meaning (Arten des Sinnes): an objective meaning, an intended meaning and a documentary or characteristic meaning. While acknowledging the problems in arriving at an understanding of a world view, he concluded that the notions of mechanical causality which the humanities had adopted from the methodology of science was being replaced by a methodology that took into account historical world views.
Mannheim (19**), further explored the metaphor of perspective in his Sociology of Knowledge, using as one of his points of departure the analogy between perspective and landscape which Ortega Y Gasset had used earlier:
Landscape as landscape - this is the example by means of which perspectivism is most clearly exemplified- can only present itself perspectivally to a human consciousness and yet a landscape does not dissove into the various possible images of itself, because each of these images is oriented towards something (whence not just any arbitrary image is possible) and because a given perspective, insomuch as it is correct, can also be tested by others. Having, however, conceded this, then history is only visible from history itself.....
Having accepted that metaphysical knowledge is cultural circle being bound knowledge, then one can only set out from a dynamic system in this sphere of thinking and not accept a unique system of transcendent truths.... However, if one concedes this, then only perspectivism remains possible, whereby the various epochs together become the important periods belonging to it, which as such seem to have an entity of their own, but from the historical observer can only be grasped perspectivally -- from positions which only come into being through the process of history.
As noted earlier,Theodor Litt (1926) in his Modern Ethics saw the ideas of Leibniz and Schaftsbury as starting points for the perspectivism of Herder and later Nietzsche. Spranger (1929), in a fundamental article on "The meaning of value free judgements (Voraussetsungslosigkeit) in the humanities (Geisteswissenschaften)" analysed some of the latest developments in philosophy and theology. He recalled that Weber (1919), had expressed the idea of a value free approach to knowledge, but noted that there was a trend whereby world views and value judgements were considered to be at the root of rather than peripheral to the social sciences and the humanities. By way of illustration he cited three recent scholars: Rothacker, Litt and Scheler. Spranger noted that Erich Rothacker’s (1926), Logic and systematics in the humanities, used Dilthey’s three types of world views as a basis for idealized methods in the humanities. Rothacker argued that in order to understand concepts and methods of the humanities fully one needed to trace the roots of the world view on which they were based. As the various perspectives of the world views changed so too did the effective meaning of the sociological point of departure. Each world view had its methodological consequences and conversely.
Spranger next considered Theodor Litt’s (1928), Knowledge, education (Bildung) and world view, claiming that he developed Hegelian objective idealism in keeping with Hegel’s general teaching concerning the unavoidable and fruitful perspectivism of world views by arguing that subjectivity was an inextricable dimension of any research; that the goal in science of trying to remove the subject from the process was disastrous if applied to the humanities. Litt attacked Kant and Weber’s positions concerning the separation of theory and practice, arguing instead that all meaningful thought in the humanities arose from a person deciding for themself, and a venture (Wagnis) from the personal perspective of meaning. Spanger also cited Max Scheler’s (1926), The form of knowledge and society, who examined a series of definitions of knowledge and criteria for truth, argued that there was no such thing as science for the sake of science and that every branch of knowledge was based on a world view.
Spranger also discussed three factors to demonstrate why the humanities were necessarily dependent on assumptions (Voraussetzungen) and perspectives (Perspektiven): "1) The humanities are bound to the intellectual (geistige) content and form of the particular historical period in which they arise....; 2) All understanding in the humanities is bound to the intellectual breadth (capacity) and maturity of the research personality....; 3) Consciously or unconsciously all understanding comes from the basic position of a world view and only through this origin can it become the basis for ultimate values".
Spranger saw two possible responses to this perspectivism in the humanities: one, a simple resignation to scepticism, which he decried; a second was to use this fragmentation of scholarly positions as a basis for further development. He noted three trends which made feasible this alternative. First, notwithstanding the different points of departure, entry and various values in the humanities, the underlying law (Gesetz) guiding all learning was the idea of truth (Wahrheit). Second, although persons in the humanities had various assumptions and values, their quest for truth meant that they were willing to subject these assumptions and values to criticism and revise them as necessary. This distinguished the humanities from simple dogmatism. Third, even if these processes of self-criticism and correction did not eliminate all contradictory points of view, then the intent at finding truth could again guide one towards a synthesis that was not purely relativistic.
Spranger had noted that there were serious dangers in pretending that scholarship in the humanities could be value free when it clearly was not. He ended his article by claiming that the new value bound approach to scholarship was equally if not more dangerous. First, it could lead to a new subjectivism. Second and more serious, there were dangers that individuals attempt to limit universities to one particular world view. He cited the case of Russia and the rising fascism in Germany (in 1929). Or that different world views be relegated to different departments within the university. The challenge he claimed was to insure that thinking and doing remained connected.
Not everyone accepted this new emphasis on perspectivism of viewpoints and world views. In Germany, for example, Heidegger (1927), in Being and Time, launched a basic attack on the concept of appearance (Erscheinung), and set out to destroy any notion of perspectivity. Heidegger focussed on the concept of phenomenon, which for him signified "that which shows itself in itself, the manifest". He noted that it was: "possible for an entity to show itself as something which it is not....This kind of showing itself we call "seeming" (Scheinen)....What appears does not show itself; and anything which thus fails to show itself, is also something which can never seem". Even so Heidegger’s critique of perspectivism remained largely implicit.
Meanwhile, the phenomenologists were trying to understand these problems in their own terms. Becker (1923), wrote a significant article of "Contributions to the phenomenological foundation of geometry and its physical applications" in which he identified three kinds of space (fig. 48).
1. Pre-spatial (pre or quasi spatial) fields or fields of extension
a) sensory fields (prespatial fields. First Level)
b) fields of movement of the organs (prespatial fields. Second level)
2. Orientation space
3. Homogeneous (unlimited) space.
Fig. 48. Three kinds of space according to Becker (1923).
In the United States, Lovejoy (1930), launched an explicit attack on perspective in his Revolt against dualism. He associated the "perspective realists" and the "objective realists" with the scientific positivism of Mach and Petzoldt. In his view cognition was a direct relation between mind and object. A perspective designated certain aspects of an object that entered into a relation of co-presence with the mind. The mind was a focal point for perspectives (cf. the quote by Kant in connection with Gebser below p. 176*). Lovejoy was critical of this process because, he claimed, perspectivity also relied on the position of the percipient which changed from one person to the other (120): "From my point of view the penny may appear elliptical, from yours, circular". And yet a standpoint implied the existence of something that was not relative. The possibility that if person a who saw the penny as an ellipse could see a circle if he moved to the position of person b who saw it as a circle appears not to have occured to Lovejoy and hence he assumed that viewpoints could at best be a condition not a goal of knowledge and indeed that they led to (123): "a general deliquescence of the notion of factual truth and falsity".
Notwithstanding such protests, McGilvary (1934), claimed that "in recent philosophy the problem of perspectivity has become of the greatest importance". For him the concept of a standpoint had become basic to perspective realists (1956,p.1):
The perspective realist makes no claim that he can speak for the universe as it is for itself. He does not consider himself as an outsider looking on, a stranger as it were, from some supernatural realm, passively contemplating a world of nature with whose goings-on he has no active business. On the contrary, he is a natural organism responding to natural stimulations and acquiring thereby such knowledge as nature thereupon puts at his disposal. This knowledge, as far as he can integrate it into a system, is his philosophy. As this knowledge and the integration of it develops, his philosophy develops.... A mature philosophy for him is an ideal never realized. He sees in part, he knows in part, he prophesies in part; and that which is perfect never comes, except as a goal that lies afar off before him.
In contrast to the ever more personal trends in Ortega, George Herbert Mead (1938), introduced an ultrapersonal concept which has had an impact on the concept of perspective-taking (see below p. 205*, 211*):
The perspective is the world in its relationship to the individual and the individual in its relationship to the world. The social individual is already in a perspective which belongs to the community within which his self has arisen....This involves the assumption of the community attitudes where all speak with one voice in the organization of social conduct. The whole process of thinking is the inner conversation going on between the generalized other and the individual.
The French philosopher, Merleau-Ponty also explored the metaphor of perspective in his Phenomenology of Perception (1945). He suggested, for instance that one should: "conceive perspectives and point of view as our insertion into the world of individuals." Elsewhere he spoke of perspective as a way to "slide into the whole world". His concept of perspective was less straightforward than earlier writers as when he claimed that: "The object and the world do not exist except as lived by myself or by subjects such as myself, because they are the sequence of our perspectives, but they transcend all perspectives because this sequence is temporal and unachieved," or when he noted that : "When I look at an horizon it does not make me think of that other landscape that I would see if I were there, nor that one of a third landscape and so on, I do not imagine anything, but all the landscapes are already there in a concordant sequence and the open infinity of their perspectives." Notwithstanding such statements, there are trends in criticism which seek to place Merleau-Ponty into the camp of anti-ocular thinkers (see below p.***).
Hegel, in his Phenomenology of the Spirit (), had devoted a fourth chapter to the dialectic of I and the Other. This was one of the starting points for Husserl’s (written c. 1915, published 1973), Phenomenology of Intersubjectivity, in which he explored contradictory aspects of points of view that anticipated later developments in perspective taking:
The ‘if I were there I would see myself from there and so I would have this view’ is a contradictory notion. It has a good reason however: that a doubling of the I is possible, just as a doubling of a given real thing, that is, the possibility of two subjects with two bodies becomes clear in this contradictory notion....
Now when, in this way before the actual having of another subject, I can gain a possible notion of it, this indicates how this notion should present itself, how another subject should be given. The exterior representing appearing I is given externally when I see an object which, through its similarity with mine calls for the apperception of an I that is a stranger, that is an I like myself. And that is to say the apperception is precisely such as when, in the sense of that contradictory notion that was made unequivocal, I have not just a simple external appearance of life, but also one that points back to an interior appearance, to the same kind that I would have if I moved there or were there.
Elsewhere Husserl claimed that "through perspectivisation the distancing things constitute themselves." As Diemer has noted, Husserl also used a number of perspectival metaphors in his writings, including shading (Abschattung), horizon (Horizont), circle of vision (Gesichtskreis) and standpoint (Standpunkt).
Another reason for his interest in perspective related to his interpretation of historical events in terms of early modern science, which Husserl (1935) explored in The crisis of European science and transcendental philosophy. According to Husserl, Renaissance perspective had introduced an antagonism between subjective and mathematical space. Perspective thus vacillated between two seemingly contradictory interpretations: one which had its accent on the eye as a centre of projection and focussed on distortions as in anamorphoses; the other which emphasized the perspectival vanishing point of geometrical-mathematical bodies. The Galileian world view had linked science with mathematical space with the result that one had only objects without perspectival viewpoints. There was no room left for perceptual space. Husserl was concerned with creating a transcendental subjectivity which brought human beings back into the centre of experience, defining the I as a consciousness that enters perspectivally into a polarity between self and object and is thus present in every act. Perspective in this sense thus became linked with the problem of life and presence (Präsenz) became one of the reasons for perspectival consciousness, which affected both space and time.
De Folter (1983) explored the reciprocity of perspectives in the work of husserl, claiming that this plays an importat role in the intersubjectively identical thing and the intersubjectively identical world. every I is the zero point of an oriented world of appearances, i.e. it is the zero point of a system of co-ordinates from which all things in the world, known and unknown, are observed, ordered and understood. The I is incarnate in the body (Leib), often termed the perceptual body (Wahnehmungsleib) or body of the will (Willensleib) and constantly carries the "here" with it, with respect to which everything else is "there". As perceptual organ the body is bound to a fixed perspective or group of perspectives.
This identity through means of orientation applies both at the level of the solipsistic subject and the intersubjectivty of objects in the object world. As a result: "If I were to take the position of another person and he were to take mine, then his sequences would be the same as I now have them in my position and vice versa." In practice this means I can attain the same but not the identical appearances of the physical environment.
If the world is to be one, in itself with respect to all subjective appearances, and if it is to be possible to express objectively valid truths which can no longer be drawn [back] into the realtivism of subjectivity, which every reasonable person must necessarily acknowledge, then there must be conditions of thing determinations which are accessible in the same way to every subject and thereby are necessarily common to all subjects, i.e. which are in principle free from "accidental" subject relations and which, when they belong to one subject belong to all.
Hence, De Folter claimed that for Husserl the true world is a necessary presumption on which he also based his understanding of the reciprocity of perspectives.
In his later work Husserl (1950, 1962, 1963, 1966, 1966, 1969, 1973), became concerned with perspective, not in terms of its many viewpoints per se, but rather as a correlative of consciousness, asking the question: how is it that we are able to see an object as identical although its perspectives keep changing? Notwithstanding all this, Husserl has become another philosopher cited by some (see below p. ***) as being in the anti-ocular camp.
Paul, Graf Yorck von Wartenburg, in his Italian Diary (1927), saw perspective as a vehicle for the new consciousness of early modern times. He explored how perspective suppressed the pure imaging of early Christian art and increasingly expressed itself in constructions that reflected individual belief and personal expressions of life. Art thus turned away from visible metaphysics towards sensual reality, focussing on realism, effectiveness and actuality (terribilità). Yorck examined philosophical connections with nominalism and with the concept of movement and sought thereby to give an explanation for the roots of Renaissance perspective.
Yorck (1956), became convinced that consciousness could only be known through its historical articulation. He claimed that there were three types of historical approach which reflected states of consciousness of self and involved three basic functions experience (Empfinden), wishing (Wollen) and imagining (Vorstellen). Greek culture had emphasized external appearances. Jewish culture had marked an important step towards abstraction. Christian culture marked a final stage in this process (fig. 49).
Culture Function Characteristics
Greeks Life (Leben) images, external
Romans, Jews Force (Kraft) no images, more abstraction
Christians Will (Wille) abstraction of hypothesis
Fig. 49. Basic categories in the philosophical system of Graf Yorck.
In Yorck’s view, Christian values only came into focus in the late mediaeval period and were not articulated clearly until the Renaissance and early modern times. Luther was one expression of this movement: early modern science was another. Science was now a constructive tendency whose postulate lay in the abstractness of hypothesis which seeks to question all visible appearances and to achieve authenticate certainty through the nature of the standpoint.
According to Yorck, the perspectivity of early modern times was a product of Christian transcendental ideas whereby it was believed that the maximally unending God has his reference point in the punctual (in the sense of point-like) self of the person who is therefore put in a position to have this unending God present in his pointed unity. It was no co-incidence that punctuality, again in the sense of point-like, and infinity were also basic characteristics of perspective. Yorck went on to describe what he saw as the scientific implications of these ideas in his States of Consciousness and History (1956, 146). In this interpretation Christian concepts led to perspective which in turn generated both virtuality and moment of force as key concepts in early modern thought. As Boehm (1969) put it:
Perspectival perception vanishes through the infinity of space, which manifests itself as horizon-like merging and in the extension of the horizon. At the same time, however, in the construction of central perspective it wins a vehicle for its realization, whereby the eye point controls space as a constructive structure. The ontological valence of the eye point goes beyond the simple quality of being a point and virtually extends to the entirety of its ‘world’. Thereby the emptiness of space becomes real, since it is made accessible by the concept of power concentrated in a point as a field of energy. Thereby resistance also becomes real, which as a result of unlimited compositional power was determined as an atom.
Meanwhile a very different interpretation of perspective was being developed by the Hungarian Marxist philosopher of aesthetics, Lukacs (1956) who claimed that perspective has three characteristics:
first something is characterized as a perspective, insomuch as it does not yet exist. Were it to exist then it would not be a perspective for the world that we are building; secondly, this perspective is, however, not a mere utopia....but, rather...the necessary consequence of a objective social development, which expresses itself objectively in poetical form in the unfolding of a series of characters in given situations and third it is objective, but not fatalistic...; it is... the tendency in reality towards realization through deeds and actions."
This Marxist definition of perspective helps to account for contemporary German usage, which began in the former East Germany, whereby perspective means "directed towards the future" or " a plan for the future."
Gebser (written 1947-1948, 1951-1952; expanded 1964-1965), produced a three volume study on the rise and manifestations of aperspectivism in modern culture as a contribution to the development of consciousness. One of Gebser’s points of departure was to focus on concepts of space and time (47): "While the concern of the early Renaissance lay in a concretisation of space, in our period the concern is with time. Our fundamental idea, the quest for a concretisation of time and thereby the realisation and becoming conscious of the fourth dimension, provides us with a means for a comprehensive understanding of our epoch".
Gebser claimed that the advent of perspective in the Renaissance had both positive and negative consequences. On the one hand perspective brought a new consciousness and objectivation of space, which made visible both space and also the person as viewing that space. Hence the same paintings of Giotto and Masaccio which were milestones in the conquest of space were also milestones in the representation of persons as observers and the observed. On the other hand, claimed Gebser, perspective also brought with it limitations the consequences of which continued to affect us, namely, that in order to see or think perspectivally meant seeing and thinking in a fixed way. There were also other consequences, namely that (51): "the unperspectival person (whom one could also call the hearing person) was still primarily auditory, whereas the perspectival person (whom one can also characterize as the seeing person) is primarily optical". Gebser noted how perspective creates (52): "distance between persons and things. Distance, however, is both a characteristic of the conscious becoming objectivation and of the externalization (Entaüsserung) and liberation of internal conditioning factors that precede and render this possible, which are then found again and realized in the external world".
Hence, claimed Gebser, perspective had a double characteristic of fixing both the observer and the observed, and to underline this he cited Panofsky: "The history of perspective can be understood both as a triumph of the distancing and objectivizing sense of reality and as a triumph of the distance negating struggle for power or both as a fixing and systematization of the external world and an extension of the I sphere". All this served as introduction to Gebser’s programmatic approach to the history of consciousness which, in his view, involved five basic structures, namely, the archaic, magical, mythical, mental, and integral. The general characteristics of each of these were described (83-233), as were their consequences for space and time (fig. 50).
Structure Process Expression Formulation Limits Valence
Archaic presentiment presentiment world-origin -- --
Magic associative experience world-knowledge conditional univalent
analogizing living (Erlebnis)
Mythic seeing based on experience world-picture limited ambivalent
remembering (Erfahrung) world-view temporally
externalized world seen and
speech given meaning
Mental projecting representation world-representation bounded trivalent
the thought and speculating represented world
Integral integrating protection world-protection open & free multivalent
diaphanation the truly perceived
and represented world
Fig. 50. Gebser’s (1972,368) five structures of consciousness and their consequences.
With each of these five basic structures Gebser associated basic kinds of thinking. Corresponding to the mental was perspectival thinking, which he associated with Leonardo’s visual pyramid and related to J. Stenzel’s pyramidal thinking. By way of explanation Gebser recalled that Plato’s concept of diairesis meant a taking apart or separating, whereby the hitherto finite circle was broken and split into pieces. Aristotle had added to logic an either-or quality and introduced the notion of syllogism as in the case: all men are mortal, Socrates is a man, ergo Socrates is a mortal. This had brought with it a pyramidal structuring of ideas which could be graphically summarized (fig. 51):
Socrates Plato Others
Fig. 51. Pyramidal thought structures described by Gebser (1973, 354).
Since perspectival thinking had to create its own basis without knowing whether or not it had a sound foundation, it often became a deficient form of logic in cases such as: a human fell into the water. We are all human. Therefore we will all fall into the water. Characteristic of perspectival thinking was that it was simultaneously spatially organizing and spatially bounded as was reflected in its very use of spatial language with verbs such as: presents (stellt vor), shows (beweist), comprehends (erfasst), understands (begreift), grasps (fasst auf), thinks about (überlegt), supposes (unterstellt) and sets apart (setzt auseinander). According to Gebser, Plato’s system had led him to a vertical pyramid of understanding whereby things were lower and higher, arranged in levels.
This Gebser contrasted with Kant’s philosophy where ideas were no longer vertically organized but rather orientation points were positioned in the same plane as himself, using by way of illustration a passage from Kant that had been cited by Leisegang, namely that ideas: "have a valuable and completely necessary regulatory use, namely, that of directing the understanding (Verstand) towards certain goals, in view of which direction lines of all its rules run together to a single point". Gebser noted how Kant went on to use the image of an horizon, which stood in direct opposition to Plato’s vertical structures. The result of this Kantian triangulation of thought (hence trivalent), claimed Gebser, was that thinking became spatial and static, spirit could be materialized and even time could be spatialized. Gebser did not criticize these trends: he simply warned of their dangers if pushed to their limits, claiming that perspectival thought also led to a necessary mutation in the form of paradoxical thinking. The greater part of his three volume study focussed on the aperspectival world which he summarized in a long series of characteristics (II,491):
the whole, wholeness, transparency, the spiritual, overcoming of the I, realization of timelessness and timeboundedness, understanding of the concept of time and free time, breaking away from the spatial and systematic; establishment of the dynamic, recogniton of the energetic, mastery of movement, the fourth dimension, overcoming of patriarchal system, doing away with ruling and power, increase in intensity, clarity (instead of merely being awake) and a shift in creative points of departure.
A very short article by Santucci (1957-1958), in the Enciclopedia filosofica, identified perspectivism (prospettivismo) as a relativistic solution offered by Spengler, Ortega y Gasset and Mannheim, in response to a crisis in contemporary historicism introduced by Dilthey.
Ströker (1958-1959), one of the editors of Heidegger, wrote a thought provoking article on Perspective in the figurative arts. Search for a philosophical explanation, in which the author took a phenomenological approach. Spatial perception was explored as a specific relation between a subject and the world, it being claimed that there were links between intentional consciousness and spatial structure. A starting point of this analysis was that in a perspectival view one never discovers the entire object in a single view. One only sees it form a given side. This the author claimed had important implications (152):
For in the concept of the side there lies the idea that the object as a whole is comprehended, (miterfasst in Husserl’s sense of Miterfassung), in its all-sidedness. Such a conception states, namely that I do not simply see figures but rather that I perceive the sides that belong to the thing. And it is this approach alone which motivates my movement be it my own or that of the thing. For I await from such a movement a glimpse of the back side. Things which were merely seen would have none of these effects.
This is to say nothing other than that in spatial perception it is not merely the eye that is at work in its sense function, although this, as we shall presently explain, comprises a decisive sensorial constitutive moment of the thing, but rather that each individual aspect is borne by a categorical, unity giving moment, whereby the various (intentional) contents of the single viewer are bound under the unity of a scene. My perspectival spatial perception is from the outset borne by the conception of a thing that is identical in the midst of its changing aspects. As such it is saved from falling into merely separate individual perceptions and lets the perception of the thing be what it is, namely a perspectival one.
Ströker recognized that this conscious looking at objects from different sides, while necessary, was not a sufficient condition for perspective. Another important step, claimed the author, came with the shift from perceptual space (Anschauungsraum) to visual space (Sehraum), which brought a new level of abstraction because it required suppressing all perceptual knowledge of the unseen sides and focussing attention on visible aspects of an object. This led to new emphasis on appearance (Schein in Kant’s sense) and helped ultimately, so the author, in the representation of space on a plane. Within this framework the author sketched a brief history of spatial representation from early paleolithic time through Antiquity to the Renaissance. As one context for understanding the conditions for focussing on and representing visible evidence of objects, that is, the background to Greek art, Ströker’s essay was very useful. It was less illuminating in explaining precisely how one shifted from this Greek notion of appearances to the mathematical space of the Renaissance.
According to Jones (1985), the notion of seeing aspects and world views played a particular role in Wittgenstein’s philosophy. Already in his Diaries 1914-1916 (1960) he drew attention to the different ways of seeing anamorphic pictures (Vexierbilder) and relationships (Sachverhalten). Wittgenstein (1960), in his Philosophical researches used the ambiguities of a Necker cube to illustrate these problems. Jones argued that there was a basic continuity in Wittgenstein’s philosophy and focussed on four problems. One was the question of seeing the world properly which, he claimed, was a leitmotif in the Tractatus logicophilosophicus (1960). Another was a trend in the late philosophy towards an overview (Ubersichtlichkeit). A third was a fascination with the noticing of aspects. This was touched upon in his Brown book, and formed an important theme in his Philosophical observations (1964), where he used both the duck-rabbit figure and an anamorphic picture by way of example. Finally, Jones, noted the problem of the world view and the whole question of how a way of seeing is established.
Graumann in an important book on the Foundations of a Phenomenology and Psychology of Perspectivity (1960) focussed attention on perspectivity as opposed to perspective, a distinction that has become significant particularly in the realm of psychiatry (see below p. 2**):
This assumption, that makes all looking through to looking ahead and in the determination of the representation in central perspective is typically fixed, reveals perspectivity as a time-spatial directional whole, in which the here and now of my standpoint and the being-here of my perception in things with a horizontal direction always already implies the then of an immediately following perception.
Boehm (1969), published a significant dissertation on Studies in perspectivity. Philosophy and art in the early modern period. On the one hand, Boehm was intrigued by the way in which early modern thought conceived of truth as certitude, evidence and clarity using a metaphysical style of evidence based on categories from perspective, namely, standpoint, horizon, and evidence. On the other hand, he was conscious that perspective belonged to the sunken concepts that had been set free by the attitude of world view philosophy that grew from Hegel’s ideas. Boehm began with sections on perspective 1) perspective theory, 2) pictures, 3) artwork and 4) the problem of the world. A fifth section drew attention to the twofold meaning of perspective: one focussed on the object (e.g. Galileo), the other on the concept of self. Montaigne’s views were examinend in this regard. The final sections of the book examined the philosophical contributions of Husserl, Heidegger, Nicholas of Cusa and Descartes respectively.
Wartofsky (1978), extending ideas of Goodman argued that the theory of perceptual constancy was based on Euclidean geometrical optics which, in his view, was false, as was the belief that the rules of linear perspective were the norm for fidelity in pictorial representation. His claim was (34): "that we see the visual world as a picture because we picture it in certain ways. And therefore, what we see becomes, in significant part, a function of our modes of picturing. Since these modes change, historically and culturally, so too does our mode of visual perception itself".
Zeil Fahlbusch (1983), examined Perspectivity and decentralization in connection with Piaget’s genetic theories of knowledge, which appeared in the series, Studies in anthropology (vol.6). Piaget was concerned with perspective strictly in terms of spatial perception and representation (see below p. 197*). Zeil-Fahlbusch used the term perspectivity in quite a different sense, namely: "everything that does not fit into the structure of identity or generality, which does not permit hierachisation, which always remains the particular in the general". Her distinction between perspectivity and decentralizing (Dezentrierung) attempted to confront the special (das Besondere) with the general (das Allgemeine) and to this extent was a modern reformulation of the mediaeval debate concerning universals and particulars. According to Zeil-Fahlbusch however these two concepts were interdependent (15):
The acceptance of a dialectic between perspectivity and decentralization would have as a consequence for the theory of truth not only that it is an open not closeable process, as one of the particular interpretations of the genetic theory of knowledge still seemed to suggest, but rather that truth is not unequivocal (uneindeutig). Knowledge and decision would be inseparable. And in terms of one’s conception of humanity this would have the further consequence that this remains bound to a concrete communication historically and in the present, if we wish to retain a general notion of a reasonable (vernünftigen) person and humane interaction in a community.
Zeil-Fahlbusch claimed that in terms of method this implied that questions of structure had to be brought back to the concrete practice of everyday life in order to that concepts of knowledge could be linked with personal knowledge. To achieve this she challenged Piaget’s sharp separation between insight (Einsicht) and knowledge (Erkenntnis).
The book was in three parts, beginning with a description of her proposed dialectic between perspective and decentralization outlining its consequences for Piaget’s genetic theory of knowledge. A second part, which examined the foundations of this genetic theory, was followed by an excursus on three themes: Kohlberg’s social theory; Habermas’ concepts of I-identity and moral development, and the relationship between cognitive and analytical psychology. Part three returned to consider in more detail four problems broached in part one: Piaget’s conception of psychology as embryology of reason, the relation of objective truth and practical meaning, the problem of subjectivity and intersubjectivity and understanding knowledge in connection with the question of balance.
Elkins (1995), in a book that dealt with both historical (see above p. 69*) and philosophical aspects of perspective suggested that most of the reductive metaphors of perspective were "polar rather than unary." Some of these are
subject(ive)/object(ive) realism/idealism mortality/eternity
north/south individual/collective interiority/exteriority
distance/nearness viewer/viewed literal/figurative
unity/infinity master/slave knowledge/illusion
present/past active/passive Aristotle/Pythagoras
Fig 52. Various kinds of duality implied by perspective as listed by Elkins (1995), p. 37.
Philosophy of Science
Parallel and to a certain extent co-incident with the above discussions in philosophy, metaphors of viewpoints and perspective have been explored in the philosophy and history of science. For example, the English philosopher, Bertrand Russell (1914), in Our Knowledge of the External World, outlined a system of perspectives. In his system the personal or the "private world" functioned as a "perceived perspective" and he described "perspective space, whose elements are single perspectives each with its own private space."
Interestingly enough the social psychologist, George Herbert Mead (1934), whose ideas are discussed elsewhere (see below p.***), saw perspective as originating in the realm of physics:
The concept of perspective as something natural... is an unexpected gift of... physics to philosophy. Perspectives are neither distortions of any complete structures nor selections of consciousness from a mass of objects, the reality of which is to be sought in the noumenal world. They are in their reciprocal influence upon one another the nature that science knows.
Adjukiewiczs (1935, in an article on The Scientific World Perspective, developed the theme of how perspectives relate to the history of science and the rise of knowledge in general:
The theoretician of knowledge is prepared not to become an impartial judge in the debate between two world perspectives for the claim to truth. He should not strive to take on this role. Instead he should set himself another task: he should devote his attention to the actual changes of the scientific apparatus of concepts and the corresponding world perspectives, and attempt to determine what are the mechanisms that set this change in motion....The task of such an approach tto the history of science provides the found kernel of the humanities' understanding of the deve lopmental processes of science.
L. V. Bertalanffy (1955), one of the fathers of systems science, also argued for the importance of a perspectivistic view: "what traits of reality we grasp in our theoretical system is arbitrary in the epistemological sense, and determined by biological, cultural and probably linguistic factors... the choice of the symbolism we apply and consequently the aspects of the reality we represent, depend on biological and cultural factors. Feibelman (1960), in an article on The Indeterminacy Principle from a New Viewpoint, espoused his own theory of perspectives:
According to this theory the observer would stand in a given perspective and would remain in the condition of a person standing in this position. Hence the perspective exists whether someone takes it in or not. Perspective makes it possible that the person standing in it, observes a section of the natural world, in that it determines which section he should observe. So perspectives have both an enabling and a limiting character, but not a hindering one. Hence the knowledge gained by perspective would always be partial knowledge, albeit not necessarily false knowledge. Perspective belongs to the object and not to the subject.
All of this is of the greatest interest because it is popularly assumed that the notion of relativistic viewpoints in world views was introduced by Thomas Kuhn (1962) in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and then developed by others such as Feyerabend (196*) and Hanson (1971). In fact the role of these gentlemen was primarily that of bringing to a more public attention a series of ideas which had been developing for several centuries, and maturing throughout most of the twentieth century.
Jammer (1974), in The Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics, specifically referred to "historical perspective" in the subtitle thereof and in the body of his work discussed the concept of "perspectivisms." To the term perspective, he gave his own particular meaning as "a coordinated collection of measuring instruments either in the sense of reference systems as applied in the theory of relativity by Bohr."
Putnam (1981), attacked the notion of an externalist perspective and espoused an internalist perspective, claiming: "There is no viewpoint of God of which we know or of which we can usefully imagine, but only the various points of view of actual persons which allow various interests and motives to be recognized, which serve their descriptions and theories."
McGilvary (1956), whose ideas have been mentioned above, had referred to a "meta-scientific realism." Rescher (1984), explored the concept of meta-scientific perspective. He differentiated between cognitive and pragmatic perspectives and argued that the thesis of the unity of the sciences could be seen as the myth of the God's-eye view. Dilworth (1986) offered a more global view of recent historiography on the perspective metaphor in a significant article on The Perspectivist Conception of Science.
As noted earlier (p. **** above), the use of perspective metaphors in historical method has been traced back to Chladni's (1752) General Science of History, but as Koselleck has made us aware it has largely been in the twentieth century that this approach has developed seriously. Hartmann (1909) in his work On Method in the History of Philosophy, noted that all factual things first require viewpoints. Mannheim, in his work of the sociology of knowledge was concerned that although one used perspective in this sense, the "historical existence of contents" would not disappear.
The existence and the factual being of the Greeks, for example, does not disappear through the perspectives that have become possible through historical books about it. For both the factual being and the existence of an historical period is indeed given as a thing in itself , which various interpretations circle around equally. That we fix this being in itself is justified by the fact that even when we are unable to grasp this being in itself from any perspective, it nonetheless remains as an instance that can be tested against any arbitrary claims.
Hedinger (1960) devoted a chapter to "Perspectivity" in his book on Subjectivity and Historical Science. Bergmann and Pandel (1975) included a chapter on "Time Perspective as a Category of Historical Consciousness" in their book on History and Future.
Koselleck, Mommsen and Rüse (1977) in an important anthology of essays on Objectivity and Partiality explored various aspects of perspectivism in historical writing. For instance, Mommsen (1977), in an essay concerning the perspectival character of historical evidence and the probem of partiality, noted that there was the world of difference:
between partiality in the sense of an interpretation of historical developments from the standpoint of a a particular party, which hypostasizes the results gained to fundamental claims, which presumably result from the objective historical process itself, or are at least could be deduced from it, and an interpretation of past reality based on a given [viewpoin] value[-laden] viewpoints and/or theorteical insights and which remains conscious of its own partiality.
Mommsen (1977) went on to note that: "The perspectival character of historical knowledge extends to both to the selection and the evaluation of historical data both under the viewpoint of values and with respect to the cognitive, conceptual instruments of the historian."
there are almost always three groups of fundamental premises enter into perspectival conceptions, which are the conductors of knowledge guiding interests of the historian and influence the general hypotheses, paradigms or theories in a basic way, namely: 1) a particular interpretation of the being of persons; 2) a particualr concept of social change, including the conditions under which this occurs or does not occur, 3) particular expectations concerning the future development of contemporary society at the time irregardless whether these expectations are of an hypothetical or fundamnetal character.
In the same book, Koselleck (1977) devoted a chapter to "The Creation of position and Temporality. A Contribution to the historiographical Treatment of the Historical World." He illustrated his ideas with an interesting diagram (fig. 53):
Object Picture-plane Eye
Object of Knowledge Context Totalising Position
(Past) (Present) (Future)
Fig . 53. Perspective applied to history from Kosellek (1977, p. 104)
Rüsen (1983) explained that: "an extension of perspectives is a methodically organized procedure in historical thinking wherein standpoints are certainly considered, but are also (argumentatively) related to other standpoints." Rüsen (1986) spoke of a "synchronizing of progress in knowledge with an extension of perspectives." Rüsen (1986) in Reconstruction of the Past claimed that:
The objectivity of consensus (Lübbe) in the sense of stories though their meanings , persons with different positons, needs and interests in social life can also serve in the understanding of oneself, on the one hand frees the historical process of understanding in the plurality of different perspective building standpoints and at the same time integrates the plurality of standpoint dependent historical perspectives in the unity of the process of the extension of perspectives.
In the field of biology, von Baer (1828-1837), published a pioneering work On the evolutionary history of animals, in which he articulated a law of recapitulation whereby ontogeny imitates, capitulates phylogeny, i.e., that the embryological development of members of any species repeated the evolution of the genus to which the species belonged. This law, cited by Darwin (1859, chapter 14), in his Origin of species, was one of the sources for parallels between the development of a child and the evolution of primitive man. Darwin’s book inspired attempts to apply the theory of natural selection to art by individuals such as Stolpe, Balfour, March and Charles Read. In sociology (see below p. 205*) Spencer and Romanes called for the same. Synthesizing scholars such as Andree (1878), in his Ethnographic parallels and comparisons, pointed to the need for psychology to understand the underlying patterns of human culture that were emerging. Andree (1887), went on to explore "Drawing among native peoples" (Naturvölkern).
Meanwhile, a larger methodological framework was emerging which linked ethnology, anthropology, sociology, psychology and art. Grosse (1894), in The origins of art (Die Anfänge der Kunst), was among the first to explore a functional relationship between art and culture and called for a scientific approach to a domain traditionally ruled by aesthetics. Haddon (1894), in The decorative art of British New Guinea, was "perhaps the first book that proposed an all inclusive esthetic of primitive art". Haddon (1895), published Evolution in art as illustrated by the life histories of designs.
In England, James Sully (1895) in his Studies of childhood explicity compared the art of children with that of primitive man, noting that one would find (299) "many interesting points of comparison", while carefully stating that these parallels were imperfect. In the United States, Baldwin (1895), had no such qualms in his Mental development in the child and the race. He claimed (ix) that it was impossible to have a comprehensive notion concerning intellectual development without a definite position concerning the racial development of consciousness, that great problem of the evolution of the spirit, the problem of Spencer and Romanes. Where Sully was content with general analogies, Baldwin explicitly compared the psychology of the child (ontogenesis) with the psychology of the race (phylogenesis) and insisted more strongly on analogies of evolution. Within three years Baldwin’s (1898), book had appeared in German where its racial overtones were taken even more seriously. Burk (1902), in an article explored "The genetic versus the logical order in drawing".
Specific interest in the role of perspective in these developments also began in the 1890’s with Passy’s (1891), "Notes on children’s drawings". Clark (1896-1897), pursued this problem in "The child’s attitude towards perspective problems". Clark claimed that before the age of seven children did not attempt to represent the position of a book in relation to themselves. At the outset children merely placed various objects of a scene onto the paper without any effort to group them. According to Clark the child subsequently went through four stages of development. At a first stage they grouped persons and objects of their compositions along a ground-line which was either fictive or roughly drawn. At a second stage one could observe the first efforts at representing the third dimension. At a third stage one could observe attempts to note the relations between the various superimposed planes. At a fourth stage a sense of the third dimension was acquired. The various planes were no longer delimited. They penetrated one another and the child sought to show both persons and objects from all their viewpoints, evolving in all directions.
Kerschensteiner (1905), in The development of drawing ability in childhood, proposed three phases of spatial representation: the unsuccessful, the unfinished and the finished spatial representation. Levinstein (1904), further explored these questions in a dissertation, Studies concerning the drawing of children until their fourteenth year. With parallels from cultural history and ethnology, which included a sixth chapter on "Cultural and ethnological parallels" and a survey (68) of Karl Lamprecht’s system of cultural changes. The following year, Levinstein (1905), published this in book form as: Children’s drawings until the age of fourteen. With parallels from pre-history, cultural history and ethnology, now with an appendix by the cultural historian, Karl Lamprecht.
Psychology played an increasing role in these discussions as witnessed explicitly by Verworn (1906), The psychology of primitive art, and implicitly by Verworn (1909), The origins of art and Verworn (1914), Ideoplastic art. Verworn (1908), made his clearest statement of the ontogenetic-phylogenetic analogy in an article on "Children’s art and pre-history". Meanwhile, Rosen (1908), published "Figurative art in the childhood of peoples" in the German Journal for applied psychology; Van Gennep (1910), published "Children’s drawings and prehistoric drawing" in the French Archives of psychology, while Vierkandt (1912), issued "The drawing of native people" in the German Journal for applied psychology. In the field of education, Potpeschnigg (1912), published a significant article entitled "From the childhood of figurative art". Interest in origins continued to increase with a book by Hoernes (1909), Nature and primaeval history of people and an article by Hoernes (1914), on "The origins of figurative art". Rouma (1913), in a major book on The graphic language of the child, summarized the earlier findings of Passy, Clark, Kerschensteiner and others.
In Leipzig, Lamprecht began a collection of children’s drawings and sculptures. This collection was taken over by Kretschmar (1910), who articulated his version of the ontogeny-phylogeny analogy in an article on "Children’s art and primaeval art". By 1913 the collection had over 300,000 pieces and became the subject of an exhibition described by Busse (1914), in an important article on "The exhibition concerning comparative developmental history among native people, children and in primaeval times". He noted that (3-4):
the development of bodily foreshortening, in which a full frontal view (Bushman, Palaeolithic, Eskimo) precedes a three quarter view, is shown in connection with spatial perspective....Also the problem of inverted perspective (Wulff) is illustrated using examples from Japanese and Bushman art. The development of landscape drawing is shown through bird’s eye perspective with a division of all houses and trees in a plane to the development of the footline, later the ground-plane and finally the horizon emphasizing the difficulty of the middle-ground.
Busse dismissed as wrong the theory of Levinstein according to which children’s drawings and culture in general involved a gradual rotation from a frontal towards a profile view, claiming instead that as soon as one had what were initially unfinished body parts (e.g. head and foot studies), they were also represented in their broadest dimension (8): "The terms frontal (Face) or profile drawing must therefore appear as misleading as a standard for the figurative representation of a form. Hence we reject both the frontal principle and the profile theory and replace these concepts with aesthetic regularities resulting from the material difficulty of the two expressive forms, which we describe as schemata of the tendency towards flatness (Flächenzwang) and the tendency towards a block (Blockzwang)." This article was published in the acts of the congress for aesthetics and general art history (Kunstwissenschaft) in which Busse (1914) also published "Comparative developmental psychology of primitive art among native people, children and in primaeval times". All this provides a further context for the theories of Schäfer (1919) concerning Egyptian art considered earlier (p. 42*).
Krötzsch (1917), continued these themes in Rhythm and form in children’s freehand drawing as did Kühn (1923) in The art of primitives. Wulff (1927), in The art of the child, claimed that the development of their figurative and sculptural formation suggested that there were two main phases in the development of children’s drawings. Between the ages of 6 and 9 they learned to draw an elevation. At about the age of 10 they learned to integrate objects along a same ground line. Graeve (1932), published a dissertation, Investigation into the development of drawing in all is components in children from 3 to 14 years and comparison of these components among one another with special reference to phantasy drawing and particularly also courses of events (narrative pictures).
In this context, the developmental work of Piaget (see below) emerges in quite a different light. His work was a natural outgrowth of analogies and problems that had inspired two generations of scholars. Piaget largely ignored the cultural side of the ontogeny-phylogeny discussion and focussed his attention on the development of children’s spatial abilities. Where his predecessors had limited themselves to general claims, Piaget set out to do carefully controlled tests. This led him to redefine the whole question of stages.
Meanwhile, others were challenging these analogies between ontogeny and phylogeny. Bouman (1918) in an article on "The biogenetic law and the psychology of primitive figurative art" attacked parallels between the development of culture and the child in light of the amazing realism evidenced by early cave drawings. Franz Boas (1927), in his book on Primitive art cited Vierkandt’s (1912), distinction of three types of representation, namely suggestive (andeutend), descriptive (beschreibend) and perspective (anschaulich), claiming that (80): "The perspective type does not develop from the former two as the result of an evolution; it is based on a distinct mental attitude, the early presence of which is manifested by the realistic, perspective paintings of a number of primitive tribes". Kellogg (1969), one of the greatest collectors of children’s art also minimized the significance of perspective (210): "Scholars who rate archaic art in terms of perspective rely too much on relatively recent developments in art and too little on the Gestalt constructions of spontaneous work. They prefer to look for pictorial or symbolic meaning in art, rather than for structures which are appealing in themselves".
Even so these ontogenetic-phylogenetic analogies whereby development of skills in children supposedly mirrored those of culture as a whole have lived on. They were the subject of a major study by Munro (1963), on Evolution in the arts and other theories of culture, which was reviewed negatively by Gombrich (1964). They have also continued to exercise a certain fascination in psychologists such as Gablik and Blatt (see above pp. 8-10*).
As was suggested in the previous section, in the nineteenth century anthropology remained integrally connected with ethnography and closely linked with both sociology and psychology. In the twentieth century, as de Folter has noted, cultural anthropology has been an important source for concepts of reciprocity that have become very important for concepts of perspective in sociology (see below). For instance, Hobhouse (1906) in Morals in Evolution, named reciprocity as "the vital principle of society." Malinowski (1926) in Crime and Custom in Savage Society, referred to reciprocity as the basis of social structure. He distinguished between legal, economic, and ritual or ceremonial forms of reciprocity. This principle of give and take was pursued by Mauss, in his Essay on the Gift. Form and Reason in Archaic Societies. Similarly, Thurwald, in his Economics in Primitive Communities, claimed that exchange of goods was "the outcome of the principle of reciprocity whcxih pervades every relation of everyday life and is exemplified in many other ways."
Anthropologists have also explored effects of culture on perception of perspective. Thouless (1933), found that Indian students showed a greater tendency toward phenomenal regression to the real object (cf. p. 98) than English students, and concluded that a racial difference in perception accounted for the absence of perspective and shadows in Oriental art.
Since children at early ages inevitably have problems with perspective, anthropologists were led to assume that so called primitive tribes would be unable even to recognize perspectival images. The studies of Hudson (1960, 1962, 1967), seemed to confirm this assumption, as did the work of Mundy-Castle (1966), on Ghanaian children. Kilbride and Robbins (1968), claimed that pictorial depth perception in terms of linear perspective improved with education among the Baganda in Uganda. Deregowski (1968, 1984), supported these conclusions while noting difficulties. Meanwhile, a student of Gibson, Kennedy (1974), used a basic examination of line drawing as a point of departure to challenge these findings arguing that these abilities may be innate.
The work of Haaland (1976), in Nepal, has provided important evidence to show the effectiveness of perpective among illiterate tribes. Haaland used a series of objects ranging from the everyday to slightly less familiar. Persons were shown these objects in the form of six kinds of drawings (fig. 54, pl. 53-54) and were asked to arrange these in the order of comprehension: i.e. which were easiest to read and which were more difficult. It was found that photographs and perspective drawings were unequivocally the most comprehensible. John Hemming, President of the Royal Geographical Society, informed me (personal communication), that South American Indians, many of whom have never seen a white man, have no trouble recognizing photographs. Moynihan and Mukherjee (1981), reviewed literature concerning visual communication with non-literate persons in Northern India.
1. ordinary photograph
2. block out (i.e. photograph without any background)
3. threetone drawing (i.e. in perspective)
4. line drawing
6. stylised drawing
Fig. 54. Six kinds of drawing used by Haaland (1976).
With respect to discussions of method the work of Claude Lévi Strauss was very important. His Structural anthropology (French 1973, English 1976), had a first part entitled "Perspective views" in which he discussed the scope of anthropology. He noted that (11):" Social anthropology does not confine itself to a part of the domain of ethnology; it does not separate material culture and spiritual culture. In its own perspective - which we shall have to define, it is equally interested in both". Later in the same study, he identified two main approaches (47): "The real opposition lies between two different manners of looking at history. One relies directly on documents, ‘written by the actors themselves in their languages’ or on monuments decorated with figures. The other which is practiced at this time between most of the theoreticians of ethnology is a form of ideological history which consists in putting observations in chronological order, in many manner found intellectually satisfactory". Hence, for Lévi Strauss perspective was a way of looking or a point of view. Sometimes this was implicit as on the occasion when he used the phrase (65): "in the same perspective". On other occasions this meaning was explicit as in his discussion of human societies in Race and history (342): "From other perspectives, they are situated at different ends from one another, so we would end up with different classifications, depending on the point of view elected".
One very significant development of the 1980’s was the regular use of film and other media in both anthropology and sociology. This led to a new field termed visual sociology, initiated largely through the efforts of Leonard Henny (Utrecht), whose International Journal of Visual Anthropology (1984 ff.), records these developments and assesses the importance of visual information in the form of pictures, diagrams and sketches in both contemporary and historical terms.
The evolutionary ideas of Charles Darwin were applied also to the realms of society and culture, and led to social darwinism. As part of his System of synthetic philosophy, Herbert Spencer wrote a three volume Principles of sociology (1876, 1893, 1896). While he focussed on social structures and relationships it is striking that his research programme called for the study of aesthetics (6):
which, as exhibited in art-products and in the correlative sentiments, have to be studied in their respective evolutions internally considered and in the relations of those evolutions to accompanying social phenomena. Diverging as they do from a common root architecture, sculpture, painting, together with dancing, music and poetry, have to be severally treated in connection with the political and ecclesiastical stages, with the co-existing phases of moral sentiment and with the degrees of intellectual advance.
Spencer himself did not carry out this plan. Nor did Benjamin Kidd (1894), in his Social evolution. It is striking however that this was translated into German within a year (1895) and, like the work of Baldwin mentioned in connection with ethnography, attempted to relate art and society systematically. Meanwhile, Guyau (1889), in Art from the sociological point of view considered (56-73) "The expression of individual and social life in art," problems of realism (74-118) and displacement in space (101-107).
The early development of sociology remained closely linked with the rise of ethnology, anthropology and art history. Hence Charles Letourneau (1892), considered the development of painting (114-122) in his Sociology along the lines of ethnography. Similarly Vierkandt (1908), in Continuity of social change. A sociological study, included a section on art (46-53), where he drew on the work of Holmes in the Reports of the Bureau of Ethnology (189*). In an earlier work, Nature-peoples and culture-peoples. A contribution to social psychology, Vierkandt (1895) touched on the question of perspective (238). Neither he nor his colleagues studied perspective in detail. Their contribution lay in pointing to its social context. This theme was also explored by Mannheim (1919, 1929 etc.), whose work has been considered earlier in the context of philosophy (above p. 170*).
Georg Simmel, one of the fathers of systematic sociology, in his On Social Differentiation (1890), developed the notion of viewpoints in his discussions of method. He noted, for instance, that sociology: "in its present state (it) only gives a new standpoint for the consideration of known facts. Therefore it is particularly desireable to fix this standpoint." He claimed that: "In the social sciences there is only a quantitative preponderance of the combinatorial elements relative to the other sciences, whence it appears particularly appropriate to bring the viewpoints through which these combinations occur, to a theoretical consciousness."
Simmel was conscious that the concept of perspectivism was controversial and went against some traditional views. He acknowledged, for instance that: "At least it appears as if there is no consensus to be established between these two definitions of manners: one in the idea of an a priori approach culminating in an eternal value order; the other based on a the concept of a person oriented value perspectivism." He also noted that: "The principle of an ethical monadology, of a perspectivism of values is also actually hardened by those who only concede a modest place to it in their teaching." Simmel (1922), pursued these ideas in Sociology. Studies concerning the forms of socialization, which included a chapter on "Space and the spatial orders of society".
Elsewhere, Simmel claimed that "the differentiation of the societal spirit into the sum of the reciprocal relations of its members lies in the direction of modern spiritual life" and he specifically defined society as "the sum of the reciprocal relations of its members," an idea that was directly acknowledged by Leopold von Wiese in his General Sociology as the Teaching of Relations and Relationships between Persons (1924). According to Von Wiese sociology was essentially about relations, or as he defined it elsewhere: "Sociology is the teaching of social processes, i.e. of the handling of persons not of the processes of consciousness in persons," or again that sociology was: "in the first place the result of reflection concerning direct observations about inter-human life."
Howard Becker, the student of both Scheler and Leopold von Wiese in Cologne, pursued these themes in his translation which was also an adaptation entitled Systematic Sociology (1932). He too developed the idea of sociology as relation. At the same time he emphasized the importance of viewpoint. In chapter one, section five, for instance he specifically discussed "the distinctive character of sociological viewpoint." On one occasion he spoke of the " the complementary function of two different viewpoints." In describing his approach to sociology he used optical metaphors: "when the sociologist properly focusses the lens adapted to his specific purposes; nothing other than processes of association and dissociation appear in the field of view," or again: "daily life viewed through the sociological lens offers a picture of ceaseless approach and avoidance By selecting a narrow field of focus...." He also used the optical metaphor of a searchlight: "Sociology illuminates with the searchlight of its method a portion of the clearly visible surface of the social globe; at the edges everything becomes dim." Elsewhere he specifically used perspective metaphors as in a section headed: " Uniformation from a historical perspective," or on another occasion when he admitted that: "Difficult but scientifically necessary is the task of bringing order and perspective into the swirl of multifarious relations and plurality of patterns filling the course of interhuman life as it passes in space and time."
Ultimately Becker was careful to note that "For the specialist sociologist, sociology is not merely viewpoint, modes of observation, attention turned toward groups, but literally the science of of humans living-together, nothing more or less." He maintained this view in a much later book on Man in Reciprocity (1956), where he claimed that: "for us sociology represents the scientific study of man in reciprocity, or less broadly phrased, the predictively oriented study of interpersonal or intergroup relations as such.", an idea which he summed up in his pithy phrase: "Man becomes human in reciprocity."
As de Folter has noted, Theodor Litt belongs to this tradition of formal sociology through his attempts at creating a phenomenology of spiritual (geistigen) reality. Litt (1926), in Individual and Society. The Foundation of a Philosophy of Culture, criticized the concepts of relation (Beziehung) and reciprocal effects (Wechselwirkung) because they were expressed as an external occurrence between objects or persons rather than being thought of as the totality of reality and because they were bound in an atomistic approach to social science whereby the social whole was reduced to an aggregate of externally related elements.
In Litt's view a "reciprocity of perspectives" was "the original phenomenon of society." This, he claimed occured on two levels. A first level was with respect to the narrow connection of moments of experience of an individual. He spoke, therefore, of a perspectivism of experiences, which included not just the ranging of spatial perspectives of one beside another but also temporal perspectives of one after another. These spatial and temporal perspectives were interlocked and in this interlocking he criticized the simple after and beside one another of isolated elements of objectivizing thinking. A second level was a reciprocity of perspectives with respect to different subjects. Here it was not a question of an equation whereby I know that the you is filled with a life content, which is perspectivally organized as mine is. The relation is much more immediate:
They are not identical or comparable but rather perspectives that belong together, that influence one another reciprocally and are bound up with one another, that live in you and me and my, your immediate knowledge about them is simultaneously a knowledge about how these are interwoven with you.
De Folter has noted several other sources for these concepts of reciprocity: a) exchange theories in cultural anthropology (see above p. 203*), b) the exchange theory of Homan and Blau and c) the symbolic interactionism of Mead (1926) who, in a significant article on "The objective reality of perspectives", claimed that the limits of social organization were to be found in the ability or inability "to take over the perspectives of the other, to put oneself in their place" and noted that taking the role of the other "always implies a reciprocity of perspectives." Mead (1969) claimed that "The object of perception stands as a physical object relative to the organism.This situation is termed perspective.The relation between field of perception and organism in perspective is social." Mead also held that a social individual "always finds themself in a perspective which belongs to the community within which one's concept of the self has originated."
De Folter (1983) explored in some detail how Husserl's reciprocity of perspectives (considered above p. 187*), related to the ideas of Alfred Schutz, the Viennese banker, who became one of the key figures of American sociology. He noted that both dealt with reciprocity of perspectives in ideal terms. Although Husserl ultimately sought to solve the problem of the social world in the transcendental sphere and Schutz attempted to do in the mundane sphere, both remained idealizing: that of Husserl an idealistic and that of Schutz a pragmatic idealizing. The thesis of reciprocity was, moreover, linked with concepts of the "normal", "optimum" (Optimalität) and "truth". De Folter noted that this thesis of reciprocity remained oriented around an ego-logical perspective and underlay a basic tension between the personal sphere of the ego and the sphere of the alter ego. He concluded with a proposal as to how this could be overcome:
At the level of concrete, factual concertation processes one can overcome the determination of reciprocity as an ideal and ego-logically established normality. It is a question of no longer fixing the normality of the reciprocity of perspectives as an ego-logically constructed Ideality, but rather as based on a factual, process that is originally based on us [rather than me].
Schutz (1973-1975), in his classic Problem of social reality, was very explicit about the role of perspective, and perspective views as an integral part of daily life (II,22):
Other men whom I experience do not appear to me in identical perspectives. They present themselves to me under different aspects and my relations with them have different degrees of intimacy and anonymity. The modifications which determine my relations to others and my experiences of them are a central factor in the constitution of the several domains within the social world.
Schutz outlined the transition from direct to indirect experience of social reality (II,37):
The gradations of experiential directness outside the face to face situation are characterized by a decrease in the wealth of symptoms by which I apprehend the Other and by the fact that the perspectives in which I experience the Other are progressively narrower. We may illustrate this point by considering the stages by which a fellow-man confronting me becomes a mere contemporary. Now we are face-to-face, saying good-bye, shaking hands; now he is walking away. Now he calls back to me; now I can still see him waving to me; now he has disappeared around a corner. It is impossible to say at which precise moment the face-to-face situation ended and my partner became a mere contemporary of whom I have knowledge (he has, probably, arrived at home) but no direct experience. The gradations of directness can be also illustrated by a series ranging from conversation face-to-face, to a conversation by phone, to an exchange of letters, to a message transmitted by a third party. Both examples show a progressive decrease in the wealth of symptoms by which I experience my partner and a progressive narrowing of the perspectives in which my partner appears to me. While we may legitimately distinguish between direct and indirect experiences of social reality, we must realize that these are polar concepts between which exist many concrete transitional forms.
In other words perspective was an important tool in identifying different points on the spectrum between direct and indirect social reality. Or rather this was one of its functions. Schutz also discussed how perspective played a central role in our own social world (II, 72):
Our practical interest alone, as it arises in a certain situation of our life, and as it will be modified by the change in the situation which is just on the point of occuring, is the only relevant principle in the building up of the perspective structure in which our social world appears to us in daily life. For, just as all our visual apperceptions are in conformity with the principles of perspective and convey the impressions of depths and distance, so all our apperceptions of the social world necessarily have the basic character of perspective views.
Hence, he claimed, (II,81) "each of us considers himself as the centre of this world." By contrast, "Everyone, to become a social scientist, must make up his mind to put somebody else instead of himself as the centre of this world, namely, the observed person". Schulz noted a tendency to treat these observed persons as "puppets", or "ideal types" as Weber termed them, but then added that social scientists could not themselves become idealized abstractions (II,83):
What counts is the point of view from which the scientist envisages the social world. This point of view defines the general perspective framework in which the chosen sector of the social world presents itself to the scientific observer as well as to the fictitious consciousness of the puppet type. This central point of view of the scientist is called his "scientific problem under examination".
In a scientific system the problem has exactly the same significance for the scientific activity as the practical interests have for activities in everyday work. The scientific problem as formulated has a two-fold function:
a) It determines the limits within which possible propositions become relevant to the inquiry. It thus creates the realm of the scientific subject matter within which all concepts must be compatible.
b) The simple fact that a problem is raised creates a scheme of reference for the construction of all ideal types which may be utilized as relevant.
Hence perspective also provided a key for what Schutz termed the principle of relevance. He returned to perspective in discussing how time and experience change our perceptions (II,115): "What belongs to the past can never be reinstated in another present exactly as it was. When it emerged, it carried along empty anticipations, horizons of future developments, references to chances and possibilities; now in hindsight, these anticipations prove to have been or not to have been fulfilled; the perspectives have changed...."
Skidmore (1975) in his Theoretical Thinking in Sociology offered a more general definition of perspectives as: "collections of concepts which are important basically as sensitizing agents. They point out important aspects of reality. But perspectives are relatively less coherent and developed internally." Hölscher (1978 etc.), explored connections between formal and social space in the development of public awareness (Öffentlichkeit) in early modern times, arguing that the methods of perspective were a necessary basis for the iconographical representation of social and institutional processes insofar that it introduced the possibility of constructing homogeneous spaces for inter-action in which an action was spatially and temporally precisely fixed. Becchi and Riva (1980), explored relationships between physical space and perceived accounts of that space by those living in it, using as their subject the town of Viggiu in Northern Italy.
Faigley (1985), rejected both positivism and the window pane theory of knowledge. He argued that reality is unknowable apart from language and went on to claim (1986, 535) that writing "can be understood only from the perspective of a society rather than a single individual". This Faigley termed the social perspective. Thralls and Blyler (1993), in Professional communication. The social perspective, offered an important review of recent developments, identifying three emerging theoretical approaches: the social constructionist, the ideologic and the paralogic hermeneutic.
Building on the ideas of Rorty (1979, 170), that knowledge is the "social justification of belief" and Geertz (1983), who claimed that all knowledge was local, Bruffee (1986, 774), claimed that "social construction understands reality, knowledge, thought, facts, texts, selves, and so on as community-generated and community-maintained linguistic entities" and hence argued (775) that knowledge was social by nature rather than "individual, internal and mental". In this approach, the vague notion of community moved to a central position, as did the notion that knowledge was merely a question of consensus. Hence the ways and means by which such beliefs were integrated into a community’s "knowledge store" became more important than the question of truth.
So called discourse conventions of professional societies such as engineers were studied as indices of community membership. Bruffee (1984, 641), claimed moreover that "thought is internalized public and social talk...and writing of all kinds is internalized social talk made public and social again". As a result collaboration in the form of peer critiquing, peer tutoring, reader-response groups and group-writing projects emerged as fundamental approaches in learning and education. (Ironically these claims come increasingly from persons who have no writing skills themselves and espouse these new methods while blithely forgetting that a generation ago when individuals were not yet out of date no-one would have dared even think of themselves as educated unless they had a certain proficiency in writing).
A second, ideologic approach has been concerned with rhetoric as ideology and has focussed attention on the ways in which communities establish conventions which "socially construct relations of domination". Interestingly enough the champions of this approach have been particularly interested in the use of new electronic technologies as ways of undermining authority. As Thralls and Blyler (1993,22), citing Kiesler, Siegel and McGuire (1988), noted: "networking fosters democratization because the anonimity of networking interchanges eliminates many cues of status and authority".
A third, paralogic hermeneutic approach, emphasized the uncodifiable nature of interpretation, arguing that one should focus on "the rapport experienced by communicants as they interact", their point being that we have certain commonsense notions that exist independent of conceptual or constructionist schemes. This approach has given new meanings to the terms internalists and externalists. Internalists, they claim, assume a Cartesian split between the human mind and that which exists outside it, whereas externalists deny this split, arguing that understanding comes from "the give and take of communicative interaction".
Thralls and Blyler (1993,22), raise the important question whether the ideologic and paralogic hermeneutic approaches can be incorporated within current professional communication courses without undermining them and conclude (32) no "if the ideologic approach is understood to mean critiquing and maybe even resisting the larger economic values of a commodity culture". Interestingly enough Miller (1989) has noted that "industry-university collaboration" threatens to reproduce private corporate interests and to reduce students to being tools of capitalist ideology.
Anson and Forsberg (1990, 202), speak of "strategies for social and intellectual adaptation". Harris (1989), emphasizes the importance of like-mindedness. Kent (1991, 433) speaks of communicants needing to make "fewer guesses" about each others’ interpretations. Such statements suggest a growing herd mentality, a trend towards homogenization and sterilization as if persons could be purified like milk, and a growing hubris that we can "know" the other without much effort. What was traditionally a lifetime’s exploration of another individual is now reduced to a game of ever fewer guesses. Amid a rhetoric of democratization of the workplace that hides structures of authority, these approaches diffuse tensions away from an increasingly invisible boss while leaving no doubt that one has to please the employer. Traditional allegiance to an individual who also served as an authority figure in the positive sense of providing an example, are supposedly being replaced by allegiance to an impersonal firm which can then fire 500, 1000 or even greater numbers of authorities in the interests of "streamlining" or simply because profits have gone down..
The dangers of this so-called social perspective go far deeper than this. It is important to recognize, for example, that these approaches destroy any sense of privacy and effectively eliminate traditional concepts of the individual. In the past, the individual as conceived in the West developed an inner world and one developed various skills including speech, writing, painting and other arts in order to communicate the beauties of these inner mindscapes. Now the claim is that there is no such thing as an inner world. Hence the knowledge that traditionally served as ingredients for this inner world can also be dismissed and the one can pretend that the forms of communication can replace content. This is a new twist to McLuhan’s concept of "the media is the message". Or perhaps we are witnessing the real consequences of a completely media dominated society: that there is no longer even an awareness of content. Everything is form. Everything is a consensus that aims to be "politically correct" but succeeds only in being so bland that it lacks any real character.
The historian of ideas will recognize that these so called new approaches of social perspective are actually a twentieth century revival of strands of nineteenth century thought. One strand, perhaps most eloquently characterized by Kierkegaard emphasized the central importance of individuality, that we paradoxically cannot know another individual until we have plunged into the depths of our (potential) isolation and only then reach out. Another view, most brilliantly characterized by Marx, argued that the individual per se did not count, that power and reality ultimately lay only in groups and masses. Similarly consciousness within the individual did not count, nay did not really exist. For consciousness too was a group phenomenon which increased as the masses increased in size. Thus quantity of groups was weighed against quality of individuals all of which heralded in an uncanny way twentieth century concerns with students as basic income units (B.I.U’s) or merely as "warm bodies".
These latest developments might seem a natural evolution from the approach of Schutz which as we have noted, drew on older philosophical traditions. In fact this so-called social perspective of the 1980’s and 1990’s has very little to do with perspective in its older senses and these two approaches can be seen as central to some of the fundamental struggles of our times. Integrally connected with the traditional concept of the individual is an emphasis on quality, independence, privacy and the development of a particular viewpoint. This is being opposed by a focus on groups that brings with it an emphasis on quantity, interdependence or often simply dependence, no sense of privacy and a concern with consensus. The individual emphasizes inner worlds, levels of meaning and the importance of spiritual gain all of which assume an interior dimension. By contrast the group tends to exteriorize everything, emphasizing exterior worlds, levels of discourse as if externalized speech were all, and ultimately material gain. The individual is traditionally a-political: the group is highly politicized. The individual has a firm sense of knowledge as facts and learning as a quest for truth. The group looks for knowledge in construction, interaction and claims that learning is a quest for agreement. The individual emphasizes content: the group prefers form. The individual strives to be rather than to seem (esse quam videri): the group strives to seem rather than to be (fig. 55).
Traditional Perspective Social Perspective
independent (inter-) dependent
privacy no sense of privacy
particular viewpoint consensus
inner worlds exterior worlds
levels of meaning levels of discourse
spiritual gain material gain
knowledge as facts knowledge as construction, interaction
truth agreement, political correctness
be (substance) seem (illusion)
Fig. 55. Basic differences between traditional perspective and so-called social perspective in its new form.
It is striking to what extent these two positions affect everything from the person to society’s concept of knowledge and even truth. It is equally striking how the group position entails a narrowing of choice. In the past the individual was seen as having both interior and exterior interests with a freedom to choose between a contemplative or an active life. In a group where everything is externalized this choice disappears: there is no longer room for the interior and only an external, active life remains.
The greater this tendency to externalize our personal worlds, the more it will manifest itself in our public codes and institutions. We have already noted Miller’s warnings concerning industry-university collaboration. However it is likely that the problem runs even deeper than Miller suggested. Businesses do more than convey notions of commodities to universities. They lead us to think of ourselves and our students as commodities, as if there were nothing else but a barter system even in the realm of the human spirit. The trend to assess success of scholars by the size of their grants; the mania to quantify even when doing so is clearly at the expense of quality are dimensions of these problems. In the past, distant wars were often a favoured method of diverting attention from domestic problems. Are the new trends towards distance education merely a variant on this theme, or do they truly reflect new dimensions of technology?
Some context for the history of psychology has already been provided (see above p. 87 ff.*) in the discussion concerning relations between vision and representation where differences between the Leipzig and Berlin schools were outlined and the work of Gibson was examined. No attempt will be made here to retrace the entire history of the subject. For this the reader is referred to standard works such as Boring’s History of experimental psychology (1942). Our concern is to identify some of the chief themes that have linked perspective with psychology in the twentieth century. Most of these have been linked with either the perceptual or conceptual schools. Meanwhile there have been emerging fields such as perspective taking and social perspective. Each of these will be considered in turn.
As noted earlier (fig. 8) that which some now refer to as a perceptual school includes what were traditionally the two main opposing schools namely those of Berlin and Leipzig. The Berlin school in its American version as the Gestalt school considered some general problems but emphasized perception of form, whereas the Leipzig school in the American version led by Gibson focussed on perception of information.
Jäger (1948) Zajac (1961) Reggini (1974)
Perception of Form
The Berlin school, which became known as the Gestalt School, focussed attention on the importance of the constancies through the classic studies of Koffka (1935), Köhler (1947), and Wertheimer (1912, 1925). Arnheim (1956), developed these themes in Art and visual perception where he considered ten basic topics: balance, shape, form, growth, space, light, colour, movement, tension and expression. In his section on space, Arnheim devoted eight pages (279-286) specifically to the problem of perspective. For him it represented the co-incidence of two completely different principles. On the one hand it was the culmination of an effort to re-integrate pictorial space. As such it was a conventional method for organizing shapes available in the medium. On the other hand "it is what we get when we set up between our eyes and the physical world a vertical plate of glass, on which to trace the exact contours of the objects as we see them through the glass" and in this sense "perspective is a mechanical copy of reality".
According to Arnheim, violations of perspective were committed "by the masters from the moment the rule had been set". Even so, he insisted the principles of mechanical imitation and geometric construction introduced by perspective posed a tremendous burden (281): "The artist had to fight them in himself as well as in his patrons and critics. They contributed to an all time low of popular visual culture in the nineteenth century, and even in the modern movement provoked a violence of dissension that diverted much creative energy to the cult of extravagance". Arnheim did concede that (283) "central perspective makes for a richer compositional pattern" and identified three factors determining the strength of visual experience obtained by perspective: the angle of convergence, extent to which the distorted object is visible and distance of the observer from the picture. For the most part, however, he was intent on arguing that "correct" perspective was not the artist’s concern: correct amount of convergence depended "entirely upon the expression and meaning to be conveyed". Hochberg (1957), reviewed the development of these schools in his important article on "Nativism and empiricism".
Perception of Information
The so called Leipzig school as developed in America by Gibson emphasized information rather than form and focussed specifically on texture, surface, gradients and grids. In this context, there has been a much greater emphasis on perspective. Paradoxically, this approach to information has focussed discussion on line drawings which reduce the complexity of perception to minimal situations. These schools in perceptual psychology have focussed attention on a series of problems: monocular and binocular depth perception, illusions, motion perspective, the nature of drawing and the limits of rules of both perception and representation, as well as effects of culture on perception which have been considered earlier.
Monocular Depth Perception
Clarapède (1904), had drawn attention to the paradox of monocular stereoscopy. Hillebrand (1910), also important for his studies on subjective perception of parallels, studied problems of monocular localisation which led him into polemical debates against Witasek. Zoth (1908-1916), noted that when paintings were viewed through a monocular tube (Plastoskop), this increased their brightness, clarity and their three-dimensionality. These phenomena were explored by Strieff (1923), and led Ames (1925), to list ways of increasing the illusion of depth from a single picture, namely: looking at a picture with one eye only, looking at a picture through an iconoscope; viewing a picture from a greater distance; changing the convergence of the eyes from that normally required by the distance from which the picture is viewed; looking at the picture through a small hole 2 mm. or more in diameter held close to the eye; changing the accomodation of the eyes from that normally required by the distance from which the picture is viewed; looking at a picture binocularly with one eye receiving a sharp image and the other a blurred one; looking at the reflection of a picture in a mirror; looking at a picture with abnormal rotation of the visual images about the axes of vision. This led to a list of four objective depth factors: scale or perspective; known forms or relationships; shadows; aerial perspective; and five subjective depth factors: character of the monocular image; corresponding images on both retinas; rotation of the visual fields about the axis of vision; convergence and accomodation. Miles (1930), explored ocular dominance in human adults. Schlosberg (1941), examined stereoscopic depth from single pictures summarizing the earlier research of von Karpinska (1910), Ponzo (1911), Zoth (1915), and Ames (1925), before examining a number of means of creating stereoscopic depth from single pictures (fig. 56).
1. Looking at a picture from a distance
2. Monocular viewing
Looking through a tube
Looking through a lens
Looking at a picture monocularly in a mirror
3. Partial binocular vision
Blurring the image in one eye during binocular vision
Prisms to displace or rotate the image in one eye
4. Full binocular vision
Fig. 56. Different means of creating stereoscopic depth from single pictures according to Schlosberg (1941).
Holway and Boring (1941), in their exploration of determinants of apparent visual size, considered size constancy, binocular observation, monocular observation, artificial pupil, reduction tunnel. They claimed that (37): "Binocular regard gave a function close to the function for size constancy". Boring (1946), in a more general article on "The perception of objects", argued that perception is more than sensory perception, that (99): "because objects are permanent, a perception of an object tends to remain constant". He concluded that this was caused by both heredity and through learning."
Binocular Vision and Depth Perception
In the 1490’s, Leonardo da Vinci became extremely interested in problems of binocular vision particularly in terms of consequences for representation and these concerns have been used to explain why he gave up painting for several years (c.1498-1503). Veltman (1986), studied these passages with respect to Leonardo’s perspectival studies. Inspired by Leonardo, Wheatstone (1838), developed the stereoscope (see p. 135). Dove (1841), first examined the effects on stereoscopy of momentary illumination. Fechner (1859), the father of psychophysics, published an important essay "On some relations of binocular vision" in which he examined contrast, double images and after effects of colours seen by both eyes.
Streiff (1903), in a dissertation studied the perception of a white square by the right and left eyes as they are moved to the side. Von Karpinska (1910), in a significant article on "Experimental contributions to the analysis of depth perception" reviewed the literature since the time of Dove and set out to explore more precisely aspects of the subjective field of vision, with specific reference to ways in which momentary lighting of stereoscopic images could produce effects of depth perception.
Streiff (1923), studied further effects of flattening in binocular vision. Isakowitz (1923), criticized his explanation to which Streiff (1923), replied. Vetri (1911), raised other questions concerning the properties of perspective with respect to binocular vision. Eaton (1919), took up these problems anew in "The visual perception of solid form" where he claimed that perspective played a more important role than binocular vision.Mayer-Hillebrand (1947), an experimental psychologist, claimed that linear perspective was based purely on monocular conditions and that because it ignored entirely the realities of binocular vision, it deserved to be abandoned.
This topic was taken up anew by Böck (1953,1954). Zajac (1959), summarizing an unpublished doctoral dissertation (Edinburgh, 1951), examined conditions for depth perception of stereoscopic images and concluded that they depended on three main laws: of the visual angle, intersection of visual lines, and of relief. Julesz and Spivack (1967), generated random line stereograms in which the only monocular cues were minute breaks occuring in thin vertical or horizontal line grids and found that the resulting stereograms yielded global stereopsis. Ross (1976), examined perception of stereograms changing at random and concluded that (8) "what we see is an interpretation of the external world, ordered within a framework the visual system imposes because of the attitude it adopts".
Already in Antiquity, optical illusions were the chief theme of Euclid’s Optics, and in a sense the whole history of optics can be seen as an attempt to discover criteria whereby the eye will not be deluded by such deceptions. Renaissance authors such as Piero della Francesca and Leonardo da Vinci assumed that the unaided eye would inevitably be deceived and believed that their treatises on perspective offered a way of getting beyond, or rather correcting, these potential deceptions.
Optical illusions acquired a new role when, in the first half of the nineteenth century, the studies of Volkmann (1839), Hering (1861), and others seemed to have demonstrated definitively that there could be no simple one to one correspondence between the retinal image and that which a person sees. It was believed that if one could identify the parameters under which the eye is deceived by geometrical illusions, one could learn about how the visual process functions. A first series of these illusions were discovered shortly after the mid-nineteenth century: notably Zöllner (1860), Poggendorff (1860), and Hering (1861). A second important wave of illusions emerged in the last decades of the nineteenth and opening decades of the twentieth century: e.g. Delboeuf (1892), Müller-Lyer (1889, 1898); Wundt (1889,1898), and Ponzo (1912,1928). It will be noted that this second wave coincided with renewed debates concerning the nature of retinal images (cf. above pp. 89-90*).
Wallin (1905), published, at the author’s expense, his classic Optical illusions of reversible perspective: a volume of historical and experimental researches. He noted that these phenomena had been called conversion of relief (Wheatstone, 1838, Hardie); inversion of relief (Brewster, Sinsteden, Mohr, Mach, Loeb, Schröder), breaking (Umbrechen, Mach, 1866); twisting (Umstulpung, Mach, 1903, Dove); turned around (Verkehrte, Schröder) or inverted illusions (Umgekehrte Illusionen, Wundt); illusions of equivocal or ambiguous perspective (James, Sanford), reversals (Umkehrungen, Dove, Weber, Hoppe) and reversions of perspective (Le Conte, Stevens, Titchener). Wallin offered an excellent historical survey of the problem and provided a series of detailed experiments. The final section of his book reviewed the major theories in terms of two major currents: one, ideal, intellectualistic, psychical or psychological; the other ‘realistic’, sensationalistic or physiological. These he classed in terms of five subcategories (fig. 52*).
Ironically the first world war gave a new impulse to these studies given the practical consequences of illusions in the realm of camouflage. In his classic study, Luckiesh (1922), made one of the first serious attempts to list and to classify various optical and geometrical illusions. Werner (1924), pursued this theme.
Wallin claimed that there was direct, if not conclusive evidence, for the psychophysical theory of illusions which started from their empirical correlation with movement motives of the eye muscles which Wundt had described as follows (305): "whenever the point of regard necessitates an exaggerated expenditure of muscular energy in order to survey a given space, whether a line, area volume, angle or arc, that space is overestimated in relation to a compared space". Wallin claimed that this applied to all classes of illusions of which he identified eight (fig. 57).
I. Psychological Theories
A. The imagination theory proper
The perspective theory (Hering, Filehne, Guye, Bezold, Thiery, 1896)
B. The aesthetical-optical and mechanical-geometrical theory
The confluence theory
C. The association theory
II. Psychophysical or Sensation Theory
Fig. 52. Wallin’s (1905) classes of the chief theories.
1. a.Variable illusions of extent
b.Constant illusions of extent
c.Variable illusions of direction
4. Lens assymetries, astigmatism and indirect vision whereby
part of the image not clearly seen is changed by dispersion
5. Distance, size, position and nature of drawing
6. Manner of viewing the picture
7. Sensations which precede the act of apprehension
8. Effect of practice.
Fig. 57. Wallin’s eight classes of illusions.
1. Universality of the illusion content
2. Illusory perception is equal to the normal in immediacy, spontaneity and clearness
3. Illusion content may exist without being known to be illusory
4. Perspective can be controlled by purely physical means
5. In the geometrical outlines it has been possible to trace a definite axis of reversion
6. Reversions differ for different figures in respect to the following particulars:
b) difference between the two perspectives
c) ease of reversion
d) emergence of the perspective
e) planosphere stage
g) monocular and binocular vision
7.Illusions are capable of quantitative treatment and results can be varied by varying the conditions:
a) results differ numerically for one and two eyes
b) different distances
c) secondary positions of regard
d) colour of the ground
f) reversions are possible in the indirect or peripheral retinal field
h) imagination or will
8. Influence of obliques in drawings
9. Illumination devices of various kinds
10. Covering a portion of the figure
11. Motion of the form, fixation, object, body, eyes, etc. with appliances for the free eyes
12. New remarkable, unpredictable perception contents from reversion
13. The physiological theory has accounted for all the above facts by appeal to definite factors applicable
to each individual case, while the judgement theory has either offered no explanations or merely
general references to mental powers.
Fig. 58. List of thirteen reasons cited by Wallin (1905) in favour of the physiological theory of illusions.
Method of Observation Visual Direct Photography
Instrument Eye Camera Unit
Detector Retina Photographic Emulsion Image Intensifier
Output Nerve Signal Negative Photograph Photograph or Electronograph
Data Handling Mental Processes Enlarging Measuring Computer
Final Output Description Positive Print Print Out or Magnetic Tape
Fig. 59. Methods of observation and output according to Weale.
The second half of the twentieth century saw new attempts to explain and classify various illusions. Robinson (1972), continuing the approach of Luckiesh, offered a more complete catalogue of all optical and geometrical illusions. Meanwhile experts developed essentially three different explanations in terms of perspective, size, and orientation
Weale (1968, 99), suggested two major reasons for illusions: "the underlying information is either inadequate or fraudulent". As an example of the first he cited the case of photographs of convex masks that appear concave. As a case of fraudulent information he cited Schröder’s staircase which he described as an isometric fraud noting that the illsuion disappeared when regular perspectival cues were added. Weale also considered illusions which (102): "involve either an ambiguity or, more frequently, an apparent error by virtue of a three-dimensional situation not being recognized as such but interpreted as being truly two-dimensional".
As an example, Weale cited two convergent lines encompassing equally long parallel straight lines. These seemed to increase in size towards the apex, an effect that disappeared when one added perpendiculars. Weale showed that the Poggendorf illusion of a seemingly discontinuous slanting line disappeared when the intersecting parallels were filled in or when the slanting line was tilted into a horizontal position. He demonstrated how this could also account for Hering’s illusion.
Weale was careful to note that not all illusions could be explained on these grounds. For instance, in the case of the so-called phump-doodle image, the illusion depends largely on the scale of the image and if one is able to minimise demands on eye-movements and memory by making it smaller, the illusion disappears. He also examined three-dimensional effects, movement of the object and of the observer. Weale (1975), examined illusions of apparent size as a function of contrast at a constant mean luminance. Weale (1978), noted that the Zöllner, Luckeish, Orbison, and related optical illusions disappeared when the distorting, but not the distorted, lines were defocused, concluding that these illusions "involve hypothetical orientational mechanisms in the human visual system". Weale (1979), cited evidence to show that Leonardo and Mantegna were the discoverers of Mach bands. Weale (1982), returned to these problems to claim that some of the illlusionistic phenomena associated with stereo- and colour stimulation are part of the visual "system" and hence could not be explained simply as perceptual concepts as psychologists had tried. Weale also produced a useful chart illustrating different methods of observation and output (fig. 55).
Quietly ignoring these insights, psychologists such as Gregory (1966,1970), argued that the Müller-Lyer and Ponzo illusions were related to perspectival situations which, once recognized, helped one to resolve these illusions. Kennedy (1974), using as a starting point Gibson’s insistence on the need to see things in their environment from different points of view rather than from a single station point, demonstrated that some of the most famous illusions, i.e. those of Hering, Müller-Lyer, Poggendorff, Wundt and Zöllner, disappear when seen from the side and from a series of viewpoints. According to this explanation one did not need to make appeals to perspective as does Gregory. Illusion were primarily a function of orientation.
Spectography Photoelectric Photometry
Spectrograph Image Intensifier Photometer
Image Intensifier Solid State Device TV Camera Photomultiplier
Photograph or Electronograph Electric Signals TV Signals Electric Signals
Measuring Computer Online Computer Online Computer Chart Recorder Online Computer Print Out or Paper tape or Magnetic Tape Paper Chart Paper tape or
Magnetic Tape Magnetic Tape and Visual Display Magnetic Tape.
Illusions and Motion Perspective
In anecdotal terms discussions of perception of motion perspective go back to ancient authors such as Lucretius who discussed the appearances of sails in moving ships. Ptolemy and Alhazen pursued these questions more fully in their optical treatises. Leonardo discussed several examples of motion perspective.
In the twentieth century, J. J. Gibson’s experience as an aircraft pilot during the second world war led him to stress the importance of gradients (1946), and transformations in the optic array (1957). Gibson focussed on correct perception and believed that a good theory must explain incorrect perception by supplementary assumptions. Gibson and Gibson (1957), suggested that false shape constancy might account for illusions of motion. Others who focussed on motion illusions tried to identify the source of misperception in terms of specific factors: Ames (1951), proposed the role of past experience; Pastore (1952), considered gestalt factors; Graham (1963), suggested linear perspective.
Braunstein’s (1976), Depth perception through motion, made a valuable review of work in the field beginning with a consideration of three traditional cues to depth perception: accomodation, convergence, binocular disparity as well as secondary or pictorial cues, including interposition, relative size of familiar objects; relative size of similar objects, linear perspective and relative height. An assumption underlying this approach was that perception of flatness was primary and that perception of depth was something that had to be learned. Braunstein cited evidence against this assumption. With respect to illusions of motion in depth, Braunstein identified two basic classes: one involving illusions of misperceived direction of rotary motion with windmills, fans and rotating trapezoids; the other, where motion in depth was perceived in the absence of physical motion in depth as in the case of Lissajou figures and stereokinetic patterns. The information available in the optic array was explored, noting the importance of the projection plane, perspective gradients in the form of texture gradients, linear perspective and parallel projection as well as information available in rigid transformations of the x, y and z axes. Braunstein examined which of these transformations in two-dimensional projections led to the perception of depth, explored the significance of slant perception and reviewed two lines of research in the perceived direction of rotary motion: one, involving shadows and computer simulations of rotating objects; the other involving direct observation of rotating objects.
These two lines of research had led to two general conclusions: that accuracy in judging direction of rotation decreased with increased viewing distance and that accuracy was greater for some forms such as rectangles than for other forms (e.g. trapezoids). Braunstein outlined a model for the perception of rotary motion based on information processing which posited that (142) changes that are based on vertical perspective appear dominant; changes based on horizontal perspective have a secondary effect on direction judgments.
Underlying many of these studies of illusions and perception of motion have been assumptions that retinal images share projective invariants which account for shape constancy. The origins of this projective thesis have been traced by Niall (1990), to Helmholtz and through the writings of Gibson (1950, 1966). Gibson (1979), explored effects of motion perspective further in his Ecological approach to visual perception but implicitly left open the question of precisely how the eye acquires information for motion in the visual array, suggesting however that awareness of invariants should help to explain shape constancy. These problems were further examined by Rock (1975,1983), Ulmann (1979) and Johansson (1950, 1974, 1980). Cutting (1986), believed that the angle of ratio also known as the cross ratio offered a solution.
Figs. 60-61. Motion perspective of objects on earth for a person moving straight down a country road and fixating at the horizon and motion perspective of objects on earth for a person moving from right to left along a country road and fixating at the horizon from Ralph Norman Haber, Maurice Hershenson, The psychology of visual perception, London: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1973, pp. 321-322.
Figs. 62-63. Motion perspective of objects on earth for an airbourne person from the focus of expansion on the horizon and for an airbourne person in a landing glide from J. J. Gibson, The ecological approach to visual perception, Boston: Houghton and Mifflin, 1979, p. 124.
Perkins (1972, 1982), experimented with projective drawings of cubes to study this problem. Shephard, Attneave and Frost (1969), used box shaped objects to assess sensitivity to principles of projective geometry. Niall and Macnamara (1989), challenged these views. Niall and Macnamara (1990), went further to claim that observers exhibited little sensitivity to projective properties independent of Euclidean properties" and hence that the cross-ratio did not play the role that some had assumed. This idea was pursued by Niall (1992), in an article on "Projective invariance and kinetic depth effect". A first experiment established that there was "a reliable difference between the true cross-ratio and the estimated cross-ratio for some shapes in continuous rotation". A second experiment showed that errors in estimate of the cross ratio depended on differences in standard shape and that errors of this magnitude were not present for objects that rotate in the picture plane. A third experiment extended to shapes embedded in dense patches of texture where it was again found that errors in estimating cross ratio occured with differences in standard shape. A fourth experiment showed that observers did not perform significantly worse when comparing complex solids at different relative orientations rather than comparing them side by side. These experiments challenged approaches to visual perception in terms of inverse optics.
One set of illusions that have attracted a particular amount of attention have been those concerned with the so-called constancies. Berkeley (1709) drew attention to the problem of size constancy in his Essay towards a new theory of vision. Experimental studies began with martius (1889), Hildebrand (11902), Beryl (1926) with more famous versions by Brunswik (1929, 1933, 1934) and Thouless (1931, 1932) which were concerned with visual size, shape, lightness and colour. The work of Ames (1914, 1921, 1946), focussed attention on ambiguities and potential illusions arising from a perspectival image seen from a single viewpoint. He demonstrated that several configurations of lines could produce the effect of a perspectivally convincing chair as long as the viewer was restricted to looking from a single viewpoint. Ames built a room which form a given viewpoint looked regular but was in fact considerably distorted. Cantril (1950), pursued these demonstrations. Schlosberg (1951), in a note concluded from these experiments that direct physiological clues (314) such as disparity and accomodation are relatively less important in determining depth perception than factors like knowledge, (true or assumed) of the size of the stimulus object while, nonetheless, claiming that the problem could be reduced to the following equation: size of retinal inmage = size of the object/distance of the object.
Ittelson and Kilpatrick (1951), experimented with the apparent size of a watch-card-magazine in different contexts; pointed out that the apparent size-distance rule was too simplistic; that size constancy was related to apparent shape, orientation in space and possibly brightness and came to the interesting conclusion that we should:
define constancy behavior as the attempt of the individual to create and maintain a world which deviates as little as possible from the world he has experienced in the past, which is the only world he knows, and which offers him the best possible chance of acting effectively and continuing to experience the particular satisfaction which he seeks out of living.
This approach is perfectly sensisble if it is applied in local terms. Problems arise, however, when it is applied on a national or international scale: it leads to the Hilton hotel type of mentality, whereby individuals assume that travel entails experiencing the comforts of home in a different time scale, which reduces the potentials of adventure to a bland, homogenized equality that one associates with stereotypical American tourists.
Ittelson and Kilpatrick (1951), summarized the main experiments that grew out of Ames work in Scientific American, namely, the Ames room, equidistant balloons the apparent size of which varied with different lighting, objects the apparent distance of which depended on sequence of occlusion and perceived effects of rotation of an anamorphic version of a rectangular window. They believed that their experiments demonstrated how (7) "the perceived is an inseparable part of the function of perceiving". In a further article, Ittelson and Kilpatrick (1951), challenged the size-distance invariance hypothesis. This led Ittelson (1960) to emphasize the importance of context in a new branch of psychology called transactionalism. Ironically, while drawing attention to the need for context, Ames and Ittelson’s experiments continued to limit themselves to cases involving a single viewpoint. Not surprisingly the school as such was brief lived. At the same time it led to some useful reactions.
Wittreich (1959), in "Visual perception and personality" concluded that the Ames room could "reveal that the way in which we perceive the size and even shape of others is powerfully influenced by our emotional relationship with them." He found, for instance, that newly married persons reported that their partner looked normal more quickly than a stranger and that observers witnessed less distortion in an anxiety-producing figure than in the normal one. Anstis, Shopland and Gregory (1961), reported in Nature a formula for measuring visual constancy in stationary or moving objects.
There were also studies on how instructions affect perception by Predebon, Wenderoth and Curthoys (1974), or Braden’s (19**), study how rotation of an Ames window affects perception. Gombrich (1960), was intrigued by the Ames experiments and Gombrich (1988), cited them as evidence that (8): "Alberti’s procedure rests on an assumption, the assumption that we have a prior knowledge of the shapes to be represented....As soon as this anchorage in reality is lost, the resulting painitng could stand for an infinite number of arrangements out there." In other words, the Ames experiments seemed to confirm the potential relativism of perspective. As Veltman (1986), noted this claim only holds as long as one associates perspective with being limited to a single viewpoint. If an observer has the possibility of comparing the evidence from different viewpoints, discrepancies between an actual chair and fictive chair can readily be restored.
As noted earlier (see above p.), Ponzo had drawn attention to the paradox that the same bar seen in a different context could appear considerably larger.This problem was considered by Gibson (1950, cf. pl. 52.1), discussed by Gregory (19**), reviewed by Gombrich (1975), and taken up again by Maturana, Varela and Frenk (1972), who concluded rather dramatically (102):
Perception and perceptual spaces, then, do not reflect any feature of the environment, but reflect the anatomical and functional organization of the nervous system and its interactions. The question of how the observable behavior of an organism corresponds to environmental constraints cannot be answered by using a traditional notion of perception as a mechanism through which the organism obtains information about the environment.
Epstein (1977), in one of the basic collections of essays on the constancies began with an historical survey in which he noted how the Gestalt school had focussed attention on the constancies (2): "Whereas the introspectionist [in the Leipzig-Cornell axis of Wundt and Titchener] tried to strip away the constancies so that the genuine core could be observed , the Gestalt psychologist considered the constancies in perception to be the primary data." Epstein noted that the constancies entailed three key relationships in the analysis of perception: between distal and proximal stimuli, between proximal stimulation and perception, and between distal stimuli and perception. He identified three main approaches to theories of perceptual constancy: learning, algorithm and psychophysical. The (associative) learning approach, claiming that (8: "constancy is the product of learning that begins at infancy", had been developed by Berkeley (1709), Helmholz and his contemporary, Sully (1878), Taylor (1962), and most recently by Piaget (1969). Although James (1890), espoused a different theory of learning his approach to the constancies was consonant with the others. According to Epstein the algorithm approach (11): "proposes that the visual system operates according to rules of processing that combine variables to generate constancy of perception," had been articulated by Kepler (1604), Descartes (1637) and in our century by authors such as Eissler (1933), Holaday (1933) and Klimpfinger (1933). A third, psychophysical (or proximal stimulus) approach, claiming that "perception is the direct result of invariant retinal stimulation", had been championed mainly by Gibson (1950) and Wallach (1939, 1948, 1959). In the latter parrt of his introductory essay Epstein reviewed early experiments in the field on whiteness constancy by Katz (1911), shape constancy by Thouless (1931) and speed constancy by Dembitz (1927).
One of the essays by Coren and Cirgus reviewed a series of basic geometrical-optical illusions (Mueller-Lyer, horizontal-vertical, Wundt, Ponzo, Poggendorf, Oppel Kundt, Ebbinghaus and Delboeuf) and concluded (278) that "even if we accept a constancy scaling component in some illusions no presumption can be made that all visual geometric illusions are caused by constancy mechanisms." Another of the essays by Day and McKenzie argued for the existence of constancies in infants thus providing evidence in favour of the view that constancies are innate and not learned. The essays in the book that followed focussed on the algorithm and psychophysical or proximal stimulus approach, leading Epstein to conclude that (445): "their coexistence may be due too their potential for serving as complementary accounts." In his methodological considerations he drew attention to the need for sampling of stimuli, to problems with pictures as stimuli, temporal aspects of design and with instructions. He pointed to a need for more data, particularly with respect to dynamic stimulus situations (Johannson) and to neurophysiology, as well as a need for analysis.
Another proponent of the psychophysical approach, Wartofsky (1978, 27), building directly on the ideas of Gibson, argued that:
The traditional view -the theory of perceptual constancy- alleges that the visual system receives variables and perceives constants; that is, it constructs, by ‘unconscious inference’, or by some mental processing) a veridical picture or map of the external world, which is then imposed on the variations in the information which the flux of the reflected light presents. I argue, by contrast, that the visual system is already structured to perceive constants, and that the additional ability to perceive variations is an achieved one; that is; that we learn to make inferences to the variations in shape and form, and not from them; and that this ability derives form the theoretical analyses of vision, which are embodied in our canons of representation. It is therefore because we make pictures according to the rules of perspective, that we learn to ‘see’ the size and shape variations objects in the visual field....The visual field itself -the space of our visual activity and of our human practice which involves vision- is a construct which is ordered by our practice, in particular, by our practice of making pictorial representations of the visual world.
Such claims reflected a more general movement in the literature whereby psychological factors in perception were given greater attention. For instance, Postman, Bruner, McGuinnies (1948), in "Personal values as selective factors in perception", explored the relation of value orientation and perceptual selectivity and concluded that value orientation (154): "makes for perceptual sensitization to valued stimuli, leads to perceptual defense against inimical stimuli and gives rise to a process of value resonance which keeps the person responding in terms of objects valuable to him even when such objects are absent from his immediate environment." Jenkin (1957), in "Affective processes in perception," reviewed literature on four factors: size judgment; physiological need in relation to perception; selective sensitization and reactions to noxious stimuli.
Gombrich (1985) of perception. Object vs. context cf. vision vs. representation
Nature of Pictures and Linear vs. Parallel Perspective
The study of monocular and binocular depth perception led Schlosberg (1941), to demonstrate that photographs can induce compelling and highly realistic impressions of depth when a viewer’s monocular field of view was restricted to a photograph. Smith and Smith (1961), examined photographs as distal stimuli for targets of tossed balls and came to five conclusions (232-233):
1) Photographs, when viewed appropriately, can serve as the distal stimuli for the motor response of tossing a ball to the distances of targets in the space immediately adjacent to a subject; 2) Restriction of the field of view of the viewing apparatus increases the extent of the perceived distances as defined by the motor responses; 3) Accomodation, convergence, motion parallax and binocular disparity do not have to be in correspondence with the distances to which accurate motor responses (target hits) are made;4) Visual direction alone is an insufficient basis for accurate motor responses to the distances of targets; 5) Photographs may be a useful tool for controlling the light to the eye for the study of visual stimuli for perceptions of absolute distances".
As was noted earlier (see above pp. 100-104*), the debates between Gibson and Gombrich concerning the ontological status of perspective have raised afresh the whole problem of how pictures relate to the real world. Gibson claimed that we perceive pictures in a way that is fundamentally different from the real world. Gombrich by contrast insisted that we perceive both in the same way. Gombrich’s work prompted Perkins (1973), to examine how the eye compensates for distortion in viewing pictures obliquely. Perkins noted that there were two possibilities (13): "at one extreme the interpretations of an obliquely viewed picture might be projective, according with the image projected to the eye of the observer as though that image were seen perpendicularly: at the other, the interpretation might be orthogonal, according with a perpendicular viewing, no matter what the actual viewpoint". Perkins linked Gombrich with the projective interpretation and offered what he believed was evidence that the orthogonal interpretation was true. This article was significant because it heralded attention to parallel perspective as a feature of everyday perception.
These debates also related to a larger discussion whether the information in a picture (be it a drawing, photograph or painting) has the same information for depth and surface layout as found in the environment. Schlosberg (1941), Gibson (1971), Kennedy (1974), and Hagen (1974), were among those who claimed yes for static situations but then raised questions concerning the role of motion. Hagen and Elliott (1976), examined preferences for viewing regular objects using both linear and parallel perspective from a) an arbitrary station point; b) a correct station point and c) an unconstrained station point. It was claimed that axonometric or parallel perspective was (487): "the most natural and realistic looking in all conditions" and found that persons preferred a distance at least ten times as great as the object was large. This was termed the zoom effect.
Various scholars, including Schlosberg, (1941), Gibson (1950, 1969), Gregory (1970), Attneave and Frost (1969), Yonas and Hagen (1973), had argued that pictures contained textured background or flatness information, whereas real scenes do not. These claims are of considerable interest because they help explain why the study of textured surfaces became such a popular topic among psychologists during the 1970’s. Hagen and Elliott (1976), found that adults chose as most natural and realistic, pictures which had a station point ten times the size of the depicted object as both Leonardo and Einstein had recommended. This problem was further explored by Hagen, Elliott and Jones (1978), who tested whether their zoom effect (i.e. preference for perspective convergence where the distance was ten times the size) was dependent on information specifying the flat surface of the plane of projection. Hagen and Jones (1978), found that this preference for the zoom effect did not occur in 4-6 year old children. Jones and Hagen (1978), summarized these findings.
Limits of Rules
At the turn of the twentieth century, Zoth (1900), also known for his studies of apparent curvature of the heavens (see above p. 92*), made careful studies of the muscles used in changing the direction of the eyes .Building on these studies, Gutmann (1903), examined connections between direction of vision and judgement of apparent size, and concluded (343) that in viewing objects that were 25-36 cm. from the eye, when the angle of vision was greater than 40 degrees these objects appeared 3 1/2-3 2/3% smaller than when viewed directly.
Von Oettingen (1910), in an essay on "Determining perspectival Images with respect to the station point of the observer", marked an early attempt to include psychological factors in the perception of perspective. So too was the work of Poppelreuter (1910), which has already been mentioned (above p. 94) with respect to problems of apparent curvature of images in the eye, and was cited in this respect by persons in other fields such as Panofsky (1927). Ovio (1910), examined problems of reading texts from an oblique position and the whole question of perspective when seen from a non-central viewpoint (pl. 53.1-2), problems subsequently taken up by Gombrich (1973), and related to what Kubovy (1986), termed the robustness of perspective. Adams (1972), relying on Carter’s methods of analysis, explored what happens when an observer strays from the expected viewpoint and concluded (217):
The depth of perceived space falls short of that predicted by geometrical hypothesis. The results do not confirm current assumptions about the importance of the mode of viewing. Monocular and pin-hole viewing, although they may increase the likelihood that the viewer will experience a full illusion of space, do not increase the apparent depth of that space.
Arnheim (1977), returned to the problem of "Perception of perspective pictorial space" from different viewing points", claiming that no particular viewing point is demanded by central perspective which led him to a provocative conclusion (288):
By emancipating ourselves from the perspective represented in the picture, viewers are enabled to look into a world that is no replica of a possible spatial experience of their own but is another person’s subjective percept. The opportunity to look into someone else’s world from the outside (i.e. without adopting that view) can be offered only by a picture- the kind of picture that presents a particular individual outlook on perspective space.
Whereas Gibson’s studies led him to focus on information in the visual world, Kennedy has concentrated specifically on information in drawings, exploring minimal cues for general spatial effects and perspectival effects in particular. This led to new studies of the blind, examining to what extent they are able to recognize and to represent perspective. He found that some sense of perspective was present even in the congenitally blind, which led him to claim that perspective was innate rather than a culturally determined phenomenon: i.e. dependent on nature not nurture. This claim was consonant with other studies involving perceptually impaired humans and animals as well as recent findings in anthropology (see above p. 181*).
Kennedy (1993), pursued these themes in a significant book on Drawing and the Blind. Pictures to Touch. His point of departure was to challenge a general assumption that touch is proximal while sight and hearing are distal. His work turned on the question (291): "How can people understand the meaning of lines as axes without the help of vision?" Following an approach found in earlier authors such as Diderot (299), Kennedy devoted a chapter specifically to perspective (180-215) and concluded (300): "The perspective geometry of the world that can be used to make outline pictures is largely the same for touch and vision, including matters of convergence, vantage point and occlusions." Kennedy also devoted a chapter to metaphor and claimed that the blind do not (299) "lump together both literal and metaphoric forms of depiction. The blind distinguish the two means of representation and resort to the metaphoric when literal depiction is unable to show a referent".
As Kennedy himself admitted, he was making (300): "claims about the properties of the human mind". This was important because it established that some aspects of perspective are much more fundamental than are generally recognized. They are innate, part of nature, rather than nurture. If this be true, the question poses itself: why then did perspective manifest itself only in some cultures and not in others? For the sake of precision two things should however be noted. First, scholars such as Kennedy make a distinction between an ability to perceive spatially and an ability to represent spatially and while it may well be true that there is an almost universal ability to perceive spatially, ability and even a desire to represent spatially are very much culturally determined.
Fig. 64. Drawings of tables by blind children showing some spatial sense from John M. Kennedy, Drawing and the blind, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993, pp. 110, 111, 109, 115.
Secondly, Kennedy and his colleagues use the term perspective in a very general sense, which technically speaking should be termed proto-perspective. For although many of his examples provide some sense of depth and general diminution, not one of his many cases has ever produced a precise vanishing point integrating a series of lines systematically drawn in three, two or even one point perspective (cf. fig. 60).
Developmental Psychology and Learning
As noted earlier (see pp.87*), debates whether knowledge is innate (nature) or a result of experience (nurture) goes back to Antiquity and play a basic role in distinctions between empiricists and nativists. The nineteenth century brought a new experimental basis to these debates. Volkmann (1858), in a fundamental essay "On the influence of practice on the recognition of spatial distances" raised various problems that were subsequently cited by Gibson.
A fascination with developmental aspects of psychology goes back to a nineteenth century ontogenetic-phylogenetic analogy (see above p. 178), whereby development in a child was thought to recapitulate the evolution of culture. Baldwin’s (1894), Mental development in the child and in the race, was one of the classic statements of these ideas but, as we have shown, a number of disciplines contributed to these studies including ethnology, anthropology, sociology, psychology and philosophy.
The quest for standards in the testing of intelligence gave new impetus to these studies. Hence Binet (1890), experimented with the perception of lengths and numbers in children aged 2 ½ and 4. Giering (1905), and Beyel (1926), pursued these problems, concluding that children’s perception of these phenomena continued developing at least until the age of ten. But it was particularly Piaget (1936, 1937, 1947, 1956, 1975), who formulated what became the most familiar model of development in children and adolescents identifying five distinct stages (fig. 62).
Vurpillot (1961), asked children from 5 to 12 years of age to give measurements of shape constancy: one relative to perception, asking them to abstract from a series of variables the projection corresponding to the momentary aspect of the shape presented; the other relative to representation, requesting that they extract from the same series of variables the frontal parallel shape. It was found that:
1) difference in the slant of shape was taken into account only from age 7 and up
2) degree of constancy is no better for familiar shapes than for unfamiliar ones
3) prior to age 12, children cannot represent to themselves the fronto-parallel aspect of a slanted shape
4) with the perceptive instructions the degree of constancy decreases with age.
Willats, whose early work included a cursory account of drawing systems written with Dubery (1972), classified some of the basic types of children‘s drawings (1984, 1985, 1987). Caron-Pargue (1985), focussed attention on ways children draw a cube and offered further types. Nicholls and Kennedy (1992), adopted one of these and five from Willats in creating their own list of ten drawing types. Their study suggested that (227): "younger children use a similarity geometry with feature based criteria while the older children and adults use a vantage-point geometry which includes direction based criteria". They also found that in the case of both 14-15 year olds and of the adults over 80% produced a parallel-projection drawing.
J. J. Gibson and his wife, E. J. Gibson (1955), reviewed the problem of perceptual learning and began by identifying two major camps (32):
To some it implies that human perception is, in large part, learned - that we learn to see depth, for instance, or form, or meaningful objects. In that case the theoretical issue involved is how much of perception is learned and the corresponding controversy is that of nativism or empiricism.
To others the term implies that human learning is in whole or part a matter of perception- that learning depends on comprehension, expectation or insight, and that the learning process is to be found in a central process of cognition rather than in the motor process of performance. In this second case the theoretical issue involved is whether or not one has to study a man’s perceptions before one can understand his behaviour.
They outlined two theories of learning: enrichment (or creative process) and specificity (discriminative process) theories of learning. The first entailed acquiring more memory images such that a context of memories accrued by association to a sensory core. In this view perceptual learning consisted (34) "of experience becoming more imaginary, more assumptive and more inferential." In the second approach learning was "progressively in greater correspondence with stimulation, not with less"; it became more discriminating rather than more imaginary, and consisted of responding to new variables of physical discrimination. Gibson and Gibson favoured this specificity theory of learning and described an experiment to test it.
E. J. Gibson and Walk (1956) experimented with rats to conclude that their visual discrimination was not nativistic but affected by learning and experience. By contrast, a significant essay by Walk and E. J. Gibson (1961), made "A comparative and analytical study of visual depth perception", involving (25) "hooded and albino rats, chickens, goats, lambs, pigs, dogs, turtles, cats, monkeys and human infants" which suggested (42) that: "motion perspective is more important than density perspective for the animals in which it was experimentally isolated" and concluded that "the results in general support a hypotheses of innate depth perception, though the presence of a certain kind of environment during growth may be important for late maturing animals." Senden (1932) and Riesen (1947), basing their claims on experiments with chimpanzees, were more forceful in insisting that the long period of maturation was (108) "essential for the organization of perceptual processes through learning."
A mature expression of these ideas was found in a major book by E. J. Gibson (1969), entitled Principles of perceptual learning and development (1969). Gibson followed a particular American interpretation whereby Helmholtz was seen as a champion of the empiricist and Kant a key figure in the nativist traditon (cf. fig. 10 above and fig. 65). Her earlier discussions of enrichment theories was now subdivided into cognitively oriented and response oriented theories, whereas differentiation theory was now linked with stimulus oriented approaches.
Cognitively Oriented Response Oriented Stimulus Oriented
Association Theory Gestalt School
American Perceptual Reorganization
Functional Psychology (Street, Leeper)
(Braly, Djang, Henle, Hanawalt)
Inference Theories assuming
or problem solving
Probabilistic Cue Theory
(Ames, Cantril, Ittelson)
Formation of a Schema theories Motor Copy Theories
Representation (Bartlett, Vernon) (Leontiev, Zaporozhets)
Improvement of Additive Mediation Differentiation Theory
Discrimination Theories (J.J. Gibson and E. J. Gibson)
(J.G. Taylor, Hebb)
Fig. 65. A classification of theories of perceptual learning according to E. J. Gibson (1969, 74).Cf. fig 10
In other classifications, the nativist school was often linked with a mental and cognitive tradition, whereas the empiricist school was linked with a physical and experimental tradition. In Gibson’s version there was, as it were, an intellectualization of the whole spectrum. Gibson also proposed a classification of five items that are to be perceived, namely: objects, space, events, representations (two dimensional drawings, pictures of things, photographs, motion pictures), and coded stimuli (symbols). Interestingly enough the great majority of Gibson’s examples focussed on representations and coded stimuli, i.e. on the abstract section of the spectrum.
The roots of perpective taking have also been traced back to Baldwin (1894). As Geulen (1982, 14), has noted, Edmund Husserl’s (1915), theories of intersubjectivity in philosophy came very close to the idea of perspective-taking and these were in turn one of the sources of Alfred Schütz (see above p. 206*), who identified this ability of taking the viewpoint of the other as a central phenomenon of sociology. George Herbert Mead, building directly on ideas of Hegel, is seen by many as the founder of perspective-taking. Mead (1913, reprint 1980), explored how each speaker also hears themself listening and can thus put themself into the position of the person to whom they are speaking. Mead (1934), examined this ability "to take the role of" or "put oneself in the place of" other individuals, concepts which became explanations of social cognition, communication and cooperation. Ultimately Mead believed that they also provided a context for understanding the social origin of the subject and their identity.
Piaget’s three mountain experiments (1937, 1947), which became famous in North America only after the English translation (1956), transformed this discussion. Unlike Mead who equated perspective taking with personal identity, Piaget suggested that egocentricism marked a first stage in the development of personality and that the ability to recognize a form using different viewpoints or perspectives marked an important second stage in the emergence of personality. This ability to look at a given object from different viewpoints is now termed perspective taking. In Piaget’s work it was closely linked with the concept of decentration. In his view an infant began by being egocentrically fused with their environment. As the child learned to differentiate themself from social and non-social objects in their environment they learned to deploy attention to all relevant aspects of a phenomenon under consideration. Piaget viewed this decentration as basic for cognitive and social competencies. Perspective-taking used decentering skills to infer the psychological experiences of others.
The basic contrasts between the approaches of Mead and Piaget could be seen as reflecting subtle but basic differences between (U. S.) American and European concepts of personality. In the United States, personality is defined in terms of finding, being and asserting the self. In Europe, personality is conceived in terms of one’s ability to be non-self-centred and as selfless as possible. Hence, whereas individuals from the United States often see a need to show themselves as a power play, a European frequently shows his true power by becoming self effacing and seeming merely to retreat. To a person from the United States this will appear as a retreat out of weakness. Basic actions are completely misunderstood because of fundamental assumptions concerning development of the individual.
In the United States, Flavell (1963) studied The developmental psychology of Jean Piaget. Flavell (1966), compared the development of role-taking and verbal communication. This led to an important study by Flavell (1968), on The development of role-taking and communication in children and a series of later publications and an essay by Kohlberg (1969) which extended Piaget's concepts concerning the reconstruction of developmental sequences into the realm of social cognitive abilities and moral judgements. Williamson (1975), linked perspective-taking with interpersonal communication systems. Selman (1976), building on concepts of Mead (1969a, fig. 67), explored parallels between perspective taking and the development of moral judgement and suggested distinct stages (fig. 68).
Russell (1975), studied ways in which three-dimensional models viewed from above, could help children in making, reading and using two-dimensional orthogonal maps. Susswein (1977), examined the development of perspective-taking in young children and proposed a model in four stages that emerged from the ages of three to eight (fig. 69). Susswein’s second stage corresponded to what Flavell termed as level one perspective-taking in which a child is able to specify what another child sees, while Susswein’s fourth stage corresponded to Flavell’s (1974), level two perspective-taking in which a child is able to specify how another child sees.
Fehr (1977), explored the factors in overcoming spatial egocentrism and developing perspective ability and accepted Piaget’s suggestion that hypotheticality played an important role in recognizing the "other". Meshongnek (1977), examined two criticisms that had been made of Piaget and Inhelder’s theory of visual perspective: first, that children do not become aware of differences in perspective before 5 ½-7 ½ years of age (e.g. Borke, 1975), and second, that incongruity between the child and observer rather than inability to overcome egocentrism explained why young children cannot anticipate differences in perspective (Huttenlocher and Presson, 1973). Meshongnek’s own work suggested (1977, 95) "that even for children as young as 4-5 years of age, there is an awareness of points of view different from their own as well as an understanding that the exact appearance of an array changes as a function of the spatial position of the observer."
Johnson (1978), challenged Piaget’s approach to perspective taking because it focussed solely on cognition while ignoring perception and art. Johnson experimented with four different situations: 1) real-real, where a child sees a real scene and chooses a correct perspective from real-scene alternatives; 2) real-picture, where a child sees a real scene and chooses a correct perspective from pictured alternatives; 3) picture-real, where a child sees a pictured scene and chooses a correct perspective from real scene alternatives; 4) picture-picture, where a child sees a pictured scene and chooses a correct perspective from pictured alternatives. It was found that situations two (real-picture) and four (picture-picture) had more errors than others. Vertical orientation was also found to have an effect. This posed questions concerning the use of pictures among young children.
Cognitive Stage Spatial Relation Age
1. sensorimotor topological 0-1½
2. preoperational topological 1½-4
3. intuitive topological 4-7
4. concrete projective, Euclidean 7-14
5. formal operational Riemannian space 14+
Fig. 66. Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, corresponding spatial relations and ages.
1. Knowledge of the subjectivity of perspectives
2. Reflective understanding of subjectivity.
3. Reciprocal perspective-taking
4. Perspective of a generalized other
Fig. 67. Stages of decentration in role-taking according to Selman based on Mead (1969a)
Social Perspective Taking Kind of Moral Judgement Age
0. egocentric pre-moral 3-6
1. social-information punishment and obedience 6-8
2. self-reflective instrumental 8-10
3. reciprocal or mutual reciprocal expectations 10-12
4. social and conventional perspective of society 2-15
5. relativistic perspective 15+
Fig. 68. Parallels between social perspective taking and moral judgment at different ages according to Selman (1973, 1977).
Claim made Age
1. What I know is there. 3
2. What I see. What you see. 4
3. What I see. What we both see. What you see. 5
4. How I see it. How you see it. 6-8
Fig. 69. Four stages in the development of perspective taking according to Susswein (1977).
Marsh (1977), gave one of the best accounts of the key individuals and problems in the rise of perspective taking. Marsh noted that attempts to assert a single, global perspective-taking ability were being challenged by 1975 (Ambron and Irwin, Kurdek and Rodgon) and that there was a trend to identify three distinct kinds of perspective taking in terms of seeing or perception; thinking or cognition and feeling or affective behaviour.
Perceptual perspective taking means children identify different viewpoints and coordinate them with their own: e.g. front-back, before-behind, left-right, that is, establish their position relative to other persons and objects. Marsh noted likely links between cognitive perspective taking and other cognitive processes such as linguistic ability (e.g. increasing use of verbal mediation), selective attention, perception, motivation, and memory.
So-called cognitive perspective taking, more frequently termed social perspective taking, means inferring the cognitions of others in social situations. To assess this some such as Flavell (1968), DeVries (1970), and Selman (1971), use games. One is asked to infer what a peer would guess or do in a given situation. Others, including Feffer (1959), Selman and Byrne (1974), use stories. One constructs a story and then retells it from the perspective of each character in the story. Feffer (1970), suggested three stages in the process of social perspective taking: 1) simple refocusing or simple perspective taking (age six); 2) consistent elaboration or sequential perspective taking (ages seven or eight) and 3) simultaneous coordination or simultaneous perspective taking (age nine). Earlier, Feffer (1959), had pointed out that social perspective taking is closely related to fields such as role-taking or role playing. Shaftel and Shaftel (1967), described this as (84):
Perspective Differentiation Perspective Taking Perspective Coordination
Recursive Thinking Knowledge
Contiguity External Characteristics
Action Interpersonal Relationships
Ordering Thinking About
Effect Cause Thinking About
One Loop Thinking About
Alternation Thinking About
Fig. 70. Oppenheimer’s model of perspective taking as outlined in Geulen (1982, 304).
the opportunity to explore through spontaneous (that is, unrehearsed) improvisation and carefully guided discussion, typical group problem situations in which individuals are helped to become sensitive to the feelings of the people involved, where the consequences of the choices made are delineated by a group and where members are helped to explore the kinds of behavior that society will sanction. In this process, young people are guided to become more sensitive to the feelings, to the personal consequences of the choices they make, and to the consequences of those choices for other people
Hence a variety of role-playing techniques have alternatively been termed perspective-taking (Chandler, 1973a), role-taking or role-switching (Iannotti, 1975a) and sociodramatic play (Rosen,1974). Selman (1973), linked perspective-taking and role-taking more closely, identifying six stages in the process (fig. 63). It is interesting to note that a society can encourage role-playing and yet be taken aback when children then develop games such as Dungeons and Dragons.
Social perspective taking as an ability "to make accurate inferences about the psychological processes of others and to articulate and coordinate relevant perspectives" is seen by some as essential to social competency. Hence perspective taking has become linked with communication effectiveness (e.g. Alvy, 1968; Cohen and Klein, 1968); moral judgement (Kohlberg, 1969; Piaget and Inhelder, 1969); prosocial behaviour (e.g. Aronfreed, 1970; Barrett and Yarrow, 1976); popularity (Piaget, 1926; Chaplin and Keller, 1974) and the absence of perspective taking was linked by some to impaired social functioning (Feshbach and Feshbach, 1969). Others linked perspective taking and interpersonal problem solving (e.g. Batcheler, 1975) and impersonal problem solving (e.g. D’Zurilla and Goldfried, 1971). Marsh (1975), used a perspective training program to explore links between perspective taking and interpersonal problem solving and found, among other things, that persons with initial deficits in simultaneous perspective taking were not helped by the training.
Affective perspective taking involves an ability to make accurate inferences about another’s feelings and emotional states. There has been debate whether this requires only cognitive understanding or actual (vicarious) experience of those feelings. In the United States there has been a trend to emphasize cognitive empathy over affective empathy. Assessment in this case varies: a child may be presented with a story and a blank face that that must be paired with an appropriate expression such as happy or sad (Borke, 1971).
I and Others No cognition
Others and Others
(I and Others) and Others Stereotype Result
Others and Others
I as Cause Result
Inner Psychic (hidden) Not Alternating Result
Representation of Perspectives
Or they are shown slides and asked to identify not only the feelings of those in a scene, e.g. attending a birthday party but also to react personally: how do you feel? (Feshbach and Roe, 1968). This has led to new trends towards affective education aimed at children’s development of humanistic values, altruism, sympathy and social awareness.
Perspective-taking is a fascinating concept especially when the goal is altruism and sympathy. Yet where persons in the United States may believe they can infer accurately the inner world of other persons, in some traditions, including Canada, one would usually never ask about their inner psychological states, it being assumed that to do so would be an invasion of privacy, that if a person wished to disclose these dimensions they would choose to do so. Some persons in the European tradition doubt that one could ever hope to do so "accurately". Autobiography is treated with a certain scepticism even when it reaches the sublime levels of a James Joyce or a Marcel Proust. If such authors who spent a lifetime describing the incredible vistas of their inner worlds have difficulties, who are we as outsiders to assume that we could guess even the outlines of their inner experience? To assume that we know reduces the richness of others’ experience to the limits of our own.
It would be misleading however to conclude that perspective-taking was a habit developed in the United States and rejected elsewhere. In German sociological literature perspective-taking was accepted as a variable by Bertram and Bertram (1974). A German translation of Flavell et al. (1975), opened new discussions which were provided a theoretical framework by Keller (1976). In Berlin, Silbereisen (1977), founded a workshop on social cognition and moral judgment, activities of which were published in newsletter and subsequently published in book form by Eckensberger and Silbereisen (1980). Silbereisen (1980) argued that analysis of formal structure of perspectivity will not suffice theoretically for the understanding of the development of social thinking if it does not take into account an analysis of the various content areas towards which the social thinking is directed.
Wahlen (1980), in an unpublished dissertation (Berlin), distinguished persons as behavioural (handelnde) subjects, who in their own behaviour are linked to the behaviour of others and accordingly imbue their own behaviours with subjective meaning from persons as knowledge subjects, whose perspective is primarily that of an observer who seeks to organize given subject matters in an understandable, i.e. meaningful way.
In order to distinguish between different views of a subject required an additional moment of reflective distancing. Building on the distinctions between perspectival differentiation and perspectival-co-ordination by Feffer and Gourevitch (1960) and Selman (1976), Wahlen claimed that we need to recognize the differences in perspectives (perspective differentiation) and then to reflect about the possible behavioural (handelnde) strategies for conflict resolution and take into account the attendant consequences for those involved in the conflict.
One of the first attempts to study these factors more systematically was Geulen (1982) who edited an important collection of articles on Perspective taking and social behaviour. Following an introductory essay on a theoretical framework for classing perspective-taking within social behaviour, a second section focussed on the concept and theory of perspective-taking. A third section explored connections between perspective-taking and other variables. Finally a fourth section examined external conditions that underlay the development of a capacity for perspective taking. These included a translation from the French of Piaget’s classic article and translations of work by Flavell, Feffer, and Selman which had originally appeared in English. Perhaps the most complex theoretical model in this series was offered by Oppenheimer (Amsterdam) whose framework is outlined above (fig 70).
Edelstein, Keller, and Wahlen (1981) attempted to reconstruct the development of social cognitive processes both theoretically and empirically in a significant book edited by Geulen (1981) on Role-taking, Decentration and Social Understanding. Edelstein and Keller (1982) in Perspectivity and Interpretation. On development of Social Relations, in a fundamental work, set out to bring genetic structuralism and an interpretative experiential interactionism into the analysis of both competence models and the performance criteria of social thought in order that beyond the cognitive paradigma one would gain new perspectives for the understanding of egocentrism, decentration and socialization of the consciousness. It was the first of a series devoted to the development of social understanding, interactive capacity, moral judgement and ego-development, which would include the collected works of Lawrence Kohlberg and a German translation of William Damon's The Social World of the Child. Kolberg 1974
Edelstein and Keller began by reviewing the development of social cognition, noting the seminal influence of Flavell et al. (1968). Piaget's work had made available a general theory for the development of cognitive processes into which it seemed possible to insert a theory concerning the development of social thought. Initially Piaget's research had focussed on cognitive egocentrism and invariance. Those who explored developement of social thinking focussed on a shift from viewpoint fixed centric thinking to reversible thought proceses in which relations could be internally co-ordinated.
The three mountain experiment in Piaget's writings (1950, 1975) became the basis for experiments to reconstruct social perspectives. Differences in social perspective were reproduced experimentally through different information about a given situation. For instance, in the work of Chandler and Greenspan (1972), a second figure was introduced into the action sequence at a later time. The problem was pursued by Edelstein (1975) and Flavell (1975) who removed images and thereby formed a sequence of images in order to produce different perspectives. Eckensberger und Silbereisen (1980) focussed on the ability to distinguish spatial -visual perspectives, which subsequently acquired a paradigmatic role in research. Ability to differentiate spatial visual perspectives thus acquired a paradigmatic role in research.
Piaget began from the premise that the process of explaining and understanding were synonymous, that no distinction was necessary between spatial-visual differentiation of perspectives and their interpretative reconstruction. He believed that the process of explaining the object world and understanding the personal world were sysnonymous. Hence he assumed that individuals' instrumental actions with objects revealed their stage of development. Various content dimensions of objects and relations of social cognition thus became the cause of shifts (décalages) in decentration: i.e. in explaining earlier or later acquisition of social cognitive abilities. Edelstein, Keller and Wahlen (1981) were among the first to begin studying these distinctions systematically.
In an analysis of social understanding, Edelstein and Keller examined universal conditions for the constitution of the social world. They noted that Piaget did not distinguish between instrumental behaviour with natural objects and interactional behaviour with other behavioural subjects. By contrast, the work of Mead (1969a, 1969b) and Joas (1980) reconstructed the development of thinking from the perspective of a socially behavioral subject. Both Piaget and Mead shared a radical reconstructivist position whereby objects of knowing are not given realities in the world, they are constructions, arising from social behaviour in the wold. For Piaget it was primarily the co-ordination of behavior (Handlungen) that led to development in a monological interaction. For Mead interaction was dialogical. Mead understood object constitutive behaviors as social interactions and thereby objects as social products, which in turn gained their shared meaning in the process of social interaction.
At the same time the social constitution of the object is only the other side of the constitution process of the subject. Since the meaning of objects came from this structure, it followed that subject and object are socially constituted in the same way and from the same origin. Through the ability at perspectival change, the interacting partners could agree about their actions and come to a common understanding concerning a behavioural (Handlungs) situation. Perspectivity thus became a central prerequisite for human behavior, which continued to be behaviour in symbolic interactions. Hence the process of role-taking thus lies equally in the knowledge of the object world and the understanding of the world of the subject.
While the general, instrumental intelligence developed in the process of interaction with the object world as a result of the invariance and predictability of objects, the social, communicative intelligence evolved in its interaction with the social world of subjects on the basis of the reciprocity of symbolic perspective exchanges of the person engaged in interaction....Thus the reflective self developed through the ability of changing perspective, which allowed the subject to see their own handling form the position of another. Thereby they were put into the standpoint of taking themself as the object of knowledge and gaining reflective distance to their [own] actions. Insomuch as this began the development of a system of social meanings, the symbolic changes of perspective also became the prerequisite for sociality and individuality.. and led to the development of an equally social and individualized I.
For Piaget it was primarily the co-ordination of behavior (Handlungen) that led to development. For Mead language played a major role. Coomunicative acts were therefore achored in co-operative acts, i.e. in social behaviour and relations. The intersubjectivity of meanings sprang from a system of "universal socializing idealizations" as described in Schütz (1974) as well as in Schutz and Luckmann (1975).
Everyday Knowledge and the Meaning of Situation
Edelstein and Keller traced how these developments affected notions of everyday knowledge and the definition of situation, noting that Blumer (1969) had developed Mead's ideas concerning symbolic interactionism. In this approach the world was always interpreted: subjects defined meanings in the process of interaction. "Situation" in this case meant the process whereby the behavioral (handelnde) person reached an understanding of situations. The definition of situation included the understanding of self and other, the understanding of behaviors, behavioral goals and behavioral expectations both with respect both to the factual-descriptive aspect (what is) and the normative aspect (what should be). The reciprocal coordination of behaviours was only possible through the reciprocal interpretation of the partners interacting with one another through such definitions of perspective. As Sprondel and Grathoff (1979) observed this had consequences for both the observed (actors) and the observers (researchers).
A young child only had access to specific knowledge of given situations. Adults, by contrast, used such specific experiences in the social world in order to develop more generally valid, universal knowledge of the world. The various factors determining this process were studied by Blumer (1973) and pursued by Schütz (1974) and Schütz and Luckmann (1975), who pointed to the role of typifying (Typisierung ). This entailed an idealising assumption concerning the reciprocity of perspectives, mentioned earlier, whereby an actor begins from the premise that if they were in the same position as another actor, they would have the same perspective at their disposal. From this assumption of reciprocity perspectives could become universal, objective realities. It followed that there must be a trans-situational meta-knowledge about the perspectivity of experiences that was independent of an given social situation, which served as a point of departure for experiments by Chandler and Greenspan (1972). In adult life knowledge concerning if-then situations could be either specific (particular) or general (universal), the former aiding hypotheses that led to the latter.
Interpretative Paradigms and Rule-Bound Behavior
Ball (1972) described the process whereby the behavior (handelnde) of a person achieved an understanding of the thinking of another person. He outlined a model of a naive science of thinking whereby an actor used everyday theories concerning persons and situations as a basis for hypotheses that were then tested, verified or rejected. Edelstein and Keller ditinguished between unproblematic behavioural situations which entailed social scripts , i.e. scenes which unfolded as behavioral rotines in interaction situations in the senss of Abelson (1976), and problematic interactions where the approach decribed by Ball came fully into play. Ball emphasized a contructivist approach: "To define a situation is to engage in social construction of reality; since this process involves knowledge it is the construction of social reality." This knowledge was sometimes "knowing that" and sometimes "knowing how" and therefore tacit. It was therefore important to distinguish between conscious cognitive knowlege about situations and unconscious rule- bound adaptation of such knowledge in the behavioral process. This helped to explain the findings of Piaget and others which showed that children often had perspectival abilities long before they were verbally articulate about these abilities.
Turner (1976) suggested replacing Mead's concept of "role-taking" with "role-making" to emphasize the role of the behavioral subject in social interactions. For Turner, the process of role-making also entailed the attribution of goals and feelings. This included the projection of distorted attributions (Habermas 1968, 1977), such as stigmatization (Goffman, 1977), labeling (Sack, 1975).
Edelstein and Keller suggested that if one wished to organize the realm of social cognition,i.e. of social understanding from a theoretical standpoint, it would be useful to use three basic categories: 1) the description of concepts in everyday knowledge and their development; 2) studies on the social constitution and general mechanisms in the development of social understanding and 3) performance criteria for social understanding., which served a s the basis for the three sections of their book.
Contents and Subject Specific Structures of Social Understanding
This focussed on psychological theories of everyday life which dealt with humans as psychic systems. This included naive theories of the self , others and relations between them. It also included everyday theories about social relations, behavior and behavioral regulations, with contributions by Damon, Furth, Secord and Peevers, Selman, Turiel, and Youris. It dealt in the broadest sense with descriptive categories for persons.
The early literature on developmental psychology focussed on persons as knowledge subjects rather than as behavioural subjects. Wahlen (1980) distinguished between persons as behavioural subjects and persons as knowledge subjects. This, he claimed, required classification and rule-systems and called for social cognitive decentration. Here Wahler defined two types: 1) a naive theory of interpersonal relations; 2) structurations of social content from different perspectives; that these perspectives imply different kinds of knowledge, of content. Only this second type of decentration lent itself to the developement of perspective-taking. Using spatial-visual perspectives as an analogy, attention turned to social perspectives, i.e. the interpretation of situations which need to be reconstructed from the viewpoint of two or more persons. This required that a person being tested not confuse the information available from a given perspective:a process termed perspective differentiation. The literature on causal explanations of internal processes (e.g. feelings), explanations for the reasons of behaviours, and behavioural intentions was surveyed by Schantz (1975).
Perspective differentiation became the first step towards perspective co-ordination. Hence, having recognized the differences in perspectives, one then reflected about the possible behavioural systems for conflict resolution and integrated the consequences for those engaged in the conflict. Feffer and Gourevitch (1960) did preliminary work in this field. Selman (1976), along with Selman and Jacquette (1977), building on Mead had shown that there was a logical heirarchy of qualitatively different levels (figs. 68 cf. figs. 67,72) in the conceptualization of relations between the self (ego) and the other (alter). Geulen (1981) collected important essays and surveyed the literature on perspective-taking.
This work drew attention to different conceptual areas of social understanding , and a greater emphasis on the contents of social cognition. For instance, Turiel (1981, 1982), pointed to the subject specificity of social cognitive structures. Eckensberger and Reinshagen (1980) and Eckensberger and Silbereisen (1980) suggested a systematization of contents and realms of social thought in terms of behavioral theory such that cognitions can be seen as partial aspects of behaviour. This resulted in a matrix that derived, ultimately from Aristotle's concept of the four causes (fig. 67).
1. Causal explanations Motives, grounds
2. Final explanations Goals
3. Means Realization
4. Intended and unintended Consequences
Fig. 71. Four categories for classification of behavior according to Eckensberger and Silbereisen (1980).
Edelstein, Keller and Wahlen (1981) examined understanding of aggressive situations and sorrowful situations
their book an attempt to systematize social cognitive research with repect to a theory of social understanding.
Constitutive Mechanisms of Social Understanding
A second sociological section concentrated on knowledge of social relations, societal institutions and social rules; general mechanisms for development of social understanding with contributions by Peters, Voyat, and Keller.
This included the co-operative and conflictual relationships among persons of the same age.
Performance Criteria of Social Understanding
A third, normative or prescriptive (moral) section, included contibutions by Blasi, Döbert and Nunner-Winkler, Noam and Kegan, and Keller.
For Blasi social concepts were a means of cognitive behavioral scheme, an approach that drew attention to social experiences in which the ability in perspective taking and the social knowledge of the person are acquired, particularly with respect to differentialted experiences.
Keller explored how the interactive function of the family reflected on bith the genesis and the performance of social cognition. Keller showed that a theory of the social contitution of social understanding was also a theory of performance and conversely. A theoretical model rewquired both universal and differential-psychological aspects in order to do justice to the integrity of its object.
Edelstein and Habermas (1984) noted that the constructivist approach of Piaget which was adopted in social cognitive research acknowledged a developmental mechanism that is equally determined by the individual activities of the person and by their position in the social system. To explain this theoreticians turned to Mead's (1934, 1967) interactionist model of competence acquisition. This led to connections with research into performance criteria of social cognitive and socio-moral abilities.
The authors noted that the validity of the structural models of development had become a renewed matter of debate, particularly concerning the relation of moral to social structures through Bertram (1978), Condon and Weiting (1982), Habermas (1976, 1983), Lidz and Lidz (1976), Lidz (1982).
1. theoretical formulations
2. studies on development of interaction competence
3. role of the self in social understanding
Mezirow (1991) explored the role of perspective transformation in adult learning. He distinguished between two dimensions thereof: the transformation of meaning schemes, which he saw as part of everyday reflective learning and meaning perspectives, which entailed re-assessing basic premises and led to major life changes. Mezirow cited the general influence of psychologists (Chomsky, Piaget, Kolberg); sociologists (Habermas) and philosophers (Bateson, Cell). More specifically in psychology he reviewed the work of Bruner (1957) and Piaget's (1967) concept of decentration. With respect to development of cognitive structures he referred to Adorno's negative dialectics (Buck-Morss, 1987), whereby development involves achieving critical instability, as well as the ideas of Merleau Ponty as interpreted by Greene (1975) and Heron (1988). In sociology, Mezirow, cited Döbert, Habermas and Nunner-Winkler (1987), who argued that interactive competence, i.e. the ability to take part in increasingly complex action systems, is central to identity formation. Selman (1987) had described this in terms of three stages of role-taking, whereby a person learns (fig. 72):.
1. that others see the same situation from different perspectives and thus differentiate points of view
2. to understand its own intentions and behaviour from the perspective of others, thus making possible
3. that those interacting can not only take the role of the other but also learn from the viewpoint of a third
person how their own perspectives are reciprocally involved with those of the other.
Fig. 72. Three stages in the role-taking abilities of a child according to Selman (1987). Cf. figs. 67-68.
A review of perspective transformation in the literature of adult development followed. Kagan (1980), Favell (1982), and Kuhn (1983) as interpreted by Blanchard-Fields (1989, 92) and cited by Mezirow suggested that "there may be predictable orderly sequences of experience in adulthood rather than inclusive, shared internal or external structures." According to Mezirow, Lichtman (1987) saw the concept of developmental stages as capitalist ideology, while Fiske and Perlin as reported by Bee (1987, 73-76), failed to find widely shared psychosocial or psychological stages. Hence whereas earlier psychologists such as Erikson, Gould, Levinson and Piaget related developmental progress to specific ages in the life-cycle, Mezirow gathered seeming evidence that such a transition could take place at any point in adult life. This begged the question: what were the conditions that determined the equivalent of a conversion experience?
Mezirow found one answer in the work of Basseches (1984), who linked adult development and cognitive maturity with dialectical thinking. Basseches identified twenty four "schemata" or "movements of thought" in his underlying model of dialectic. Mezirow interpreted this model to mean "the inferential logic of transformative thinking". Accordingly Mezirow was able to take Basseches' nine meta-formal schemata (fig. 69) and his five criteria for comparing forms of thought (fig. 70) as a basis for establishing and comparing his own categories of meaning perspectives.
Having separated development from any specific age or period, Mezirow went on to argue that perspective transformation was identical with development. In defence he cited Perry (1970), Arlin (1975); Commons, Richards and Armon (1984), Broughton (1977) and particularly Labouvie-Vief (1984) who "most explicitly identified the central role of perspective transformation in adult development." Labouvie-Vief saw development as a two-phased process: 1) between birth and adolescence; 2) post-adolescence in adults. The theories of Labouvie-Vief and Blanchard-Fields (1982) were again cited with respect to perspective transformation in aging.
Mezirow also considered perspective transformation in life decisions. Here he cited the work of Sloan (1986, 107) to claim that psychological growth was not attributable to natural forces, and that persons left on their own "often take the turn toward addiction, masochism or suicide in the midst of transition periods". Sloan claimed that each of the seven stages in Brammer and Abrego's model (1981) were connected with both decision making and a way of coping. Mezirow noted parallels between this model (fig. 71) and his own (fig. 70).
He next considered four theoretical overviews of perspective transformation. A first of these built on the notion of lifeworlds used by phenomenologists. Wildenmeersch and Leirmann (1988), for instance, identified three stages: the self-evident, the threatened and the transformed lifeworld, each of which they related to a corresponding type of dialogue, namely, narrative, transactional and discursive dialogue. A second of these drew on Loder (1981), who identiffied five stages in his "grammar of the knowing event" (fig. 72) which he correlated with three orthogenetic stages, namely, notably differentiation, specification and integration. A third theoretical overview based on Mullins (1988) examined three stages in terms of pre-critical, critical and and post-critical learning postures. A fourth theoretical overview based on the work of Boyd and Myers (1988) used a Jungian view to consider stages of discernment in transformation (fig. 73).
1. Location of contradictions or sources of contradiction within a system or between a
system and external forces or elements which are antithetical to the system's structure
2. Understanding the resolution of disequilibrium in terms of a notion of transformation
in developmental direction.
3. Relating value to a) movement in the developmental direction and/or
b) stability through developmental movement.
4. Evaluative comparison of forms.
5. Attention to problems of co-ordinating systems in relation.
6. Description of open self-transforming systems.
7. Description of qualitative change as a result of quantitative change within a form.
8. Criticism of formalism based on the interdependence of forms amd contents.
9. Multiplication of perspectives as a concreteness-preserving approach to inclusiveness.
Fig. 73. Nine meta-formal schemata or steps in dialectical perspective according to Basseches (1984).
1. Levels of equilibrium (inclusiveness, differentiation and integration)
2. Potential for contribution to development
3. Susceptibility of co-ordination with other forms, making them stable
through developmental change
4. Practical change
5. Conformity to a masterform
Fig. 74. Five criteria for comparing forms (meaning perspectives) according to Bassesches (1984).
1. Shock and immobilization
4. Letting go
5. Testing options
6. Searching for meaning
Fig. 75. Seven stages of a life transition according to Brammer and Abrogo (1981).
1. Disorienting dilemma
2. Interlude for scanning
3. Constructive act of imagination
4. Release and openness
5. Interpretation of the imaginative solution into the original context ny spelling out connections and seeking a consensus
Fig. 76. Five stages in the grammar of the knowing event or tranformative logic according to Loder (1981).
II) Receptivity or openness to the symbols, images and other influences
of the shadow, anima, animus, persona and archetypal configurations
III) Recognition, awareness that an experience is authentic
IV) Grieving, a kind of talking back to the extra-rational message.
phase 1) numbness and panic
2) pining and protest
3) disorganization and despair
4) restabilization and reintegration
Fig. 77. Four non-rational stages in transformation according to Boyd and Myers (1988).
Phase I Generation of Consciousness
Step 1: Encountering Trigger Events
Step 2: Confronting Reality
Phase II Transformation of Consciousness
Step 3: Reaching the transition point
a) Decision to shift vision of reality
b) Dramatic leap or shift that "just happens" in a way not consciously planned
Step 4: Shift or leap of transcendence
Phase II Integration of Consciousness
Step 5: Personal commitment
Step 6: Grounding and development
Fig. 77. A model of transformation by Taylor (1989).
1. A disorienting dilemma
2. Self-examination with feelings of guilt or shame
3. A critical assessment of epidemic, sociocultural or psychic assumptions
4. Recognition that one's discontent and the process of transformation are shared
and that others have negotiated a similar change
5. Exploration of options for new roles, relationships and actions
6. Planning of a course of action
7. Acquisition of knowledge and skills for implementing one's plans
8. Provisional trying of new roles
9. Building of competence and self-confidence in new roles and relationships
10. Reintegration into one's life on the basis of conditions dictated by
one's new perspective
Fig. 78. Ten phases of perspective transformation according to Mezirow (1975, 1991).
2. Search for meaning and peace
Fig. 79. Four stages in perspective transformation according to Musgrove (1977).
Mezirow thus claimed that (155, 160-161):
Transformation theory is not a stage theory but it emphasizes the importance of the movement toward reflectivity in adulthood as a function of intentionality and sees it advanced through increased ability and experience, which may be significantly influenced by educational interventions....Perspective transformation involves an empowered sense of the self; b) more critical understanding of how one's social relationships and culture have shaped one's beliefs and feelings and c) more functional stategies and resources for taking action.
While this formulation may sound very reminiscent of the general developmental framework proposed by psychologists such as Blatt and Blatt considered earlier (cf. fig. 1), it is important to note that Mezirow has fundamentally shifted the meaning of perspective. It is no longer a personal point of view or vision of the world. Perspective is a strategy for action, for doing, it being implied that this means acting differently, doing something new, changing. Rather than being a method for standing back and viewing the world with greater distance, it is a means of tackling the world more directly. There is no goal of transcendence. The goal lies in change itself without, however, there being any clear criteria for when change is justified. Indeed having cited Sloan that natural change is not necessarily for the better, the implication is that we need to be guided in change. Perspective thus shifts from a challenge of personal insight to one of communal change.
Not surprisingly Mezirow related transformation to special settings such as a response to marginality and explored the role of collective transformations. He claimed that to raise consciousness in a group requireed (194) "acknowledgment of oppression, critical reflection on personal experience, the legitimation of personal knowledge and reflection on the mechanisms of power and equality among group members. He examined the role of social movements in such transformations which led him to provoking conclusions (195, 224):
New social movements challenge the assumption that education should be used as a means to accomplish particular social goals. They redefine the purpose of education as personal transformation, which they see as the only way to assure cultural transformation and a better society....
The goal of adult education is to help adult learners become more critically relective, participate more fully and freely in rational discourse and action, and advance development by moving towards meaning perspectives that are more inclusive, discriminating, permeable and integrative of experience.
Piaget’s (1948 etc.) studies of spatial development in children began as regular experiments as used in perceptual psychology. It was only in trying to explain the results of his findings that he focussed on cognitive aspects. Particularly in the United States, Piaget came to be seen as a proponent of cognitive developmental psychology. The applications of this developmental approach to anthropology and ethnography were explored by Werner and Kaplan (1956, cf. 1963). As noted earlier (p. 8-10*), Gablik (1975), and Blatt (1984), applied Piaget’s approach to art history.
Some would see these discussions as part of a larger trend towards conceptual psychology, basic to which is the assumption that development is a function of abstract, conceptual, mental processes rather than concrete, perceptual, visual experience. According to this interpretation the enormous literature on relations among vision, representation and reality, (considered in chapter three above), are irrelevant to problems of development. Many factors have played a role in the rise of this cognitive or conceptual approach. One impetus has come from philosophers such as Goodman (1969, xi) who used the concept of symbol as "a very general and colorless term" which "covers letters, words, texts, pictures, diagrams, maps, models and more".
This approach undermined distinctions between visual images which are based on the physical world and mental images which are not. Structuralism, particularly as developed at Yale played a role. The rise of computers also played an important role. Kosslyn (1978), in an article on "Measuring the visual angle of the mind’s eye", began by noting that (356-357): "Visual images are thought to be composed of representations like those that underlie our experience of seeing an object, and spatial information is supposedly represented in the same way in perception and imagination. If so it makes sense to think of visual images as having only a limited spatial extent". Citing the work of Paivio (1971), Minsky and Papert (1972), and Pylyshyn (1973), he found evidence to support the claim that images embody spatial properties but noted that spatial representation in the human brain (388): "probably involves a more abstract isomorphism like that found in a computer representation of co-ordinate space". He held that it was entirely possible that such images were partly generated from abstract propositional structures in long term memory.
These discussions entail an important debate about the nature of imagery: whether there are links between physical and mental imagery; whether there are connections between external and internal images (see below). Pylyshyn (1973), revitalized anti-imagery arguments which were summarized by Kossyln and Pomerantz (1973), and developed in a major book by Kosslyn (1980), on Image and mind, in which he claimed (27) that "images are not pictures. The simple picture metaphor is clearly inadequate".
Kosslyn made significant claims about the nature of mental imagery, suggesting a two-tiered model whereby images were stored in abstract form in long term memory and then assembled for internal display in much the way that images on a television screen can be created from files in a computer memory. Kosslyn, who used information processing as a point of departure, developed a complex argument. He consciously rejected the resonance metaphor of the Shaw and Bransford (1977), neo-Gibsonian school, whereby the mind was (471) "likened to a tuning fork, which automatically responds appropriately to a particular stimulus configuration—without the necessity of a series for intervening processing stages". Kosslyn formulated distinctions between propositional representation (description) and quasi-pictorial representation (depiction) in chart form (fig. 66).
Propositional Representation Quasi-Pictorial Representation
On (Ball, Box)
1. Relation 1. No distinct relation
2. Argument(s) 2. No distinct arguments
3. Syntax 3. No clear syntax
4. Truth value 4. Truth value only when under a particular description
5. Abstract 5. Concrete
6. Not occur in spatial medium 6. Occurs in spatial medium
7. No abstract spatial isomorphism 7. Abstract spatial isomorphism
a) No necessary part/whole relations a) Necessary part/whole relations
b) Size and orientation optional b) Size and orientation necessary
c) Arbitrary marks c) Non-arbitrary marks
8. No abstract surface property isomorphism 8. Abstract surface property isomorphism
a) No necessary part/whole relations a) Necessary part/whole relations
b) Shape not necessary b) Shape necessary
c) Arbitrary marks c) Non-arbitrary marks.
Fig. 80. Properties of propositional and quasi-pictorial formats in Kosslyn (1980, 31).
By the time Kosslyn reached his conclusions it was clear that visual images were thoroughly subordinate to verbal images (456):
...imagery is a way of representing information that may be especially perspicuous for performing some tasks. Not all thought processes involve imagery, nor is imagery in a privileged position as a form of internal representation. The information represented in an image is defined only vis-à-vis the interpretive procedures that can be satisfied when applied to an image. That is, if there were no description of a rear tire, for example, an image could serve to represent the information that a car has a rear tire; an image represents some information only by virtue of the fact that interpretive procedures exist to ‘read’ a given spatial configuration as corresponding to an exemplar of some class. Thus we have attempted to study imagery in the context of a processing system, the whole of which defines how images can represent information.
Not surprisingly there were but ten figures, most of them charts, in this book of five-hundred pages. For according to Kosslyn’s model pictorial information per se was ineffectual and presumably an illiterate mechanic could not learn about changing tires first hand.
These ideas were restated in a more popular book by Kosslyn (1983), Ghosts in the mind’s machine. Creating and using images in the brain, where he noted (xv):
A number of disciplines seized on the notion that mental functions could be studied independently of consciousness. Out of the melding of artificial intelligence (which is concerned with making computers behave like thinking organisms), psychology, linguistics, and philosophy has emerged the alloy known as cognitive science; and the methods and tools of cognitive science have allowed psychologists to bring scientific rigor to fundamental questions of the human mind.
What is intriguing is that these hypotheses about what could be the case are now treated by many as if they were undoubtedly so to the extent that individuals such as Crary are devoting their energies into reading into the evidence of nineteenth century sources the roots of this view: anachronism of a dangerous new type.
The ontogenetic-phylogenetic analogy which led to exploration of analogies between development of an individual child and development of culture in general had its implications for abnormal psychology and psychiatry, as is clear from Réja (1907, 66), who noted in his Art among the mad (L’art chez les fous): "Hence to follow the principal stages of the evolution of children’s drawings is to witness the progressive enrichment of its conscience in the gradual conquest of the universe that surrounds it". Some researchers were particularly interested in what happened to a world view when a patient was mentally ill. For example, Mohr (1906), wrote an article "On drawings of the mentaly ill and their diagnostic value" and Mohr (1909), wrote another on "Drawings of the mentally ill". Prinzhorn (1922), in his classic Representations of the mentally ill, showed that persons with psychological disorders represented space differently than healthy patients and implied that inner space varied between healthy and ill persons. Meanwhile others continued to explore normal development. Dallinger (1928), wrote On the connection between the development of the consciousness of ego and children’s drawings and Sigg-Boeddinghaus (1929), published an article on "Drawing and painting and its significance for the spiritual (seelische) development of the child".
At the eighth congress for experimental psychology, Volkelt (1924), explored "Primitive complex qualities in children’s drawings". At the ninth congress for experimental psychology, organized by Karl Bühler (1925, published 1926), Gelb published an important paper on "The psychological meaning of pathological disruptions of spatial perception", a theme that was pursued in an article by Fischer (1930), on "Space-time structure and thought disruption in schizophrenia". Scheller and Seidemann (1932), explored "The question of optico-spatial agnosie". Rausch (1952), examined "Perceptual constancy in schizophrenia". Tellenbach (1956), made a specialized study of space in persons who were clinically melancholic. These studies have led to special museums such as the Guttman-McClay Collection on the Psychopathology of Art (London) and a series of international congresses on psychopathological art. An article by Jacab (1963), given at the third of these specifically examined characteristics of pictorial space and considered situations in which perspective was favoured.
Blatt, a Freudian psychiatrist, explored other aspects of these problems. Roth and Blatt (1971), found links between depression and a need to maintain volume representation, a theme developed in Blatt’s (1974), "Levels of object representation in anaclitic and introjective depression". Blatt, Quinlan and D’Afflitti (1972), examined effects on psychological states of magnifying and diminishing of image size. Roth and Blatt (1974), further examined spatial representations and psychopathology. Blatt and Ritzler (1974), discovered correlations between suicide, representation of transparency and cross-sections on Rorschach tests. They also (1974b), found links between thought disorder and boundary disturbances in psychosis.
Brutsche (1976), using Jungian psychology as a starting point, examined The psychological significance of perspective in drawings of patients undergoing analysis. Brutsche examined the characteristics of linear perspective, diminution of form perspective (abnehmende Perspektive) and augmentation of form perspective (zunehmende Perspektive), noting how irregular use of the latter two separately or in alternation could be indicative of psychic disorders. He explored how reduced perspective could be a symptom of anxiety (Angst) and how the absence of vanishing points could be a symptom of feelings of dissociation. He examined disruptions in the spatial homogeneity and the objectivity of space as well as a reduction of a sense of distance and a lack of shadows in the drawings of schizophrenic patients. In the final part of his thesis he explored how patients with mental disorders tended to replace ordering based on perspectival construction by an aesthetic-rhythmic order.
Since 1950 research on inner space has gone in two very different directions: one, emphasizing links between exterior and interior space and stressing the importance of visual perception in the process; another minimising the significance of visual images and external physical space for inner images. The first of these trends has been particularly marked in Europe where psycho-linguists among others have found new evidence to claim that there are basic correlations between the space of the external world and the inner space of the mind. In the United States, some psychologists (with European backgrounds) such as Arnheim (1969), have made the bold claim that all our thought is Visual thinking.
At the same time, particularly in the United States, there has been an important trend to separate discussions of inner and external images. Kepler (1604), had a made a fundamental distinction between psychic, mental images (imagines rerum), which are subjective and those images that can be physically projected onto walls (pictura rerum), recommending that one should focus attention on physical images. A key figure in this separation of external from internal images was Kosslyn (1978, 1980), whose ideas have already been considered above in the context of psychology. Meanwhile, Horowitz (1983), focussed almost exclusively on psychic images and classified no less than twenty three different kinds thereof (fig. 67).
Images Categorized by Vividness
3. Thought image
4. Unconscious image
Images Categorized by Context
1. Hypnagogic or hypnopompic image
2. Dream image; nightmare
3. Psychedelic image
5. Flickering image
Images Categorized by Interaction with Perceptions
2. Perceptual distortion
4. Déjâ vu
5. Negative hallucination
Images Classified by Content
1. Memory image; eidetic image
2. Imaginary image
3. Entoptic image
4. Body image; Body schema experience
5. Phantom limb
6. Paranormal hallucination
7. Imaginary companion
8. Number and diagram forms.
Fig. 81. Four categories and twenty three types of images as classed by Horowitz (1983, 6)
This separation of external from internal and emphasis on inner images went hand in hand with a shift from a perceptual to a conceptual approach to thought, a new iconoclasm of the intellectual world, which had Yale as one of its centres. Complex individuals such as Blatt argued in favour of visual images while claiming that one needed a conceptual framework for their interpretation. Other Yale structuralists were sometimes less subtle. Since most of the protagonists of this conceptual approach came from a particular culture known for its iconoclastic tradition the question poses itself whether their analysis might not tell us more about their particular culture than about the basic nature of man.
Within the German context there has been a recent move towards synthesis.
L. Ciompi, Affektlogik, Stuttgart: Enke, 1982
R. Oerter, "Psychische Entwicklung als Realitätskonstruktion", In: Psychische Entwicklung und Schizophrenie, hrsg. R. Lempp, Bern: Huber 1984.
R. K. Silbereisen, "Zur Entwicklung von sozialem Wissen und Verstehen: Perspektivenkoodination", In: Psychische Entwicklung und Schizophrenie, hrsg. R. Lempp, Bern: Huber 1984.
L. K. Frank, "Time Perspectives", Journal of Social Philosophy, vol. 4, 1939, pp. 293-312
Kurt-Lewin-Gendenkausgabe, hrsg. von C.-F. Graumann, Bd. 4, Bern: Huber, Stuttgart: Klett, 1982
M. Wallace, "Future Time Perspective in Schizophrenia", Journal of Abnormal Social Psychology, vol. 52, 1956, pp. 240-245.
Melges and Freeman (1977)
Melges and Freeman, "Temporal Disorganization and Inner-Outer Confusion in Acute Mental Illness", American Journal of Psychiatry, 134, 1977, pp. 874-877.
A. Schlosberg, "Zeitperspektive als Ich-Funktion in der Schizophrenie", Dynamische Psychiatrie, Bd. 17, 1983, pp. 85-102,
Blankenburg (1991), in an important collection of essays entitled Madness and Perspectivity. Alterations in Relationship to Reality of Persons and their Therapy included writings by
In an epilogue Blankenburg (1991) made a fundamental distinction between perspectivism (Perspektivismus) and perspectivity (Perspektivität). By perspectivism he meant:
a position that emphasizes the being tied down to given perspectives in the sense of a dependence on the positiion of the subject (as one that is determined from before), and thereby accentuates the subjectivity of the subject. Accordingly, under perspective we understand the limitation of human vision to perspectives, to perspectives as laid down rather than being determined by the position of the observer.
Often one does not give enough thought to there being a fundamental distinction whether the fixing of the stand- or view-point occurs a priori, that is, that it occurs independently of the subject or whether it is chosen by the subject and is changeable at will. In the latter case we are dealing with two variables which interact with one another, which thus excludes a unilinear causal nexus and thereby a simple determination, this all the more so because one variable is determined by oneself while the other is determined externally....
Accordingly perspectivity in contrast to perspectivism deals not only with the fixing of given perspectives, a fixing in which human as well as all other perceiving life forms are included. Perspectivity as we understand the the term here also encompasses the active, spontaneous perspectival changes, and, namely, not only the willfull, previously conscious, choice of perspectives aimed at given goals, but also the playful ones, the different perspectives that give accident a chance to play a role. The letting chance play a part serves here to exclude the subjectivity that enters in an a priori aiming towards given perspectives. The play, here the being able to play with perspectives, has in this context a particular significance. This arises (as paradoxical as it may sound), in that perspectivism (in the sense of the claim of a being fixed on a perspective), is removed precisely through a willfull, self-referential (in the highest potency, self-transparent) changing of perspectives in and through which the world becomes accessible to us.
In the case of linguistics the entire early history of the field would again be beyond the scope of this essay and hence we shall limit ourselves instead to a brief consideration of Karl Bühler’s classic Theory of speech. The representational function of speech (Sprachtheorie. Die Darstellungsfunktion der Sprache, 1934), which introduced a new systematic framework for research. One of Bühler’s points of departure was to examine (36) the etymology of sign words (Zeichenwörter including Zeichen, sema, deixis, signum, seign), noting that these were all concerned with the realm of the visual, in the sense of brightness (Helligkeit) and visibility (Sichtbarkeit), namely:
making bright and visible and on the other hand placing in front of the eyes. Illumination (Erhellung) draws attention to itself; that which is presented before the eyes comes into the domain of perception. It is no doubt (to put it in plain German) the demonstration (uncovering) of things for the observer or conversely the leading of the observer ([i.e.] of the observing view) to things....
Bühler explored the usefulness of Lessing’s comparisons between painting and language. He also drew attention to unexpected parallels between film and epic, noting that both involved a series of shifts from one viewpoint to another which he termed perspective jumps (Perspectivensprungen). He noted that films at the time had an average of 500 such jumps or shifts in perspective, and drew attention to the fact that Homer had used a similar method in his description of Penelope’s visit to the treasure room when she goes to fetch Odysseus’ bow for the contest. But perhaps the most important consequence of Bühler’s extraordinary study has been the way it heralded developments in psycho-lingusitics.
The behaviorist school had assumed that children learned languages through imitation, association and reinforcement and were thus comparable to rats who learned to run through mazes with the "aid" of reward and punishment. Experimental evidence established however that only about 20% of the words of a two year old reflected imitations and that by the time a child was three only 8% of their vocabulary was based on imitation. These findings effectively eliminated behaviorism as a valid explanation. Chomsky’s suggestion that there were innate linguistic patterns at play left open the question of how the potential was realized. Piaget’s studies offered one possible answer, and also led to new directions of research. One was to explore relationships between hearing and understanding, which led to new attention concerning the order in which persons explained things. Studies by Ullmer-Ehrich and Levelt (1980, cf. Bösch 1981), at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics drew attention to the role of perspectival viewpoints in this process (5):
Local adverbs such as right, left, in front, behind, describe basic topological relations in (a) space. They belong to the so called "indexical" or "deictic" tools of speech. These point in their meaning to the speech situation in which they are expressed. In connection with this various anchorings in the situation are possible. Right can mean to the right of the speaker or to the right of the hearer. A (imaginary) walk can be described from a fixed point of observation or from the perspective of the person who is walking. In the first case the right/left orientation remains constant; in the second case it changes with every change in direction of the walking person. Moreover the indexical local adverbs, besides their situation dependent deictic function, also allow for a situation dependent intrinsic use in which the view or walking direction of the speaker or hearer plays no role.
The speaker is now faced with the extremely difficult task not only of choosing an apt perspective but also of describing the chosen perspective unequivocally, thus avoiding perspectival equivocations and noting each change in perspective. One means that is often used to make the perspectival position unequivocal is to replace spatial deicta with temporal ones. (Hence instead of saying "At the wall with the window there is a table and to the left thereof there is a cupboard", one says "At the wall with the window there is a table and then there is a cupboard".
Levelt’s studies suggested that descriptions of a model room entailed two basic patterns: one, right-right-right-right-below; the other, straight ahead, straight ahead, straight ahead, straight ahead, right. He claimed that subjects were at considerable pains to keep at a minimum the number of branch points since each of these changes of perspective rendered understanding more difficult.
Already in Antiquity there was a tradition that referred to the eyes as windows of the soul, thus linking vision with both the realm of the spirit and the moral world. In the mediaeval period, this evolved into a concept of moral optics which particularly favoured the image of the mirror. A whole genre of literature evolved around The mirror of the prince (speculum principis).
In the first decades of the seventeenth century some authors in Germany continued this image as in the anonymous Evangelical small perspective mirror (1620). Others replaced the mirror with a perspective glass or telescope as in the anonymous Perspective and conservative glass for blind Lutheran eyes (1631) or the Swedish perspective through which one look into the hearts of the named Catholic and Lutheran regents and know how they are partially among and against one another and particularly how they feel and are inclined for good or evil against the holy word of God’s church and German freedom (1632). This image was extended to a secular context in the anonymous Bellicose telescope, that is, a war perspective in which one can recognize what war is (1652). A variant of this image spread to England where an anonymous supplement to a book called A good souldier was entitled: A prospective glasse wherein the child in understanding is enabled to see what the wicked counsellors did above twenty years ago... with the help of chrystall spectacles [1644?], followed by A prospective glass for Christians to behold the reigning sins of this age (c.1688). In the United States, there was at least one book entitled Prospect or view of the moral world (1805).
Kaufman (1960), pursued these themes in Relativism, knowledge and faith. He distinguished between internal and external relativism (14):
External relativism is the theory which claims to be based on what are supposed to be the results of objective, descriptive analyses of various historical periods of various cultures or of differing social movements or individuals within a given culture or historical period....It must either presuppose a standpoint (such as that of scientific method) which is assumed not to be historically conditioned, or it must establish the validity of its own standpoint by arbitrary fiat.
In order to avoid these absurdities of standpoint, he turned to internal relativism (15):
Internal relativism grows out of the investigator’s attempt to "get inside" the strange culture, or historical period, or person he is studying, to such a degree that the strangeness of the customs and the ways of thought of the subject is overcome. The perspective from which the strange culture views reality gradually becomes a perspective which the investigator himself can assume, and as he is able to do this with increasing sympathetic sensitivity, he actually begins to apprehend the norms recognized from that perspective as norms, i.e. in terms of their very normativeness.
Kaufman was convinced that this internal relativism could not simply be dismissed and hence set out (22):
to develop a theory of the knowing process which on the one hand, can do justice to the normative character of knowledge (and thus can account for its own existence without falling into logical and epistemological absurdity) and, on the other hand, can show how thought is bound to the concrete situation in which it emerges (and thus account for the relativity of perspectives and the apparent relativity of truth).
Schmitz (1977) explored these themes in The Godly and Space.
Jones (1985), in an important book on the Logic of theological perspectives reviewed four Anglo-Saxon thinkers, namely, John Wisdom, R.M. Hare, John Hicks and Ian Barbour. He drew attention to patterns in time and the structure of temporal events in Wisdom’s (1944), Gods, and Paradox and discovery (1965). Jones examined the concept of view(s) in Hare’s (1955), Theology and falsification. Jones also compared the concepts of "experiencing as" as articulated by Hicks in Theology and verification (1960), and God and the universe of faiths (1973), with Barbour’s (1974), "interpreting as" described in Myths, models and paradigms (1974). Jones observed how the "as" aspect of experiencing and interpreting was an important expression of the human condition and related these discussions to debates concerning paradigm change in Kuhn’s (1962), Structure of scientific revolutions, relegating consideration of Kuhn’s (1970), Second thoughts to an appendix.
Part two was devoted to a linguistic analysis of perspectival discourse. Here Jones focussed on Wittgenstein’s concepts of aspect-seeing and world views (see above p. 177). Part three focussed on three philosophical and theological applications of perspectival discourse: namely, Polanyi’s personal perspective as outlined in his Personal knowledge (1964); Kaufman’s (1960), historical perspective in Relativism, knowledge and faith, and Paul van Buren’s (1968), concept of story as the bearer of perspective in his Theological explorations,and The edges of language (1972). Here Jones focussed on three points: the fundamental role of language in all human existence; religious discourse as a perspectival preoccupation with certain aspects of human existence and story as a bearer of faith and perspective. In the final part of his study Jones suggested that:
the story concept has an advantage over concepts such as history, myth, symbol etc. in that it allows a participation in a variety of overlapping semantic fields; that it points to a process of interpretation and a distinction between fictive and real worlds and that it brings to the foreground the actually used language as a natural phenomenon, i.e. as an expression of a way of life. This approach opens the way not only to biblical and church traditions but also to one’s understanding of oneself.
In suggesting that one’s life story could serve as a model, Jones was concerned with how this story could be accepted, modified, extended or denied. He was concerned with the logical space of human thought and action and it was specifically this logical space which he termed perspective. His final section set out to show that perspective in this sense constituted the fundament of our being and operational orientation (Daseins- und Handlungsorientierung).
Just as there are claims that linear perspective goes back to Antiquity, claims have been made that metaphorical uses of perspective in the sense of a viewpoint can be traced back to Antiquity and even as far back as Babylonian literature. We have suggested that these claims are mistaken: that in terms of visual images, Antiquity knew only optical adjustments and that in terms of verbal images, Antiquity may have been aware of viewpoints, but that this was something very different from that which developed in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.
Elsewhere (Sources, pp. 183-185), we argued that there were not accidental parallels between a) Giotto’s new interest in realism that led to his illusionistic frescoes, in the positive sense, in Assisi, Padua and Florence; and b) Dante’s new interest in metaphor. In the opening chapter of this book we went further to suggest that the origins of both Giotto’s visual illusionism and Dante’s verbal metaphor lay in a re-definition of knowledge in the 1260’s first articulated by Roger Bacon under the patronage of the pope(s) at Viterbo. In this chapter we have suggested that this redefinition of knowledge led ultimately to both the origins of perspective in painting and the beginnings of an individual viewpoint in literature. We have shown, moreover, that both phenomena evolved slowly beginning from the mid-thirteenth and continuing directly until the mid-seventeenth century. The Annales school in France, as epitomized by Braudel, has insisted on a similar unfolding of history in the long term (à longue durée).
This has serious consequences for it means that most of our textbook generalizations which link the Renaissance, often specifically the Florentine Renaissance in the period 1400-1425, with the discovery of perspective and the birth of the individual (in the sense of having a unique viewpoint), need to be revised. What historians have persuaded us to have been a single event was a long process with a number of significant stages (cf. fig. 2).
If the practical development of the phenomena of perspective in painting and its verbal equivalent in literature was a matter of nearly five (mid-thirteenth to mid-seventeenth) centuries, serious reflection about its literary and philosophical uses only began at the end of that phase. Hence the very decades of the 1630’s and 1640’s in which Desargues was articulating the underlying principles of perspective, also marked when Pascal began to explore the value of perspective as a metaphor in philosophy, a theme continued by Leibniz and, as we have shown almost every major philosopher since. With respect to literature this process was equally slow. While Lessing touched upon and Goethe and Herder wrote extensively on the uses of perspective as a metaphor, it was not until the twentieth century that writers such as James, and theorists such as Lubbock, Lanser and Lintvelt, explored these implications in detail.
In other words, if the origins of perspective were a slow matter of five centuries, the discovery or uncovery of its implications has equally been a matter of the long term, in the sense of the Annales school. That which began in the seventeenth century has not yet ended. Hence while some would have us believe that perspective died in the twentieth century, it could more reasonably argued that the twentieth century has been the first to study in detail the deeper consequences of perspective. And while some would have us believe that perspective was in some mysterious way necessarily linked with the invention of printing, or rather the particular kinds of print culture that evolved in the Renaissance, we would argue that the advent of electronic media are bringing into focus for the first time some of its more dramatic consequences.
We found that what applies to both the uses and understanding of perspective as a metaphor in literature, applies equally to philosophy and theology. Here too awareness of the implications has been very slow, beginning in the seventeenth and gradually gathering momentum until serious studies evolved in the twentieth century. There is yet a third parallel to be made. For, in our study of the history of bibliographies of perspective (fig. 9), we learned that this also was a slow process that evolved from the early seventeenth through the twentieth centuries, and that it was only very gradually that scholars became aware of the need for detailed bibliographic records. We noted that this process has not ended, that even now our methods for recording the past are being refined. We also observed on more than one occasion that a more detailed understanding of the past only became possible as these methods for recording the past improved: that a refinement of the tools changed the criteria for evidence in discussing the past and conversely.
These parallels are not co-incidental.Those aware of and concerned with perspective both literally and metaphorically are also concerned with an historical approach which emphasizes the importance not just of texts but all evidence of the past. The study of space leads also to the study of time. By contrast those who would have us believe that "it’s history" simply means something is finished, passé, and useless; those who would have us believe that only the now counts, that eternity is only in an instant that is timeless or that the timely is more important than time, are precisely those who wish to convince us that space in the perspectival sense does not count, that the particular which changes with time and space does not count and ultimately that it is only universals which matter.
From this emerge two fundamentally different approaches to the world. One which searches for the eternal and enduring in those things that last over time and space. In this view, space is used to record objects, and time (history) confirms that which is enduring, confirms the value of a text, a painting or other monuments. So sources are important. This approach records changes in time and space but yearns for the unchanging. Hence, objects such as Greek temples become symbols of the lasting. The other approach seeks the eternal in the ephemeral, the moment, the now. In this approach, space is used not to record but rather to transform, alter and edit objects, while time (history) subverts the value of a text, an image or any object which seemed enduring. The fact that a text of Hamlet undergoes different interpretations in the course of centuries is used as proof that one cannot rely on an original "source", but must privilege equally all editions. This approach tries to capture the now in a note, a dance or a performance and searches for what does not change with time and space in logic, structures, principles. Paradoxically those who emphasize the fleeting moment also champion the universal, the archetypal and the gestalt. The first approach emphasizes content: the second focusses on form.
The consequences of these different approaches are profound. They affect definitions of what visual means, what history is, where truth lies and the very meaning of knowledge. The first approach insists that the visual is separate from the verbal, because it recognizes that the visual allows a one-to-one correspondence to nature, in the recording of particulars. Hence the visual corresponds to what is seen, or at least can correspond to what is seen. When it does there is knowledge. The second approach speaks of the visual as if it were like the verbal and will thus refer to visual language, visual grammar, visual logic and propositional representation as superior to quasi-pictorial representation (cf. fig. 66). While speaking of the visual and visualization, the proponents of this school mean that which cannot be seen, that for which there is no one-to-one correspondence to nature.
The first of these approaches emphasizes the importance of history, the second denies history and tries to convince us that everything is news: that news is not just something to be seen or heard once a day, but rather something that can be continuous through a news channel. And paradoxically those who emphasize news are constantly reporting on the importance of structures of and patterns in groups, masses, movements, societies, whereas those who are historical focus on the role of individuals and personalities, the single, separate, specific, distinct, particular, personal, distinctive and definite as opposed to the communal, collaborative, general, and politically correct, i.e. that which fits in with and so blends with the mass as to be indistinct, indefinite, and impersonal.
All this may sound slightly familiar. It should. Earlier in this chapter in our discussion of developments in sociology, a contrast was made between traditional and social perspective (fig. 68). Traditional perspective emphasized the individual, where social perspective focussed on the group. Traditional perspective insisted on quality, being independent, privacy, a particular viewpoint, inner worlds, levels of meaning, spiritual gain, being a-political, content, knowledge as facts, truth, being and substance. By contrast, social perspective argued for quantity, being inter-dependent and collaborative, no sense of privacy, consensus, exterior worlds, levels of discourse, material gain, being politicized and empowered, form rather than content, knowledge as construction and interaction, agreement rather than truth, seeming rather than being, illusion through image rather than substance.
The first approach accepts that there are objects, that there is "reality" and that truth and knowledge are discovered in time and space. Hence truth and knowledge deal with sources, with things that are real. The second approach challenges the value of words such as objects, reality, truth and even knowledge, arguing that whatever is valuable lies in the now, the momentary, the fleeting. Opinions differ as to what this means. Some claim that the now can include unchanging structures: logical principles, mathematical formulae. Others conclude that only performance is therefore of value: so the now is reduced to a film, a television program, a play, a dance, a concert, or in its most extreme form to fleeting dance movement, an ephemeral note. Hence truth and knowledge, to the extent that it even makes sense to speak of them, lie in abstraction and in performance. The first approach finds knowledge and truth in static, concrete things: the second approach argues that, if they exist, they are to be sought in abstract concepts and dynamic acts (musical, theatrical). The first emphasizes content. The second emphasizes form.
Perhaps it is no co-incidence that these two conflicting approaches underly many of the debates concerning the so-called information highway, in which some emphasize information (content), while many emphasize the highway, in terms of pipelining (form), such that the medium is the message in a new sense.
These contrasts are more than a snapshot of two passing stereotypes of "everyman" or "everyperson" as we find him and her on the street today. They reflect a much more profound pattern or struggle that has to do with our basic conceptions of knowledge: a new version of the struggle between universals and particulars. In our analysis we examined the study of perspective in a whole range of disciplines which, on the surface, were tremendously disparate, namely, ethnology, anthropology, psychology, psychiatry, linguistics, and sociology. At another level these are precisely the so-called disciplines which have been taken over by those who are champions of the universals as opposed to the particulars. Initially this was reflected in the actual name of their school: they were structuralists. In the meantime their names try to undermine their roots: they are post-structuralists, post-post structuralists, constructionists, de-constructionists, re-constructionists, even post-modernists.
They emphasize the importance of concepts over percepts; conceptual versus perceptual knowledge; abstract ideas over concrete experience. They speak of virtual as if it were reality itself. They pooh-pooh as retrogade anyone so naive as still to believe in realism in any form. They refer to scholarship as if it were another branch of the news. They constantly emphasize the latest findings and describe as utterly out of date and not with it someone who dares to cite an article or book written more than a decade ago.
It is not surprising therefore that this approach emphasizes psychology, sociology, and politics, which they call a science (political science), while trying to undermine the study of history (time) -- except of course their own--, and geography (space), in its physical sense, although they emphasize abstract, conceptual aspects of space. In this approach, subjects which are firmly rooted in reality are not really subjects. Forestry, for example, is a field that can be eliminated. Experiments which emphasize the links with a physical world are thus also suspect. So experiments with real mice in psychology can be replaced by simulated mice, and students can be led to make conclusions about the limits of the "real" world on the bases of limited simulations imposed by instructors. Experiments with real cadavers in medicine can be replaced by virtual cadavers, which do not stink and will give students a more comfortable, regular and regulated view of the body. Experiments in physcs and chemistry can increasingly be simulated. The world to be studied is a simulated world, not the physical world. The inconvenient exceptions to the rule, the challenges of understanding individuals who do not fit the pattern can be eliminated at best, or relegated to minorities which, rhetorically at least, have equal rights.
On the surface the second of these approaches is winning. Hence the change in subjects in our schools: the new emphasis on process, on performance, on form rather than content. Hence a tremendous attention to the information highway where the emphasis is only on the highway. Hence an insistence on transforming everything into something virtual: virtual classroom, virtual (space) university, virtual resource centre, virtual museum (now something quite different from the phrase coined by André Malraux), and even, or especially, virtual reality. Hence the undermining of time and space in the curriculum, such that history and geography are given less significance, or are carefully re-written to reveal progress in terms of moving towards abstraction. The twentieth century is described in terms of the death of perspective (cf. fig. 1). As a result, abstract art and quantum physics gain new significance. And there is a curious downplay of experience in teaching while emphasizing the importance of schooling, practice, performance; which in turn reflects the current fashion in business and in the workplace. Theories of truth and knowledge are not as abstract as they seem. They affect everything that we do.
It is vital that we recognize that these two approaches represent fundamental aspects of the human condition, that it is not a question of the one winning or the other losing, but rather a challenge of both complementing one another in the way that male and female, yin and yang do. We need certain persons to focus on knowledge and information in the sense of content, while others work on form, in the sense of pipelining or the highway. Else the information highway will be an empty and a dead end road. Evolution is embracing not replacing. So the history of perspective as a metaphor is much more than a turn of phrase. It takes us into the central problems of learning and being, today and in the future. The origins of perspective came about through a re-definition of knowledge. If the one-sided approach to knowledge that has gained the upper hand continues to gain dominance, then more than the end of perspective is at stake. Perspective is not just linear. It is a central phenomenon.
Last Update: August 4, 1998