How to Investigate the Grammar of Aspect- Perception: A Question in Wittgensteinian Method

Essays in Philosophy 13 (1):85-105 (2012)
Abstract
I argue that the typical Wittgensteinian method of philosophical investigation cannot help elucidate the grammar of aspect-seeing. In the typical Wittgensteinian method, we examine meaning in use: We practice language, and note the logical ramifications. I argue that the effectiveness of this method is hindered in the case of aspect-seeing by the fact that aspect-seeing involves an aberrant activity of seeing: Whereas it is normally nonsense to say that we choose what to see (decide to see the White House red, for instance), it is possible to see aspects at will—e.g. to decide to see Jastrow’s duck-rabbit as a duck. I suggest an alternative method of investigation, one that reflects on language from a disengaged standpoint: a method that allows us to entertain a form of conceptualization of an object but does not commit us to adopting that way—namely, that does not involve us in a use of the object according to the norms that govern that conceptualization. This method, I argue, fits the s ubject matter of aspect-perception, since aspect-perception itself involves such a disengaged form of reflection.
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