Monstrous faces and a world transformed: Merleau-Ponty, Dolezal, and the enactive approach on vision without inversion of the retinal image

The world perceived by a person undergoing vision without inversion of the retinal image has traditionally been described as inverted. Drawing on the philosophical work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and the empirical research of Hubert Dolezal, I argue that this description is more reflective of a representationist conception of vision than of actual visual experience. The world initially perceived in vision without inversion of the retinal image is better described as lacking in lived significance rather than inverted; vision without inversion of the retinal image affects the very content of the perceived world, including, importantly, its expressions and conducts, and not merely the orientation of this content. Moreover, I argue that the enactive approach, rather than a representationist approach, is best able to account for the perception of the world, after prolonged vision without inversion of the retinal image, as both normal and upright, yet still different from the world seen previously. Finally, in their attention to the perception of other people’s facial expressions, I argue that Merleau-Ponty and Dolezal draw out the existential significance of the enactive approach. In encountering another person, the most pressing task is generally not to observe this person’s features but, instead, to engage with this person’s expressions.
Keywords Vision without inversion of the retinal image  Maurice Merleau-Ponty  Hubert Dolezal  Inverted world  Enactive approach
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DOI 10.1007/s11097-011-9210-6
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