Through a Shadow, Darkly

István Aranyosi
Bilkent University
The dictionary tells you that a shadow is a dark area or volume caused by an opaque object blocking some light. The definition is correct, but we need to clarify a couple of its elements: darkness and blocking. The clarification leads to the view that to see a shadow is a degree of failing to see a surface. I will also argue that seeing a silhouette (i.e. a backlit object) is a particular way of failing to see an object. Thus visual discriminability is not sufficient for seeing. Finally, I argue that comparative empirical research on shadows' contribution to amodal completion in apes and humans supports the view that humans, unlike apes, perceive shadows as shadows rather than as black objects, thus lending indirect support for my view that to see a shadow is a way and degree of failing to see a surface.
Keywords Shadows  Perception  Darkness  Amodal completion
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