Shape Perception in a Relativistic Universe

Mind 127 (506):339-379 (2018)

Authors
Peter Epstein
Cambridge University
Abstract
According to Minkoswki, Einstein's special theory of relativity reveals that ‘space by itself, and time by itself are doomed to fade away into mere shadows’. But perceptual experience represents objects as instantiating shapes like squareness — properties of ‘space by itself’. Thus, STR seems to threaten the veridicality of shape experience. In response to this worry, some have argued that we should analyze the contents of our spatial experiences on the model of traditional secondary qualities. On this picture—defended in recent work by Chalmers —an experience of squareness just represents whatever property usually causes such experiences. This view salvages the veridicality of shape experience, but leaves the nature of the properties we perceive outside our ken. I argue that such a move is unwarranted: STR is compatible with the idea that shape experience acquaints us with the spatial character of our world. In defending this claim, I propose a view on which shape experience presents familiar Euclidean spatial properties veridically, while implicitly representing those properties as instantiated in a particular manner — namely, relative to our own frame of reference.
Keywords Spatial Experience  Special Relativity  Intrinsic Properties  Perception  Primary and Secondary Qualities
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DOI 10.1093/mind/fzw034
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