Shape Perception in a Relativistic Universe

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

Peter Epstein
Cambridge University
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
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1093/mind/fzw034
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 40,715
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The View From Nowhere.Thomas Nagel - 1986 - Oxford University Press.
Individualism and the Mental.Tyler Burge - 1979 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4 (1):73-122.
The Varieties of Reference.Louise M. Antony, Gareth Evans & John McDowell - 1987 - Philosophical Review 96 (2):275.

View all 68 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Spatial Experience and Special Relativity.Brian Cutter - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (9):2297-2313.
The Qualitative Character of Spatial Perception.Douglas B. Meehan - 2007 - Dissertation, Graduate Center, City University of New York
A Layered View of Shape Perception.E. J. Green - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (2).
Can We See Natural Kind Properties?René Jagnow - 2015 - Epistemology and Philosophy of Science 44 (2):183-205.
Action and Variation in Perception.Kristjan Laasik - 2017 - European Journal of Philosophy 25 (4):1364-1375.
An Argument for Shape Internalism.Jan Almäng - 2017 - Erkenntnis 82 (4):819-836.
Seeing Shape: Shape Appearances and Shape Constancy.D. J. Bennett - 2012 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 63 (3):487-518.
Perceptual Experience and the Capacity to Act.Susanna Schellenberg - 2010 - In N. Gangopadhay, M. Madary & F. Spicer (eds.), Perception, Action, and Consciousness. Oxford University Press. pp. 145.
The Spatial Content of Experience.Brad Thompson - 2010 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 81 (1):146-184.


Added to PP index

Total views
57 ( #136,207 of 2,243,739 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
7 ( #254,153 of 2,243,739 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature