Gibson's ambient light and light speed constancy

Philosophical Psychology 25 (4):1-16 (2011)
Special relativity insists that the speed of light in a vacuum is constant for all inertial observers. This is often said to be counterintuitive: why should light alone, among all things in the world, return the same speed value to all inertial observers, regardless of their different states of motion? I argue that this question or puzzle arises because physics misconstrues light by characterizing it as a freestanding phenomenon. As James Gibson insisted, and as any analysis of the visual experience makes plain, light, the agency of sight, cannot be overtaken by sight. A better characterization of light is Gibson's optic array, which prompts the realization that our prior complicity with light keeps us from getting leverage on it as a freestanding phenomenon, and this is why it returns the same speed value to all observers. To show the limitation of freestanding light, I offer two derivations of relativistic time dilation. The first imagines freestanding light and then, to complete the derivation, artificially requires light speed constancy; the second achieves the same result in a fully natural way?that is, without putting observers in an abstract, arguably impossible, situation?by merely attending to the seeing experience
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DOI 10.1080/09515089.2011.622365
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