Self‐Images and “Perspicuous Representations”: Reflection, Philosophy, and the Glass Mirror

Metaphilosophy 46 (4-5):539-554 (2015)
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Abstract

Reflection names the central activity of Western philosophical practice; the mirror and its attendant metaphors of reflection are omnipresent in the self-image of Western philosophy and in metaphilosophical reflection on reflection. But the physical experiences of being reflected by glass mirrors have been inadequately theorized contributors to those metaphors, and this has implications not only for the self-image and the self of philosophy but also for metaphilosophical practice. This article begins to rethink the metaphor of reflection anew. Paying attention to the history of the glass mirror in Europe reveals and challenges the modern emergence of clear ontological distinctions between disembodied subjects and the objects of their knowledge, and suggests a compelling terrain of metaphilosophical analysis. On the reading offered by the article, the inherent complexity of the relationship between selves and their mirror images, a complexity mediated by social location, historical situation, and particular projects, points to significant spaces of unknowing, of indeterminacy, and of ontological ambiguity.

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Anna E. Mudde
University of Regina

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