Seeing As and Seeing That

Matthew D. Lund

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


We have been dealing with the concept of “seeing as.…” It has been argued that in most of the cases where we speak of what we see, as when we see boxes, ducks, rabbits, bears, bicycles, and x-ray tubes, we are speaking of having visual impressions which we see as boxes, ducks, rabbits, etc. This seeing as is a central component of what we ordinarily call “seeing.” Several cases were noted of people having roughly the same retinal reactions to a visual stimulus X, and perhaps having the same visual impressions, or sense-data, of it as well, but where the parties concerned did not see X in the same way. One sees X as a Y, the other sees it as a Z, etc. And besides considering slightly bizarre examples of this, things like reversible figures and shifting-aspect figures, we saw that in certain important respects the seeing of airfoils, x-ray tubes, bicycles—indeed, the seeing of most of our familiar material objects—consists in part of this element I have been calling “seeing as …” When our seeing of physical objects lacks this “seeing as …” quality, e.g., in the oculist’s office or when in research we encounter a visual phenomenon wholly new to our experience, we are up against the unusual cases, the non-typical cases. That is my contention. These cases are outstanding and important only when contrasted with our more usual varieties of seeing things. The “phenomenal” description of what the research microscopist sees is only instrumental to his goal of one day describing what is before him on the slide in physical object terms, in terms of what the thing before his eyes is seen as.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSynthese Library
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2018

Publication series

NameSynthese Library
ISSN (Print)0166-6991
ISSN (Electronic)2542-8292

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • History
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Logic


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