Appearance, Judgment, and Norms
Are visual appearances “rich” or “thin”? On the “thin” side we find those (such as Alex Byrne) who limit the contents of visual experience to “low-level” properties (such as colors, textures, spatial relations, shapes, and motion). Advocates of richness (such as Susanna Siegel) say “high-level” properties figure not just in our beliefs about things, but also in their very “look”—properties such as being a bird, a child, a hat, or a fork. What we say about this issue will do much to determine our understanding of how experience warrants and gives meaning to what we think about our surroundings. This chapter argues for a phenomenological alternative to both Byrne’s and Siegel’s perspectives. While I agree that “thin” views neglect the wealth of experience, I deny visual experience attributes “high-level” properties to objects, or is rightly assessed with reference to norms of rationality. We honor the rich significance of visual experience not by likening it to assertion or assessing it according to norms of reason, but by bringing it under a distinctive category of “recognitional appearance,” a kind of experience as much in the service of imagination as of judgment, and integral to the activity of looking, which is subject to norms of its own.