Before and Beyond Representation: Towards an Enactive Conception of the Palaeolithic Image

Abstract

psychology of perception to answer. But an additional point that I want to argue in this paper is that as long as we treat cognition and material culture as separate and distinct epistemic domains of human experience our chances of understanding the nature of either are very limited. In considering the case of early imagery in particular, the underlying assumption of this paper is the following: image and perception are continuous; in changing the one you affect the other and thus you cannot understand the one in isolation from the other. The image, I will propose, is not simply the object of human perception; it is itself a historically situated component of human perceptual and cognitive architecture. So let us return to our question: How exactly do we see, and what exactly do we see when we look at the image below? If we turn to the neuroscience of vision for an answer this will be, more or less, of the following general form: what we really see when we look at this image, what our experience of seeing really consists of, is essentially an internal representation of the retinal image of this image that is automatically constructed and processed in the so-called primary visual cortex (V1) at the back of our heads. More simply, what we ‘really see’ is a representation of a representation of a representation. Uncontestable as this claim might be, at least on the neurophysiological side, I think most of us would agree that our personal intuition and experience of seeing tells us a different story. For indeed very simply, looking at these two drawings we do not feel anything like seeing them inside our heads, we see them right where they are, printed on the paper in front of us. O’Regan & Noë (2001, 955) provide another, less complicated, example that hopefully will convince even the Lambros Malafouris

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