Event Title

The metaphor of perspective: Seeing and what seeing ought to be

Presenter Information

Drina Bosnjak

Start Date

25-6-2010 10:45 AM

End Date

25-6-2010 11:45 AM

Description

This presentation is part of the Metaphor and Vision track.

When people talk about visual perception, the discussion will generally include folk psychological intuitions about what happens when we see. Ironically, it is the explicit or know-that aspects of vision that we have access to, and visual theory is often a descriptive account of what sorts of processes go on when we see i.e. the implicit or know-how. The language of perceptual philosophy is imbued with information from the procedural components of vision and will undoubtedly be (at least in part) determined by what we understand to be the theory of vision we accept. The descriptive account of seeing will have a normative effect on theories by way of both enabling and restricting how or what might count as seeing. Given the gravity of descriptive underpinnings, I would like to turn to a theory I consider incredibly important to feminist projects.

The central concern of my paper will deal with the visual metaphor for knowing as conceived by Donna Haraway. I hold the scientific theory of vision underpinning a visual metaphor will have conceptual implications for its framework. I will examine the concept of partial vision or perspectival vision as it functions as a metaphor for knowing. My focus will be on conditions of agency implicit in feminist definitions of the knowing subject, and the correspondence of these conditions in Haraway’s account of partial vision.

First, I will examine Haraway’s account of vision in closer detail and through a critical lens of selected works by Sonia Kruks, Sandra Harding, Lorraine Code and Iris Marion Young attempt to see if the visual metaphor as employed by Haraway is successful in providing a framework for diverse and variable knowing subjects. Kruks charges Haraway’s account of partial vision of being passive in important ways. Passivity in the account of vision is a problem that seems to persist in some readings of Haraway’s partial vision.

Agency is implicit in how feminist (and other) theorists conceive of the knowing subject; and important aspects of knowing are contingent on some degree of elective, deliberative, conscious treatment and acquisition of knowledges. This problem of passivity seems to stem (in part) from the account of visual perception that informs and constitutes the framework developed by Haraway. “Here, primate vision is not immediately a very powerful metaphor or technology for feminist political-epistemological clarification, since it seems to present to consciousness already processed and objectified fields; things seem already fixed and distanced.” (Haraway SCW 1991 195) This quote reveals an underlying assumption about the nature of a perceptual subject’s access to the world; that being one of a ready-made already processed nature, with little weight placed on the power of the seer. The power of the partial vision subject lies in her consciousness of (already) existing locations, visual matter, meanings and power structures. If we are to adopt a metaphor for dealing with accounts of standpoint, partiality and diversity that have long since been neglected by traditional epistemological and scientific accounts of knowledge, we must take care to adopt tools that resolve the problems identified within those traditionalist accounts in the best way that we can. I will examine whether the theory of vision underpinning Haraway’s metaphor might be supplemented and/ or substituted by alternative accounts of vision. More specifically, I will consider two alternative theories of vision in the vein of direct perception: the first is Gibson’s theory of Ecological Vision; and the second will be Sensorimotor Vision as developed by Alva Noë and Kevin O’Regan. Both are theories of direct perception however they emphasize slight differences in the role of the subject and the role of the environment and their relation to one another that result in philosophically distinct ends. In both alternative visual theories, the role of the subject is more active than in the one implied by Haraway.

Third, agency takes on plural meanings in Haraway’s work. We encounter part that is a feminist epistemological agency such as is found in the work of Lorraine Code. We encounter an agency that is attributed to the object of knowledge. Another agency still, is found throughout most of her article, where subject/object/environment appear to be intricately linked and contingent upon one another. All three will be explicated, however I will focus on the implications of the agency she attributes to the world, and objects of knowledge with which epistemology engages. “Situated knowledges require that the object of knowledge be pictured as an actor and agent, not a screen or ground or a resource, never finally as slave to the master that closes off the dialectic in his unique agency and authorship of ‘objective’ knowledge. The point is paradigmatically clear in critical approaches to the social and human sciences, where the agency of people studied itself transforms the entire project of producing social theory.” (Haraway SCW 198) This ‘activation of objects’ through engagement has allies in the ecofeminist (and some others) tradition, but what might the implications be for focussing on the activation of objects of knowledge, and subsuming the active capacities of visual activity within a theory of strategic positioning within already existent and made locations? I do not contest that the environment (and its objects) does more than remain inert in our knowing and seeing, however emphasis on the agency of the object of knowledge and minimal assertions of agency on the part of the seer, leave this project missing something that I think feminist epistemic accounts would benefit form. Partial Vision and/or the metaphor of seems to swallow visual agency that is present in some alternative theories of vision. Whether this is a result of an emphasis on already made and existent meanings in the world, something else, or if any shift in meaning is a shift of the Saussureian kind thereby making a more individualist account impossible, a more critical examination is needed if nothing more that to fortify the metaphor of partial vision for feminist projects.

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Jun 25th, 10:45 AM Jun 25th, 11:45 AM

The metaphor of perspective: Seeing and what seeing ought to be

This presentation is part of the Metaphor and Vision track.

When people talk about visual perception, the discussion will generally include folk psychological intuitions about what happens when we see. Ironically, it is the explicit or know-that aspects of vision that we have access to, and visual theory is often a descriptive account of what sorts of processes go on when we see i.e. the implicit or know-how. The language of perceptual philosophy is imbued with information from the procedural components of vision and will undoubtedly be (at least in part) determined by what we understand to be the theory of vision we accept. The descriptive account of seeing will have a normative effect on theories by way of both enabling and restricting how or what might count as seeing. Given the gravity of descriptive underpinnings, I would like to turn to a theory I consider incredibly important to feminist projects.

The central concern of my paper will deal with the visual metaphor for knowing as conceived by Donna Haraway. I hold the scientific theory of vision underpinning a visual metaphor will have conceptual implications for its framework. I will examine the concept of partial vision or perspectival vision as it functions as a metaphor for knowing. My focus will be on conditions of agency implicit in feminist definitions of the knowing subject, and the correspondence of these conditions in Haraway’s account of partial vision.

First, I will examine Haraway’s account of vision in closer detail and through a critical lens of selected works by Sonia Kruks, Sandra Harding, Lorraine Code and Iris Marion Young attempt to see if the visual metaphor as employed by Haraway is successful in providing a framework for diverse and variable knowing subjects. Kruks charges Haraway’s account of partial vision of being passive in important ways. Passivity in the account of vision is a problem that seems to persist in some readings of Haraway’s partial vision.

Agency is implicit in how feminist (and other) theorists conceive of the knowing subject; and important aspects of knowing are contingent on some degree of elective, deliberative, conscious treatment and acquisition of knowledges. This problem of passivity seems to stem (in part) from the account of visual perception that informs and constitutes the framework developed by Haraway. “Here, primate vision is not immediately a very powerful metaphor or technology for feminist political-epistemological clarification, since it seems to present to consciousness already processed and objectified fields; things seem already fixed and distanced.” (Haraway SCW 1991 195) This quote reveals an underlying assumption about the nature of a perceptual subject’s access to the world; that being one of a ready-made already processed nature, with little weight placed on the power of the seer. The power of the partial vision subject lies in her consciousness of (already) existing locations, visual matter, meanings and power structures. If we are to adopt a metaphor for dealing with accounts of standpoint, partiality and diversity that have long since been neglected by traditional epistemological and scientific accounts of knowledge, we must take care to adopt tools that resolve the problems identified within those traditionalist accounts in the best way that we can. I will examine whether the theory of vision underpinning Haraway’s metaphor might be supplemented and/ or substituted by alternative accounts of vision. More specifically, I will consider two alternative theories of vision in the vein of direct perception: the first is Gibson’s theory of Ecological Vision; and the second will be Sensorimotor Vision as developed by Alva Noë and Kevin O’Regan. Both are theories of direct perception however they emphasize slight differences in the role of the subject and the role of the environment and their relation to one another that result in philosophically distinct ends. In both alternative visual theories, the role of the subject is more active than in the one implied by Haraway.

Third, agency takes on plural meanings in Haraway’s work. We encounter part that is a feminist epistemological agency such as is found in the work of Lorraine Code. We encounter an agency that is attributed to the object of knowledge. Another agency still, is found throughout most of her article, where subject/object/environment appear to be intricately linked and contingent upon one another. All three will be explicated, however I will focus on the implications of the agency she attributes to the world, and objects of knowledge with which epistemology engages. “Situated knowledges require that the object of knowledge be pictured as an actor and agent, not a screen or ground or a resource, never finally as slave to the master that closes off the dialectic in his unique agency and authorship of ‘objective’ knowledge. The point is paradigmatically clear in critical approaches to the social and human sciences, where the agency of people studied itself transforms the entire project of producing social theory.” (Haraway SCW 198) This ‘activation of objects’ through engagement has allies in the ecofeminist (and some others) tradition, but what might the implications be for focussing on the activation of objects of knowledge, and subsuming the active capacities of visual activity within a theory of strategic positioning within already existent and made locations? I do not contest that the environment (and its objects) does more than remain inert in our knowing and seeing, however emphasis on the agency of the object of knowledge and minimal assertions of agency on the part of the seer, leave this project missing something that I think feminist epistemic accounts would benefit form. Partial Vision and/or the metaphor of seems to swallow visual agency that is present in some alternative theories of vision. Whether this is a result of an emphasis on already made and existent meanings in the world, something else, or if any shift in meaning is a shift of the Saussureian kind thereby making a more individualist account impossible, a more critical examination is needed if nothing more that to fortify the metaphor of partial vision for feminist projects.