Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 813-833

First online:

No such look: problems with the dual content theory

  • Walter HoppAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Boston University Email author 

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It is frequently alleged that a round plate viewed from an oblique angle looks elliptical, and that when one tree is in front of another that is the same intrinsic size, the front one looks larger than the rear one. And yet there is also a clear sense in which the plate viewed from an angle looks round, and a clear sense in which the two trees look to be the same size. According to the Dual Content Theory (DCT), what explains these and other similar phenomena is that perceptual experiences present us with two different sorts of spatial properties: intrinsic and perspectival spatial properties. I will argue that the Dual Content Theory is false because it rests on flawed phenomenological descriptions of the experience of spatial properties. The only conditions under which a plate tilted away and an ellipse look alike, or two objects which are different in size look the same size, is when at least one of the objects being compared is misperceived. I will consider several responses to the arguments I present, and conclude by suggesting that abandoning DCT would constitute an improvement upon Noë’s enactive theory of perception.


Perception Perspective Appearance Space Enactivism Direct realism