Philosophical Studies

, Volume 174, Issue 5, pp 1227–1242 | Cite as

False reflections

  • Maarten SteenhagenEmail author


Philosophers and psychologists often assume that mirror reflections are optical illusions. According to many authors, what we see in a mirror appears to be behind it. I discuss two strategies to resist this piece of dogma. As I will show, the conviction that mirror reflections are illusions is rooted in a confused conception of the relations between location, direction, and visibility. This conception is unacceptable to those who take seriously the way in which mirrors contribute to our experience of the world. My argument may be read as an advertisement of the neglected field of philosophical catoptrics, the philosophical study of the optical properties of mirrors. It enables us to recast familiar issues in the philosophy of perception.


Mirrors Appearances Illusion Perception of space Catoptrics 



Earlier versions of this material were presented to audiences in Toronto, Washington, and Antwerp. Special thanks go to Mike Bruno, Roberto Casati, Caitlin Dolan, Laura Gow, Benj Hellie, Grace Helton, Mark Kalderon, Mohan Matthen, Chris Meyns, Boyd Millar, Vivian Mizrahi, Bence Nanay, and Nick Young.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Philosophical PsychologyUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium

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