Philosophical Studies

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

False reflections

Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Mirrors Appearances Illusion Perception of space Catoptrics 

Notes

Acknowledgments

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.

References

  1. Bertamini, M., Lawson, R., & Liu, D. (2008). Understanding 2D projections on mirrors and on windows. Spatial Vision, 21(3–5), 273–289. doi: 10.1163/156856808784532527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Block, N. (1974). Why do mirrors reverse right/left but not up/down. The Journal of Philosophy, 71(9), 259–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Casati, R. (2012). Illusions and epistemic innocence. In C. Calabi (Ed.), Perceptual illusions. Philosophical and psychological essays (pp. 192–201). London: Palgrave MacMillan.Google Scholar
  4. Clark, A. (1996). Three varieties of visual field. Philosophical Psychology, 9(4), 477–495. doi: 10.1080/09515089608573196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Evans, G. (1982). In J. McDowell (Ed.), The Varieties of Reference. Oxford: Clarendon Press.  Google Scholar
  6. Jones, L. A., & Bertamini, M. (2007). Through the looking glass: How the relationship between an object and its reflection affects the perception of distance and size. Perception, 36, 1572–1594. doi: 10.1068/p5605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Katz, M. (2002). Introduction to geometrical optics. River Edge, NJ: World Scientific.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Mac Cumhaill, C. (2011). Specular space. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, cxi(3), 487–495. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9264.2011.00320.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Martin, M. G. F. (2016). Elusive objects. Topoi. doi: 10.1007/s11245-016-9389-9.
  10. Matthen, M. (forthcoming). Some principles of ephemeral vision. In C. Mac Cumhaill & T. Crowther (Eds.), Perceptual ephemera. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Millar, B. (2011). Sensory phenomenology and perceptual content. Philosophical Quarterly, 61, 558–576. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9213.2011.696.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Mizrahi, V. (forthcoming). Perceptual media, glass and mirrors. In C. Mac Cumhaill & T. Crowther (Eds.), Perceptual ephemera. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Sellars, W. (1997). Empiricism and the philosophy of mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Turbayne, C. M. (1959). Grosseteste and an ancient optical principle. Isis, 50(4), 467–472. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9213.2011.696.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Vendler, Z. (1994). The ineffable soul. In R. Warner & T. Szubka (Eds.), The mind body problem: A guide to the current debate (pp. 317–328). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Philosophical PsychologyUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium

Personalised recommendations