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Imagination in Our Perception of Mountains

The importance of the relation between imagination and perception has recurred throughout western philosophy. It was the focus of Aristotle's concept of phantasia; Kant famously remarked that "Psychologists have hitherto failed to realise that the imagination is a necessary ingredient of perception itself"; and Wittgenstein's discussion of aspect seeing and seeing-as, in the final sections of the Philosophical Investigations, draws attention to the contribution that the subject's mind makes to perception.

My DPhil thesis is in this tradition, and attempts to develop the concept of imagining correctly; for if the imagination contributes to veridical perception, as these philosophers suggest, then the contribution of the imagination must be to imagine the object of perception correctly. (To misperceive a black plastic bag, on a dark night, by seeing it as a cat, for example, is to imagine the cat correctly and the bag incorrectly.)

The contribution of the mind to perception is familiar to mountain-goers who frequently see faces in rock formations. One of the most famous is the Old Man of the Mountain (now sadly collapsed) in the White Mountains, New Hampshire, USA. Here are two external webpages with pictures of rocks or mountains that may be seen as faces.

Ten Images

Various Images (Beware, this page includes a dodgy-looking image of a sleeping cat!)