Journal Article

Seeing Shape: Shape Appearances and Shape Constancy

David J. Bennett

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 63, issue 3, pages 487-518
Published in print September 2012 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online September 2011 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Seeing Shape: Shape Appearances and Shape Constancy

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A coin rotating back in depth in some sense presents a changing, elliptical shape. How are we to understand such (in this case) ‘appearances of ellipticality’? How is the experiential sense of such shifting shape appearances related to the experiential sense of enduring shape definitive of perceived shape constancy? Is the experiential recovery of surface shape based on the prior (perhaps more fundamental) recovery of point or element 3D spatial locations?—or is the perception of shape a largely independent perceptual achievement? Do we gain access to enduring shape properties by first detecting and working from ‘shape appearances’? These are some of the topics taken up in this paper.


2Some General Assumptions

3Isolating Shape Properties Represented in Experience

4Shape Appearance Properties—Fine-grained Alternatives

5Perceived Surface Shape Constancy

6No Need for Positing Modes of Presentation in Understanding Perceived Surface Shape Constancy

7A Summing Up

Appendix: A Note on the Geometry of Surfaces

Journal Article.  13867 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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