Category Archives: Space

Seeing What is in Front of You (Follow-up to my 2018 book, Philosophy of Time & Perceptual Experience)

Note: This post is a follow-up to the chapters in my 2018 book about visual experiences of spatially distant things, things that are at some depth in one’s visual experience.  

Note 2: All illustrations are by me. This is why they are not very good.

It is common to talk about the direction of vision, visual direction, or line of sight. It is common to talk generally about where things are located visually and to talk about a direction in vision. It seems right to say that things seem to be located in a particular visual way to the seeing subject. In addition, some things can be said to be visually off to the side or straight in front of the seeing subject.

It is also common to talk about how things can seem to be in front of you visually, or off to the side, yet not be. The visual appearance, its visual location, can be distorted or mistaken. Presumably, this is because how things appear is different to how things actually are.

However, I have problems with deciding what actual or real direction should be used to evaluate this visual appearance. So far as I’ve looked, I can only find bad reasons to hold that a visual appearance of direction is inaccurate.

That, for many, will be odd. Perhaps I’ve not looked enough. So, let me tell you about how I got here: when working out what the standard or reality for visual direction is, there seems to be nothing that will do. Except one thing – but, for that thing, visual appearance is always right.

Which is strange.

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Failing to See the Illusion

Every year, there is a competition for who can come up with the best ‘illusion’:

This year’s winner is a dynamic variant of the Ebbinghaus Illusion (by Christopher D. Blair, Gideon P. Caplovitz, and Ryan E.B. Mruczek at University of Nevada Reno):

There are several runners-up including one called ‘A Turn in the Road’ (by Kimberley D. Orsten and James R. Pomerantz, Rice University, Houston):


I can see the dynamic Ebbinghaus effect (although not sure of the difference in seeing it from the side).

However, try as I might I have not been able to see the illusion in the ‘Turn in the Road’.

I don’t see how rearranging the different images alters which one seems to be the odd one out. When the video finishes with an overlap it is unsurprising.

But I think I know what I am supposed to experience. And, perhaps, what is being assumed to be behind this alleged experience.

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