Intrinsic Multiperspectivity: Conceptual Forms and the Functional Architecture of the Perceptual System

In Welsch Wolfgang, Singer Wolf & Wunder Andre (eds.), Interdisciplinary Anthropology. Springer. pp. 19--54 (2011)
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It is a characteristic feature of our mental make-up that the same perceptual input situation can simultaneously elicit conflicting mental perspectives. This ability pervades our perceptual and cognitive domains. Striking examples are the dual character of pictures in picture perception, pretend play, or the ability to employ metaphors and allegories. I argue that traditional approaches, beyond being inadequate on principle grounds, are theoretically ill equipped to deal with these achievements. I then outline a theoretical perspective that has emerged from a theoretical convergence of perceptual psychology, ethology, linguistics, and developmental research. On the basis of this framework, I argue that corresponding achievements are brought forth by a specific type of functional architecture whose core features are as follows: (1) a perceptual system that is biologically furnished with a rich system of conceptual forms, (2) a triggering relation between the sensory input and conceptual forms by which the same sensory input can be exploited by different types or systems of conceptual forms, and (3) computational principles for handling semantically underspecified conceptual forms. Characteristic features of the proposed theoretical framework are pointed out using the Heider–Simmel phenomenon as an example.

Author's Profile

Rainer Mausfeld
Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel


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