Conventionalism in Reid’s ‘Geometry of Visibles’

Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 34:467-489 (2003)
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Abstract

The role of conventions in the formulation of Thomas Reid’s theory of the geometry of vision, which he calls the “geometry of visibles”, is the subject of this investigation. In particular, we will examine the work of N. Daniels and R. Angell who have alleged that, respectively, Reid’s “geometry of visibles” and the geometry of the visual field are non-Euclidean. As will be demonstrated, however, the construction of any geometry of vision is subject to a choice of conventions regarding the construction and assignment of its various properties, especially metric properties, and this fact undermines the claim for a unique non-Euclidean status for the geometry of vision. Finally, a suggestion is offered for trying to reconcile Reid’s direct realist theory of perception with his geometry of visibles.

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Edward Slowik
Winona State University

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