Arnheim: "Early Stirrings" and "The Intelligence of Visual Perception"

Arnheim, R. (1997). "Early Stirrings" and "The Intelligence of Visual Perception." Visual thinking (pp. 1-36). Berkeley: University of California Press.


Starts by quoting Schopenhauer: reasoning is feminine; can only give after it has received. Moves  to claim that the mind must do two things: gather information and process it. Questions how practically divided processes are. Argues instead that "the collaboration of perceiving and thinking in cognition would be incomprehensible if such a division existed" (1).


Perception torn from thinking


Perception considered to be inferior to "higher" cognitive skills (reasoning). Medieval liberal arts -- language and mathematics (as opposed to mechanical arts, requiring labor). Reminiscent of Sir Ken Robinson''s analysis, except Arnheim''s premise that the arts are under-appreciated because based on perception rather than (assumed) thought. Attempts brief historical overview of how situation developed.


The senses mistrusted


references Pythagoreans valuing the Same (astronomy) over the unpredictability of the "world" (4). Concern that the senses/perceptions deceive. From the outside worldview to the mind. "Sensory perception and reasoning were established as antagonists, in need of each other but different from each other in principle" (6). 


Plato of two minds


Points to Plato''s "ambiguous attitude" (6): in searching for the generic character/commonality, must define particular nature of each. But how is it known if senses deceive? Mistrust of ordinary perception (references Socrates''s "losing the eye of his mind" in warning against danger of trusting senses [7]). Consider parable of the cave. 


Aristotle from below and from above


introduces notion of induction (knowledge gained through collection of individual instances). → "power of systematizing" recurrent sensory experiences. → conception of higher genera through abstraction. Not perception in modern sense-- perceive in the individual the general qualities, not the uniqueness (10). universale in re: universal given within the particular object itself. This is the "from below."


"From above": deductively from the higher genus and pinpointing through differentia