Schema and Image: On the Need for a Hermeneutic Approach to Perceptual Experience
Royal Holloway, University of London
Supervisor: Professor Andrew Bowie
In the Schematism chapter of the Critique of Pure Reason Kant suggests that rather than the perceptual image being a foundational element of experience it is instead a product of the schematisation of empirical concepts. This thesis will use this suggestion to defend what Cassirer refers to as the ‘symbolic pregnance’ of perceptual experience. Rather than being a hierarchical system with a foundation in the idea of the perceptual image, it will be shown that the content of perceptual experience instead forms a totality, with each layer having an impact on every other layer. Part of the implication here is that, in the absence of any such foundation, we need to take a hermeneutic approach to perceptual experience. Since empirical conceptual capacities will vary from individual to individual, we cannot know in any given case whether the other person hears or sees as we do.
The thesis will be split into three parts. The first will be introductory with a discussion on the role of schematism in the Critique of Pure Reason, before then putting forward a slightly altered account drawing on Cassirer and Heidegger among others to free Kant’s account from some of its more problematic elements. The second will use this position to challenge contemporary models of perceptual experience. It will be suggested that in both subjective and objective varieties of such models the concept of the visual image has been misapplied as a supposedly ‘grounding phenomenon’ of perceptual experience. The third part will then defend the account against potential objections, particularly from those who would deny experience content. It will be suggested that work in hermeneutics and contemporary phenomenology can provide us with arguments to overcome many of these objections.