Seeing

…the task is, not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what no one has yet thought about that which everybody sees. – Schrödinger

People, not their eyes, see. Cameras, and eye-balls, are blind. …there is more to seeing than meets the eye-ball. – N Hanson, Patterns of Discovery, p6-7

…those parts of the work of art which he could not in some sort have invented for himself will pass by him unseen. “How much, as one grows older, one finds in so-&-so,” people say, “that one never saw before!” Yes, & how much one has not even seen! For one never sees anything in anybody’s work but what one brings to it, & it is as true of art as of nature that

“we receive but what we give,

And in our life alone doth Nature live,

Ours is her wedding-garment, ours her shroud.” – Collingwood, Speculum Mentis, p68

We see because we have found a path; we do not find a path because we can see. – Simon May, The Pocket Philosopher

A way of seeing is always a way of not seeing. – Kenneth Burke, Permanence & Change

When he is confronted with the great Masters, an artist learns to think. But when he confronts Nature, he learns to see. – Cezanne

The metaphor is much more subtle than its inventor, & so are many things. Everything has its depths. He who has eyes sees all in everything. – Lichtenberg

…the artist as such does not first determine the facts & then convert them into art. The raw material out of which he selects & adapts what will serve his purpose is an imaginative, not a factual, raw material. We say that the artist holds up the mirror to nature, or that he transcribes what he has seen in real life; but this is mere error if it means that the artist bases his work on the ascertaining & remembering of historical facts. The real life or the nature to which he holds up his mirror is not the world of science or history, but the world as imaginatively apprehended, the world of imagination. Everybody knows that there is one frame of mind in which one regards an object scientifically, & another in which one regards it aesthetically; the pathologist is as blind to the beauty of the stained section which he is examining as the landscape-painter to the optical conditions of the sunset; & we pass over from one of these attitudes to the other by a deliberate & familiar act of will. But the aesthetic & the scientific attitudes are not merely different attitudes toward the same object, namely a sunset. The object is different. The scientist “sees” in the sunset a concrete embodiment of certain scientific laws; the artist “sees” in it a harmonious pattern of colours. The very word “see” is ambiguous; with the scientist it means primarily to think, with the artist primarily to imagine, & the world of imagination which is the object confronting the artist’s mind when he looks at a sunset is not present to the scientist’s mind at all. Indeed, the scientist as such is committed to the denial of its existence; for beauty is the secret of the universe or nothing, & for the scientist it is certainly not the secret of the universe.

Thus the artist’s world is not a world of facts or laws, it is a world of imaginations. He is all made of fantasy, & the world in which he is interested is a world made of the stuff of dreams. For him, from his point of view, these dreams are neither real nor unreal; that is a distinction of which he knows nothing. They are simply dreamt. The artist as such does not know what the word reality means: that is to say, he does not perform that act which we call assertion or judgement. His apparent statements are not statements, for they state nothing; they are not expressions, for they express no thought. They do not express his imaginations, for they are his imaginations. What he imagines is simply those fantasies which compose the work of art. – Collingwood, Speculum Mentis, III 1, p62-3

…The picture, as it is, is good enough for the age & for the public. If it had been ten times better, its merits would have been thrown away: if it had been ten times better in the more refined & lofty conception of character & sentiment, & had failed in the more palpable appeal to the senses & prejudices of the vulgar…it would never have done. The work might have been praised by a few, very few, & the artist himself have pined in penury & neglect. – Hazlitt, The Plain Speaker, On the Qualification Necessary to Success in Life

The sun may shine, or a galaxy of suns; you will get no more light than your eye will hold. What can Plato or Newton teach, if you are deaf or incapable? A mind does not receive truth as a chest receives jewels that are put into it, but as the stomach takes up food into the system. It is no longer food, but flesh, & is assimilated. The appetite & the power of digestion measure our right to knowledge. He has it who can use it. – Emerson, Natural History of Intellect

To the idle blockhead Nature is poor, sterile, inhospitable. To the gardener her loam is all strawberries, pears, pineapples. – Emerson, Natural History of Intellect

But not only is there a partial & variable mystery thus caused by clouds & vapours throughout great spaces of landscape; there is a continual mystery caused throughout all spaces, caused by the absolute infinity of things. WE NEVER SEE ANYTHING CLEARLY. …What we call seeing a thing clearly, is only seeing enough of it to make out what it is… – Ruskin, Modern Painters, IV, Part V, ch.iv

 

 

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