The conscious act of looking at a painting
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This paper considers what happens during the conscious act of looking at a painting. First, two widely held views about the nature of consciousness are introduced: that it’s unified and that it’s essentially rational. I then describe in some detail my experience of looking at a Monet painting, Rouen Cathedral (1892-4), and note that what I experience does not seem consistent with either of these views. In fact what I experience is a multiplicity of conflicting beliefs and thoughts, which are nevertheless co-existent. I conclude that 'normal waking, rational consciousness', as described by William James, may be better regarded as multiplicitous and often irrational, although this does not seem to pose any problem for the act of looking itself. Indeed it seems to be the very mark of lived, conscious experience.
Pepperell, R. (2009) 'The conscious act of looking at a painting', Consciousness Literature and the Arts, Vol. 10 No. 2.
This article was published in Consciousness Literature and the Arts in August 2009, available open access online at https://blackboard.lincoln.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/users/dmeyerdinkgrafe/archive/pepperell2009.html
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