What are the different ways a perceptual limitation might influence ones capacity for mental imagery?

Readings: The Minds Eye (Oliver Sacks)
Mark Zuckerbergs War on Free Will (Franklin Foer)
The Myth of the Ant Queen (Steven Johnson)
Rent Seeking and the Making of an Unequal Society (Joseph E. Stiglitz)
The Ecstasy of Influence: a Plagiarism (Jonathan Lethem)
We learned that according to Lethem, an artist is situated within a gift economy in which
she borrows and recombines (or plagiarizes) various artistic elements in order to create
art. While Lethem may not have explicitly discussed perception, the ability to plagiarize
is very much predicated upon an ability to perceive prior artistic elements, and perhaps an
imaginative ability to recombine those elements. In Sacks article, we encountered a discussion
of some of the various ways in which limitations on perception might influence mental
imagery suggesting that differences in perceptual abilities might influence the development
of art. Note however that some of the ways in which ones perceptual limitations could
influence mental imagery might depend on the technological, educational, and financial resources
available to one. Given Stiglitzs observation that equal access to societal resources
and certain forms of societal progress will require government intervention, one might think
that government intervention could also influence how ones perceptual limitations influence
mental imagery. Of course, one might also use the framework of organized complexity to
understand the ways in which mental imagery can emerge from the organized complexity of
ones perceptual system. In light of these, and other considerations, consider the question:
how might art be influenced by perceptual limitations?
Brainstorming Questions
How are you understanding perception? In one very obvious sense, perception might be understood
in terms of the five senses. But should we understand perception in terms of having the ability or
capacity to use the senses? Or Should we understand it in terms of the actual usage of the senses?
How many perceptual types or modalities are there? Although the five senses provide us with five
different modalities or type of perception, one might also wonder whether differences within a given
modality might justify recognition of additional percpetual modalities. Consider a person with normal
vision, a person who is color blind, a person who can only detect large patches of color in her visual
field, and a person who is completely blind. Obviously, the blind person lacks a perceptual modality
that the person with normal vision doesnt lack. But do the color blind or the other individual also
lack a kind of perceptual modality which the normal person doesnt? Or do they have that modality,
but only to a lesser extent than the person with normal vision?
What does it mean to have a perceptual limitation? Ones perceptual capacities might be limited with
respect to one or more of the five senses. But is it possible for a person to be completely limited with
respect to perception? What would it mean for a person to not be able to perceive at all? If its not
possible for a person to be completely limited across every perceptual modality, then does that tell
us anything about the human capacity for mental imagery? Remember also that limitations in one
perceptual modality might differ. A person who is born completely blind has a perpetual limitation,
and so does a person who becomes completely blind as an adult. But as Sacks suggests, there might
be important differences between their limitations.

On the one hand, you might think that being completely blind might diminish the kind of visual
mental imagery which sighted people can engage in. But perhaps it could help enhance some other
kind of mental imagery which sighted people tend not to engage in. Perhaps limitations to ones visual
perception might help enhance auditory mental imagery or tactile mental imagery. Perhaps it might
help enhance a kind of visual imagery which sighted people tend not to access (i.e., the kind of visual
mental imagery which Sacks attributes to Torey and Lusseyran).
How might ones capacity for mental imagery affect ones art? Might a certain limitation to ones visual
perception enhance or diminish the value of the visual art one is capable of producing? Or would it
just change the form or kind of visual art one can produce without affecting its value as visual art?
Might a limitation to ones visual perception enhance the value of the non-visual art one is capable of
producing? Why, or why not?
Due Dates
Rough Draft Due: Tuesday, December 4, 3:20pm (3 pages + argument outline)
Final Draft Due: Thursday, December 13, 11:59pm (5 pages)

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