Emotions as Modes of Imagistic (Non-Conceptual) Seeing-As: Revisiting the Duck-Rabbit Paradigm of Aspect Perception
The challenge of recalcitrant emotions, those emotions that do not subside in response to the subject’s reflective judgment against them (e.g. phobias), has given rise to a view that emotions are modes of seeing-as e.g. that anger is a way of seeing a certain person as having wronged us. Philosophers who hold this view understand emotions as conceptually laden and representational mental states. This is no surprise considering that the ubiquitous understanding of seeing-as or aspect perception has been a conceptualist understanding, as is evident in the discussion of famous duck-rabbit drawing, made famous in Wittgenstein’s writings, that can be seen either as a duck or as a rabbit. The received interpretation of this example in Wittgenstein scholarship is as follows: to see the duck-rabbit picture as a duck or as a rabbit, one requires the concept of a duck or of a rabbit respectively. One sees the picture in terms of the concept “duck” or “rabbit.” Although the seeing-as view of emotions is dominant in philosophy at large, the specialised field of the philosophy of emotion seems to have moved on from it, mostly due to criticisms against the claim that emotions are concept laden, especially when it comes to biologically basic emotions. In this paper I want to recover the insight of the seeing-as view of emotions, while nevertheless endorsing a non-conceptualist account of emotions. In order to do that, I revisit the duck-rabbit example and offer a non-conceptualist interpretation of it.