Tentative Outline of a History of the Concept of Image

December 1969

Tentative Outline of a History of the Concept of Image

J. J. Gibson, Cornell University


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1. The picture and the sculpture in prehistoric art. The consequence of such images for human thought (Senses Considered, Ch. 11).

2. The mirror image (in water or in polished metal).

3. The shadow-image (Shadows cast on a screen. Chinese in origin?).

4. The ghost-soul concept in primitive religion. (The non-material replica, and the separability of soul from body).

5. Images and image-worship in early religions (Jewish, Greek, Christian, Mohammedan).

6. Plato’s parable of the cave. Form and substance.

7. Democritus’ notion of images emitted from things.

8. The axiom of congruence in Euclid.

9. Early optics. The image seen through a lens.

10. The image in the camera obscura.

11. The clarifying of the laws of perspective representation (15th century and thereafter).

12. The discovery of the telescope. The mathematical concept of the same form in varying sizes.

13. The discovery of the image at the back of the eye. (The excised eye experiment).

14. The observation of the retinal after-image (First reference?).

15. The growth of the notions of the memory-image and the mental image.

A history of the image concept, if it could be achieved, would lead to a considering of the methods of structuring an optic array so as to display information and afford visual perception, that is, to yield a phenomenal object.