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This report is taken from PN Review 178, Volume 34 Number 2, November - December 2007.

From a Journal R.F. Langley

1 February 2007

The visible appearance of objects, Thomas Reid states in his Inquiry into the Human Mind in 1764, is hardly ever regarded by us, because visible appearances are intended by nature only as signs or indications. The mind is accustomed to pass instantly through them to the things signified, without making any reflections on the sign itself or even noticing that there is a sign. It is, he says, like listening to a language, not noticing its sounds but passing at once to the things signified by the sounds. Michael Baxandall cites this, in his excellent book about shadows, Shadows and Enlightenment. He closes his discussion of shadows by remarking that to assess shadows accurately we would need clearer ideas than we do have about our inattentive perception, which is always an active complement to our attentive perception. It isn't as if shadows didn't exist, or that we don't pay any attention to them so that, for us, they might as well not exist, or even that we discount them at once, having registered what objects are producing them. Consciousness plays in a field where the inattentive is an active force.

Driving to Sotterley this morning in winter sunshine, down lanes lined by so many big trees, it seems that shadows are the definitive elements in the experience, laid over the road so dashingly, and, when you look up into the bare branches, often more assertive than ...


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