"Perspective is nothing else than seeing a place behind a pane of glass, quite transparent, on the surface of which the objects behind the glass are drawn." -- Leonardo da Vinci.
The idea of perspectives in philosophy was introduced by Leibniz, in the notion of his monads mirroring perspectives of the universe.
In his study of the birth of Quattrocento space, Pierre Francastel concludes that Perspective" was a question for a society in process of total transformation of a space in accordance with its actions and its dreams ... It is men who create the space in which they move and express themselves. Spaces are born and die like societies; they live, they have a history. In the Fifteenth century, the human societies of Western Europe organized, in the material and intellectual senses of the term, a space completely different from that of the preceding generations; with their technical superiority, they progressively imposed that space over the planet" (Études de sociologie de l'art Paris: Denoel, 1970. pp 136-7. Quoted in Steven Heath, Questions of Cinema, p.29) This is an account of perspective as a praxis and as a technology. Central perspective became the chief organizing principle for both the planning architect and the observing beholder. And for both the key element was the central line of force, which functioned as the axis of symmetry as well as of vision.
Contemporary critics of Visuality describe the "scopic regime" resulting from the synthesis of an abstract, quantitatively conceptualised space, the transformational rules linking three dimensional space with two dimensional representation, and the rationnal, "disembodied" (and monocular) subject, as "Cartesian Perspectivalism." Perspective and Cartesian rationality provided the classical regime of visuality, which was meant to be founded on the geometric certainties of optics. For Svetlana Alpers, the art of the Italian Renaissance and the "scopic regime" of "Cartesian Perspectivalism" claimed to have established an objective optical order, in which a new concept of space (geometrically isotropic, rectilinear, abstract, and uniform) could be rendered on a two-dimensional surface through a set of transformational rules. In its predilection for geometric forms, clearly defined objects, and seeing the framed view as a stage for significant action, the mathematically regular spatio-temporal order of perspective reinforced the explanatory intent of the scientific world view. (see visible / intelligible )
In Perspective as Symbolic Form, Panofsky calls perspectival construction a systematic abstraction from the structure of psychophysiological space. (p.30) For Panofsky the homogeneous and infinite space of perspective is quite unlike the space given to perception. Perspective transforms psychophysiological space into mathematical space. (Is this what makes it a symbolic form? ) This systematic (and idealizing?) transformation is similar to Panofsky's discussion of aggregate / systematic space.
According to Panofsky, antique optics conformed more closely to the subjective optical impression than Renaissance perspective. It dealt directly with the impressions of curvature that result, according to Panofsky, from the curvature of the retina. (The entasis of the Greek column, the curvatures of the Doric temple are practical consequences of the findings of perception) In fact, the curvatures of optical impression have become harder to notice ( repressed?) through "our habituation - further reinforced by photographs- to linear perspectival construction: a construction that is itself comprehensible only for a quite specific, indeed specifically modern, sense of space, or if you will, sense of the world" (p.34)
In his second section, devoted to antique perspective, Panofsky characterizes antique perspective as the expression of a specific and fundamentally unmodern view in that " systematic space was as unthinkable for antique philosophers as it was unimaginable for antique artists" (p.43) Here Panofsky reiterates his view that perceptual space (phsycophisiological) is recast into "aesthetic space" through visual symbolization and into "theoretical space" as logical form. (see scientific space)
Other accounts of the relationship between perspective and scientific space emphasize the instruments, and the development of lenses in a spatiality that was already geometrical (see Derek de Solla Price in Rachel Laudan, ed. The Nature of Technological Knowledge.)(see tool)
In the third section of the book, Panofsky sees the medieval break in perspective as allowing the reconstitution of perspective in its specifically modern and systematic form. For Panofsky, "The art historical mission of the Middle Ages was to blend what was once a multiplicity of individual objects (no matter how ingeniously linked to one another) into a true unity. This new unity - and this is only apparently a paradox - was arrived at only by way of smashing the existing unity: that is, by consolidating and isolating objects which were once bound by corporeal and gestural as well as spatial and perspectival ties." (p.48) In painting, this consolidation appeared as a coloristic or luminous unity within a painting surface that expects to be filled rather than seen through. (Panofsky finds a theoretical analogue to this aesthetic unity in the contemporary metaphysics of light.) He finds the moment of developmental unity between bodies and space in romanesque painting and high medieval sculpture. "From now on, bodies and space are bound to each other, for better or worse" (p.51) Through romanesque wall painting the planar surface is divested of spatial illusionism. But now, if a body is to liberate itself from its attachment to the surface, it cannot grow unless space grows with it at the same rate. Panofsky traces this growth in architectural sculpture, which he characterizes as an "efformation" out of the building material itself. The emancipation of both body and space is epitomised in the high Gothic statue, which cannot live without its baldachin; for the baldachin not only connects the statue to the mass of the building, but also delimits and assigns to it a particular chunk of empty space. (p.53) There are subsequently two main elements to the Renaissance developement of perspective. First, "the northern Gothic feeling for space...seizes upon the architectural and landscape forms preserved in fragments in Byzantine painting, and welds them into a new unity" (p.54) Second, the Renaissance succeeds in mathematically rationalizing the image of an independent and infinite space.
In his concluding chapter, Panofsky underscores a fundamental productive tension to perspective. He sees it as both a triumph of the distancing and objectifying sense of the real and a triumph of the distance-denying human struggle for control. "It is as much a consolidation and systematization of the external world as an extension of the domain of the self". In its modern sense, therefore, perspective seals off religious art from the realm of the magical, but opens art to the realm of the psychological. While perspective transforms ousia (reality) into phainomenon (appearance), it seems to reduce the divine into a mere subject matter for human consciousness. But for that very reason, it expands human consiousness into a vessel for the divine (p.72)
(see inside / outside for Karl Schnaase's descriptions, published in 1834 of the columns of the basilical church as intimations of perspective)
Medical or philosophical investigations into the ways in which sensory stimuli are made intelligible stress the active adaptability of perception. Merleau-Ponty describes experiments of " vision without retinal inversion" in the Phenomenology of Perception. In these studies the subject grows accustomed to wearing glasses that invert the visual image and is at first disoriented upon taking them off. Within a few days, however, perceptual adaptation would result in "normal" perception of space and distance.Merleau-Ponty's investigation stresses the relationship between right side up / upside down and bodily motility. Oliver Sachs underscores the links between motility, perception, and memory when he describes his own loss of stereoscopy while immobilized in a windowless hospital room. He alludes to "pygmies living in a rainforest so dense that their far-point was no more than six or seven feet away. If taken out of the forest, they would be totally bewildered, have no perception of space or distance beyond a few feet, might try to touch distant mountaintops with their outstretched arms." (A Leg to Stand On, p. 127 n.) Lynne Tillman, in her novel Motion Sickness wonders if "learning perspective is something akin to, and as traumatic as circumcision."
(see prosthesis) (see also body image)
Forms of cognitive or neurological dissonance include the continued stimulus of severed limbs, described in "The Painful Reality of Phantom Limbs" , Scientific American, April 1992. Another medical curiosity is called "blindsight." in which patients respond to visual stimuli -- even catching a ball tossed to them -- while insisting they cannot see anything. Eduardo Bisach observed patients with a unilateral tendency to neglect or overlook items in their visual field. Bisach invited one such patient to imagine the view of the Piazza del Duomo in Milan. He asked him to visualize and describe everything that could be seen as viewed from the cathedral steps. The patient described only one half of what was there to be seen, but when the patient was asked to imagine what could be seen from the opposite side, he included items which he had previously omitted and claimed no knowledge of. see anosognosia (cf unconscious )
(see proprioceptive for another aspect of psychophysiological perception.
See Aristotle also for importance of up, down, left, right.
Henri Focillon stresses the creative capacities of form to treat spaces according to its own needs, to define space, and even to create such spaces as may be necessary to it. (The Life of Forms in Art, p. 65) For Focillon, the influence of Albertian perspective makes it difficult for us to admit that "the space of art is a plastic and changing material."