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Durham e-Theses
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Cassirer and structuralism of perception: an application of group theory to Gestalt psychology

Hassan, Mohamed Sayed (2007) Cassirer and structuralism of perception: an application of group theory to Gestalt psychology. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



Ernst Cassirer's task was to set up an account of perception as objective judgement. We can trace Cassirer's view of perception through three different accounts each of which aimed to give an answer of how perceptual judgements can be possible. These three accounts started from (1900-1923) where he presented his view depending on Functional- Relational analysis of perceptual experience. The second account started from (1923-1933) where he presented his view of perception depending on symbolic analysis of perceptual experience, and finally the third account started from (1933-1945) where the analysis of perceptual phenomena has been made depending on his apprehension of Group Theory. The main target of Cassirer in the third account was to show that there is similarity between geometry and perception with respect to the ways both of these two disciplines build up their objects. Having the same logical base, Cassirer claimed that there is similarity between geometrical determination of the object and perceptual determination of the experienced object. For Cassirer, this similarity is what allows an application of "group theory" to perception. As a result of that claim, Cassirer shifted mathematical terms such as "invariance", "frame of reference" and "transformation" from the province of geometry and reused them in the field of perception for setting up what he called psychology of thought. This thesis discusses Cassirer's first two accounts and focuses on the third account by giving examples of how the mathematical concept of "group" can be used as an analogy to provide an intrinsic explanation of the nature of the objects and their characteristics one experiences during the perceptual situation. The explanations of the perceptual phenomena represented in the perceptual experience, as given by Cassirer, based on Gestalt psychology, reflected this understanding. The ample examples created by the Gestalt psychologists and used by Cassirer indicated how both understood the object of perceptual experience as constructed and not as a thing or hic et nunc. I will show that in these three accounts, there are non-physical elements, which defined here as structural elements, involved in the perceptual experience. By the virtue of these non-physical elements, perceptual judgements are possible. Cassirer and the Gestalt psychologists emphasized that these structural elements are presupposed in every perceptual experience and this understanding will lead to the claim that both Cassirer and the Gestaltists presupposed the constructive unity of mind based on a transcendental analysis of the nature of mind and its cognitive processes.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2007
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Sep 2011 18:33

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