The Natural and the Normative

Theories of Spatial Perception from Kant to Helmholtz

Gary Hatfield examines theories of spatial perception from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century and provides a detailed analysis of the works of Kant and Helmholtz, who adopted opposing stances on whether central questions about spatial perception were amenable to natural-scientific treatment. At stake were the proper understanding of the relationships among sensation, perception, and experience, and the proper methodological framework for investigating the mental activities of judgment, understanding, and reason issues which remain at the core of philosophical psychology and cognitive science.

Hatfield presents these important issues as living philosophies of science that shape and are shaped by actual research programs, creating a complex and fascinating picture of the entire nineteenth-century battle between nativism and empiricism. His examination of Helmholtz's work in physiological optics and epistemology is a tour de force.

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. 1. Introduction
  3. 2. Mind, Perception, and Psychology from Descartes to Hume
  4. 3. Mind, Space, and Geometry in Kant: Transcendental and Naturalistic Conceptions of Thought and the Mental
  5. 4. Spatial Realism and Idealism: Kant Read, Revised, and Rebuffed
  6. 5. Helmholtz: The Epistemology and Psychology of Spatial Perception
  7. 6. Summary
  8. 7. Conclusions
  9. Appendix A Nativism-Empirism and Rationalism-Empiricism
  10. Appendix B Sensation and Perception: Epistemological and Psychological
  11. Notes
  12. References
  13. Index