Depicting and seeing-in
the "sujet' in Husserl's phenomenology of images
In this paper I investigate an underappreciated element of Husserl's phenomenology of images: the consciousness of the depicted subject (Sujet or Bildsujet), which Husserl calls the Sujetintention, e.g. the awareness of the sitter of a portrait. Husserl claims that when a consciousness regards a figurative image, it is absorbed in the awareness of the depicted subject and yet this subject some how withholds its presence in the midst of its appearance in the image-object (Bildobjekt). Image-consciousness is an intuitive (anschaulich) consciousness that intends a being that is both "in' and "beyond' the image: the depicted subject haunts the image. Borrowing Richard Wollheim's language, the aim of this study is to determine what it means for a consciousness to see a depicted-subject in an image-depiction, which happens on the basis of seeing an image-object in a material image-thing, like paint, canvas, ink, paper etc. Restricting myself to figurative images, I will argue against the view that the relation to the depicted subject is symbolic or signitive. I argue that the consciousness of the Sujet is quasi-perceptual, which allows for a better account of the depicted subject's sense of absence. I develop this view on the basis of Husserl's claims that the depicted subject is the bearer of norms inherent to intuitive appearances, which concern how the profiles and movements of an object ought to unfold, though they fail to do so for image-consciousness. This failure is not a mere privation for the image as a perceptual appearance but is inherent to its status as a mediated and artificial presence.
Eldridge, P. (2018). Depicting and seeing-in: the "sujet' in Husserl's phenomenology of images. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 17 (3), pp. 555-578.
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