the current critique of the visual insists that Western culture has
been firmly ocularcentric, the reality is more complicated than that.
We continue to believe that we have, in a sense, two visions –
the embodied vision of the senses and the disembodied and objectifying
vision of the mind. The boundaries of these are vast, shifting and blurred,
making any critique of vision a bit unstable in itself.
Current thinking on the visual continues to follow a pattern set back
at the beginning of Western philosophy. Plato asserted that “surveying
through the eyes is full of deceit, and so is perception through the
ears and the other senses”.[Mazis, 51] At the same time, he recognized
the value and necessity of visual perception, and so he designated a
kind of rarified, or true, vision to the realm of the intellect, or
soul, maintaining that “We see through the eyes, not with them.”
[Jay, 27] This splitting of vision persisted through most of the Middle
Ages, when ecstatic visions as sublime gifts from God were valued, while
at the same time, vision, along with the other senses and the pleasure
they gave, would lead one into sin. Inner vision brought one closer
to God and immortality, while engaging through the embodied senses enforced
one’s mortality, leading to death.
Descartes and the enlightenment brought us so called Cartesian dualism,
establishing the supremacy of the observer over the things observed.
From this perspective the world becomes less of a threat, being mere
matter and mechanics - something absolutely different to what we are
as humans, so completely devoid of soul, mind, or agency, that we may
legitimately seek to control it absolutely.