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Alice Pugliese

Summary

A phenomenological approach to anthropology should not propose a static definition of man, but inquire into specific human motivations, which never occur isolated. Therefore, the autonomy-dependency connection is presented as a possible human motivational ground. The notion of autonomy, presented with reference to the Kantian idea of the self-determining reason and to the Husserlian account of self-constitution, reveals in itself elements of dependency. On the other side, the notion of vulnerability and reliance is displayed through different approaches of Gehlen, MacIntyre and Toombs in order to illustrate dependency not as a mere capitulation of the subject, but as one of its intrinsic possibilities, which does not exclude autonomous will.

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Ina Marie Weber

Summary

The human being as a constituted objectivity is a fragile ‘figure’ who lives in through their individual and shared experience. As a constituted objectivity, it influences our experiences, actions and the constitution of our community. Nevertheless, it appears to us, who actually constitute it, as a completely independent and immutable object, as a mere fact our experience has to comply with, and as a normative representation of the human being. This paper inquires - from a phenomenological point of view - about the structure that underlies the norm at work in our experience, as well as in the high- and low-level dimensions of the intersubjective community. Indirectly, such a structure can be identified through the connection between Husserl’s understanding of normality and objectivity. My claim is that normativity can be understood as a necessary function and thus can be distinguished from objectivity and normality. Normativity appears, therefore, as a function of objectivity, which allows one to distinguish the latter from normality. As such, normativity should not be confused with an active agreement or regulation, but rather identified as a necessary constitutive structure arising from experiential intersubjective sense-borrowing performance. At the same time, due to its connection to objectivity, normativity also appears to strongly influence the social production of validity, therefore being endorsed by institutions.

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Gestalt Theory

An International Multidisciplinary Journal

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Max Wertheimer

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Lothar Spillmann

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Jan Koenderink, Andrea van Doorn and Baingio Pinna

Summary

Franz Brentano, 1838–1917, introduced the intriguing concept of “plerosis” in order to account for aspects of the continuum that were “explained” by formal mathematics in ways that he considered absurd from the perspective of intuition, especially visual awareness and imagery. In doing this, he pointed in directions later developed by the Dutch mathematician Luitzen Brouwer. Brentano’s notion of plerosis involves distinct though coincident points, which one might call “atomic entities with parts”. This notion fits the modern concepts of “receptive field” in neurophysiology, “perceptive field” in psychology and “differential operator” in the formal theory of scale space. We identify Brentano’s boundary points as the primordial atomic Gestalts of visual imagery. The concept deserves to play a key role in Gestalt theory.

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Luigi Burigana and Michele Vicovaro

Summary

By introducing the concept of “invariants”, Koffka (1935) endowed perceptual psychology with a flexible theoretical tool, which is suitable for representing vision situations in which a definite part of the stimulus pattern is relevant but not sufficient to determine a corresponding part of the perceived scene. He characterised his “invariance principle” as a principle conclusively breaking free from the “old constancy hypothesis”, which rigidly surmised point-to-point relations between stimulus and perceptual properties. In this paper, we explain the basic terms and assumptions implicit in Koffka’s concept, by representing them in a set-theoretic framework. Then, we highlight various aspects and implications of the concept in terms of answers to six separate questions: forms of invariants, heuristic paths to them, what is invariant in an invariant, roots of conditional indeterminacy, variability vs. indeterminacy, and overcoming of the indeterminacy. Lastly, we illustrate the lasting value and theoretical power of the concept, by showing that Koffka’s insights relating to it do occur in modern perceptual psychology and by highlighting its role in a model of perceptual transparency.

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Silvia Bonacchi and Fiorenza Toccafondi

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Anna Arfelli Galli

Summary

Daniel N. Stern’s research on the first years of life offers the view of an active newborn, developing in a continuous dialogue with the Other.

The mother places the infant feelings at the center of her attention. The infant gets in tune with the mother, and learns that she welcomes and understands his inner states. Such attunement is a primary holistic experience, taking place because of the infant innate ability to perceive the “interpersonal happenings” as a unitary Gestalt, emerging “from the theoretically separate experiences of movement, force, time, space and intention”. Large convergence exists between Daniel Stern’s developmental psychology and Gestalt theory: both view the infant development occurring within an inter-subjective matrix, not as a process with phases or stages, but rather as a progressive organization of structures.

Open access

Thomas Fuchs