Plerosis and Atomic Gestalts

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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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