Saturday, December 10, 2016

Primacy of Sight

"Sight is valued above all other senses.  True, we can be persuaded that touch and hearing are more basic─the one to survival, the other to the acquisition of language.  Nevertheless, sight enjoys primacy.  It immediately gives us a world "out there."  Self, without a world, is reduced to mere body.  All senses give us a world, but the visual one has the greatest definition and scope.  This expansive visual world is both sensual and intellectual.  It is sensual, not only because of its colors and shapes, but also because of its tactile quality: we can almost feel what we see─smile with pleasure as we look at a fluffy blanket.  It is intellectual because somehow to see is to think and to understand: sight is coupled with insight, and to exercise the mind is to see with "the mind's eye."  Perhaps most important of all, the primacy of sight rests on a simple experience.  Open our eyes, and the world spreads before us in all its vividness and color; close them, and it is instantly wiped out and we are plunged in darkness.  One moment, the world is an enticing space inviting us to enter; the next, it collapses to the limit of our body and we are helplessly disoriented."
-  Yi-Fu Tuan, Passing Strange and Wonderful: Aesthetics, Nature, and Culture, 1995, p. 96. 

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