This project has received funding from the European
Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon
2020 research and innovation programme.
Grant agreement No. 834033 AN-ICON.



Department of Philosophy, Sala Seminari

Seminar of Philosophy of Image

E pur si move! Motion-based illusions and the complexity of perceptual content

Luca Marchetti State University of Milan

Perceptual illusions are extremely interesting and complex phenomena that, far from being mere surprising visual attractions, are very useful tools both for cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind. In a scientific context, illusions reveal the failures of perception and the disfunctions of our sensory apparatuses, indicating the limits of human’s perceptual system. Moreover, these phenomena allow to analyze the cognitive sub-processes underlying perception. In the philosophical sphere, illusions bring to light various problems within philosophical theories of mind and perception.
In this paper, I present the complex perceptual content of some static configurations that elicit the impression of movement: Waterfall IllusionPeripheral Drift IllusionPinna Illusion and some Op Art. Besides showing the causes of the detachment between physical stimulus and phenomenology, I reflect on two distinct, but inevitably intertwined, aspects of their content. On the one hand, I stress the importance of that phenomenological component called “illusoriness” – a phenomenal attribute related to a sense of strangeness, deception, singularity, mendacity, and oddity (Pinna et al. 2018). On the other hand, I ask if it is really true that the illusory experience of these phenomena implies an impossible or paradoxical perceptual content. According to various psychologists and philosophers, since at the same time I see the same object move and remain still, these experiences would manifest a logical contradiction.
Lastly, intertwining the analysis of the illusoriness and the paradox with the empirical data provided by the sciences of the mind, I try to show that, in the cases examined, there is no manifestly contradictory content. Moreover, as the majority of the illusions considered are images, I draw some conclusion concerning the depiction of motion in static images.

Luca Marchetti is a PhD student in Philosophy at the Doctoral School in Philosophy and Human Sciences of the State University of Milan. He graduated in 2017 in Philosophy at the University of Turin under the supervision of Prof. Pietro Kobau, with a thesis titled “Visual Perception and the Moving Image”. In 2018 he spent a semester as a research trainee at the Laboratoire dePsychologie and NeuroCognition (LPNC), Grenoble University. He worked at the project “Psychophysics and the Philosophy of Colours”, under the supervision of dr. David Alleyson. He has always been interested in the relationship between psychology, philosophy of perception and aesthetics, focusing his attention, in particular, onto theories of depiction, picture perception and temporal experience. His actual research, titled “Depicting and Representing. Experiencing Motion and Time in the Static Image”, tackles the problem of the depiction of time and movement in static images. It is carried under the supervision of professors Paolo Spinicci and Clotilde Calabi.