Explaining Sherlock’s Glance. On the Perception of Historical Past

  • Vincent GrondinEmail author
Part of the Studies in the History of Philosophy of Mind book series (SHPM, volume 23)


Despite the wide ranging differences between their account of intentionality, both Husserl and Wittgenstein believe that intentionality cannot be explained as a merely causal and passive relation originating from the object. The goal of this paper is to compare and assess these two theories of intentionality by focusing on the case of what I call “historical perception”. According to phenomenologists (e.g., Husserl), historical past can be immediately grasped through an act of perception when we happen to see an artefact. For instance, when someone sees the Rosetta Stone, she has an immediate experience of the historical past. During his middle period (1920–1937), Wittgenstein had developed an Epistemic Argument against this view (in Philosophical Remarks, Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough and Philosophical Grammar). Following this line of thought, it is impossible to perceive the past because we can always be wrong about the historical nature of a given object. This paper will defend the phenomenologists’ approach by undermining this Epistemic Argument. My claim will then be that one should reject the Epistemic Argument because it conflicts with a non-causal account of intentionality.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UQAMMontrealCanada

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