Nautilus

This Vision Experiment Resolved a Centuries-Old Philosophical Debate

“We conclude,” the researchers wrote, “that objects have a remarkably persistent dual character: their objective shape ‘out there,’ and their perspectival shape ‘from here.’”Photograph by Ryan DeBerardinis / Shutterstock

Imagine you are looking at a manhole cover a few paces away on the street. It looks circular, but this is because of some impressive perceptual machinery in your mind. The pattern of light in your eye, on the retina, is, of course, in the shape of an ellipse.

The reason

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