Der projizierte Sehstrahl

Anfängliche Theorien des Sehens, wie sie sich in der griechischen Antike ausbildeten, sind am Tasten oder Abtasten ausgerichtet gewesen.[1] Mit einem vom Auge ausgehenden Sehstrahl wird einfallendes Licht, das Dinge (wegen des inhärenten chromas) aussenden, in der geradlinigen Verlängerung des Auges – also noch vor dem Auge selbst – abgetastet. Jener projizierte Sehstrahl ist es, der das Licht erfaßt, indem er es anfaßt.

The arrow from the eye

“The oldest theory that has come down to us, from about 450 B.C.E., was proposed by Empedocles. The language of the fragments is obscure, but the idea seems to be that an object gives off rays that carry information about its surface. To read this information, the eye projects forward a narrow visual ray that somehow feels the object’s radiation and returns through the pupil into the sensitive part of the eye, where it creates an image in the mind. The visual ray is like a long finger projecting from the eye, and sight is a kind of touch.”[2]

“Occasionally the visual ray itself can be seen. People who sit by campfires are used to seeing an animal’s eye gleam as it looks in from the darkness, and Homer uses this in a wonderful simile (Iliad 13.474) when he compares the hero Idomeneus awaiting an attack from Aeneas to a wild boar facing its pursuers with back bristles up and both eyes shining with fire. Of course we can read this as a literary trope, but that might be a mistake.”[3]

[1] „From earliest times everyone seems to have agreed that the most reliable of our senses is touch but the most useful is sight.” [David Park, The Fire within the Eye. A Historical Essay on the Nature and Meaning of Light, Princeton 1997, p.34
[2] ib. p.35
[3] ib. p.35

(Copyright by Peter Gold)

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