On the Paradox of Gestalt Switches: Wittgenstein’s Response to Kohler


  • Naomi Eilan




Wittgenstein formulates the paradox of gestalt switches thus: ‘What is incomprehensible is that nothing, and yet everything has changed, after all. That is the only way to put it’. In the course of isolating what I take to be the best of the various solutions to the paradox explored by Wittgenstein, the following claims are defended: (a) A significant strand in Wittgenstein’s own formulation of, and solution to, the paradox can best be understood as a response to three specific claims made by the Gestalt psychologist Kohler. (b) The most promising avenue Wittgenstein explored in his many attempts to resolve the paradox gives perceptual attention a constitutive role in the solution (c) This role is best elaborated, partially, by appeal to information processing theories of attention. (d) There are good reasons to think that the kind of solution to the paradox this yields would have been welcomed by Wittgenstein.


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