‘Seeing is Believing’: Illusion of the Secular in the Modern Turn
The common English idiom, “seeing is believing,” is representative of a blunder we in modern and thus “secular” society often make in assuming that seeing is an objective action and process. In fact, embodied seeing is a subjective relation and not a neutral process; it is highly mediated by Christian language in discourses of image-making that guises itself as neutral and thus invisible under the secular hegemony. This thesis essay seeks to trace a possible origin and genealogy of Protestant semiotic ideology, backwards in historicity from contemporary disputes of image censorship as sites of religious and thus political dissent, through to the modern rise of imaging technologies that weaponize sight, into the Renaissance notion of the painter as wielding an almost divine power to represent, and leading to the Neoplatonic and Platonic notion of a demiurgic subject observing mortal objects. By drawing a picture of how subject-object metaphors have been used over time, this essay attempts to expose how invisibility of this language in secular time and space has allowed space for violence, moral or not.
Advisors: Sharon Hayes (FNAR), Justin McDaniel (RELS)