Japanese and other East Asian artists and here primary school children often draw pictures from an elevated birds eye view (Masuda, Gonzalez, Kwan & Nisbett, 2008). Part of the reason for this is their there desire to show everything in their pictures, to the extent that in some of these pictures the viewpoint is from that of an all-seeing eye that can look downards in all directions. So as Masuda, Gonzalez, Kawan and Nisbett argue, part of the motivation for this is the desire to see the context of actions, events, and people. I argue that another motivation is that the internalisation of this viewpoint enables them to gain a self view in a similar way to that provided by George Herbert Mead’s "generalised other." And as argued by Derrida they become addicted to this view of the world since they become libidinally involved in the self relationship that viewing themselves facilitates. Contra the Western self, there may be no sexual element to this self-viewing but rather an enjoyment of seeing themselves and their actions, as cute, from the point of view of an all seeing co-viewing mother.

This internalised other sometimes makes a reapparane in the horrible women that appear from images, television sets, developer fluid, lanterns and scrolls, or sometimes hiding in a mass of black hair on the ceiling, in Japanese horror movies and legends.

It is I believe the internalisation of this self-viewing intra-psychic Other that keeps the Japapnese as moral as their are and not any external sword (or bits of wire) as argued by Ruth Benedict.

Incidentally, my father’s Art School Graduation picture was of a group of people around a table drawn from above. I believe that the auto-scopic eye in the sky is present in everyone to a degree, and felt more keenly by those of Scottish Descent such as Adam Smith (whose impartial spectator appears to be a mixture of both a linguistic and visual audience), my father, and myself.

Images Copyright their respective artists.

Masuda, T., Gonzalez, R., Kwan, L., & Nisbett, R. E. (2008). Culture and aesthetic preference: Comparing the attention to context of East Asians and Americans. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34(9), 1260-1275.
Benedict, R. (2006). The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (1st ed.). Mariner Books.
Lummis, D. (2007). Ruth Benedict’s Obituary for Japanese Culture. Japan Focus, 23. Retrieved from

Spread the love