This essay characterizes the perception of the visual hybrid as nonconceptual, introducing the terminology of nonconceptual content theory to aesthetics. The visual hybrid possesses a radical but nonetheless exemplary aesthetic composition and is well established in culture, art, and even design. The essay supplies a philosophical analysis of the results of cross-cultural experiments, showing that while categorization or conceptual hierarchization kicks in when the visual hybrids are juxtaposed with linguistic descriptions, no conceptual scheme takes effect when participants are presented with mere visual hybrids. In isolation, the hybrids do not lend themselves to classification.

I draw four conclusions from these experimental outcomes:

  1. The perception of visual hybrids follows the structure of a nonconceptual mental content, because the original categories or concepts of the hybrids’ components are not combined into one, and their properties are not applied to one another, therefore none of the components reconstructs the other such that it is introduced to a new category.

  2. Language freezes the hybridity of the visual hybrid into conceptuality.

  3. Given that language has a freezing effect in the case of an extreme visual phenomenon such as the hybrid, it is all the more restraining in moderate artistic compositions, such as visual metaphors, in which properties of one component (the source) are applied to the other (the target). In those, nonconceptuality emerges from relatively organized compositions, forms, and relations, and from the dependence of objects and their properties on perceptual context.

  4. Thus, the nonconceptualist terminology is suitable for the analysis of aesthetic perception in general and aesthetic perception's relation to language.

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