Touching as a means to judge sculpture is misused as something literal. That touch is possible with sculpture is a feature of the real thing in the world, that when we touch the statue’s hand, we are not touching a real hand is a feature of statues. This is the important dichotomy always present in the encounter with statues.
Our encounters with statues perhaps point to a more intricate concession than merely attributing human motives and thoughts to an object shaped like a person. Philosopher and writer Alva Noë writes in his 2015 book Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature, that we make the assumption ‘that the membrane dividing brain and environment is somehow the causally critical division between self and world’ (p.124). He continues by observing that art objects are ‘opportunities or affordances’ (p.124) for an encounter, rather than a didactic and specific prompt. There is more to touch than touching in the engagement or encounter with statues; we experience touch without having to specifically touch, in the moment, because we have touched metals, wood, rocks, other materials, and people before and bring this knowing with us to the encounter. We arrive at the statue already knowledgeable about what is unusual about this object from previous encounters with people and materials.