Brains, Persons, and Society *** ABSTRACTS
Cervelli, Persone e Società ***ABSTRACTS
Perception or Perception of Fake Objects?
As regards pictures, accounting for their intentionality must also involve accounting for the pictorial way in which they display their intentionality. That is, in asking a) what makes an image of something an image of that very something, one must also address the question b) of what makes an image of something an image of it (rather than its verbal expression or its thought).
Traditionally, b) has been answered in terms of a relation of similarity holding between pictures on the one hand and their propositional content, or the object(s) they are about, on the other: the picture is an image of its content, or of its object, insofar as the former resembles the latter. To be sure, this traditional answer has been widely discredited by the fact that similarity is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for representing. Yet Wittgenstein-inspired conventional theories of picturing, such as the one advocated by Goodman, are unsatisfactory precisely because, in addressing the first question, they fail to provide an answer to the second one: in being a conventional representation of its content, or of its object, what distinguishes a pictorial representation from other representations (verbal, mental…)?
In this paper, I will combine two proposals that in this respect have been recently put forward in the literature, namely Walton’s make-believe account of pictorial representation and Wollheim’s theory of seeing-in.
According to Walton, something is a pictorial
representation only if by means of it one make-believedly see the
content, or the object, represented in it. As Schier has originally
this condition is clearly insufficient: taking an image as a prop for
make-believe perception is not enough for explaining its pictorial
character. Granted, Walton’s appealing to similarity as
another necessary and jointly sufficient condition is not convincing,
leads us back to the problems involving the appeal to similarity in
for pictoriality. Yet one may implement Walton’s proposal by adding – following Husserl and Mulligan – that
pictorially represents its content, or its object iff (contextually),
of seeing the image, one make-believedly sees its content, or its
other terms, the fake perception of something is (contextually) induced
real perception of the image representing that something. As Walton
stressed, make-believe is often nonintentional; this is particularly
make-believe seeing, which is prompted by the real seeing of an image,
one frames that image in a particular context (for instance, one sees
a certain make-believe game regarding it). Thus, really seeing
one visualize something else, as
This is at least partially what Wollheim has in mind when he says that we see the content, or the object, represented in a picture. Yet in some cases at least, we can even go further and take Wollheim’s way of expression more strongly. Whenever the represented (kind of) object exists, the direct perception of an image may well be replaced by the indirect perception of seeing the represented object in the image. This happens when one passes from seeing the image to seeing a fake object, that is, an object which not only contains the represented (kind of) object as one of its constituents (as it happens with any interpreted sign, a sign-cum-meaning), but is also such that, in virtue of its actually having a certain amount of basic properties in common with that object, is internally similar to that object, or to the objects of that kind (even if that object changed, or it had been different from what it is, the fake object could not fail to be similar to it). In this respect, we see the represented objects in images in the sense in which we see dolls, stone-lions and toy-pistols: in looking at an image of Churchill I see a fake Churchill, in the same way as in looking at a manikin I see a fake man. In all such cases, therefore, an image pictorially represents something not just in case in virtue of seeing it one make-believedly sees its content, or its object, but rather, just in case one sees that object in it in the sense that one sees a certain fake object, i.e. an object not only having the represented (kind of) object among its constituents but also being internally similar to it (the objects of that kind).