El Greco’s Eyesight: Interpreting Pictures and the Psychology of Vision

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Abstract:

There is a common assumption about pictures, that seeing them produces in us something like the same effects as seeing the things they depict. This assumption lies behind much empirical research into vision, where experiments often expose subjects to pictures of things in order to investigate the processes involved in cognizing those things themselves. Can philosophy provide any justification for this assumption? I examine this issue in the context of Flint Schier’s account of pictorial representation. Schier attempts to infer the assumption from what he takes to be the fundamental facts about picturing. I argue that there is no plausible form of Schier’s basic claims from which the assumption can be inferred. I then reject a second argument, that by appealing to the assumption Schier could explain why it is impossible to depict a particular without depicting it as having certain properties. I conclude that those sympathetic to the assumption need to articulate and defend some version of it suited to their needs.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9213.00070

Affiliations: University of Birmingham

Publication date: October 1, 1997

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