Against Depictive Conventionalism

American Philosophical Quarterly 42 (3):185 - 197 (2005)
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In this paper, I discuss the influential view that depiction, like language, depends on arbitrary conventions. I argue that this view, however it is elaborated, is false. Any adequate account of depiction must be consistent with the distinctive features of depiction. One such feature is depictive generativity. I argue that, to be consistent with depictive generativity, conventionalism must hold that depiction depends on conventions for the depiction of basic properties of a picture’s object. I then argue that two considerations jointly preclude depiction from being governed by such conventions. Firstly, conventions must be salient to those who employ them. Secondly, those parts of pictures that depict basic properties of objects are not salient to the makers and interpreters of pictures.

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Catharine Abell
University of Oxford


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