Inflected Pictorial Experience: Its Treatment and Significance

In Catharine Abell & Katerina Bantinaki (eds.), Philosophical Perspectives on Depiction. Oxford University Press. pp. 151 (2010)
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Some (Podro, Lopes) think that sometimes our experience of pictures is ‘inflected’. What we see in these pictures involves, somehow, an awareness of features of their design. I clarify the idea of inflection, arguing that the thought must be that what is seen in the picture is something with properties which themselves need characterising by reference to that picture’s design, conceived as such. I argue that there is at least one case of inflection, so understood. Proponents of inflection have claimed great significance for the phenomenon. But what might that significance be? Inter alia, I consider Lopes’s proposal that inflection solves a central problem in pictorial aesthetics, the ‘puzzle of mimesis’. I argue that the puzzle, and the proposed solution, both turn on aspects of Lopes’s conception of seeing-in. Other accounts of seeing-in can make no sense of either. I further argue that the phenomenon of inflection itself puts pressure on the sort of account Lopes offers. Thus it is hard to offer a view which both holds that inflection occurs and is able to make clear sense of why it matters.
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