Seeing Double: Assessing Kendall Walton’s Views on Painting and Photography

Undergraduate Philosophy Journal of Australasia 1 (1):37-47 (2019)
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In this paper I consider Kendall Walton’s provocative views on the visual arts, including his approaches to understanding both figurative and nonfigurative painting. I introduce his central notion of fictionality, illustrating its advantages in explaining the phenomenon of ‘perceptual twofoldness’. I argue that Walton’s position treats abstract artwork reductively, and I outline two essential components of our aesthetic encounters with the nonfigurative that Walton excludes. I then offer some criticisms of his commitment to photographic realism, emphasising its theoretical inconsistencies with his account of representation. My own proposal is that in our apprehension of non-figurative artworks, our attention is drawn to the underlying structures of both emotive and perceptual experience. In this way, paintings, particularly abstract ones, disclose human cognition in a manner that makes fictionality an inappropriate tool for their analysis.

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Campbell Rider
University of Melbourne


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