Towards a syncretistic theory of depiction

In C. Calabi (ed.), Perceptual Illusions. Philosophical and Psychological Essays. Palgrave (2012)
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In this paper I argue for a syncretistic theory of depiction, which combines the merits of the main paradigms which have hitherto faced themselves on this issue, namely the perceptualist and semioticist approaches. The syncretistic theory indeed takes from the former its stress on experiential factors and from the latter its stress on conventional factors. But the theory is even more syncretistic than this, for the way it accounts for the experiential factor vindicates several claims defended by different perceptualist theories. In a nutshell, according to the syncretistic theory a picture depicts its subject iff i) it is transformed into an entity-cum-meaning and ii) one has the twofold experience of seeing that subject in the picture qua noninterpreted entity, the image, just in case one consciously misrecognizes it in consciously seeing that image, for that subject resembles the image in some grouping properties (originally labelled Gestalt-qualities in psychology). By appealing to objective resemblance in grouping properties, the theory can vindicate what are nowadays taken to be the most neglected doctrines in the perceptualist camp: objective resemblance theories. By appealing, moreover, to conscious misrecognition, the theory not only squares with both the seeing-in and the recognition theories of depiction, but it also shows the grain of truth in illusion theories of depiction, since conscious misrecognition is a kind of perceptual illusion.

Author's Profile

Alberto Voltolini
Università degli Studi di Torino


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