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12 marzo 2018: Robert Briscoe: Models, Imagination, and Pictorial Understanding

Alice meets Humpty Dumpty - The Victorian Web

Seminars of Philosophy of Perception, Mind, and Language — Spring session, 2018


Robert Briscoe (Glasgow)

Models, Imagination, and Pictorial Understanding


12 marzo 2018, h. 15.00-17.00

Sala "Enzo Paci" — Direzione del Dipartimento (Via Festa del Perdono 7, Milano)


La conferenza si terrà in inglese.

La partecipazione è fortemente raccomandata agli allievi del Scuola di Dottorato in Filosofia e Scienze dell’Uomo.

Tutti gli interessati sono invitati a partecipare.



Many types of pictures, including photographs, paintings, and drawings, are designed to elicit the experience as of an absent, three-dimensionally organized scene. Following standard usage in art history, aesthetics, and perceptual psychology, I shall refer to this experience as the experience of pictorial space. In this presentation, I begin by posing some objections to Kendall Walton’s imagining seeing theory of pictorial experience. According to the imagining seeing theory, pictures function as props in "visual games of make-believe": when we look at a picture, we (propositionally) imagine of our seeing of the 2D, pictorial surface that it is an instance of seeing of the depicted, 3D scene. Empirical studies of pictorial space perception as well as the methodology of virtual psychophysics in vision science, I argue, do not support Walton’s account. On the contrary, they provide compelling evidence for the view that pictorial experience and seeing face-to-face are experiences of the same psychological, explanatory kind. I subsequently examine the proposal that imagining seeing even if not necessary for pictorial experience, may nonetheless play a fundamental role in pictorial understanding – that is, in enabling intended viewers to interpret and make appropriate use of pictures. According to one version of this proposal, it is a virtual model – a model of an object or scene rendered in phenomenally 3D, pictorial space – and not our seeing of the 2D, pictorial surface, that is the target of our propositional imaginings when we view a picture. This proposal, I show, also confronts serious challenges. Finally, I consider some roles played by imagining seeing and propositional imagining more broadly in our emotional and aesthetic responses to pictorial works of art.

12 marzo 2018
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