Lecture by John Kulvicki (2017-2018 Paris IAS fellow), within the framework of the seminar "Iconicity. II", organized by Jérôme Dokic (Studies Director, EHESS (IJN))
Individuals are not ever included in _pictorial contents_, as I explained them in the previous lecture. But portraits, postcard photos, class rosters, and many other pictures seem to be about particular individuals. They are not understood merely descriptively. To explain this, I suggest that sometimes pictures have _dthat_ contents. David Kaplan suggested that some uses of definite descriptions have particular individuals as contents, and he explained this by appeal to an operation defined over character and content. Pictures, I claim, can also have dthat contents. I will explain what this means, and, I hope convince you that it is a good way to explain many uses to which pictures are put. Though we will not have time to discuss it in detail, I will also suggest that a similar mechanism explains much iconographic interpretation of pictures.
About the seminar
In this seminar, we will tackle issues related to the nature of iconicity. Among them are the following:
- What makes something a picture? Can any material object act as a picture if it is cognitively processed in the right way? What are the material constraints that an object must answer to count as a picture?
- Are there limits to what can be represented in a picture?
- Is the notion of a picture a visual notion? Are there non-visual (e.g., auditory or tactile) pictures? Even if there are, is the notion of visual picture somehow more fundamental?
- What are the cognitive processes involved in seeing a picture as such? Does the distinction between “seeing as” and “seeing in” correspond to different sets of cognitive processes?
- Seeing a picture as such does not involve the same sensorimotor contingencies as those involved in ordinary perception (for instance, what is seen in a picture is not usually sensitive to one’s change of position relative to the picture). But what are the prospects of a sensorimotor or enactive approach to picture perception?
- It is often said that what is seen in a picture is not felt as present. What is the notion of presence at stake here? Is there a feeling of non-presence or absence that is specific to pictures?
- What is the relationship between pictures and fictions? Are there fictional pictures? Are there pictorial markers of fiction?
- What is the epistemic function of pictures? Can we distinguish between, e.g., photography and painting on the basis of the epistemic status of the relevant pictures?
- How should we apply the notions of style and narration to pictures? Are some pictures non-linguistic narratives?
In coordination with Roberto Casati’s homonymous seminar, we will have in the Spring 2018 the privilege of hosting six prominent specialists of the philosophy of pictorial representation: Catharine Abell (Manchester), Katerina Bantinaki (Crete), John Kulvicki (Dartmouth College), Achille Varzi (Columbia University), Alberto Voltolini (Turin) and John Zeimbekis (Patras). We shall work towards making the seminar a consensus conference about the question of iconicity.