Resemblance and Representation: An Essay in the Philosophy of Pictures

Resemblance and Representation: An Essay in the Philosophy of Pictures Ben Blumson
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One must also recognize the amount of excellent work Blumson has done in order to, precisely, produce a very systematic, well-articulated and well-defended theory. An impressive list of objections is answered in an impressively detailed and rigorous way. This book is an excellent source of thought for anyone who is interested in depiction, and Blumson's comparison with the way language represents is both inspiring and compelling.
— Jiri Benovsky, Dialectica, 69.2 (2015), 254-58

In Resemblance and Representation: An Essay in the Philosophy of Pictures, Ben Blumson argues compellingly against the view that depictions and descriptions function in fundamentally different ways. Throughout the book, he uses a broadly Gricean approach to representation in order to stress the parallels between language and depiction. This original and fruitful framework enables him to reconcile the widely held assumption that depictive representations are grounded in resemblance with the view that they are elements of symbolic systems. Most impressive is Blumson's attention to both artistic and non-artistic depictions, such as maps and diagrams. This study makes a unique contribution to the existing literature on the nature of depiction.
— Rene Jagnow, Associate Professor in Philosophy, University of Georgia

Overall, the book represents a significant intellectual achievement, and merits a place of its own alongside other recent Goodman-inspired books such as Dominic Lopes’ and John Kulvicki’s.
— Rafael De Clercq, British Journal of Aesthetics (2016)

Resemblance and Representation is a tightly argued book, at times demanding, but always rewarding for the reader. Its articulated defense of resemblance gives it an important place in the contemporary debate on pictorial representation.
— Roberto Casati, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 95.3 (2016), 603-606

It’s a platitude – which only a philosopher would dream of denying – that whereas words are connected to what they represent merely by arbitrary conventions, pictures are connected to what they represent by resemblance. The most important difference between my portrait and my name, for example, is that whereas my portrait and I are connected by my portrait’s resemblance to me, my name and I are connected merely by an arbitrary convention. The first aim of this book is to defend this platitude from the apparently compelling objections raised against it, by analysing depiction in a way which reveals how it is mediated by resemblance.

It’s natural to contrast the platitude that depiction is mediated by resemblance, which emphasises the differences between depictive and descriptive representation, with an extremely close analogy between depiction and description, which emphasises the similarities between depictive and descriptive representation. Whereas the platitude emphasises that the connection between my portrait and me is natural in a way the connection between my name and me is not, the analogy emphasises the contingency of the connection between my portrait and me. Nevertheless, the second aim of this book is to defend an extremely close analogy between depiction and description.

The strategy of the book is to argue that the apparently compelling objections raised against the platitude that depiction is mediated by resemblance are manifestations of more general problems, which are familiar from the philosophy of language. These problems, it argues, can be resolved by answers analogous to their counterparts in the philosophy of language, without rejecting the platitude. So the combination of the platitude that depiction is mediated by resemblance with a close analogy between depiction and description turns out to be a compelling theory of depiction, which combines the virtues of common sense with the insights of its detractors.

The National University of Singapore has generously contributed towards the publication of this volume.

Resemblance and Representation: An Essay in the Philosophy of Pictures
Ben Blumson | October 2014
x + 212 | 7 Black and White | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
ISBN Paperback: 9781783740727
ISBN Hardback: 9781783740734
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781783740741
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781783740758
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781783740765
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0046
BIC subject codes: CFA (Philosophy of Language), HPN (Philosophy: aesthetics), HPM (Philosophy of Mind)

List of illustrations
Note on the text
1. Introduction
    1.1 An ostensive definition of depiction
    1.2 The analysis of resemblance as sharing properties
    1.3 An intuitive taxonomy of representation
    1.4 The methodology of analysis
    1.5 Conclusion
2. Defining Depiction
    2.1 Grice’s analysis of speaker meaning
    2.2 The intended effect in Grice’s analysis
    2.3 The salient feature in Grice’s analysis
    2.4 Abell’s analysis of depiction
    2.5 Conclusion
3. Depiction and Intention
    3.1 Objections to the necessity of intention
    3.2 Objections to the necessity of an audience
    3.3 Objections to the sufficiency of intention
    3.4 Objections to the necessity of reasons
    3.5 Conclusion
4. Depiction and Convention
    4.1 Goodman’s definition of symbol systems
    4.2 Formal definition of languages
    4.3 Lewis’ analysis of convention
    4.4 Analysis of depictive symbol systems
    4.5 Conclusion
5. Symbol Systems
    5.1 Analysis of conventional language
    5.2 Analysis of symbol systems in use
    5.3 Depiction outside of symbol systems
    5.4 Meaning outside conventional language
    5.5 Conclusion
6. Depiction and Composition
    6.1 Theories of representation
    6.2 The finite axiomatization constraint
    6.3 The mirror constraint
    6.4 The structural constraint
    6.5 Conclusion
7. Interpreting Images
    7.1 Compositionality and language understanding
    7.2 Compositionality and understanding pictures
    7.3 Understanding pictures without compositionality
    7.4 Understanding language without compositionality
    7.5 Conclusion
8. Intentionality and Inexistence
    8.1 Analysing depiction in intentional terms
    8.2 Denying depiction is relational
    8.3 Denying relations are between existents
    8.4 Depiction of states of affairs
    8.5 Conclusion
9. Perspective and Possibility
    9.1 The possible worlds analysis of content
    9.2 Centred properties and possible worlds
    9.3 The two-dimensional analysis of content
    9.4 Structured intensions and impossible worlds
    9.5 Conclusion
10. Pictures and Properties
    10.1 Predicate nominalism
    10.2 Class nominalism
    10.3 Scientific realism
    10.4 Inegalitarian nominalism
    10.5 Conclusion

Ben Blumson is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the National University of Singapore. His work has appeared in journals such as Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Philosophical Studies, the British Journal of Aesthetics and the Journal of Microliterature. He writes about philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and philosophy of art, as well as short fiction.