Just as it’s possible to understand novel sentences without having heard them before, it’s possible to understand novel pictures without have seen them before. But these possibilities are traditionally supposed to have very different explanations: whereas the possibility of understanding novel sentences is supposed to be explained by their compositional structure, the possibility of understanding novel depictions is supposed not to be. In this paper, I argue against this disanalogy: the possibility of understanding both some, but not all, novel sentences (...) and some, but not all, novel depictions is explained by their compositional structure. (shrink)
Traditionally, the structure of a language is revealed by constructing an appropriate theory of meaning for that language, which exhibits how – and whether – the meaning of sentences in the language depends upon the meaning of their parts. In this paper, I argue that whether – and how – what pictures represent depends on what their parts represent should likewise by revealed by the construction of appropriate theories of representation for the symbol system of those pictures. This generalisation, I (...) argue, reveals a much cited disanalogy between depiction and description is illusory: the structure of pictures, like language, is compositional. (shrink)
Not every metaphor can be literally paraphrased by a corresponding simile – the metaphorical meaning of ‘Juliet is the sun’, for example, is not the literal meaning of ‘Juliet is like the sun’. But every metaphor can be literally paraphrased, since if ‘metaphorically’ is prefixed to a metaphor, the result says literally what the metaphor says figuratively – the metaphorical meaning of ‘Juliet is the sun’, for example, is the literal meaning of ‘metaphorically, Juliet is the sun’.
It’s a platitude that a picture is realistic to the degree to which it resembles what it represents (in relevant respects). But if properties are abundant and degrees of resemblance are proportions of properties in common, then the degree of resemblance between different particulars is constant (or undefined), which is inconsonant with the platitude. This paper argues this problem should be resolved by revising the analysis of degrees of resemblance in terms of proportion of properties in common, and not by (...) accepting a sparse theory of properties or by denying that degree of realism is degree of resemblance (in relevant respects). (shrink)
According to Satosi Watanabe's "theorem of the ugly duckling", the number of (possible) predicates satisfied by any two different particulars is a constant, which does not depend on the choice of the two particulars. If the number of (possible) predicates satisfied by two particulars is their number of properties in common, and the degree of resemblance between two particulars is a function of their number of properties in common, then it follows that the degree of resemblance between any two different (...) particulars is a constant, which does not depend on the choice of the two particulars either. Avoiding this absurd conclusion requires questioning assumptions involving infinity in the proof or interpretation of the theorem, adopting a sparse conception of properties according to which not every (possible) predicate corresponds to a property, or denying that degree of resemblance is a function of number of properties in common. After arguing against the first two options, this paper argues for a version of the third which analyses degrees of resemblance in terms of degrees of naturalness of common properties. In the course of doing so, it presents a novel account of natural properties. (shrink)
Take a strip of paper with 'once upon a time there'‚ written on one side and 'was a story that began'‚ on the other. Twisting the paper and joining the ends produces John Barth’s story Frame-Tale, which prefixes 'once upon a time there was a story that began'‚ to itself. I argue that the ability to understand this sentence cannot be explained by tacit knowledge of a recursive theory of truth in English.
It's often hypothesized that the structure of mental representation is map-like rather than language-like. The possibility arises as a counterexample to the argument from the best explanation of productivity and systematicity to the language of thought hypothesis—the hypothesis that mental structure is compositional and recursive. In this paper, I argue that the analogy with maps does not undermine the argument, because maps and language have the same kind of compositional and recursive structure.
This paper argues against definitions of depiction in terms of the syntactic and semantic properties of symbol systems. In particular, it is argued that John Kulvicki's definition of depictive symbol systems in terms of relative repleteness, semantic richness, syntactic sensitivity and transparency is susceptible to similar counterexamples as Nelson Goodman's in terms of syntactic density, semantic density and relative repleteness. The general moral drawn is that defining depiction requires attention not merely to descriptive questions about syntax and semantics, but also (...) to foundational questions about what makes it the case that depictions have the syntactic and semantic properties they do. (shrink)
It's possible to understand an infinite number of novel maps. I argue that Roberto Casati and Achille Varzi's compositional semantics of maps cannot explain this possibility, because it requires an infinite number of semantic primitives. So the semantics of maps is puzzlingly different from the semantics of language.
This paper argues for a possible worlds theory of the content of pictures, with three complications: depictive content is centred, two-dimensional and structured. The paper argues that this theory supports a strong analogy between depictive and other kinds of representation and the platitude that depiction is mediated by resemblance.
It is a platitude that whereas language is mediated by convention, depiction is mediated by resemblance. But this platitude may be attacked on the grounds that resemblance is either insufficient for or incidental to depictive representation. I defend common sense from this attack by using Grice's analysis of meaning to specify the non-incidental role of resemblance in depictive representation.
The possibilities of depicting non-existents, depicting non-particulars and depictive misrepresentation are frequently cited as grounds for denying the platitude that depiction is mediated by resemblance. I first argue that these problems are really a manifestation of the more general problem of intentionality. I then show how there is a plausible solution to the general problem of intentionality which is consonant with the platitude.
By defining both depictive and linguistic representation as kinds of symbol system, Nelson Goodman attempts to undermine the platitude that, whereas linguistic representation is mediated by convention, depiction is mediated by resemblance. I argue that Goodman is right to draw a strong analogy between the two kinds of representation, but wrong to draw the counterintuitive conclusion that depiction is not mediated by resemblance.