David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 54 (6):887-905 (2006)
There is a long tradition of characterizing man as the talking animal. However, the remarkable ability of using pictures also belongs to human beings, after all we know empirically so far. Are there conceptual reasons for that coincidence? Such a question belongs to the general science of language (linguistics) and philosophy of language just as well as to general visualistics (image science) - a discipline just emancipating itself from art history. We here take the visualistics point of view. A first recapitulation of the two abilities to use words or pictures lists several similarities and distinctions. A well-known disparity between pictures and words in the relation to perception can be determined by differences in the modes of usage during the corresponding sign acts. Furthermore, there are distinct ways for splitting up the pictorial or verbal sign acts into figure and ground. Such a structural comparison can only clarify conceptual relations; it cannot explain that the conceptual structure ought to be like that, in contrast to concept-genetic considerations. Correspondingly the discussion is extended to a concept-genetic sketch of the abilities to use language or pictures. This shifts the focus of attention to the concept of sortal objects and the concept of contexts of behavior. They allow us to analyze more precisely the relation between the two abilities in question, in particular as something depending on the function of context building, which enables human beings to communicatively access contexts apart from the actual situation of behavior. We finally gain arguments that characterize that relation as one of mutual dependency, and even lead to an understanding of the concept of inner images - or rather: a concept of imagination.
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