On the epistemic value of photographs

Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 62 (2):197–210 (2004)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Many have held that photographs give us a firmer epistemic connection to the world than do other depictive representations. To take just one example, Bazin famously claimed that “The objective nature of photography confers on it a quality of credibility absent from all other picture-making” ([Bazin, 1967], 14). Unfortunately, while the intuition in question is widely shared, it has remained poorly understood. In this paper we propose to explain the special epistemic status of photographs. We take as our starting place (in §1) Kendall Walton’s startling proposal that photographs are special because they are “transparent” [Walton, 1984] — that is, that they are special because, unlike other depictive representations, they enable us literally to see their depicta.1 Walton’s proposal has not convinced many; however, it has proven surprisingly difficult to say just what is wrong about the transparency thesis. In §§2–4 we’ll rise to this challenge and show why photographs are not transparent in Walton’s sense. Finally, in §§5–7 we’ll propose and defend a novel diagnosis of what is epistemically special about photographs.

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 76,391

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Depictive Traces: On the Phenomenology of Photography.Mikael Pettersson - 2011 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 69 (2):185-196.
The Epistemic Value of Photographs.Catharine Abell - 2010 - In Catharine Abell & Katerina Bantinaki (eds.), Philosophical Perspectives on Depiction. Oxford University Press.
Three kinds of realism about photographs.Jiri Benovsky - 2011 - Journal of Speculative Philosophy 25 (4):375-395.

Analytics

Added to PP
2009-01-28

Downloads
258 (#47,742)

6 months
12 (#78,019)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

Aaron Meskin
University of Georgia
Jonathan Cohen
University of California, San Diego

References found in this work

Categories of art.Kendall L. Walton - 1970 - Philosophical Review 79 (3):334-367.
Veridical hallucination and prosthetic vision.David Lewis - 1980 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 58 (3):239-249.
From Information to Intentionality.Barry Loewer - 1987 - Synthese 70 (2):287 - 317.

View all 8 references / Add more references