Scruton on the Inscrutability of Photographs

British Journal of Aesthetics 49 (4):341-355 (2009)
Abstract
A long-standing objection to the artistic pretensions of photography is that, because of the ‘causal’ nature of the process whereby a photographic image is produced, the formative intelligence of the photographer does not play a significant role in the generation of the image. Only where we can see such intelligence manifested in an image, it is claimed, can we legitimately take the representational content of the image to be a proper subject of artistic interest. I examine the most sophisticated modern version of this argument in Roger Scruton's paper, ‘Photography and Representation’. I first critically examine Dominic Lopes's reconstruction of Scruton's argument and his proposed response to it. I then present an alternative analysis that brings out a central charge—what I term the ‘inscrutability’ argument that is obscured in Lopes's analysis. I then suggest how we can answer the inscrutability argument
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DOI 10.1093/aesthj/ayp042
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