Review of Metaphysics 26 (3):525-526 (1973)

This book contains three essays: "The Mask and the Face: The Perception of Physiognomic Likeness in Life and Art" by Gombrich, the renowned art historian and critic; "The Representation of Things and People" by psychologist, Julian Hochberg; and "How Do Pictures Represent" by philosopher, Max Black. The book is based upon lectures delivered in the Johns Hopkins 1970 Thalheimer Lectures, where, taking off from the question "how there can be an underlying identity in the manifold and changing facial expression of a single individual," there is an interdisciplinary attempt at clarifying the problem of representation. Gombrich’s central thesis is that the key to artistic representation is empathy and projection, which is guided by the interlocking display of the permanent and mobile features of the object represented. Perceptual activity and empathy rely more on the muscular imitation than on passive visual reception. He holds that what is singled out as the likeness-factor uniting the permanent and mobile features in, for example, the photograph of the four-year old Lord Russell and such factors in the ninety-year old Russell is the "general tonus, the melody of transition from given ranges of relaxations to forms of tenseness." Hochberg’s essay spells out the position that perception is purposive behavior, wherein the purpose is the information sought and behavior is the "succession of glances in different directions." Holding that perceptual activity is grounded in expectations, he lays aside Gombrich’s muscularity-thesis in favor of a learned expectation of feature characteristics. Black’s essay is a conceptual analysis of "depiction," or more precisely, of "P displays a subject S if and only if R, where R ‘will constitute the necessary and sufficient condition for P displaying S'." The essay, which proceeds in a Wittgensteinian Investigations-type fashion ends where the reader would hope it begin. He concludes that the problem can only be adequately answered by moving from logical investigation to the world of the artisan and art lover. To arrive at this conclusion he debunks six candidates that claim to meet the depiction conditions: causal history, selective information, intention, mimesis, resemblance, and "looking-like." At best, depiction may be considered a "cluster" concept of all six. Further determination, he holds, requires knowledge of the purpose of a particular depiction, and this takes us out of logic and into art; and so Black stops, unfortunately.—W. A. F.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph197326313
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