Pictures and singular thought

How do we acquire thoughts and beliefs about particulars by looking at pictures? One kind of reply essentially compares depiction to perception, holding that picture-perception is a form of remote object-perception. Lopes’s theory that pictures refer by demonstrative identification, and Walton’s transparency theory for photographs, constitute such remote acquaintance theories of depiction. The main purpose of this paper is to defend an alternative conception of pictures, on which they are not suitable for acquainting us with particulars but for acquainting us with certain kinds of properties. This conception is outlined in §4, where it is argued that pictures are useful devices for what Heal has called indexical predication. In §2 and §3, I explain why I believe that remote acquaintance theories are false, and why picture-perception cannot function as a form of extended or remote object-perception. The main reason is that the contents of picture-perceptions do not themselves provide the kind of numerical and contextual information required for singular thought. Picture-reference is instead secured by independent beliefs or linguistic communication about the causal history of pictures as objects. In other words, it is beliefs about the numerical identity of pictures as objects that anchors the reference of the representational contents of pictures.
Keywords depiction  reference  de re thought
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DOI 10.1111/j.1540-6245.2009.01388.x
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