The nature of representation is a central topic in philosophy. This is the first book to connect problems with understanding representational artifacts, like pictures, diagrams, and inscriptions, to the philosophies of science, mind, and art. Can images be a source of knowledge? Are images merely conventional signs, like words? What is the relationship between the observer and the observed? In this clear and stimulating introduction to the problem John V. Kulvicki explores these questions and more. He discusses: the nature of (...) pictorial experience and "seeing in" recognition, resemblance, pretense, and structural theories of depiction images as aids to scientific discovery and understanding mental imagery and the nature of perceptual content photographs as visual prostheses. In so doing he assesses central problems in the philosophy of images, such as how objects we make come to represent other things, and how we distinguish kinds of representation - pictures, diagrams, graphs - from one another. Essential reading for students and professional philosophers alike, the book also contains chapter summaries, annotated further reading, and a glossary. (shrink)
Analog representation is often cast in terms of an engineering distinction between smooth and discrete systems. The engineering notion cuts across interesting representational categories, however, so it is poorly suited to thinking about kinds of representation. This paper suggests that analog representations support a pattern of interaction, specifically open-ended searches for content across levels of abstraction. They support the pattern by sharing a structure with what they represent. Continuous systems that satisfy the engineering notion are exemplars of this kind because (...) they are uninterpretable unless they are structure-preserving. Analog representations, so understood, include pictures, images, diagrams, and most graphs. This conception of analogicity also fits well with a line of thought about what makes perceptual states distinctive: they satisfy a “parts principle”. (shrink)
There is a growing consensus in the philosophical literature that sounds differ rather profoundly from colors. Colors are qualities, while sounds are particulars of some sort or other, such as events or pressure waves. A key motivation for this is that sounds seem to be transient, to evolve over time, to begin and end, while colors seem like stable qualities of objects' surfaces. I argue that sounds are indeed, like colors, stable qualities of objects. Sounds are not transient, and they (...) do not seem to be, even though they are typically perceived transiently. In particular, sounds are dispositions of objects to vibrate in response to being stimulated. This stable property view of sounds aligns nicely with, and owes an inspirational debt to, reflectance physicalist accounts of color. The upshot is a unified picture of colors, sounds, and the perception thereof. (shrink)
Problems concerning scientists’ uses of representations have received quite a bit of attention recently. The focus has been on how such representations get their contents and on just what those contents are. Less attention has been paid to what makes certain kinds of scientific representations different from one another and thus well suited to this or that epistemic end. This article considers the latter question with particular focus on the distinction between images and graphs on the one hand and descriptions (...) and related representations on the other. *Received January 2008; revised September 2009. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
The central claim of this paper is that what it is like to see green or any other perceptible property is just the perceptual mode of presentation of that property. Perceptual modes of presentation are important because they help resolve a tension in current work on consciousness. Philosophers are pulled by three mutually inconsistent theses: representational externalism, representationalism, and phenomenal internalism. I throw my hat in with defenders of the first two: the externalist representationalists. We are faced with the problem (...) of explaining away intuitions that favor phenomenal internalism. Perceptual modes of presentation account for what it is like to see properties in a way that accommodates those intuitions without vindicating phenomenal internalism itself. Perceptual MoPs therefore provide a new way of being an externalist representationalist. (shrink)
Our perceptual systems make information about the world available to our cognitive faculties. We come to think about the colors and shapes of objects because we are built somehow to register the instantiation of these properties around us. Just how we register the presence of properties and come to think about them is one of the central problems with understanding perceptual cognition. Another problem in the philosophy of perception concerns the nature of the properties whose presence we register. Among the (...) perceptible properties are colors and shapes, for example, and there is a long philosophical tradition of drawing and refusing to draw metaphysical distinctions between them. This paper makes a claim about the information-theoretic approach to perceptual cognition in order to argue for a fundamentally epistemological distinction between colors and shapes. What makes shapes and colors seem so different to us is how we carry information about their presence around us. In particular, we can come to know more about the shapes on the basis of perceiving them than we can come to know about the colors. One interesting feature of how this distinction is drawn is that it partially vindicates Locke’s claim that our ideas of primary qualities like shapes resemble them in ways our ideas of colors do not. (shrink)
Over the last fifteen years, communication has become pictorial in a manner that it never was before. Billions of people have smart phones that enable them to take, edit, and share pictures easily whenever they choose to do so. This has created expressive niches within which new activities, with their own norms, continue to develop. Ready availability of these pictorial modes of communication, we claim, not only constitutes a change in the range of our communicative practices, but also changes the (...) world about which we communicate. Increasingly, we are making a world that’s worth depicting, using the tools we now possess. This paper will unpack one example of this phenomenon, trompe l’oeil street art. More and more of this seems to be produced with the intention that it is seen primarily in pictures. It makes sense that anything someone makes, and wants to be seen, would be made with decent photography potential in mind. You want photos to be able to, as they say, do justice to your work no matter what kind of visual work you make. In these cases, however, the pictures of the work are reliably more interesting than the pieces seen in the flesh. (shrink)
This dissertation works out a new approach to understanding what makes a representation pictorial and what makes a representation imagistic. Over the last thirty years, the most common approach to these problems has been to claim that what makes a representation pictorial is that normal perceivers can perceive it in certain ways. By contrast, my approach singles out structural features of representational systems as that which distinguishes pictures from other kinds of representations. Pictorial systems are those that are transparent, relatively (...) syntactically sensitive, relatively replete, and semantically rich. All pictures are images, but the converse relation does not hold because images need not be transparent, though they satisfy the weaker condition of being mimetic. This approach is similar to, but enjoys advantages over, Nelson Goodman's work on the topic. ;The account of what makes a representation pictorial or imagistic is then brought to bear on the imagery debate, which concerns whether the brain implements imagistic systems of representation, specifically in the early stages of perception. A review of what we know about the workings of the visual and auditory systems reveals that no representations in the brain are pictorial, though some are imagistic in quite limited respects. Though they fail to be imagistic in many interesting respects, the early stages of the visual and auditory systems are highly isomorphic to what they represent. ;The role of isomorphism in perceptual states has been much discussed in both philosophy and cognitive neuroscience. The last two chapters of the dissertation argue that perceptual representations of traditionally secondary qualities like colors and sounds are isomorphic to those properties to a lesser degree than representations of traditionally primary qualities like shapes. This distinction in how such properties are represented can affect out intuitions concerning the nature of those properties and the nature of perceptual experience. Furthermore, it is argued that isomorphism is an important feature of perceptual representations because of the role it plays in making information cognitively available. This role for isomorphism is maintained even if one is an information theorist, and therefore thinks that lawful causal generalizations fix the content of representations. (shrink)
Revelation, the thesis that the full intrinsic nature of colors is revealed to us by color experiences, is false in Byrne & Hilbert's (B&H's) view, but in an interesting and nonobvious way. I show what would make Revelation true, given B&H's account of colors, and then show why that situation fails to obtain, and why that is interesting.
Long-exposure photographs present distinctive philosophical challenges. They do not quite look like things in motion. Experiences of such photos take time, but not in a way that mimics the time of the motion depicted. In fact, it would not be off base to worry that these photos fail, strictly speaking, to depict motion or things-in-time. And if they fail to depict motion, then it is an interesting question what, if anything, they succeed in depicting. These timeless traces of temporal patterns (...) are thus a challenge to how we understand pictures. In addition to being representations, however, such photographs are recordings. They witlessly register aspects of scenes in a manner that can be replayed. The following shows that recording is a valuable and neglected tool for investigating representational practices. Aspects of what photos record also figure in their representational contents, and this provides a way of approaching the photography of events in time. This article proceeds by framing, and then answering, three questions. First, what do photos record about temporal patterns? Second, which aspects of such recordings also show up in photos’ representational contents? And third, do these pictures depict, rather than merely represent, such temporal patterns? (shrink)
John Kulvicki explores the many ways in which pictures can be meaningful, taking inspiration from the philosophy of language. Pictures are important parts of communicative acts. They express a variety of thoughts, and they are also representations. Kulvicki shows how the meanings of pictures let us put them to a wide range of communicative uses.