Reality, Fiction, and Make-Believe in Kendall Walton

In Krešimir Purgar (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Image Studies. pp. 363-377 (2021)
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Images share a common feature with all phenomena of imagination, since they make us aware of what is not present or what is fictional and not existent at all. From this perspective, the philosophical approach of Kendall Lewis Walton—born in 1939 and active since the 1960s at the University of Michigan—is perhaps one of the most notable contributions to image theory. Walton is an authoritative figure within the tradition of analytical aesthetics. His contributions have had a considerable influence on a broad range of topics, such as the role of categories in the understanding of the arts (Walton, “Categories of Art”. Philosophical Review, 79(3): 334–367, 1970), the ambiguous nature of emotions in the experience of fictional stories (Walton, “Fearing Fictions”. The Journal of Philosophy, 75(1): 5–25, 1978), the transparency of photographic images compared to other depictions (Walton, “Transparent Pictures: On the Nature of Photographic Realism”. Noûs, 18(1): 67–72, 1984) and, above all, the development of a general theory of fiction as imaginative activity. His 1990 book Mimesis as Make-believe: On the Foundations of the Representational Arts collects and re-elaborates articles Walton published on the subject since the 1970s. Though he does not attempt to give a definitive answer for what imagination is, Walton thoroughly investigates its role in all cases of representational works, describing depictions as a specific case of “make-believe” activity: images, in short, are specific props of a visual and perceptual “make-believe” game.



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Emanuele Arielli
Istituto Universitario di Architettura (Venezia)

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