Imagination, Perception and Memory. Making (some) sense of Walton’s view on Photographs and Depiction

Azafea: Revista de Filosofia 19:251-268 (2017)
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Abstract

Walton has controversially claimed that all pictures are fiction because, in seeing a picture one imagines that one is seeing the depicted content in the flesh; and that in seeing a photograph one _literally – _although indirectly – _sees_ the photographed object. Philosophers have found these claims implausible for various reasons: it is not the case that all pictures are fiction; explaining depiction does not require an imaginative engagement and seeing objects in photographs is not tantamount to seeing the object. I agree with Walton’s critics in all of these claims. However, I try to give some plausibility to Walton’s view. Firstly, I claim that is a misunderstanding. Second, I try to clarify Walton’s view of depiction by contrasting pictorial experience with perceptual experience more generally. Finally, I focus on the case of photographs and I l claim that although Walton is not right in claiming that _seeing_ objects _in_ photographs is a case of literally perceiving the objects, photographs share an important feature with perceptual experience: the content of photographs, like the content of pictorial experience, is particular in character, and that explains their peculiar phenomenology. I content, however, that the experience of photographs is closer to memory than to perception.

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Paloma Atencia
University College London

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References found in this work

Perception, vision, and causation.Paul Snowdon - 1981 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 81:175-92.
Imagining Fact and Fiction.Stacie Friend - 2008 - In Kathleen Stock & Katherine Thomson-Jones (eds.), New waves in aesthetics. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 150-169.

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