Depictive Seeing and Double Content

John Dilworth

in Philosophical Perspectives on Depiction

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780199585960
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191723490 | DOI:

Series: Mind Association Occasional Series

Depictive Seeing and Double Content

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  • Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art


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A picture provides both configurational content concerning its design features, and pictorial or recognitional content about its external subject. This chapter argues that a picture's design both encodes artistically relevant design content, and in turn that design content encodes the subject content of the picture — producing overall a double content structure. An adequate theory for this structure should be able to explain the ambiguities involved in abstracting two levels of visual content from a single visible surface, as well as explaining the systematic relations between the two kinds of content. The chapter provides an orientational theory — based on a recently developed spatial logic of orientational concepts — for this purpose, and shows how depictive and perceptual content in general can be usefully explained in these orientational terms. This account of picturing also integrates well with a previously developed, more generic double content theory of art, and it is also plausible in cognitive science terms.

Keywords: ambiguity; depiction; design features; double content; orientational theory; perceptual content; pictorial content; subject content

Chapter.  9341 words. 

Subjects: Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art

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