‘A Sort of Composite Photograph’: Pragmatism, Ideas, and Schematism

Christopher Hookway

in The Pragmatic Maxim

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199588381
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745089 | DOI:
‘A Sort of Composite Photograph’: Pragmatism, Ideas, and Schematism

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Peirce often described ideas or general concepts metaphorically as composite photographs. After explaining what composite photographs are, the chapter argues that this explains how ideas are iconic representations which are constructed out of instances of the idea which the agent has known or encountered. It also shows how such ideas are general and are applicable to new or unfamiliar cases. This is to explain how ideas can be applied in experience, an issue which is important for Peirce’s pragmatism. So understood, ideas are similar to what Peirce describes as ‘schemata of the imagination’, and they are related to Peirce’s reasons for thinking about Kant’s schematism. The use of a composite photograph generates particular representations in the imagination or in the form of images, and the logical structure of the idea is displayed in time in the form of a sequence of images.

Keywords: composite photograph; Galton; ideas; pragmatism; schematism; Kant

Chapter.  7642 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy

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