The paradox of pictorial representation. A Wittgensteinian solution

Alessandro Cavazzana


When Wittgenstein claims that “the expression of a change of aspect is the expression of a new perception and at the same time of the perception’s being unchanged” (Wittgenstein 1953: 196), he expresses a paradox that Gombrich (Gombrich 1960) modifies in this way: (a1) the observer x perceives a picture P under a new aspect; (b1) if x perceives P under a new aspect then x’s perception of P has changed; (c1) but x’s perception of P has not actually changed. I argue that the Gombrich’s version of the paradox has become the core of the problem of the pictorial representation. As I will explain, different approaches to depiction solve the paradox by denying one among (a1)-(c1). Gombrich rejects (c1). Wollheim rejects (a1). The so-called psychological theories of depiction also reject (a1). Every theory of depiction should face what I call the Fictional Issue (FI) and the Representational Issue (RI). Attempting to solve FI and RI, I shall explore an alternative, Wittgensteinian solution, which implies to reject (b1). To do this, we have to interpret the seeing-as as made of two kinds of perception: a simple perception and a representational perception.


Pictorial representation; Seeing-as; Picture perception

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