‘Pictorial Experience, Imagining De Re and Imaginative Penetration’ (Draft)

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In pictorial experience, we are normally aware of the visible features of two distinct sets of objects: the depicting surface and the depicted entities. Imagination-based accounts of pictorial experience maintain that our awareness of the depicted (e.g., of a landscape or a man) is essentially imaginative. My main aim in this paper is to provide a specific objection to imagination-based accounts. More specifically, I argue that they are unable to account for the fact that the kind of awareness, which is exemplified by our awareness of the depicted scene involved in our non-illusionistic pictorial experience of a two-dimensional picture, could not be instantiated without the simultaneous perceptual awareness of some marked surface.

First of all, I clarify and argue for the claim that the non-illusionistic awareness of what two-dimensional pictures depict depends on the simultaneous awareness of some suitable depicting surface. Then, I discuss and criticise the three main ways in which imagination-based accounts may attempt to explain this dependence — namely either in terms of imagining from the inside and de re imagining, or in terms of imaginative penetration through seeing something under an imaginatively employed concept, or in terms of imaginative fusion through visualising entering into seeing. My main focus is thereby on the accounts of Kendall Walton and Roger Scruton, but I also say something about the views of Brian O’Shaughnessy and Kathleen Stock.