Beyond Words

Pictures, Parables, Paradoxes

by András Benedek (Volume editor) Kristóf Nyíri (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection 259 Pages
Series: Visual Learning, Volume 5


Human thinking depends not only on words but also on visual imagery. Visual argumentation directly exploits the logic of the pictorial, while verbal arguments, too, draw on figurative language, and thus ultimately on images. In the centuries of handwritten documents and the printed book, our educational culture has been a predominantly verbal one. Today the challenge of the pictorial is explicit and conspicuous. In the digital world, we are experiencing an unprecedented wealth of images, animations and videos. But how should visual content be combined with traditional texts? This volume strives to present a broad humanities background showing how going beyond the word was always an issue in, and by now has become an inevitable challenge to, pedagogy and philosophy.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Editors
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Image, Metaphor, Symbol
  • Living Images and Images We Live By What Does It Mean to Become a Living Image? 
  • Metaphor and Parable
  • Metaphorical Eternity in Action The Nonlinguistic Realization of Death Metaphors in Iranian Culture
  • The Art of Memory Politics: Visual Learning – Visual Resisting
  • Text and Image
  • The Iconic Surplus in Visual Arguments: Where Limitations and Potentials Coincide
  • “More Than One Way at Once” Simultaneous Viewpoints in Text and Image
  • Pictures, Experiential Learning and Phenomenology
  • Do We Have a Visual Mind?
  • Mental Imagery as a Sign System
  • The Semiotics of Images: Photographic Conventions in Advertising 
  • Augmenting Conceptualization by Visual Knowledge Organization
  • Images and the Challenge of the Internet
  • Emoticons vs. Reaction-Gifs Non-Verbal Communication on the Internet from the Aspects of Visuality, Verbality and Time
  • The Changing Appearance of Text and Images on Online Interfaces
  • Visual Learning – Picture and Memory in Virtual Worlds
  • Visual Rhetoric
  • Ingenious Rhetoric: The Visual Secret of Rhetoricality
  • Media Argumentation: A Novel Approach to Television Rhetoric and the Power of the News
  • Paradoxical Representation of Tropes in Visual Rhetoric
  • Visual Rhetoric Used in Mapping Natural Language Arguments
  • Philosophy and the Limits of Language
  • Seemings: Sensory and Intellectual
  • Cognitive Function of Beauty and Ugliness in Light of Kant’s Theory of Aesthetic Ideas
  • Kant’s Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience
  • The Thread and the Chain “Family Resemblances” and the Possibility of Non-Essentialist Conceptual Structure
  • Wittgenstein and Common-Sense Philosophy
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series Index

András Benedek


This volume is the fifth one in our book series VISUAL LEARNING, based on a sequence of yearly conferences organized by the Budapest Visual Learning Lab (VLL – http://vll.mpt.bme.hu). Launched in October 2009 by the Department of Technical Education, Budapest University of Technology and Economics, the Lab is actually a research seminar with regular monthly meetings. I have provided a narrative of its development in the Preface to the first volume of the VISUAL LEARNING series, and have repeated and updated that narrative in the second volume. On the present occasion let me just point out, as I did in the Preface to the fourth volume, too, that taking up research directed at visual education was clearly in the tradition of the Department where, for quite some time already, methods of atypical learning had been intensively studied.

At the fifth conference in our VISUAL LEARNING conference series, held on November 14–15, 2014, altogether 36 papers were presented, with submissions having passed a blind peer-review process. The papers selected and written up for inclusion in the present volume again underwent blind peer-reviewing. Ultimately, the volume consists of twenty-three edited chapters, arranged into five sections.

The first section, IMAGE, METAPHOR, SYMBOL, opens with Philipp Stoellger’s paper “Living Images and Images We Live By”. As Stoellger makes it explicit, speaking of images we live by of course evokes the conceptual metaphor theory of Lakoff and Johnson. However, and this is a main point Stoellger emphasizes, the conceptual pattern investigated by Lakoff and Johnson should not be merely reconstructed in language, i. e. in metaphorical concepts, but also in images – as Stoellger puts it, in iconic concepts. “We live by” will then “no longer only mean ‘we speak’ by”, but “perceive, act, behave, evaluate, think, and feel by”. The second chapter in this section, by Zoltán Kövecses, systematically compares the phenomena of metaphor and parable within the framework of conceptual metaphor theory. The author’s major goal is “to examine whether we can regard parable as a kind of metaphor and, more generally, to examine the cognitive status of parables”. The conclusion he reaches is that, from the perspective of his chosen framework, “parables can be regarded as non-prototypical cases of conceptual metaphors”. Conceptual metaphor theory provides the framework for the next chapter, too: “Metaphorical Eternity in Action: The Nonlinguistic Realization of ← 9 | 10 → Death Metaphors in Iranian Culture”, by Mohsen Bakhtiar. Significantly, rather than focusing on the linguistic manifestations of death metaphors, Bakhtiar puts emphasis on how conceptual metaphor contributes to and structures specific actions. With the last chapter in this section, Karolina Golinowska’s “The Art of Memory Politics: Visual Learning – Visual Resisting”, we leave the domain of the metaphor, and enter that of the symbolic. Not all historical memories and visual symbols, Golinowska explains, become part of “societal memory”, forging individual identity. It is “political memory” that “dictates the thought patterns and limits the social processes of commemorating and forgetting”.

The second section, TEXT AND IMAGE, begins with the chapter “The Iconic Surplus in Visual Arguments”, by Tobias Schöttler. Visual arguments, shows Schöttler, have obvious limits but also unique potentials, with limits and potentials as it were presupposing and implying each other. By adopting this perspective, Schöttler stresses, the standard objections against visual arguments can be relativized or dissolved. The next chapter, by Lieven Vandelanotte, “‘More Than One Way at Once’: Simultaneous Viewpoints in Text and Image”, argues that what we loosely call a “viewpoint” refers to a gamut of aspects: viewpoints are “inherently multimodal: beyond viewpoint in language, we also embody viewpoint in terms of our vision, gesture, body posture, direction of gaze, mental simulation, and so on”. Vandelanotte provides some fascinating examples of the possible interconnections in play here, highlighting “viewpoint” as a specific cognitive phenomenon. The visual, then, can essentially add to texts not only when it comes to arguments, but also, and this really meets the eye, when it comes to defining a perspective. And it conspicuously adds to texts when it comes to making discoveries, both in the practice of cutting-edge science and in the practice of pedagogy. The latter is the topic of Matthew Crippen’s paper “Pictures, Experiential Learning and Phenomenology”. Exploiting Merleau-Ponty’s notion of “lived experience”, Crippen emphasizes the role of “motor-practical visual exercise” and indeed of the “motor-body” as underlying all cognitive activity. Merleau-Ponty and the idea of the motor are very much at the centre also of the chapter “Do We Have a Visual Mind?” by Zsuzsanna Kondor. Discussing the notions of embodied cognition, sensorimotor capabilities, and in particular gestures, Kondor arrives at the conclusion that at a basic level, as she puts it, “we have not so much a visual, but rather a motor mind”. A much-discussed author both Kondor and – in the next chapter in this section – Jelena Issajeva take issue with, is Zenon Pylyshyn. Issajeva’s subject is mental imagery, and what she argues for is that a mental image is neither “a picture in the head”, as in the imagery debate most notably Stephen Kosslyn suggested, nor “a string of language-like thoughts”, as Pylyshyn believed, but rather ← 10 | 11 → “a complex system of signs and their properties” in the sense of semiotician and philosopher Peirce’s theory of icon, index and symbol. The chapter “The Semiotics of Images: Photographic Conventions in Advertising”, by Irma Puškarević and Uroš Nedeljković, aims at contributing to an analytical methodology of the visual image, specifically discussing the role of “social semiotics” and addressing “the shift of focus in meaning research from the ‘given’ to ‘possible’ meaning”. Peirce’s theory is taken up again in the last chapter of this section, the paper “Augmenting Conceptualization by Visual Knowledge Organization” by András G. Benedek, focussing on the issues of externalizing conceptual knowledge in visual forms, the coevolution of human cognition and external information carriers, and the interplay of word and image.

The next section in our volume, the section IMAGES AND THE CHALLENGE OF THE INTERNET, opens with Ágnes Veszelszki’s chapter “Emoticons vs. Reaction-Gifs”. Veszelszki strives to analyze a new form of web-based nonverbal intercourse. She first provides an overview of some fundamental assumptions of linguistic research on digital communication, then goes on to show different possibilities of expressing emotions on the internet, and closes by presenting the results of an empirical research on reaction-gifs. The chapter by Andrea Balogh and Zsolt Szántó, “The Changing Appearance of Text and Images on Online Interfaces”, points out that while earlier on the internet it was characteristically possible to send texts only, today software enables one to send messages containing both text and picture. The authors examine if there is a specific relation between the chosen topic and the form of the message with regard to the online interface used. The challenge of the internet is discussed from an educational point of view in the chapter “Visual Learning – Picture and Memory in Virtual Worlds”, by György Molnár and Zoltán Szűts, arguing that virtual worlds, fundamentally relying on the iconic turn, may carry the risk of causing a kind of digital dementia. Learning in virtual worlds is visual and 3D-orientated, the new communication technologies can make the learning process more effective through visual elements, but it is still a question how much information in that process can really be coped with.

We come to the section VISUAL RHETORIC, beginning with the chapter by Petra Aczél, “Ingenious Rhetoric: The Visual Secret of Rhetoricality”. Aczél proposes an encompassing frame for visionary rhetoric, the communicative faculty that binds together seeing and knowing, perceiving and persuading. Her paper takes note of the inherent visual nature of rhetoric by focusing on the pictorial and imaginative capacities of verbal communication. Drawing on ancient and contemporary philosophers, she insists on reintroducing rhetoric as an originally visual and thus immediate and inspiring human symbolic action. Eszter Deli’s ← 11 | 12 → chapter, “Media Argumentation: A Novel Approach to Television Rhetoric and the Power of the News”, suggests news to be construed as argumentative units. While the main objectives of media argumentation are, clearly, to persuade, to have an impact, and of course to gain the goodwill of the audience, Deli believes that it is possible to introduce a new focus to the field, by regarding media argumentation as a specific social scene. The chapter “Paradoxical Representation of Tropes in Visual Rhetoric”, by Gabriella Németh, applies representation theory to provide, as the author puts it, “a common platform to semiotic and rhetorical approaches”. The empirical part of her study points to various different structures of pictures and pictorial elements bound up with internet memes, while the theoretical part establishes connections between the visual application of rhetorical tropes and strategies, visual literacy, convergence, and participatory culture. The last chapter of this section, “Visual Rhetoric Used in Mapping Natural Language Arguments”, by Gábor Forgács, discusses some visual representations of argumentative structures. Forgács suggests that argument diagrams are as it were a form of hypertext, analyzable with the instruments of cognitive linguistics. He argues that “the actual visual layout of natural language arguments can have effects of non-rational persuasion on the viewer”. In argument mapping “a layer of visual rhetoric” is added to the visual reconstruction of argument patterns.

This volume’s last section, PHILOSOPHY AND THE LIMITS OF LANGUAGE, opens with a chapter by Paul Boghossian. Under the title “Seemings: Sensory and Intellectual” Boghossian argues that while visual states, and perceptual states generally, can be seen as coming “already equipped with a particular propositional content”, the question should be examined whether “in addition to sensory seemings or presentations, there are intellectual seemings or presentations”. What we face here, points out Boghossian, is the traditional question of intuitions, and his position is that ultimately “we cannot do without appeal to a notion of intuition in the theory of knowledge”. In his paper he outlines the most important challenges to the notion of intuition, and indicates how he believes we can respond to them. Boghossian’s essay is followed by two chapters on Kant and two on Wittgenstein. The first of these, Mojca Küplen’s “Cognitive Function of Beauty and Ugliness in Light of Kant’s Theory of Aesthetic Ideas”, takes issue with the customary philosophical distinction between aesthetic value and cognitive value, a distinction based on the view that aesthetic experience depends on the feeling of pleasure or displeasure, and that feelings are essentially non-cognitive. The chapter “Kant’s Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience”, by Andrija Šoć, starts out from the Kantian claim that genuine aesthetic judgments must be valid for everyone, but are also merely subjective. Kant here, Šoć insists, has not stated anything incoher ← 12 | 13 → ent. As Šoć writes: “The ultimate justification of our normative expectation that others in our position ought to make the same aesthetic judgment with respect to some object we judged beautiful, and thus the universality of both its validity and the communicability of our inner state, lies … in the fact of our transcendental uniformity”, pertains, that is, precisely, to the uniformity of our cognitive powers. Of the two chapters on Wittgenstein, the one by Monika Jovanović, “The Thread and the Chain: ‘Family Resemblances’ and the Possibility of Non-Essentialist Conceptual Structure”, explains why it is not the case that every concept needs to have strictly determined application conditions; why, as Wittgenstein has shown, the common-sense perspective, according to which there is a crucial relation between the concept of a certain thing and essential characteristics of that thing, is false. A perhaps complementary view is taken by the final chapter in the volume, Kristóf Nyíri’s “Wittgenstein and Common-Sense Philosophy”. As Nyíri puts it, Wittgenstein in his later years came close to developing a philosophy of visual thinking, thereby vindicating the common-sense view according to which we think in images no less than in words, with both mental and physical images signifying by resembling. Nyíri believes that the later Wittgenstein actually tended to be a philosopher of common sense.

Let me, at this point, thank Kristóf Nyíri in his capacity as my co-editor. I am indebted to him for seeing the volume, as also the previous volumes of the VISUAL LEARNING series, through the press. And a remark: in this series we do not generally follow the convention of indicating, for internet references, the date when authors last accessed the site they quote. Rather, each internet reference has been checked by the editors; all internet references contained in the present volume were valid at the time the Preface was written.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (July)
visual learning visual argumentation visual rhetoric conceptual metaphor theory
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 259 pp., 30 b/w ill., 1 table

Biographical notes

András Benedek (Volume editor) Kristóf Nyíri (Volume editor)

András Benedek is Professor and Head at the Department of Technical Education, Budapest University of Technology and Economics. He has published several papers on human resource development issues. Kristóf Nyíri is Professor of Philosophy at the same Department. His main fields of research are the philosophy of images and the philosophy of time.


Title: Beyond Words
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