Skill, Practice, Performance
Edited By András Benedek and Kristof Nyiri
Epistemic Functions of Pictures. Some Conceptual Preliminaries. Klaus Sachs-Hombach
Epistemic Functions of Pictures Some Conceptual Preliminaries Klaus Sachs-Hombach 1. Introduction It is widely acknowledged that pictures fulfil crucial social functions. The as- sumption that they fulfil scientific functions as well is somewhat more disputa- ble, though. Pictures do perform a scientific function in a narrow sense (that is: not only a didactic but in fact an epistemic function) if they are in any way rel- evant to the act of acquiring knowledge or if they even contribute to the justifi- cation of knowledge. Since the Platonic criticism of pictures, such a possibility has often been judged negatively. A central argument in this context is that pic- tures only reproduce the visual properties of the represented entity which, in addition, depend on numerous contingent conditions such as a specific lighting and perspective. Thus, pictures are barred in particular from reaching the degree of abstractness that is typical of concepts. Moreover, logical relations – such as negation – are difficult to visualize. In the following, I will give an overview of the ways in which pictures can nevertheless be epistemologically relevant. In order to do so, I will firstly draw a threefold distinction regarding the contexts in which pictures are used: the epis- temic functions of pictures differ depending on whether they find a use as empir- ical basis, in contexts of justification or in contexts of discovery. Secondly, I will examine in more detail two specific problems concerning the epistemic func- tions of pictures. 2. Pictures and Knowledge 2.1. Pictures as Empirical...
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