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Beyond Words

Pictures, Parables, Paradoxes


Edited By András Benedek and Kristóf Nyíri

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.
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The Iconic Surplus in Visual Arguments: Where Limitations and Potentials Coincide


Tobias Schöttler

The Iconic Surplus in Visual Arguments:

Where Limitations and Potentials Coincide

1.Introduction: Visual Arguments Essentially Contested

Visual arguments are inferences which make use of pictures (at least as premises). These can be diagrams as in diagrammatic logics (for example, designed by Euler, Venn, Carroll, or Peirce) or in geometric proofs. But visual arguments can use trace pictures, too. Such technically generated pictures, gained by microscopes, telescopes and so on, refer to the depicted objects due to the causal relation between depictions and the depicted objects. In order to distinguish this type of visual arguments from the structural arguments used in logics and mathematics, we can label them as trace arguments.

Although different types of visual arguments are used in many contexts, their epistemic status is essentially contested. One reason for this is a conceptual one. Since logics and argumentation theories are focused on linguistic phenomena, arguments or inferences are usually defined as sets of propositions, whereas pictures do not have a propositional character.1 In order to describe visual arguments as inferences, the usual definitions must be broadened beyond just propositions. If we understand the premises and the conclusion as representations in a broad sense, we can characterize an argument as an inference, which deduces a right conclusion from a set of right premises.2

But even if we can find a definition of “argument” broad enough to include visual arguments, their status as arguments will still...

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