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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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Do We Have a Visual Mind?


1.Towards a Sensorimotor Turn

Casting a glance at philosophical endeavours of the last decades with regard to human cognition (in a broad sense), we are witnesses to turns one after the other. These turns were based on the change of scope and perspective of investigations. The so-called linguistic turn refers to “the view that philosophical problems are problems which may be solved (or dissolved) either by reforming language, or by understanding more about the language we presently use”1. In the 1990s, W. J. T. Mitchell coined the phrase pictorial turn,2 calling attention to the fact that “pictures form a point of peculiar friction and discomfort across a broad range of intellectual inquiry”.3 In order to eliminate this intellectual discomfort, Mitchell considers exploratory and explicatory approaches which focus on non-linguistic symbol systems and do not consider language as the only source of a significant paradigm regarding meaning.

Given the fact that the so-called imagery debate, the debate between descriptionalist and depictionalist approaches, has been ceaseless and continues even now, at the beginning of the 21st century,4 we may find ourselves sympathetic to Mitchell and his desire for a paradigmatic view of images, and still more so if we take into consideration that the depictionalist view “includes the assumption that images are generated from propositional descriptions”.5 Although Allan Paivio’s ← 91 | 92 → Imagery and Verbal Processes appeared in 1971 and suggested a dual coding approach (i. e., he proposed that both imagery...

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