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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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Mental Imagery as a Sign System



The query about the nature of mental imagery (MI) is one of the most controversial and yet important questions for cognitive science to solve. Two dominant rival theories were proposed – quasi-pictorial/analogue1 and descriptive/propositional2 – to account for the mental imagery phenomenon.

According to the (quasi-)pictorial theory, mental images are picture-like representations in the mind. Such analog representations are, according to Kosslyn,3 viewed on a surface display (or as Kosslyn calls it, “visual buffer”) and possess properties similar to those that can be found in ordinary pictures: spatiality, size, colours, shapes, dimensions, distances, etc. Yet another popular account of MI – description theory or propositional theory – states that images might better be thought of as being a description rather than pictures, and presumably are formulated in language(-like) terms (see for example J. Fodor’s “language of thought” hypothesis). Many of the adherents of the propositional theory severely criticize the notion of inner mental pictures that are reproduced on some visual inner display and then reperceived by the “mind’s eye”4. This controversy between the ← 99 | 100 → two theories constituted the well-known Mental Imagery Debate, which yet has not been solved.

Both dominant theories are based on the representational framework, i. e. on the search for a particular (or dominant) format of the mental representation and the way this representation is formed and further operated. Taken from this perspective, there indeed can be only two main answers to the question of what mental...

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