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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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Seemings: Sensory and Intellectual




Visual states present the world as being a certain way – that is to say, they have a propositional content, and a phenomenology, which contribute to their making it seem as though the world is a certain way. When I see that the cat is on the mat I enjoy a visual state that presents the world as being one in which the cat is on the mat.2

In the bad old days, many philosophers thought that all that was really presented in perception were sense data – a distribution of mind-dependent colours and shapes. From this we were said to infer that there was a cat on a mat, an inference to the best explanation of the presentation of these sense data.

But this picture proved unworkable for many reasons. These days we are prone to think that, for those who possess the relevant concepts, perceptual experience comes already equipped with a particular propositional content.

Of course, not just any old propositional content could be the content of a visual state. The cat I am seeing may have been born in New York; but I wouldn’t just be able to see that fact about it. That’s the sort of fact that I would need to infer from the presentation of the cat. But a host of other facts about the cat – its being on the mat, its being grey, its having a long tail – all these seem simply to...

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