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Meaning and Motoricity

Essays on Image and Time

Kristof Nyiri

There is an intrinsic connection between the notions of image and time. Visual images can strike us as incomplete, as ambiguous, unless they are moving ones, happening in time. However, time cannot be conceptualized except by metaphors, and so ultimately by images, of movement in space. The philosophy of images and the philosophy of time are interdependent. This book argues for the reality of time and for visual images as natural carriers of meaning. The experience of the passage of time, of the reality of time, is embodied and made visible in the bodily gestures of time, and indeed in all our gestures. Meaning, both emotional and cognitive, is grounded in the motor dimension. By implication, no meaningful philosophy of time can neglect the aspect of motor imagery.
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3.Gombrich on Image and Time


There is a very close, indeed intrinsic, connection between the notions of image and time. Images are incomplete unless they are moving ones – unless, that is, they happen in time. On the other hand, time cannot be conceptualized except by metaphors, and so ultimately by images, of movement in space. That only the moving image is a full-fledged one is a fact that was fully recognized and articulated by Ernst Gombrich.1 And of course Gombrich entertained, and argued for, a rich and well-balanced view of the relationships between pictorial and verbal representation. An antidote to the unholy influence of Goodman,2 Gombrich deserves to be rediscovered, or indeed discovered, in particular in Germany, as the figure whose work, complemented by that of Rudolf Arnheim3 and possibly by← 53 | 54 → that of Hans Belting,4 is ideally suited to providing a founding paradigm for a truly successful philosophy of images.

To this day, Gombrich is primarily known as the author of the book Art and Illusion, first published in 1960. Now although in that book, as I will attempt to show in this chapter, the beginnings of what we can call Gombrich’s philosophy of images are certainly present, it was a number of studies written in the 1960s← 54 | 55 → and 1970s in which that philosophy was actually elaborated.5 Let me here list the ones I consider most important. 1964 saw the appearance of the essay “Moment and Movement in Art”,6 of central importance to the topic of...

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