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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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4. Image and Metaphor in the Philosophy of Wittgenstein


Five or so decades after the publication of the Philosophical Investigations, the passage most often cited when it comes to characterizing the later Wittgenstein’s view of images in thought and communication is still § 115, regularly quoted together with § 116, making up the lines: “A picture held us captive. And we could not get outside it, for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably. – When philosophers use a word – ‘knowledge’, ‘being’, ‘object’, ‘I’, ‘proposition’, ‘name’ – and try to grasp the essence of the thing, one must always ask oneself: is the word ever actually used in this way in the language-game which is its original home? – What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use.”1

The 2004 volume Wittgenstein’s Lasting Significance2 is as good an example as any. It has much to say about the early picture theory of language, but practically nothing about the later Wittgenstein’s philosophy of pictures, while recurrently using the phrase “being in the grip of a picture”. To talk about pictures, it appears here, is to talk about words. Or take Anja Weiberg’s paper from the same year, “‘Ein Bild hielt uns gefangen’: Die Kraft der Metapher”,3 where the author understands “picture” to mean, almost invariably, figure of speech. Her one notable exception is a brief reference to the phenomenon of seeing-as, a phenomenon Weiberg however immediately interprets as being grounded in linguistic, rather than in extra-linguistic, experience.4 Now...

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