Pictorial resemblance

  • Newall M
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This article develops a new account of the role of resemblance in depiction that is critical of such theories. Of course, I am not the first to aim criticism in this direction. Nelson Goodman is the most famous critic of resemblance theories. In a series of arguments in Languages of Art, he showed that no resemblance can be sufficient for depiction. This point is now generally accepted, but as many have since pointed out, it does not in itself disprove resemblance theories. Rather, it could equally indicate that other conditions, together with resemblance, are sufficient for picturehood. A more effective way of disproving resemblance theories would be to argue that resemblance is not necessary for depiction. This approach, which Goodman and others have largely ignored, is the strategy I take. My approach is also unusual in another way, for while I argue that pictures do not necessarily resemble their subject matter, I do not reject the importance of resemblance in depiction. Most pictures, I allow, do resemble their subject matter in specifiable respects, and this fact does play an important, although not necessary, role in establishing depiction.

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  • Michael Newall

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