On depiction and expression : two essays in philosophical aesthetics

Thesis

Van der Berg, Servaas de V. (Stellenbosch : University of Stellenbosch, 2010-12)

Thesis (MA (Philosophy))--University of Stellenbosch, 2010.

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis consists of two essays, each focussing on a current topic in aesthetics in the tradition of analytic philosophy. First paper (On depiction) Given broad consensus that resemblance theories do not do well at explaining depiction, two alternative approaches have dominated the literature in recent decades: (1) Perceptual accounts try to ground depiction in the phenomenology of our pictorial experiences; (2) Structural accounts understand pictures as symbols in pictorial symbol systems. I follow Dominic Lopes in granting that the two approaches, often interpreted as each other’s rivals, both have merit and are successful in answering divergent questions about depiction. After taking stock of the most influential theories from both approaches, I turn to John Kulvicki’s recent work. He has made surprising progress as a proponent of the structural approach. His attempt to define depiction in structural terms is groundbreaking and, for the most part, successful. The paper measures some of his suggestions on picture structure and perception against the well-established “twofoldness”-thesis of the perceptual theorist on depiction, Richard Wollheim. Wollheim’s theory is defended and suggestions made to adapt Kulvicki’s theory accordingly. Second paper (On expression) Since Frank Sibley’s early papers in the mid-twentieth century, analytic aesthetics has broadened its field of inquiry to extend past the traditional focus on judgements of beauty or aesthetic merit, to peripheral terms, concepts, properties and judgements (e.g. of grace, elegance, garishness, daintiness, dumpiness, etc.). Nick Zangwill gives a traditionalist report of what binds the new, broad and heterogeneous category of the aesthetic together. He argues that purely evaluative aesthetic judgements of beauty or ugliness (i.e. “verdicts”) are fundamental. All other aesthetic judgements derive their evaluative aesthetic nature from them. In this essay it is argued that Zangwill’s defence of beauty’s supremacy in the category of the aesthetic, does not do justice to ostensible instances of non-evaluative judgements that ascribe expressive properties to artworks. Nelson Goodman’s cognitivist theory of expression in art is used as a foil for Zangwill’s claims.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis bestaan uit twee essays, elk oor ’n aktuele onderwerp in estetika in die tradisie van die analitiese filosofie. Eerste essay (Oor uitbeelding, oftewel “piktoriale representasie”) Gegewe ’n algemene konsensus dat ooreenkoms-teorieë nie slaag daarin om uitbeelding (“depiction”) te verklaar nie, is daar twee alternatiewe benaderings wat die onlangse literatuur oor die onderwerp oorheers: (1) die perseptuele benadering probeer uitbeelding begrond in die fenomenologie van ons piktoriale ervaringe; (2) die strukturele benadering verstaan beelde as simbole in piktoriale simboolsisteme. In navolging van Dominic Lopes neem ek aan dat dié twee benaderings, wat normaalweg as mekaar se opponente beskou word, altwee meriete dra en onderskeidelik sukses behaal in die beantwoording van heel uiteenlopende vrae oor die aard van uitbeelding. Na ’n bestekopname van die mees invloedryke teorieë onder beide benaderings, word John Kulvicki se onlangse werk oorweeg. Hy maak verrassende vooruitgang as ondersteuner van die strukturele benadering. Sy poging om uitbeelding in strukturele terme te definiëer is revolusionêr en bied stof vir nadenke. In hierdie essay word sommige van sy voorstelle oor beeld-struktuur en -waarneming gemeet aan die gevestigde “twofoldness”-tesis van Richard Wollheim. Wollheim se perseptuele teorie word verdedig en ’n voorstelle word gemaak om Kulvicki se teorie daarvolgens aan te pas. Tweede essay (Oor uitdrukking) Sedert Frank Sibley se vroeë essays in die middel van die twintigste eeu het die analitiese estetika sy visier verbreed om verby die tradisionele fokus op oordele van skoonheid en estetiese waarde te kyk, na perifere terme, begrippe, eienskappe en oordele (van bv. grasie, delikaatheid, balans, strakheid, elegansie, ens., ens.). Nick Zangwill gee ’n tradisionalistiese verslag van wat die nuwe, breë en heterogene kategorie van die estetiese saambind. Hy argumenteer dat suiwer evaluerende oordele van skoonheid fundamenteel bly. Alle ander estetiese oordele se estetiese aard word daarvan afgelei. In hierdie essay argumenteer ek dat Zangwill se verdediging van skoonheid (of estetiese waarde) as fundamenteel tot die kategorie van die estetiese, nie laat reg geskied aan aantoonbare gevalle van nie-evaluerende oordele, naamlik dié wat ekspressiewe eienskappe aan kunswerke toeskryf, nie. Nelson Goodman se kognitiewe teorie van van uitdrukking in kuns word gebruik as teenhanger en wegspringplek vir kritiek op Zangwill se aansprake.

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