Pictures and their Use in Communication: A Philosophical Essay


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Theater comes as close or closer to providing genuine illusions than film does, it would seem. There are real flesh -and -blood The claim that the photographic image is identical with the object photographed has resonances in Helmut Gernsheim's observation that "the camera intercepts images, the paintbrush reconstructs diem" quoted by Charles Barr, "Cinemascope: Before and After," in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, ed.

Gerald Mast and Marshall Cohen, 2d ed. Stanley Cavell prefers not to take Bazin and Panofsky literally. The truth in what they say, he suggests, is that "a photograph is of the world" "of reality or nature" , whereas "[a] painting is a world. This generally makes no sense asked of a painting" The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film, enlarged ed.

But photographs typically have their own fictional worlds, as do paintings. And since paintings frequently portray actual scenes, they, like photographs, are often of the real world. We can ask, concerning a painting of an actual scene as well as a photograph, what there is in reality outside the portion depicted.

Indeed we can also ask, in both cases, what the fictional world is like beyond the frame.

Ordinary Language Philosophy

Smoke within a frame may indicate fictional fire outside it. Walton persons on stage, and they look more like the people portrayed than do plays of light and dark on a flat screen. But Bazin regards the fact that photographs are produced "mechanically" as crucial to their special real- ism - and theatrical portrayals are not produced "mechanically" see "OPI," pp.

Erwin Panofsky explicitly contrasts film with theater, as well as with painting. To add to the confusion, let us note that claims strikingly similar to Bazin's observations about photography, and equally paradoxical, have been made concerning painting and other "handmade" representations, the very things Bazin and others mean to be distinguishing photography from! When we point to [a painted] image and say "this is a man" [s]trictly speak- ing that statement may be interpreted to mean that the image itself is a member of the class "man". It is a robin, although a somewhat incomplete one.

It adds a robin to the inventory of nature, just as in Madame Tussaud's Exhibition the uniformed guards, made of wax, are. There is one clear difference between photography and painting. A photo- graph is always a photograph of sometiiing which actually exists. Even when photographs portray such nonentities as werewolves and Martians, they are nonetheless photographs of actual things: actors, stage sets, costumes. Paintings needn't picture actual things. A painting of Aphrodite, executed without the use of a model, depicts nothing real. See Scruton, "Photography and Representation," p.

Transparent Pictures 21 and paintings clearly think that it obtains no less when paintings depict actual things than when they do not, and even when viewers fully realize that they do. Let's limit our examples to pictures of this kind. The claim before us is that photographs of Abraham Lincoln, for instance, are in some fundamental manner more realistic than painted portraits of him. I shall argue that there is indeed a fundamental difference between photographs and painted portraits of Lincoln, that photography is indeed special, and that it deserves to be called a supremely realistic medium.

But the kind of realism most distinctive of photography is not an ordinary one. It has little to do either with the post-Renaissance quest for realism in painting or with standard theoretical accounts of realism. It is enorm- ously important, however. Without a clear understanding of it, we cannot hope to explain the power and effectiveness of photography. Painting and drawing are techniques for producing pictures.

So is photo- graphy. But the special nature of photography will remain obscure unless we think of it in another way as well - as a contribution to the enterprise of seeing. The invention of the camera gave us not just a new method of making pictures and not just pictures of a new kind: it gave us a new way of seeing.

Amidst Bazin's assorted declarations about photography is a comparison of the cinema to mirrors. This points in the right direction. The screen, he says, puts us "in the presence of" the actor. It does so in the same way as a mirror - one must agree that the mirror relays the presence of the person reflected in it - but it is a mirror with a delayed reflection, the tin foil of which retains the image.

In the film about Manolete. Obviously, spectators of a film of a matador are not in the presence of the matador, nor does it seem to them that they are. Indeed Bazin himself apparentiy agrees, as he continues: While our emotion may not be as deep as if we were actually present in the arena at that historic moment, its nature is the same. What we lose by way of direct witness do we not recap- ture thanks to the artificial proximity provided by photographic enlargement? Walton are aids to vision, allowing us to see things in circumstances in which we would not otherwise be able to; with their help we can see around corners.

Telescopes and microscopes extend our visual powers in other ways, enabling us to see things that are too far away or too small to be seen with the naked eye. Photography is an aid to vision also, and an especially versatile one. With the assistance of the camera, we can see not only around corners and what is distant or small; we can also see into the past. We see long-deceased ancestors when we look at dusty snapshots of them. Photographs are transparent. We see the world through them.

I must warn against watering down this suggestion, against taking it to be a colorful, or exaggerated, or not quite literal way of making a relatively mundane point. I am not saying that the person looking at the dusty photographs has the impression of seeing his ancestors - in fact, he doesn't have the impression of seeing them "in the flesh," with the unaided eye. I am not saying that photography supplements vision by helping us to discover things that we can't discover by seeing. Nor is my point that what we see - photographs - are duplicates or doubles or reproductions of objects, or substitutes or surrogates for them.

My claim is that we see, quite literally, our dead relatives themselves when we look at photographs of them. Does this constitute an extension of the ordinary English sense of the word "see"? I don't know; the evidence is mixed. Our theory needs, in any case, a term which applies both to my "seeing" my great-grandfather when I look at his snapshot and to my seeing my father when he is in front of me. What is important is that we recognize a fundamental commonality between the two cases, a single natural kind to which both belong.

And so could Arnheim's claim that "by its very nature. We speak naturally enough of seeing Johnny Carson on television, of seeing Charlie Chaplin in the movies, and of hearing people over the telephone and in recordings. We may also, naturally enough, deny that a person has seen Johnny Carson if he has "seen" him only on television, for example. Transparent Pictures 23 I perceive my great-grandfather but do not see him, recognizing a mode of perception "seeing-through-photographs" distinct from vision - if the idea that I do perceive my great-grandfather is taken seriously.

Or one might make the point in some other way. I prefer the bold formulation: the viewer of a photograph sees, literally, the scene that was photographed. Slippery slope considerations give this claim an initial plausibility. No one will deny that we see through eyeglasses, mirrors, and telescopes. How, then, would one justify denying that a security guard sees via a closed circuit television monitor a burglar breaking a window or that fans watch athletic events when they watch live television broadcasts of them?

And after going this far, why not speak of watching athletic events via delayed broadcasts or of seeing the Bridgewater inmates via Wiseman's film? These last examples do introduce a new element: they have us seeing past events. But its importance isn't obvious. We also find ourselves speaking of observ- ing through a telescope the explosion of a star which occurred millions of years ago. The question is whether any of them is signi- ficant enough to justify digging in our heels and recognizing a basic Some find the notion of seeing the past too much to swallow and dismiss talk of see- ing long-concluded events through telescopes as deviant or somehow to be explained away see Alvin I.

If seeing the past is allowed, one might worry that having a memory image of something will qualify as seeing it. Zemach accepts this con- sequence see "Seeing, 'Seeing,' and Feeling," pp. But it probably can be avoided, at least for most memory images. Many, if not all, memory images are based on one's own earlier beliefs about the object, in a manner relevantly similar to the way in which the visual experiences of the viewers of a painting are based on the painter's beliefs about the object.

So one does not see through the memory image for the same rea- son tiiat one does not see through paintings. But, if we are to speak of "seeing-dirough- photographs," we may have to allow that when an image of something one saw previously, but did not notice, pops into one's head, one sees it again. I do not find this result distressing. For any who do, however, or for any who reject the possibility of seeing the past, there is another way out.

Suppose we agree that what I call "seeing- through-photographs" is not a mode of perception. We can always find a different term. The sharp break between photography and other pictures remains. We still can say that one sees present occurrences via a television monitor but not through, for instance, a system of simultaneous sketching.

This is a significant difference. And one's access to past events via photographs of them differs in the same way from one's access to them via paintings. Walton theoretical distinction, one which we might describe as the difference between "seeing" or "perceiving" things and not doing so. Eyeglasses, mirrors, and telescopes don't give us pictures. To think of the camera as another tool of vision is to de-emphasize its role in producing pictures.

Photographs are pictures, to be sure, but not ordinary ones. They are pictures through which we see the world. To be transparent is not necessarily to be invisible. We see photo- graphs themselves when we see through them; indeed it is by looking at Titicut Follies that we see the Bridgewater inmates.

There is nothing strange about this: one hears both a bell and the sounds that it makes, and one hears the one by hearing the other. Bazin's remarkable identity claim might derive from failure to recognize that we can be seeing both the photograph and the object: what we see are photographs, but we do see the photographed objects; so the photographs and the objects must be somehow identical. I don't mind allowing that we see photographed objects only indir- ectly, though one could maintain that perception is equally indirect in many other cases as well: we see objects by seeing mirror images of them, or images produced by lenses, or light reflected or emitted from them; we hear things and events by hearing the sounds that they make.

One is reminded of the familiar claim that we see directly only our own sense - data or images on our retinas.

Be it in light or shadow: Photography and the Essay

What I would object to is the suggestion that indirect seeing, in any of these cases, is not really seeing, that all we actually see are sense-data or images or photographs. The slippery slope may make it hard to avoid sliding farther in another direction than some would like. When we look at fossils or footprints, do we see or perceive ancient marine organisms or ancient animals' feet?

I repeat that my point needn't be made in terms of vision or perception. One might prefer to introduce a new notion, to speak of being "in contact with" tilings, for instance, when one either sees them with the naked eye or sees mirror images or photographs or fossils or footprints of them - but not when one sees drawings of them see Patrick Maynard, "The Secular Icon: Photography and the Functions of Images," Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 42 [Winter ]: It may not be desirable for our theory to recognize, in addition, a more restricted notion of perceiving or seeing, one which better fits the cases in which we use these everyday expressions; there simply may be no such natural kind.

We should be prepared for the possibility that there is no very important distinction which even approximates the difference between perceiving things, in any everyday sense, and not perceiving them - that what we need is a radical reorganization of our concepts in this area. Transparent Pictures 25 One can see through sense-data or mirror images without specifically noticing them even if, in the latter case, one notices the mirror ; in this sense they can be invisible.

One may pay no attention to photographic images themselves, concentrating instead on the things photographed. But even if one does attend especially to the photographic image, one may at the same time be seeing, and attending to, the objects photographed.

Seeing is often a way of finding out about the world. This is as true of seeing through photographs as it is of seeing in other ways. But some- times we learn little if anything about what we see, and sometimes we value the seeing quite apart from what we might learn. This is so, fre- quently, when we see departed loved ones through photographs. We can't expect to acquire any particularly important information by looking at photographs which we have studied many times before.

But we can sec our loved ones again, and that is important to us. What about paintings? They are not transparent. There is a sharp break, a difference of kind, between painting and photography. Granted, it is perfectly natural to say of a person contemplating the portrait that he "sees" Henry VIII. But this is not to be taken literally. But there are no unicorns; so they aren't really seeing any. Our use of the word "see," by itself, proves nothing. A photograph purporting to be of the Loch Ness monster was widely published some years ago.

If we think the monster really exists and was captured by the photograph, we will speak comfortably of seeing it when we look at the photograph. But the photograph turned out not to be of the monster but as I recall of a model, dredged up from the bottom of the lake, which was once used in making a movie about it. With this information we change our tune: what we see when we look at the photograph is not the monster but the model. This sort of seeing is like the ordinary variety in that only what exists can be seen. The reader can get a better idea of what I mean by "fictionality" from my "Fearing Fictions," Journal of Philosophy 75 Jan.

Walton What about viewers of the movie which, let us assume, was a straight- forward work of fiction? They may speak of seeing the monster, even if they don't believe for a moment that there is such a beast. It is fictional that they see it; they actually see, with photographic assistance, the model used in the making of the film. It is fictional also that they see Loch Ness, the lake. And since the movie was made on location at Loch Ness, they really do see it as well. Even when one looks at photographs which are not straightforward works of fiction, it can be fictional that one sees.

On seeing a photograph of a long-forgotten family reunion, I might remark that Aunt Mabel is grimacing. She is not grimacing now of course; perhaps she is long deceased. My use of the present tense suggests that it is fictional that she is grimacing now. And it is fictional that I see her grimacing. In addition, I actually see, through the photograph, the grimace that she effected on the long-past occasion of the reunion. We should add that it is fictional that I see Aunt Mabel directly, without photographic assistance.

Apart from very special cases, when in looking at a picture it is fictional that one sees something, it is fictional that one sees it not through a photograph or a mirror or a telescope but with the naked eye. Fictionally one is in the presence of what one sees. One such special case is Richard Shirley's beautiful film Resonant , which was made by filming still photographs of an elderly woman, her house, her belongings. Sometimes this is obvious: sometimes, for example, we see the edges of the filmed photographs.

When we do, it is fictional that we see the house or whatever through the photographs. But much of Resonant is fascinatingly ambiguous. The photographs are not always apparent. Sometimes when they are not, it is probably best to say that fictionally we see things directly. Sometimes we have the impression of fictionally seeing things directly, only to realize later that fictionally we saw them via still photographs. Sometimes, probably, there is no fact of the matter.

Throughout, the viewer actually sees still photographs, via the film, whether or not he realizes that he does. And he actually sees the woman and the house through the photographs which he sees through the film. We now have uncovered a major source of the confusion which infects writings about photography and film: failure to recognize and distinguish clearly between the special kind of seeing which actually occurs and the ordinary kind of seeing which only fictionally takes place, between a viewer's really seeing something through a photograph and his fictionally seeing something directly.

A vague awareness of both, stirred together in a witches' cauldron, could conceivably tempt one toward the absurdity that the viewer is really in the presence of the object. Transparent Pictures 27 Let's look now at some familiar challenges to the idea that photography differs essentially from painting and that there is something especially real- istic about photographs. Some have merit when directed against some versions of the thesis. They are irrelevant when the thesis is cashed out in terms of transparency. The objection that a photograph doesn't look much like the actual scene, and that the experience of looking at a photograph is not much like the experience of observing the scene in ordinary circumstances, is easily dismissed.

Seeing directly and seeing with photographic assistance are different modes of perception. There is no reason to expect the experi- ences of seeing in the two ways to be similar. Seeing something through a microscope, or through a distorting mirror, or under water, or in peculiar lighting conditions, is not much like seeing it directly or in normal circumstances - but that is no reason to deny that seeing in these other ways is seeing.

Be it in light or shadow: Photography and the Essay | The Photographers' Gallery

The point is not that "a photograph shows us. It may he fictional not that viewers of the photographs are shown what they would, have seen but that they are actually there and see for themselves. Here, again, the confusion is caused by not distinguishing this from the fact that they actually do see via the photograph.

If the point concerned how photographs look, there would be no essen- tial difference between photographs and paintings. For paintings can be virtually indistinguishable from photographs. Suppose we see Chuck Close's superrealist Self-Portrait figure 1. The discovery jolts us. Our experience of the picture and our attitude toward it undergo a profound transforma- tion, one which is much deeper and more significant than the change which occurs when we discover that what we first took to be an etching, for example, is actually a pen-and-ink drawing.

It is more like discovering a guard in a wax museum to be just another wax figure. We feel somehow less "in contact with" Close when we learn that the portrayal of him is not photographic. If the painting is of a nude and if we find nudity embarrassing, our embarrassment may be relieved somewhat by realizing that the nudity was captured in paint rather than on film.

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My theory accounts for the jolt. At first we think we are really seeing the person portrayed; then we realize that we are not, that it is only fictional that Figure 1. Transparent Pictures 29 we see him. However, even after this realization it may well continue to seem to us as though we are really seeing the person with photographic assistance , if the picture continues to look to us to be a photograph.

In the case of the nude, this may account for the continuation of some of our original feelings of embarrassment. It really does look to us as though we are seeing someone via the medium of photography, and at first we are fooled. This is not the sort of illusion which so often is attributed to viewers despite overwhelming evidence that it almost never occurs. It does not appear to us that we see a person directly, one standing right in front of us. We have genuine illusions also when we do see through a photograph but what we see through it is not what it seems to be.

Figure 1. Illusions of this kind are commonplace in film, and they contribute importantly to viewers' experiences. A detective in a movie surprises two thugs, pulls a gun, fires, and they drop. The viewer seems to be seeing these events via the film. He does see one man, an actor, approach two others, draw a gun, and pull the trigger. But he doesn't see the one kill the others, since what was photographed was not an actual killing - the bullets were blanks, and the blood, ketchup.

Still, the scene looks as though it were an actual killing which was filmed. The obvious considerations against the idea that a killing occurs in the viewer's presence are irrelevant to the illusion I have described. The sharp edges of the illuminated rectangle, the obvious flatness of the screen, the fuzziness of some images, the lack of color do nothing to keep it from seeming to the viewer that he is seeing an actual killing via, a photographic film of it.

Their photographic character is more pretense than illusion. It doesn't seem to the viewer that he sees through the photographs, but it may be fictional that he does. It may be fictional that Ace I is a photograph through which one sees a group of men walk- ing in front of Pasadena City Hall. The debate about whether photography is special sometimes revolves around the question of whether photographs are especially accurate. Some Here is an analogous example: suppose a proud parent hears what he takes to be a recording of Johnny playing the piano and then learns that it is actually someone else mimicking Johnny's piano playing.

He thought he was healing Johnny play, via the recording, but he wasn't. Initially he swells witii pride in little Johnny, then is deflated. Photograph courtesy of the artist. Photograph courtesy of the Estate of Andre Kertesz. Transparent Pictures 33 contend that photographs regularly falsify colors and distort spatial rela- tionships, that a photograph of a running horse will portray it either as a blur, which it is not, or as frozen, which it also is not - and of course there is the possibility of retouching in the darkroom.

It remains to be seen in what sense photographs can be inaccurate. Yet misleading they certainly can be, especially to viewers unfamiliar with them or with photographs of a given kind. But why should this matter? We can be deceived when we see things directly. If cameras can lie, so can our eyes. To see something through a distorting mirror is still to see it, even if we are misled about it. We also see through fog, through tinted windshields, and through out-of-focus microscopes. The "distortions" or "inaccuracies" of photographs are no reason to deny that we see through them see, for example, figure 1.

To underscore the independence of accuracy and transparency, con- sider a theatrical portrayal of actual events, an acting out in a courtroom of events that led to a crime, for example. The portrayal might be perfectly accurate. Jurors might gain from it much correct information and no misinformation. Yet they certainly do not see the incident via the portrayal. Is the difference between photographs and other pictures simply that photographs are generally more accurate or less misleading , despite occa- sional lapses, that the photographic process is a "more reliable mechan- ism" than that of drawing or painting, and that therefore there is better prima facie reason to trust photographs?

I doubt it. Consider a world in which mirrors are so flexible that their shapes change constantly and dras- tically and unpredictably. Perhaps the mechanism is not a knowledge-producing one. But this does not mean that he does not see the reflected things. Some objections focus on the idea that photographs owe their special status to their "mechanical," "automatic" origins, whereas paintings are "handmade. Several writers have managed to imply that people don't id 17 This example is a relative of Lewis' case of the loose wire see Lewis, "Veridical Hallucination and Prosthetic Vision," p.

Walton make photographs. On this point I agree. Why is it that we see Lincoln when we look at photographs of him but not when we look at his painted portrait? The answer requires an account of seeing or better, an account of per- ception in general. I would subscribe to some variety of causal theory: to see something is to have visual experiences which are caused, in a cer- tain manner, by what is seen.

Lincoln together with other circumstances caused his photograph and, thus, the visual experiences of those who view it. This does not yet answer our question. For Lincoln caused his por- trait as well as his photograph. The difference lies in the manner of the causation.

Putting things together, we get this: part of what it is to see some- thing is to have visual experiences which are caused by it in a purely mechanical manner. Objects cause their photographs and the visual experiences of viewers mechanically, so we see the objects through the photographs. By contrast, objects cause paintings not mechanically but in a more "human" way, a way involving the artist; so we don't see through paintings. Objections leap to the fore.

Photographs are made by people: "The [photographic] image is a crafted, not a natural, thing" "PVR," p. Photographers and painters just use different tools in making their pic- tures, it seems - one uses a camera and the other a brush. In what sense, tiien, are our visual experiences caused mechanically when we look at photo- graphs and not when we look at paintings?

Objectors frequendy add that photographs do not present us with diings as they really are but rather with the photographer's conception or inter- pretation of them, that what we get from a photograph is not our own William Henry Fox Talbot, inventor of the calotype, claimed for the Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire the distinction of being the first building "that was ever yet known to have drawn its own picture" The Pencil of Nature [London, ], n. Bazin credits photography with "completely satisfying our appetite for illusion by a mechan- ical reproduction in the making of which man plays no part.

For the first time an image of the world is formed automatically, without the creative intervention of man" "OPI," pp. Transparent Pictures 35 view of the world but his. A photograph, no less than a painting, has a subjective point of view. The manner in which things cause my visual experiences when I see them is not one which rules out a causal role for human beings.

People often show me things and in other ways induce me to look this way or that. They affect what I can see or how I see it - by turning the lights on or off, by blowing smoke in my eyes, by constructing and making available eyeglasses, mirrors, and telescopes. Why not say that photographers, by making photographs, show me things and also enable me to see them? When I see, I may well get a sense of someone else's conception or interpretation of what I see.

If you point out something to me, I know that you consider it worth pointing out. I learn by seeing, when others affect my vision, what things are objects of their fears and fetishes, what they value, and what they deplore. It may not be inappropriate to speak of seeing things "through their eyes. Photography can be an enormously expressive medium - Andre Kertesz's Distortion 1 57 figure 1.

If expressiveness is the mark of art, photography's credentials are beyond question. In Triumph of the Will, Leni Riefenstahl, by careful selection and editing, "interprets" for us the Nazi Party Congress of ; she presents it as she construes it. It does not follow that we ourselves do not see Hitler's airplane descend- ing through the clouds, the thousands of marching troops and cheering spectators, and Hitler delivering tirades, even if the film fosters misconcep- tions about the things we see, inducing us to believe, for example, that the people we see were more enthusiastic about Hitler than they actually were.

We can be aware, even vividly aware, of both the medium and the maker without either blocking our view of the object. What perhaps most distinguishes Kant is his innate desire to find a synthesis between rationalists like Descartes and empiricists like Hume, to decipher a middle ground that defers to human experience without descending into skepticism. To his own way of thinking, Kant was pointing a way forward by resolving a central philosophical impasse. A Danish theologian, social critic, and philosopher, Kierkegaard is viewed by many as the most important existentialist philosopher.

His work dealt largely with the idea of the single individual. His thinking tended to prioritize concrete reality over abstract thought. Within this construct, he viewed personal choice and commitment as preeminent. This orientation played a major part in his theology as well. This proliferation was a major force in helping existentialism take root in the 20th century. First described the concept of angst, defining it as a dread the comes from anxieties over choice, freedom, and ambiguous feelings.

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Viewed as a divine figure in traditional Chinese religions, his ideas and writings would form one of the major pillars alongside Confucius and the Buddha for Eastern thought. As such, Taoism is equally rooted in religion and philosophy. In traditional telling, though Lao-Tzu never opened a formal school, he worked as an archivist for the royal court of Zhou Dynasty. This gave him access to an extensive body of writing and artifacts, which he synthesized into his own poetry and prose.

As a result of his writing, his influence spread widely during his lifetime. In fact, one version of his biography implies he may well have been a direct mentor to the Buddha or, in some versions, was the Buddha himself. There are lot of colorful narratives surrounding Lao-Tzu, some of which are almost certainly myth. In fact, there are some historians who even question whether or not Lao-Tzu was a real person. Historical accounts differ on who he was, exactly when he lived and which works he contributed to the canon of Taoism. However, in most traditional tellings, Lao-Tzu was the living embodiment of the philosophy known as Taoism and author of its primary text, the Tao Te Ching.

An English physicist and philosopher, John Locke was a prominent thinker during the Enlightenment period. Part of the movement of British Empiricism alongside fellow countrymen David Hume, Thomas Hobbes, and Sir Francis Bacon, Locke is regarded as an important contributor to the development of the social contract theory and is sometimes identified as the father of liberalism.

Indeed, his discourses on identity, the self, and the impact of sensory experience would be essential revelations to many Enlightenment thinkers and, consequently, to real revolutionaries. A writer, public office-holder, and philosopher of Renaissance Italy, Machiavelli both participated in and wrote prominently on political matters, to the extent that he has even been identified by some as the father of modern political science.

Machiavelli was an empiricist who used experience and historical fact to inform his beliefs, a disposition which allowed him to divorce politics not just from theology but from morality as well. His most prominent works described the parameters of effective rulership, in which he seems to advocate for leadership by any means which retain power, including deceit, murder, and oppression. A German-born economist, political theorist, and philosopher, Karl Marx wrote some of the most revolutionary philosophical content ever produced.

Indeed, so pertinent was his writing to the human condition during his lifetime, he was exiled from his native country. This event would, however, also make it possible for his most important ideas to find a popular audience. Together, they devised an assessment of class, society, and power dynamics that revealed deep inequalities, and exposed the economic prerogatives for state-sponsored violence, oppression, and war. Marx predicted that the inequalities and violence inherent in capitalism would ultimately lead to its collapse. From its ashes would rise a new socialist system, a classless society where all participants as opposed to just wealthy private owners have access to the means for production.

The philosophy underlying Marxism, and his revolutionary fervor, would ripple throughout the world, ultimately transforming entire spheres of thought in places like Soviet Russia, Eastern Europe, and Red China. In many ways, Karl Marx presided over a philosophical revolution that continues in the present day in myriad forms of communism, socialism, socialized democracy, and grassroots political organization.

British economist, public servant, and philosopher John Stuart Mill is considered a linchpin of modern social and political theory. He contributed a critical body of work to the school of thought called liberalism, an ideology founding on the extension of individual liberties and economic freedoms.

Ascertainment of the use of a word, of a proposition , however, is not given to any sort of constructive theory building, as in the Tractatus. An analogy with tools sheds light on the nature of words. In giving the meaning of a word, any explanatory generalization should be replaced by a description of use. The traditional idea that a proposition houses a content and has a restricted number of Fregean forces such as assertion, question and command , gives way to an emphasis on the diversity of uses. Throughout the Philosophical Investigations , Wittgenstein returns, again and again, to the concept of language-games to make clear his lines of thought concerning language.

Primitive language-games are scrutinized for the insights they afford on this or that characteristic of language. Language-games are, first, a part of a broader context termed by Wittgenstein a form of life see below. Secondly, the concept of language-games points at the rule-governed character of language. This does not entail strict and definite systems of rules for each and every language-game, but points to the conventional nature of this sort of human activity.

There is no reason to look, as we have done traditionally—and dogmatically—for one, essential core in which the meaning of a word is located and which is, therefore, common to all uses of that word. Family resemblance also serves to exhibit the lack of boundaries and the distance from exactness that characterize different uses of the same concept. Such boundaries and exactness are the definitive traits of form—be it Platonic form, Aristotelian form, or the general form of a proposition adumbrated in the Tractatus.

It is from such forms that applications of concepts can be deduced, but this is precisely what Wittgenstein now eschews in favor of appeal to similarity of a kind with family resemblance. One of the issues most associated with the later Wittgenstein is that of rule-following. Rising out of the considerations above, it becomes another central point of discussion in the question of what it is that can apply to all the uses of a word.

The same dogmatic stance as before has it that a rule is an abstract entity—transcending all of its particular applications; knowing the rule involves grasping that abstract entity and thereby knowing how to use it. Wittgenstein proceeds mainly in PI —, but also elsewhere to dismantle the cluster of attendant questions: How do we learn rules?

How do we follow them? Wherefrom the standards which decide if a rule is followed correctly? Are they in the mind, along with a mental representation of the rule? Do we appeal to intuition in their application? Are they socially and publicly taught and enforced? In typical Wittgensteinian fashion, the answers are not pursued positively; rather, the very formulation of the questions as legitimate questions with coherent content is put to the test.

For indeed, it is both the Platonistic and mentalistic pictures which underlie asking questions of this type, and Wittgenstein is intent on freeing us from these assumptions. Such liberation involves elimination of the need to posit any sort of external or internal authority beyond the actual applications of the rule. The answer was: if everything can be made out to accord with the rule, then it can also be made out to conflict with it.

And so there would be neither accord nor conflict here. One of the influential readings of the problem of following a rule introduced by Fogelin and Kripke has been the interpretation, according to which Wittgenstein is here voicing a skeptical paradox and offering a skeptical solution. That is to say, there are no facts that determine what counts as following a rule, no real grounds for saying that someone is indeed following a rule, and Wittgenstein accepts this skeptical challenge by suggesting other conditions that might warrant our asserting that someone is following a rule.

This reading has been challenged, in turn, by several interpretations such as Baker and Hacker , McGinn, and Cavell , while others have provided additional, fresh perspectives e. Whether it be a veritable argument or not and Wittgenstein never labeled it as such , these sections point out that for an utterance to be meaningful it must be possible in principle to subject it to public standards and criteria of correctness.

This notion replaces the stricter and purer logic, which played such an essential role in the Tractatus in providing a scaffolding for language and the world. Contrary to empirical statements, rules of grammar describe how we use words in order to both justify and criticize our particular utterances. But as opposed to grammar-book rules, they are not idealized as an external system to be conformed to. Moreover, they are not appealed to explicitly in any formulation, but are used in cases of philosophical perplexity to clarify where language misleads us into false illusions.

Used by Wittgenstein sparingly—five times in the Investigations —this concept has given rise to interpretative quandaries and subsequent contradictory readings. Forms of life can be understood as changing and contingent, dependent on culture, context, history, etc; this appeal to forms of life grounds a relativistic reading of Wittgenstein. This might be seen as a universalistic turn, recognizing that the use of language is made possible by the human form of life.

In his later writings Wittgenstein holds, as he did in the Tractatus , that philosophers do not—or should not—supply a theory, neither do they provide explanations. The anti-theoretical stance is reminiscent of the early Wittgenstein, but there are manifest differences. Although the Tractatus precludes philosophical theories, it does construct a systematic edifice which results in the general form of the proposition, all the while relying on strict formal logic; the Investigations points out the therapeutic non-dogmatic nature of philosophy, verily instructing philosophers in the ways of therapy.

Working with reminders and series of examples, different problems are solved. Trying to advance such general theses is a temptation which lures philosophers; but the real task of philosophy is both to make us aware of the temptation and to show us how to overcome it. The style of the Investigations is strikingly different from that of the Tractatus. As a matter of fact, Wittgenstein was acutely aware of the contrast between the two stages of his thought, suggesting publication of both texts together in order to make the contrast obvious and clear.

Still, it is precisely via the subject of the nature of philosophy that the fundamental continuity between these two stages, rather than the discrepancy between them, is to be found. In both cases philosophy serves, first, as critique of language. Two implications of this diagnosis, easily traced back in the Tractatus , are to be recognized. One is the inherent dialogical character of philosophy, which is a responsive activity: difficulties and torments are encountered which are then to be dissipated by philosophical therapy. This has been taken to revert back to the ladder metaphor and the injunction to silence in the Tractatus.

These writings include, in addition to the second part of the first edition of the Philosophical Investigations , texts edited and collected in volumes such as Remarks on Colour , Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology , Zettel , On Certainty , and parts of The Foundations of Mathematics. Besides dealing with mathematics and psychology, this is the stage at which Wittgenstein most seriously pursued questions traditionally recognized as epistemological. On Certainty tackles skeptical doubts and foundational solutions but is, in typical Wittgensteinian fashion, a work of therapy which discounts presuppositions common to both.

The general tenor of all the writings of this last period can thence be viewed as, on the one hand, a move away from the critical some would say destructive positions of the Investigations to a more positive perspective on the same problems that had been facing him since his early writings; on the other hand, this move does not constitute a break from the later period but is more properly viewed as its continuation, in a new light.

Biographical Sketch 2. The Early Wittgenstein 2. The Later Wittgenstein 3. Biographical Sketch Wittgenstein was born on April 26, in Vienna, Austria, to a wealthy industrial family, well-situated in intellectual and cultural Viennese circles. The world is everything that is the case. The world is all that is the case. What is the case, the fact, is the existence of atomic facts. What is the case—a fact—is the existence of states of affairs. The logical picture of the facts is the thought. A logical picture of facts is a thought.

The thought is the significant proposition.

2. The Early Wittgenstein

A thought is a proposition with sense. Propositions are truth-functions of elementary propositions. A proposition is a truth-function of elementary propositions. An elementary proposition is a truth function of itself. This is the general form of proposition. This is the general form of a proposition. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence. Grant Luckhardt and Maximilian E. Aue trans. Culture and Value , , G.

Winch trans. Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology , vol. Nyman eds. Luckhardt and M. Barrett ed. Letters to C. Letters to Russell, Keynes and Moore , , G. McGuinness eds. Klagge and A. Nordmann eds. McGuinness ed. Notebooks — , , G. Anscombe eds. On Certainty , , G.


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Anscombe and G. Anscombe and D. Paul trans. Philosophical Grammar , , R. Rhees ed.

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