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Zsolt Bátori: Image and Imagination

In Fabian Dorsch, Jakub Stejskal and John Zeimbekis (eds.), Proceedings of the European Society for Aesthetics, vol. 3, 2011, 67-80.

ABSTRACT. Some argue that photographic and cinematic images are “transparent”; we see objects “through” photographs as we see objects in mirrors, through telescopes, etc. However, it has also been suggested that seeing photographic images does not provide us with the kind of egocentric information seeing proper does, so photographs cannot be considered transparent. There is also a disagreement about the kind of imagining cinematic images induce. Some think that watching fiction films involves imagining seeing the depicted events from the point of view of the camera, while others hold that such a process would involve imagining the complicated, and at times impossible ways of gaining the kind of epistemic access suggested by the shots. In my paper I argue that the controversy concerning transparency and imagining seeing is misguided, for the differences between these positions become mainly terminological, once the nature of the cognitive architecture, the perceptual and cognitive mechanisms and processes involved in perceiving pictorial representations and in imagination are explicitly explained. Based on a general cognitive theory of fiction and imagination, I offer an explanation for pictorial representations, accounting for their perception and for the processing of such representations by specific cognitive mechanisms when seeing photographic images and fiction films.

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