Sight and Sensibility: Evaluating Pictures
Dominic McIver Lopes
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Looking at pictures, we see in them the scenes they depict, and any value they have springs from these experiences of seeing-in. Sight and Sensibility presents the first detailed and comprehensive theory of evaluating pictures. Dominic Lopes confronts the puzzle of how the value of seeing anything in a picture can exceed that of seeing it face to face--his solution pinpoints how seeing-in is like and unlike ordinary seeing. Moreover, since part of what we see in pictures is emotional expressions, his book also develops a theory of expression especially tailored to pictures.
Not all evaluations of pictures as opportunities for seeing-in are aesthetic--others are cognitive or moral. Lopes argues that these evaluations interact, for some imply others. His argument entails novel conceptions of aesthetic and cognitive evaluation, such that aesthetic evaluation is distinguished from art evaluation as essentially tied to experience, and that cognitive evaluations assess cognitive capacities, including perceptual ones. Ultimately, Lopes defends images against the widespread criticism that they thwart serious thought, especially moral thought, because they merely replicate ordinary experience. He concludes by presenting detailed case studies of the contribution pictures can make to moral reflection.
Sight and Sensibility will be essential reading for anyone working in aesthetics and art theory, and for all those intrigued by the power of images to affect our lives.
scene to express an emotion attributable neither to the scene nor to the picture’s creator? The ‘Air’ of Pictures 63 Hypothetical personalism There are symmetrical and asymmetrical solutions to the missing person problem for scene expression. According to asymmetrical solutions, scene expression is the expression of a person outside the picture (e.g. its creator), whereas ﬁgure expression is the expression of a person in the world of the picture. On symmetrical solutions, the emotion a scene
which the Gauls succumb to a contagion of anger. Anger is shown by multiple superimpositions of an angry ﬁgure or by separating it from the ground plane, as if shaking; by spiral lines fanning out from the ﬁgure’s head; by straight lines radiating from the mouth, as if expelling something with great force; and by smoke emanating from the angry ﬁgure’s head. Dress is rarely discussed as a vehicle of expression—consider the attire of Bruegel’s dancing peasants and the variety of costumes Rembrandt
evaluation—or any other type of non-aesthetic evaluation—appeals to aesthetic quarantine. Some autonomists have invoked aesthetic quarantine, sometimes as a self-evident truth, and vestiges of this kind of aestheticism can be found in surprising corners of contemporary culture. Many people sometimes suggest that the aesthetic inhabits a realm apart from all other realms of value. 8 Introduction Aesthetic quarantine and saturation are implausible, and no respectable argument has been given for
what is involved in our knowing what we know. Only if pictures fail to convey knowledge on any plausible theory of warrant should we question whether pictures convey knowledge at all. The pieces of knowledge extracted from Belshazzar’s Feast illustrate the variety of grounds that can warrant knowledge about and through pictures. The belief that the painting is executed in oils 136 Drawing Lessons may be warranted simply in virtue of the fact that it derives from your seeing that it is painted
language of cognitive evaluation targets traits as well as states (of belief ). Persons are praised as insightful, curious, open-minded, clear, determined, impartial, or thorough. They are also denounced Drawing Lessons 145 as obtuse, complacent, narrow, confused, pig-headed, biased, or lazy. We achieve at least some of our cognitive goals through the exercise of several ‘intellectual virtues’, and the possession of an intellectual virtue is, all things considered, a cognitive good (e.g.