Nelson Goodman Languages Art Symbols

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OTHER BOOKS B ~ NELSON GOODMANThe Sttucturl' of AppearanceFact, Fiction, and ForecastNELSON GOODMAN/,/ LANGUAGESOF ART/AN APPROACHTO A THEORY OF SYMBOLSTHE BOBBS*MERRILL COMPANY. INC.A Subsidiary of Howard W. Sams & Co. Inc.PUBLISHERS' INDIANAPOLIS,! NEW YORK' KANSAS CITY,",.I3REALITY REMADE1. DenotationArt is not a copy of the realworld. One of the damn thingsis enough.*Whether a picture ought to be a representation or not isa question much less crucial than might appear from cur-rent bitter among artists, critics,nature of'" Reported as oeCUl'ring in an ell3l1ly on Virginia Woolf. I have beenunable to locate.the source.reJ>rellentatiion issome arts, such as painting, and infrequent inothers, such as music, threatens trouble for a unified aes-thetics;and confu$ion '1:'c J, sion on the other is fatal to any general theory of symbols.The most naive view of representation might perhaps beput somewhat like this; "A represents B if and only if Aappreciably resembles B", or "A represents B to the extentthat A resembles B". of refinements, persist in most writing on Yet_.. __.. .. _--_."..__ __.... ....-'Drawing from Paul IDee's Piidagogische Skizzenbuch(Munich, 1925; 2nd American edition, New York:, ick A. Praeger. Inc., 1953), p. 41; reproduced here by per-mission of the publishers. .REALITY REMADE1 What I am considering here ill pictorial representation, or depiction,and the comparable representation that may occur in other arts. Nat-ural objects may represe;lt in the same way: witness the man in themoon and the sheep-dog 'in the clouds. Some writers use "representa-tion" as the general term; for all varieties of 'what I call symbolizationor reference, and use "symbolic" for the verbal and other nonpictori"lsigns I call nonrepresentational. "Represent" and its derivatives havemany other uses, and while I shall mention some of these later, othersdo not concern us here at all. Among the latter, e"ample, are theuses according to which an ambassador represents a nation and makesrepresentations to !l foreign government.5 1,12 I use "object" indifferently for anything a picture represents, whetheran apple or a battle. A quirk of language makes a represented objecta subject.3 Not until the next chapter wHl denotation be distinguished from reference.DENOTATIONeven if we construe "picture" broadly enough to cover all -A-Constr;lii;; Iany other picture than it is like the Castle, yet it representsthe Castle and not another picture--not even the closestcopy. To add the requirement that B must not be a picturewould be desperate and futile; for a picture may representanother, and indeed each of the. once popular paintings ofart aUeriesrepresents many others.The plain fact is that a stand for it refer to that,no degree of is to estalJlish uisite relationship of referenCEtin, vol. 41 (1959), pp. 213-217. I am indebted to ProfeS$Or Meyer Schapiro for this reference.son writes: ", .. it does not seem reasonable to assert thatthe use of perspective in paintings is merely a convention,to be used or discarded by the painter as he chooses, . . When the artist transcribes what he sees upon a two-dimensional surface, he uses perspective geometry, ofnecessity." 10Obviously the laws of the behavior of light are no moreconventional. tfum any other scientific laws. Now supposewe have a motionless, monochromatic object, reflectingligbt of medium intensity only, The argument runs l1:_A {\picture drawn in correct perspective will, under specifiedconditions, deliver to the eye a bundle of light rays match- \ing that delivered by the object itself. This matching is apurely objective matter, measurable by instruments. And i constitutes fidelity of for. \Mce 11gbt rays are all that the eye can receive from eitherpicture or object, identity in pattern of light rays mustconstitute identity of appearance. Of course, the rays Iyielded by the picture under the specified conditions 'match not only those yielded by the object in question ifrom a given distance and angle but also those yielded Qy iI,3and 251.10look further to see ho"" little is representation a matter ofimitation.The case for the relativity of vision and of representa-tion has been so conclusively stated elsewhere that I amrelieved of the need to argue it at any length here.Gombrich, in particular, has amassed overwhelming evi-dence to show how the way we see and depict dependsupon and varies with experience, practice, interests, andattitudes. But on one matter Gombrich and others some-times seem to me to take a position at odds with suchrelativity; and I must therefore discuss briefly the questionof the conventionality of perspective.9 Art and pp.REALITY REMADE3. PerspectiveAn artist may choose his means of rendering motion,intensity of light, quality of atmosphere, vibrancy ofcolor, but if he wants to represent space correctly, be\must-almost anyone will tell him--obey the laws of per- \spective. The adoption of perspective during the Renais-sance is widely acceptec!' as a long stride forward in real- 1istic depiction. The laws of perspective are supposed toprovide absolute standards of fidelity that override differ-ences in style of seeing and picturing. Gombrich derides''the idea that perspective is merely a convention and doesnot represent the world as it looks", and he declares "Onecannot insist enough; that the art of perspective aims at ac;orrect equation: It, wants the image to appear like theobject and the object like the image." 9 And James J. Gib--1$REALITY REMADE13 1,314.But note that owing to the protuberance of the cornea; the eyewhen rotated, .even with the head lixed, can often see slightly aroundthe sides of an object.PERSPECTIVEfi:xed eye is almost as blind as the innqcent one. What can I:the matching of light rays delivered under conditions thatmake vision impossible do with fidelity I..representatIon? To measure fidelity m terms of rays di-I'reeted at a dosed eye would be no more absurd. But thisobjection need not be stressed; perhaps enough eye motioncould be anowed for scanning but not for seeing aroundthe object.14The basic trouble is that the specified condi-\tions of observation are grossly abnormal. What can be Ithe grounds for taking the matching of light rays delivered (under such extraordinary conditions as a measure of .fidel- )ity? Under no more artificial conditions, such as the mter- \position of suitably contrived lenses, a picture far out of Iperspective could also be made to yield the same pattern of 1light rays as the object. That with clever enough stage- Jmanaging we can wring out of a picture drawn in perspec- {'tive light rays that match those we can wring out of theobject represented is an odd and futile argument for the \fidelity of perspective.Furthermore, the conditions of observation in questionare in, most cases not the same for picture and object. Bothare to be viewed through a peephole with one, transfixedeye; but the picture is to be viewed face on at a ofsix feet while the cathedral represented has to be looked at. from, 'say, an angle of 450to its and at a distance oftwo hundred feet. Now not only the light rays receivedbut also the attendant conditions determine what and how1,3 12any of a multitude O.;f other objects from other distances}and angles.12Identity in pattern of light rays, like resem- \blance of other kinds, is clearly no sufficient condition for Irepresentation. The claim is rather that such identity is a"'''ri= of ''''lity,1 of 00=" pi7' Indeed, this i. the 6rthodox position, taken not only by Pirenne,Gibson, and Gombrich, but by most writers on the subject. Some19SCULPTURE4. Sculpture18 The optimal