A Syncretistic Theory of Depiction by A. Voltolini

By A. Voltolini

What's depiction? a brand new resolution is given to this venerable query via supplying a syncretistic idea of depiction that attempts to mix the advantages of the former theories at the subject whereas losing their defects. hence, not just perceptual, but in addition either traditional and causal elements give a contribution in making whatever an image of anything else.

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An immediate problem with this position is that it apparently rules out the fact that, over and above conventionality, there is a further factor that may link a representation with its object, namely a natural relation (typically, a causally based relation). For semioticians à la Goodman, no such natural relation holds true for representations in general, or at least for pictorial representations. Yet in the latter case there are many figurative images whose relation with the objects they are about is causally based, the so-called transparent pictures: photos – still or moving, footprints, mirrors, etc.

26 To tell pictorial from diagrammatic or mere analogue systems in general, Goodman puts forward an additional condition, which is normally meant to provide another necessary condition and, along with syntactic and semantic density, a sufficient condition of figurativity. This condition is relative repleteness: given two representational systems, one is representationally richer than the other if it mobilizes more representationally relevant properties; namely, if it mobilizes more properties Semiotic Theories of Depiction 33 to characterize what its representations characterize.

First, a representation is pictorial insofar as it is considered to belong to a particular kind of symbolic system. Second, that system is one of pictorial symbols iff such a system has a certain number of symbolic features. The semiotic paradigm essentially revolves around this claim. As a result, in its Goodmanian form the semiotic theory goes against not only a resemblance approach to depiction, but also any approach appealing to factors that are different from a symbolic system and its features: typically, any approach that relies on perceptual factors, whether or not they are intended to grasp features of the picture’s 30 A Syncretistic Theory of Depiction vehicle, as in the objective resemblance theories.

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