Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Art and representation

The Farnborough house of St John Bosco has some lovely painting along the corridors. Looking at some of them the first thing that came to my mind is how closely they represent that what they show: landscapes, bridges, street view, houses, people… Besides the beautiful and intricate portrayal of the scene, they do 'represent' something. Anyone noticing them can tell that it is not the real street or the bridge or the flower, yet looking at it, one gets an idea of what the real thing looks like. I suppose language also does – or attempts to do – the same. So what exactly does Rorty and his successors like Brandom, Blackburn and Price have a problem with? I thought I understood it all along the past semesters, but now am doubtful!

The difficulty is to arrive at what is called 'truth'. While early expressivists held that there are no truths or falsehoods, some later expressivists (Blackburn and Gibbard) have no problem in acknowledging 'truth-statements' but they would mean, 'that which are agreeable by most' or 'collectively agreed upon'… that there are no causal-explanatory statements which somehow 'get the reality right'. There are others who believe that 'truth' would mean 'as it is'. That the whole function of any language is to 'get the reality right'. Kant would call the thing in and as itself as the noumena, Rorty would call it a 'social construct', others would call it 'metaphysical reality' and religion would openly proclaim it as 'non-material spiritual reality'. Now which of them is right or 'true'?

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