Lopes on Pictorial Recognition

In Stecker and Gracyk, Aesthetics Today (2010) 

This document is a summary of Lopes. 
My personal comments are in red. 

KEY IDEA: Our ability to see pictures is due to a general psychological ability of recognition.

To be useful, we need to be able to recognize things when they are not exactly as we remember them. Recognition comes in degrees, and it varies according to which aspect of a thing is varied.

Thesis of GENERATIVITY: If you can recognize one object after variation to a certain degree in a certain aspect, you can do the same for other objects relative to that same kind of aspect.

If you can recognize one human face despite aging, you can do the same with others. (It doesn't follow that you can do this with a chicken or aardvark, however.) 

Generative recognition is nonconceputal. You don't need a concept covering the aspects that allow you to recognize it. Example: You don't need to have a concept about eye-distance ratios to find that eye-distance ratios are relevant to facial recognition.

Why does this last point matter? It shows that you don't have to be able to describe something in order to recognize it.

 If THAT is true, then recognition can be the basis of pictorial recognition. It has nothing to do with language skills, for example.

Content recognition (that it's a drawing of a man with heavy jowls) may or many not lead to subject recognition (that it's a drawing of Nixon).

This distinction shows that failure to grasp a picture can be for either of two reasons: You can't locate the content, or you can't see that the content is a particular thing/person (which is the point of a portrait or portrayal.)

A portrait depends on something more basic: providing enough information about the right aspects to allow suitable viewers to see what kind of thing it is, or who/what it portrays.


                        Last updated March 21, 2011 ~ All text 2011 Theodore Gracyk