In the chapter following the one on denotation, Goodman discusses aspects of imitation relating them to the core discussion on representation. He concludes as several before him, that there is no possibility on seeing a thing as it is. That is because, “as Ernst Gombrich insists, […] that there is no innocent eye” (p. 7). There is not just one way a thing is, but many ways a thing could be. That is to say, “for the object before me is a man, a swarm of atoms, a complex of cells, a fiddler, a friend, a fool and much more” (p. 6).

People can take a personal, a neutral or a general point of view and many more in between those shades of categorization. The truth is, even the single point of view, which is predicted to be as neutral as possible, is somehow not neutral but influenced. This is because the “eye comes always ancient to its work, obsessed by its own past and by old and new insinuations of the ear, nose, tongue, fingers, heart, and brain. […] Not only how but what it sees is regulated by need and prejudice” (p. 7). Goodman states all of this to be able to conclude that the “copy theory of representation, then, is stopped at the start by inability to specify what is to be copied” (p. 9). And of course he wants us to know, that every view of us is a process of interpretation. Hence, combining the latter we mentioned and what we were told before that, in “representing an object, we do not copy such a construal or interpretation – we achieve it” (ibid.). At the end of the chapter on the topic of imitation, Goodman goes on to the topic of perspective. He does so, just to expose perspective not to be the saviour of the myth of the innocent eye. And the further chapter on sculptures just repeats some of the aspects for the third dimension. Therefore I refrain from summarizing the chapters three and four in Goodman’s book and will go on with chapter five.

Goodman, Nelson, 1976: The Languages of Art. An Approach to a Theory of Symbols. 2nd ed., Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing.

Leave a Reply