Goodman’s symbol theory

Dominic Lopes

Understanding Pictures, 2004

Mostly about how Goodman merged pictures (and their depictive powers) into the fold of symbol systems. Specifically in how it relates to depiction.

Assumptions: there are similarities between pictures and language.

It starts from Frege’s conception that language is propositional (true or false), but it works better with speech-act theory.

Denotation is standing for, symbolizing.

A depiction is system-relative, more specific as to its target.

A depiction is a predicate: that is, it’s not passive, it actively constitute its subject/target.

Essentially, the piece is about the how pictures are a special kind of symbol system. While not directly relevant to the research, it could however be interesting in the sense of asking the question of “how is code different from existing symbolic systems, seen from an aesthetic perspective?”

Is code a “dense” notational system? Not syntactically, but semantically (limited set of characters, unlimited set of constructs)

Is our ability to interpret code different from our ability to interpret language (that’s unclear, from an MIT psychology perspective); the author says that pictures are different because they require a different kind of competence.

Depiction is generative: interpreting one picture allows us to interpret others. <- dis good

Depiction also allows us to interpret and understand foreign objects.