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Time, and the static image

Le Poidevin, R. (1997) Time, and the static image. Philosophy, 72 (280). pp. 175-188. ISSN 0031 - 8191


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Photographs, paintings, rigid sculptures: all these provide examples of static images. It is true that they change-photographs fade,paintings darken and sculptures crumble-but what change they undergo (unless very damaging) is irrelevant to their representational content. A static image is one that represents by virtue of properties which remain largely unchanged throughout its existence. Because of this defining feature, according to a long tradition in aesthetics, a static image can only represent an instantaneous moment, or to be more exact the state of affairs obtaining at that moment'. It cannot represent movement and the passage of time. This traditional vieu- mirrors a much older one in metaphysics: that change is to be conceived of as a series of instantaneous states and hence that an interval of time is composed of extensionless moments. The metaphysical view has been involved in more controversy than its aesthetic counterpart. Aristotle identified it as one of the premises of Zeno's arrow paradoxZ and Augustine employed it in his proof of the unreality of time. The aesthetic view, for its part, was subjected to a blistering attack in Ernst Gombrich's brilliant essay 'Moment and movement in Art'", uhich persuasively argues, not only against the doctrine that the changeless cannot represent change, but also against the very idea of an instant of time.

Still, Gombrich overstates his case. Is the idea of an instant simply a philosophers' fiction? And if we allow such an idea into our conception of the world, are we thereby committed to a mistaken view of pictorial representation? Implicit in Gombrich's argument is a link between depiction and perception. But what is this link, and what role does it play in the argument? I propose in this essay to take another look at the question of what time-span is represented by the static image, and consider whether answering this question presupposes a view of time and change. I shall begin with a brief resume of Gombrich's discussion.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © 1997 Cambridge University Press. Reproduced in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.
Institution: The University of Leeds
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of Humanities (Leeds) > School of Philosophy (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science (Leeds) > School of Philosophy (Leeds)
Depositing User: Leeds Philosophy Department
Date Deposited: 05 Nov 2007 12:11
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2014 04:20
Status: Published
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Refereed: No
Related URLs:
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/3243

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