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The truth about images.

Hamlyn, Jim



Many people believe that images-photographs in particular-are truth bearers; that they provide meaningful testimony and have what philosophers sometimes call factive, as opposed to fictive, status. We also commonly hear of how images are untrustworthy because they can be made to falsify the facts. I aim to explain why these ways of talking about images, in terms of their truth-value, have the misleading effect of reducing images to linguistic tokens. Furthermore, doing so overlooks, misunderstands or worse still ignores, the essentially mute but nonetheless powerful effectiveness of images as substitutes for the things they represent. Almost all theories of representation refer to images as signs or signifiers, as readable objects or messages that require decoding, deciphering or interpreting. In everyday language, we talk of how images convey meaning, have content and are about the things to which they refer. We also talk of what images tell us, what they describe, articulate, suggest, explain and imply. Characterising images as semantic entities in these ways has the great advantage of rendering them as truth-evaluable. The purpose of this paper is to explain that whilst images are indeed truth-evaluable, they are not fundamentally truth-dependent.


HAMLYN, J. 2016. The truth about images. Presented at the 7th International conference on the image, 1-2 September 2016, Liverpool, UK.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name 7th International conference on the image
Conference Location Liverpool, UK
Start Date Sep 1, 2016
End Date Sep 2, 2016
Deposit Date Dec 19, 2016
Publicly Available Date Dec 19, 2016
Keywords Representation; Non-verbal communications; Truth
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