Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Noël Carroll

Committee Members

Stephen Neale

Jesse Prinz

Jonathan Gilmore


pictures, depiction, communication, pictorial communication, recognition


The primary goal of my dissertation is to reconcile an anti-intentionalist account of depiction with an intentionalist account of pictorial communication. I begin by providing an account of depiction and then provide an account of communication and, specifically, pictorial communication. Accordingly, I begin by defining depiction, and reject what I call the ``ambiguity view'' which holds that terms like ``depiction'' and ``representation'' are ambiguous. I argue that P depicts O if the design of P visibly manifests O. This definition of depiction sets up the central task for a theory of depiction: to explain how it is possible for a marked surface to facilitate a visual experience as of O. To answer this question I defer, partially, to Dominic Lopes's recognition view. I agree with his claim that a picture, P, depicts something, O, if and only if P is able to trigger the capacity for a suitable perceiver in suitable conditions to recognize an O by its appearance. However, I don’t adopt his second condition which requires a causal connection between O and P. Additionally, I argue that recognition alone does not provide an adequate theory of depiction because it does not explain the visual experience characteristic of engagement with pictures. I suggest that the recognition view should be supplemented by a view that explains visual experience. Specifically, I argue that a picture acts as a functional surrogate for O. The design features ground, sustain and constrain visual experience of O. I argue that by grounding and sustaining a visual experience as of O, while not itself being O, a picture’s design effects an illusion. In the second chapter I discuss communication which I define as an intentional and purposeful activity involving at least two participants: U and A. It is necessarily mediated by a public utterance—symbol, signal, sense bearing sign—that U produces. Communication succeeds when A understands what U means—more precisely what U means by what U says. Based on this Gricean account I arrive at three theses that I expect to inform my discussion of pictorial communication. These are: (a) when a picture is used as a vehicle of communication, its meaning and the goal of pictorial interpretation are determined by the picture maker’s intentions; (b) a picture can bear nonnatural meaning so interpreting it correctly would require recognizing this; and (c) a picture may implicate, or suggest, some meaning over and above its ``literal'' meaning. In the second chapter I develop these three theses. The first two are closely related. Insofar as a picture is used as a vehicle of communication it bears nonnatural meaning. A picture’s nonnatural meaning is essentially the embodiment of picture maker’s meaning. So the goal of pictorial interpretation (when the goal is communication) is to identify the picture maker’s meaning. With respect to the third thesis, I consider Catherine Abell’s account of pictorial implicature and reject it on the grounds that it fails to distinguish between what a picture implicates and what it depicts and she holds that the latter determines the former. I distinguish between two kinds of implicature: those that rely on symbolic cues and those that rely on perceptual cues (plus the reality principle and Gricean maxims). A picture’s content furnishes these cues. Pictorial implicatures are generated by depictive content. Nevertheless, what a picture implicates is part of maker’s meaning. Finally, I consider the objections to the claim that communication, as I have described it, is a legitimate goal of pictorial interpretation.