Image refers to an image and its relationship to a mapped thereon recognizable subject. An image can have a natural origin ( such as shadow, reflection) or be artificially created (eg paintings, symbolic characters).

The relationship between object and image is referred to in philosophy as a reflection relation. This should be the relationship between matter and image are described. Different scientific disciplines deal in various ways with images as a subject, or use them as a tool:

  • In mathematics, a picture is a clear association between two quantities. The element-wise mapping of a set onto itself is called the identity map. Specific case for each of the two sets additional relations are required (eg if they are groups), it means a homomorphic image when it receives these relations. A homomorphic mapping is called isomorphic if it has a homomorphic inverse map with which it associates the identity map generated.
  • The measurement theory examines homomorphic images fundamentally and finds application, for example, in the statistics.
  • Also predicates in the logic can be understood as mathematical mappings.
  • Material images are dealt with in the image science.

Philosophers have asked in the context of epistemology over again, in what ratio original and copy each other and developed from different perspectives image theories about how human knowledge is a reflection of reality. Illustrations are not connected with the constitution of subjects and objects.

Images can religious or magical meanings are assigned. Since ancient monotheistic religions have often adopted bans images that repeatedly led in the course of European history to arguments (see iconoclasm, iconoclasm ).

As images are sensations, perceptions or ideas, as well as on the level of language concepts, judgments and conclusions to theories. In the 20th century philosophers discussed again about how a statement or description of a situation may reflect the facts in the world. The resultant has already been in ancient times difference of opinion between idealism and realism survival to the present day.

The critique of ideology is concerned with the socio-political importance of images.

  • 2.1 Primary Sources
  • 2.2 Further Reading



The basic positions in the ancient world is divided into those of materialism, idealism and realism.

Linking the theory of knowledge with a reflection on pictures goes way back in ancient philosophy - first considerations can already be found in Heraclitus:

An early theory of image developed Leucippus and Democritus, the Greek philosopher whose doctrine is also called atomism. After their knowledge constantly invisible atoms or Cartoons ( eidola ) are emitted from the real objects which pass through the sense organs in the soul. This materialistic theory represented later the Epicureans.

The allegory of the cave from the seventh book of Plato's dialogue Politeia is regarded as a central formulation of the problem that arises when one makes the optical image into a metaphor for knowledge, and points out that we do not perceive the imaging process itself. Plato built his likeness on so that he complex designed the imaging process and the perceiver extracts: In the center a man is chained in a cave. Everything he gets to see are the shadows of objects that are emerging on the opposite wall of the cave him. Presented to him not even the shadow of real things - he is pursuing a staged play of shadows. What attitude, this is the philosophical question of Chained is to develop looming on the wall forms? Does he not think of it as the real objects? The way out of the dilemma is finding Plato through his parable. The only chance of knowledge that has the perceiver is in philosophical thought. Could he get a correct idea of the imaging process, so he could see through what is tricked him. At least one thing he can: appreciate that his current ideas have little to do with the world as it really is. According to Plato designed a worldview in which the sensory perceptions only pictures of ideas provide, which account for as archetypes of the nature of the world. He looked at the entire natural universe as a reflection of the divine and the time as an image of eternity.

Against the idealistic conception of Plato was opposed by his pupil Aristotle, who held it before him, that he, the number of objects in the world would double with the presentation of ideas at least. For Aristotle, knowledge does not come in a single perception as it were " direct " representation of reality, but in the right constellation of the respective importance of content ( symplokä noämaton ), which he put together according to certain forms of judgment in relationship. So Aristotle rejected a model according to which the correct representation of reality in the knowledge of people only (material) influence of the outside world and affective reactions is due. Of crucial importance in the Aristotelian sense of "correct image" is that the mind of man, the respective sense-impressions is in a right relationship to each other. From the discussion about whether there are independent ideas, originated in the Middle Ages of universals.

In late antiquity, the Stoics, although tied on to the naturalistic worldview of the atomists, but represented as Aristotle the theory of a more sophisticated cognitive process. The correct notion of the subject requires not only the implementation of a sensory stimulus in perceptions, but also the rational processing of sensory data and a rational assessment ( sygkatathesis ).

Middle Ages

Until modern times, thinking about a realization by means of images has remained a cornerstone of religious, idealistic and transzendentalistischer philosophy. It seemed plausible that human knowledge, as long as it was confined to sensory perceptions, deceptions and delivers higher knowledge - especially of God - does not penetrate. Thinking about image and reality was for the gap between our perception and reality. The Bible provided the connecting factors to the ancient problem with passages like that from 1 Corinthians 13 ( in Luther's translation of 1545 ):

The present state of fetter the human being as the image of God in an imperfect knowledge. What he sees of himself, is not more than what he gets to see in a poor mirror. A true knowledge is possible only when man confronts God.

It was especially Augustine, to AD 400 Cr. the image idea of ​​wearing in a Christian context. The fact that the man has spirit and mind, he stands out from all other creatures and is the image of God on earth. Because he has a free will, but man is imperfect and may, on its power not realize the truth. Access to God as the archetype of all that exists, he finds only in contemplation. The Trinity of being, love and recognition as an image of God is revealed only in the interior of man. ( De Trinitate )

The Arab, Jewish and Latin scholasticism discussed many fundamental problems of general epistemology, including the question of the basis of our beliefs and their knowledge, often with recourse to the metaphor of original and copy. And in some cases individual concepts - - Even in ancient times as universals are ideas in the divine Creator Spirit seen. This means that both the structures and the individual objects of reality can be described as images of archetypes in the divine mind. According to the idea of "absolute simplicity " of the divine essence and its " uniqueness " as an eternal and necessary being, these ideas are connected in God as partially considered together. God's Spirit is in accordance with this idea the limited cognitive capacity, the terms a, either spontaneously or based on the senses that can detect which individual things, but not the entire divine spirit. The not stated in Aristotle notion of an "active intellect " ( intellectus agens ) is often defined this conception is based. On this theoretical basis, all terms can be interpreted as images of archetypes in the divine mind in addition to the ontological dependency relationship within the theory of knowledge.

At least once in the medieval Latin West was present a more precise knowledge of Aristotle's work, which was mediated through Arabic translations, and the theological and philosophical discussion had professionalized academic, this subject area has been widely debated. Many theologians and philosophers now saw human knowledge less than divine image, but rather finite earthly reality. They put forward the theory that nothing is in the intellect, which has not previously perceived by the senses. Knowledge or truth based on a match of the intellect with the thing.

History effect such concepts have been very significant. Contrary to this, often referred to as Aristotelian epistemological approach went in the late Middle Ages theorists such as Meister Eckhart believes that the human mind is a direct representation of the divine intellect: he that is so completely identical, and the implementation of this identity is for humans goal of the spiritual path.

Renaissance and modern times

Still in the running of the scholastic debate, but especially during the Renaissance philosophers dared to break away from the Augustinian dogmas and to turn the famous reflection on the inadequacy of the images. With the advent of powered with mathematics perspective painting as with the expansion of the natural sciences, it was interesting in a twist and appropriation of the existing debate, just to propagate a knowledge of the world was busy with the security of image processes. Sense organs were dissected, experimented with optical lenses and cameras, into projected the perfect images of the outside world in interiors, and built the entire empiricist, associated with the modern science philosophy on a - compared to the Platonic radically streamlined - to figure model:

There is this model by an external world. We have sense organs to perceive it. Our bodies produce sensations, images of the world in our consciousness. We must therefore develop instruments with which we bring far more perfect illustrations of the world into existence: thermometers, barometers, telescopes, microscopes - a set of tools with which we expand our sense perceptions to the macro - and microcosm.

Tricky is the cognitive process, the empiricists, if it is " contaminated ", and if " misconceptions " penetrate him. Even Francis Bacon warned against false idols, which are to be mirages. The epistemology of empiricism conceives of the soul and the mind as a tabula rasa, a blank billboard on which emerge through sensory perception likenesses of reality, so to speak. John Locke about describing the mind in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding in 1690 ( Essay on the human understanding ) as " empty cabinet", " sheet of blanc paper" ( white paper) or " waxed tablet" on which images of the objects to memorize. George Berkeley developed a theory of reflection, after which he conceives knowledge as "ideas, imprinted on the senses by the Author of Nature".

Our ability to invent new things is based, therefore, that although we come from sense impressions passively ideas, but this - as John Locke - can put together new ideas. Our entire way of thinking done in an " association of ideas", a continuous linking of ideas. We came here to misconceptions, so we could develop all kinds of superstitions.

Compared with the empiricism built over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries, a new position of idealistic philosophy, the rationalism of Descartes and Leibniz ', which the empiricist model integrated in their thinking: If that with which we deal, sensory data are and if we how the empiricists claimed that gain our ideas from a combination of sensory data, the representatives of empiricism had to admit themselves that they ultimately could not obtain knowledge of that of which their knowledge went out the outside world. You only processed sensory data. The things we see are not " things in themselves " and what we do with the concepts, our linking and combining is not itself part of the reducible to perceptions world. After Descartes, it is a mistake to assume, between object and idea there was a similarity ( Med III) or even match. The sensory impulses are dark and out of focus and are only clear and distinguishable by the mind.

A move to the knowing subject was the result; Locke had already paved the way, when he went out of the " linking of ideas " as the ultimate realization process. His main work deals with the "human understanding", he does not deal with the outside world. So are generated by the productive imagination as part of the active intellect Kant knowledge images. However, a direct conclusion on the external reality is thus not possible.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784), French scholar of the Enlightenment and, together with Jean Baptiste le Rond d' Alembert founder of the great universal lexicon Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers (1751-1780), represented in the following Descartes thesis that knowledge of reality is possible only through scientific experiments. This would require, however, the results are interpreted according to rules that can not be obtained inductively itself, but should be intuitively divined or guessed. In one parable Diderot meet five people, one each only sees, hears, smells, tastes, and touches. You can barely communicate about living in the same world. This is the constitutive importance of the sense organs for the experience of objects illustrate.

The German -born philosopher of the French Enlightenment Holbach, who represented atheistic positions, developed a mechanistic view of the world and put a deterministic concept of reality in relation to man before.

Also in the 18th century formulated the Scottish historian and philosopher David Hume, the later so called Hume's Law, which can be derived from statements about reality no clues about ethics and morality. For Hume, there is the human mind from reason and will. While the reason seeks a match of belief and reality, that is truth, the will is designed to influence the reality according to the wishes and desires of the individual. Hume accepted, will and reason were to be kept strictly separate. While the first motivate people, but does not lead to knowledge of reality, aspiring only reason for truth and knowledge.

19th and 20th centuries

The philosophical spectrum split in the 19th century further differentiated positions. Representatives of the transcendental / idealistic tradition denied the possibility of an imaging relationship at all ( neo-Kantianism, Husserl ), because the true nature of the human external reality withdrawing its knowledge assets. The empiricist / materialist schools designed as well as the Critical Realism ( Külpe, Nicolai Hartmann) Figure theories that at least structural ( isomorphic ) assumptions correspondences of reality and consciousness. The newcomer in this variety was the positivist school of thought, whose protagonists were focused on the analysis of the physiological and psychological conditions.

The positivists already adopted in the mid -19th century by the picture theory. Together with the empiricists, they assumed that man must interpret perceptions. However, they changed how the so-called transcendental philosophy previously occupied Perspective: The knowledge of our previous image is thus not that of the outside world, which reflects the reality as shown on the screen of a camera obscura. Also, the eye does not reflect the world, but the sensual impression of the eye is more akin to what Ernst Mach outlined in his analysis of sensations. A separation in the outside world and the inner world takes the person only in dealing with the image received by the eye before, through an analysis, categorization and interpretation of the perceptions. The people have about the sensation of a voluntary effort with which they raise their arms and see the same moment parts of the image that they connect with their arms in motion. They interpret these sensations but as tactile. To arrange and link the sensations and decide going to consider some as belonging to the body and another due to the environment. The same sentiments could be sprung on this concept but also just a dream. For even the dreamer forms categories and provides some sensations as physical, other than related to the outside world.

This analysis is done unconsciously and pragmatically according to Mach, that is, the person interpreted by the sense organs recorded data that will allow him forecasts. His idea of ​​how the world is constituted, but with only a model: "The data layer behaves as if things would have the following characteristics ... ". The researchers classified the findings ultimately only 'economic': mechanisms of action, it does not need to make a prediction, he leaves in his model ignored.

Many problems of the previous philosophical debate is no longer arise with this assumption. If there are areas such as the quantum physics, in which the same objects in the behavioral one experiment as if it consists of particles (eg atoms) exist, and occur in the other investigation as waves, so needs of the followers of positivism is not set on one or the other. Rather, he may, depending on the context, or otherwise deal with the information. For example, it may also be expedient in his opinion, to calculate residential buildings for the conventional three-dimensional space and at the same time to interpret data from space telescopes under with a four-dimensional space-time.

From the perspective of Marxist philosophy, positivism is a bourgeois subjectivist worldview. This conception formulated about Lenin in his criticism of Mach. About the real material world that needs to change, according to Lenin, is spoken only in model assumptions in positivism. The positivists were not interested in how this world is constituted, but only wanted to "practically expected ."

According to the positivists, however, the Marxist materialist theory of reflection a raise with their claim to truth, for they can not constitute proof. They want to understand the model of a figure of the material world, together with the cultural history as a cornerstone of approximation to the truth. In detail, is not that, then the disputed positivist criticism without concealed idealistic or metaphysical assumptions in materialism. So the article is about " picture theory " in the Marxist- Leninist -oriented Philosophical Dictionary of the GDR, the existence of a spirit in the image of the material world is mirrored into it, and of matter that is mirrored, ahead:

The neo-Marxist critique of the dogmatic Marxist theory of knowledge put forward, for example, Antonio Gramsci and Karl Korsch, the theory of reflection and thus the term image summed differentiated.

Philosophy of Language

Language as a model of reality. Ludwig Wittgenstein's approach

In a room different chess games are built. We ask someone to see if the situation depicted in the figure of 1921 is below. This is not an impossible task - in the room must be located a chess game in which a black runner is on a8, a white king on b1, a black pawn on h7 ...; you can come and check if everything is the case before any chessboard. The image forms with observations on individual issues from a complex factual. Each quoted statement made ​​sense, because we knew what should be the case if it is true. ( For then is on the first marked field is actually a black runners, etc.) Meaningful statements must neither obey the laws of nature still depict any actual situation. Also, the sentence: " On the chessboard stands on each field, a white farmer, " is useful. This must therefore be 64 white farmers, and since like chess players argue that a game has only eight white farmers who can not attain unto all; yet this is precisely conceivable that such an artist spread 64 white farmers on the individual fields of a board. The statement makes sense, regardless of whether a chessboard is somewhere ordered so that we know what should be the case if it is true.

The book in which Ludwig Wittgenstein newly posed the question how pictures work, the Tractatus Logico - Philosophicus was built in 1922. It now was no longer, as in previous studies about how the image of the outside world is emerging in our consciousness, where the world is and where our consciousness is to be located, but Wittgenstein asked now why an image can be used in everyday life us to cover a situation. The answer was: Any image can be decomposed into statements of what, according to statements of the image should be the case.

Wittgenstein was waiting with his Tractatus with two surprises: All illustrations, whether pictorial or verbal, work the same to the extent in which they are useful. Does the photo that opens the article in Cologne Cathedral, a replica of the Cologne Cathedral? Yes, because it allows us to make statements on the issues thus existing. If the image is located at the following link, a picture of the Cologne Cathedral? No, because the Cologne cathedral has two towers, this building but only one - plus numerous other differences that indicate that it is in the second image in question to one of Strasbourg Cathedral.

That any of the photographic image as an image is good because it can be broken down by us in statements on the alleged facts. It records facts, and we can get ahead of what is depicted and say whether these issues with a note " is the case " can be ticked off one by one. Sets are useful if they are not tautological ( analytical) or metaphysical. They must be measured against reality, so are an image of - at least possible - a reality. So man, the entire empirical world, precisely insofar as he perceives them and can identify them as this world with exactly such statements reflect on facts.

On Wittgenstein's exposition traditional philosopher stunned especially that they brought back any figures on the level of statements and that they got at the same time without a metaphysical theory to " spirit ", " ideas " and " things in themselves " and yet explained why linguistic statements, pictures, sounds are used as images for us and what happens when we evaluate images.

Wittgenstein was convinced that he had been found not only the answer to why images work: namely, because they are based on meaningful statements. He recorded the same time, the project of the World Figure have logical boundaries that resulted in a reflection on the verification of statements. Statements are therefore useful as long as we know, according to which method of investigation we are to be true or false. Statements about morality and causality are not to formulate sensible to the same extent. In the preface of the Tractatus, as in the course of the discussion it was Wittgenstein crucial therefore to exclude these statements from the reflection on pictures to assign them a very different role.

It is further stated in the Tractatus:

Why do we view images that they are images to talk about was easy. The more difficult question was how we learned the language of the statements with which we can share about how a picture depicting something; they should be in the center of Wittgenstein's later work around the Philosophical Investigations ( first published posthumously in 1953) are: How do we find into the language? His ideas, which he anknüpfte to this question were pragmatic. He was fascinated to see that human communication works. In his last writings, especially in On Certainty ( first published posthumously in 1969), he proposes a differentiation. In everyday life, most philosophical problems do not ask. We would find it even strange when someone mentioned it in this context and about doubted that a thing, which we see is available. The philosophical problems arise only in special debates, primarily in philosophical university seminars and journals. Therefore, it is not a case real problems of humanity, which are discussed there.

The difficulties that pose pictures in everyday life, other than the philosophical nature are. Are important in everyday life with illustrations unique mapping process, data saving from reductions on to make statements, easily searchable picture formats, tools which allow it to penetrate with illustrations to the atomic level, large telescopes, making it possible to deliver more precise images of the universe.

The problems to which referred the philosophy, have an identifiable core: As soon as we think epistemologically about images and as soon as we raise the image and the imaging process to an image of the cognitive process, we bring in all rule instances in our thought into it, the outside of the same images and our knowledge are: the "outside world ", the " awareness ", the "spirit ", the " things in themselves ", the " ideas " that we develop from them. The word figure draws attention to the final result, which we have, on the image of the world. The relationship that has the image to the world, is never part of the picture. The word image register determines, however, that this image has a relationship with the outside world. This is not scientifically to fathom what is not relevant but because it has no meaning for humanity. Only ideologies such as materialism or idealism refer to it.

Nelson Goodman. Image without resemblance: Symbol Theory

In the second half of the 20th century American philosopher Nelson Goodman in his work Languages ​​of Art ( SdK ), the discussion of a philosophical theory of reflection given new impetus. As representatives of analytical philosophy and Quine student he developed - influenced by Charles S. Peirce and Charles W. Morris - a theory of symbols with which he established connections from the philosophy of language for cultural philosophy of Ernst Cassirer and Susanne K. Langer.

Goodman holds images as symbols, which " represent " an object. Due to the very different ways in which such a representation is possible, he rejects the view that similarity is a feature through which the essence of an image can be determined. The relationship between representation and depicted object is rather arbitrary. Similarity is also not limited to pictures, such as the similarity of twins show.

Thus, Nelson Goodman represents a epistemological constructivism. While looking at an object, it is also constructed. Makes an interpretation. Following Kant Goodman postulated:

The notion of the symbol is broad at Goodman. Symbols can be words, texts, dance, images, drawings, sounds, models and more. Symbol systems exist in factual contexts or in living areas such as the arts, the sciences or mathematics. They each contribute to the creation of the world.

In view of the relation between representation and object Goodman distinguishes between denotation and exemplification. The denotation is thus an extensional reference to an image represented object - for example, a portrait, a state of affairs - which exists or may be fictitious. Exemplification by Goodman means that an image or a symbol a exemplarily selected view gives to the object, so the content is something of their own, which goes beyond what is represented by interpretation.

Denotation so called the "what" of the representation and exemplification of the "how". Denotation indicated by the object on the image, exemplification from the image to the article. However, both are not to be construed as a reversal because the exemplification emphasizes only the reference to certain characteristics or symptoms. A special form of exemplification is the metaphorical exemplification, called the Goodman as an "expression ". The term is a " native " nature of a symbol. An image that expresses fear, does not relate to the fears of the painter nor the an observer, but tried to show with his own style means the phenomenon. Not every exemplification is an expression, but each expression is exemplification. Representation stands for objects, events and states of affairs. Expression stands for feelings that you can not immediately explain.

Images are not pure reflections of reality, but models that contain an increasingly interpretive view of reality.

Realistically a picture for Goodman is when it represents such an object, such as one is accustomed to. So it does not matter that the picture or symbol reflects as much information of the object depicted. Symbol systems "digital" ( discrete) to be like the language or "analog" (continuous) such as paintings or photographs. Digital systems have a lower " density " than an analog. Unless linguistic systems are denser than language, language can never fully describe, but only exemplify.


Critics of image theory are representative of a " direct realism". Thus, about William James formulated his critique of theories image as a parody:

In more recent times has been known to direct realism based on James Hilary Putnam and refers to the picture theory as an impermissible desire for the absolute.