Wednesday, December 08, 2004


One question that is worth asking, if only to show that it can't be answered, is what images are made of; another is where images may be found. The non-answers are: nothing and nowhere.

Images are often attached to things when one thing serves as an image of another thing and therefore represents it (though there are other ways of representing). And images are also, perhaps necessarily, instantiated in or as things (paintings, drawings, photographs, to take standard examples).

But I want to situate the image itself. I want to know how it materializes.

Consider the fact that experience includes something we call "appearances". These are often distinguished for philosophical purposes from "reality" and are sometimes qualified as "mere" appearances. Science compares a great many appearances in order to discern what we are told is an "underlying" reality, unfooled by deceptive appearances.

But experience also includes surfaces. I would like to distinguish these, with a similar aim in mind, from "ideality" again in order to give a sense to the "mereness" of a surface, or its superficiality. Reality and its mere appearance. Ideality and its mere surface. Politics, they say, brings together a great many surfaces in order to approach an "overarching" ideality, undaunted by disconcerting surfaces.

Now, the image, I want to say, is what can be immediately peeled off an appearance and applied to a surface. It is what can be seen without strain and done without effort. When expressed in a well crafted remark or strophe, it is also what can be said without question. Notice, then, that in working with images (at least on my definitions here) we are cut off from representations of the real and the ideal (which we will leave to science and politics).

Pure imagery is the perfect immanence of the presentation. It is what the poet and the philosopher are after.

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