Photographically Based Knowledge

Cavedon-Taylor, Dan (2013). Photographically Based Knowledge. Episteme, 10(3) pp. 283–297.



Pictures are a quintessential source of aesthetic pleasure. This makes it easy to forget that they are epistemically valuable no less than they are aesthetically so. Pictures are representations. As such, they may furnish us with knowledge of the objects they represent. In this article I provide an account of why photographs are of greater epistemic utility than handmade pictures. To do so, I use a novel approach: I seek to illuminate the epistemic utility of photographs by situating both photographs and handmade pictures among the sources of knowledge. This method yields an account of photography's epistemic utility that better connects the issue with related issues in epistemology and is relatively superior to other accounts. Moreover, it answers a foundational issue in the epistemology of pictorial representation: ‘What kinds of knowledge do pictures furnish?’ I argue that photographs have greater epistemic utility than handmade pictures because photographs are sources of perceptual knowledge, while handmade pictures are sources of testimonial knowledge.

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