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3.2 Interpretation beyond biography

The three interpretative strategies outlined in the previous section, and represented by Langdon, Freedberg, and Reynolds and Ostrow, largely rely on recreating the context contemporary with Caravaggio's painting. Other interpretations seem to have more to do with the context and priorities of the modern historian. If, therefore, the interpretation of a work of art is about more than the artist's particular intention regarding that work of art, then, as Martin Kemp asks,

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2.1 Understanding an artist's art

Bernard Berenson wrote his book about Caravaggio (1953) because,

Until a few decades ago his artistic personality was as nebulous as Leonardo's or Giorgione's before Giovanni Morelli. Almost any canvas was attributed to him that was startlingly lit, that represented figures with plumed hats, vulgar obese giants blasphemously posing as Christ and His disciples, dice-throwing or card-sharping undermen, jumbles of ove
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1.2 The myth of the artist

Consider Howard Hibbard's analysis of Caravaggio's The Martyrdom of St Matthew in the Contarelli chapel (Langdon Plate 19 – see the Web Gallery of Art at http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/c/caravagg/04/index.html) from his monograph, Caravaggio (1983). Hibbard identifies the figure at the rear to the left of the semi-naked executioner as the artist's self-portrait: ‘a bearded, saturnine villain who is none other than Caravaggio himself’.

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References

Blackburn, S. (1994) The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Blake, W. (1970) Songs of Innocence and of Experience, ed. G. Keynes, Oxford, Oxford University Press (first published 1789, 1794).
Brann, E.T.H. (1991) The World of the Imagination, Lanham, Maryland, Rowman and Littlefield.

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3.1 Imagination and imagery

From the very origins of concern with the imagination in the work of the ancient Greeks, the imagination has been associated with imagery. But what is the relationship between imagination and imagery? In chapter 12 of his book, The Language of Imagination (1990), Alan White addresses this question and argues that imagination neither implies nor is implied by imagery.


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2.5 The problematic status of the imagination

Let us review the position we have reached. Stevenson's twelve conceptions of imagination suggest that ‘imagining’ might be defined as ‘thinking of something that is not present to the senses’. This definition succeeds in distinguishing imagining from perceiving, but is too general in including such things as remembering. Gaut defines ‘imagining’, in its core sense, as ‘thinking of something without commitment to its truth or falsity, existence or non-existence’. This succeeds
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2.4 Gaut's analysis of imagination

Berys Gaut's main concern in his paper is to provide an account of the relationship between imagination and creativity. But in section 2 of his paper he offers an analysis of the notion of imagination, which we will look at here.

Activity 5


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4.2 Simplicity and complexity

As we have already discovered, the concept of ‘simplicity’ is not a simple matter. We saw earlier in the course that the simplicity of folk-song is not the same as classical simplicity, though both influenced the taste of Lieder writers. ‘Heidenröslein’ and ‘Wandrers Nachtlied’ are simple in quite different ways, both in their poetry and in their music. Many other songs by Schubert are much longer, much more complex, and treat the poetry with much greater freedom. This aspect of
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Learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • discuss what it means to be a person

  • read and understand arguments discussing this question.


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References

Leonard, T. (1984) Intimate voices 1965–1983, Galloping Dog Press.
MacLean, S. (trans. Crichton Smith, I.) (1970) Poems to Eimhir, Northern House.
MacLean, S. (1981) Spring tide and Neap tide: selected poems 1932–72, Canongate.
MacLean, S. (1985) Ris a'Bhruthaich: the criticism and prose writings, Acair.
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Conclusion

You have now had an opportunity to examine the poetry of Sorley MacLean. This should have helped you gain an increased sense of the power of MacLean's poetry both in the English and in its original Gaelic.

The provision of the English translations and the discussion by the poet himself during the interview with Ian Crichton-Smith should have increased your understanding of the English texts.


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2.1.1 Aims

The aims of these recordings, in which Sorley MacLean is interviewed by Iain Crichton-Smith, are to:

  • (a) help you to sense the power of MacLean's poetry in its original Gaelic;

  • (b) assist your understanding of the English texts of the poems, translated by MacLean himself.


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Learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • understand the power of MacLean's poetry in its original Gaelic

  • give examples of how such poetry engages with historical and cultural change.


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Learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • understand that 'texts' are not restricted to the written word

  • understand war memorials as text

  • interpret a visual text at a basic level.


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Acknowledgements

This course was written by Dr Keith Frankish

Except for third party materials and otherwise stated (see terms and conditions), this content is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Licence

Course image: Leonardo da Vinci in
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Further reading

For a more advanced introduction to the topic of consciousness, which includes an historical survey of philosophical and psychological work on the topic and a survey of recent debates, see:
Güzeldere, G. (1997) ‘The many faces of consciousness: a field guide’, in N. Block, O. Flanagan and G. Güzeldere (eds), The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, pp. 1–67. (The
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References

Adams, B., Breazeal, C., Brooks, R. and Scassellati, B. (2000) ‘Humanoid robots: a new kind of tool’, IEEE Intelligent Systems, 15, 25–31.
Block, N. (1995) ‘On a confusion about a function of consciousness’, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 18, 227–47.
Block, N., Flanagan, O. and Güzeldere, G. (eds) (1997), The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical
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Keep on learning

Study another free course

There are more than 800 courses on OpenLearn for you to
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5 Conclusion

This course has laid the groundwork for a study of consciousness. We have identified the phenomenon in which we are interested, looked at some of its mysterious features and considered the problems it poses. You may have been wondering exactly what philosophers have to contribute here. Isn't explaining consciousness a matter for scientists – requiring the formation and testing of empirical hypotheses, not conceptual analysis and a priori reasoning? There are at least three aspects to the an
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4.5 The function of consciousness

There is another problem I want to mention briefly. What is the function of consciousness? What difference does it make to have phenomenally conscious experiences?

This may seem an odd question. Surely, the answer is obvious: the function of consciousness is to provide us with information about our environment – about colours, shapes, sounds and so on. But this is too swift. We do not need to have conscious experiences in order to acquire perceptual information about our enviro
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