Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pictures and Pears

I accidentally read ahead for last class, so my post for Monday is actually relevant to this reading. So now, I will write about something else that struck me in Philosophical Investigations.

Wittgenstein's ideas (2.12-2.15) regarding pictures as models of reality immediately made me think of Stevens' "Study of Two Pears."  Wittgenstein's ideas are as follows:
2.12 A picture is a model of reality.
2.13 In a picture objects have the elements of the picture corresponding to them.
2.131 In a picture the elements of the picture are the representatives of objects.
2.14 What constitutes a picture is that its elements are related to one another in a determinate way.
2.141 A picture is a fact.
2.15 The fact that the elements of a picture are related to one another in a determinate way represents that things are related to one another in the same way.
(pages 144-145)

Upon analyzing Stevens' poems about pears, it seems that one can never get to the pearness of pears because other details get in the way; one begins to see other aspects (color, shape, form, etc.) with every passing moment, as demonstrated in Stevens' poem.  While the painting attempts to show the pearness of pears, in a way, this painting is only successful at doing so with these two particular pears the picture represents.  That is not to say that this picture does not represent reality as Wittgenstein claims, but it only represents the reality that once was when these particular two pears served as the model for this painting.  However, this reality is no longer. While other pears may share similar elements to the two pears in the painting, they are not identical. According to Wittgenstein, I believe pears are related to each other in a determinate way because of this. The two pears described in the poem are representatives (and representatives only) of the two pears the artist of the painting was painting, to which, I believe is safe to assume, Stevens and Wittgenstein would agree.


  1. Catherine, you post is really interesting! I don't quite follow what you're saying at the very end about the way pears are related, but I think you're correct to say that Wittgenstein would say that the word "pear" does not denote some special essence; it's just our habitual way of pointing to fruit that share certain characteristics.

    1. It's hard to explain, but what I'm trying to say is that the pears in the painting have a determinate form to the pears the artist was painting because they are exact replications of each other. On the other hand, these precise pears can only be representatives of pears in general. Therefore, these pears cannot be determinate pears for all pears, right?

    2. In other words, the pears in the painting can only be representatives of pears in general because not all pears look exactly the same, assume the same position, etc.

  2. This is a great application of Wittgenstein's theory! I wonder, though: how do you see the relationship between, for example, this pear and that pear, versus this pear and this painting of the same pear? The way I understood 2.15 was that the way the two pears in a painting stand in determinate relationship to each other is similar to the way two actual pears stand in relation to one another, but I wonder how this "similar-but-not-identical" relationship between two objects differs from that between an object and its representation... I'm quite sure that question is unintelligible, but on the off chance you can find some meaning in it, I'll ask anyway.