Monday, 25 January 2016

Quote of the Day: “A picture is not an argument”

“The appeal to pictures [or YouTube videos or ‘memes’] as the standard of truth is omnipresent in our society ...
    “Is abortion murder?  Does a foetus have rights? Watch the [movie] 'Silent Scream,' the 'picturists' on the religious right advise: See the foetus actively being dismembered ...  After that, who needs an abstract disussion of rights? ...
    “Should American troops enter Somalia [or Iraq? Or Syria]?  Let the TV networks show emaciated children dying of hunger.  Should American troops leave Somalia [or Afghanistan? Or Iraq? Or Libya?] Let the networks show the naked corpse of an American soldier [or ambassador] being dragged through the streets by the natives.  (Thanks to picturism, we now have foreign policy decided in essence by TV producers.)
    “[Equally: Should the west admit refugees escaping murderous civil war in Syria? Let the TV networks and Facebook posters show a drowned child face down on a Mediterannean beach.  Should the west refuse entry? Let the internet warriors show a horde of single Muslim men entering Europe by train. (Thanks to picturism, we now have foreign policy decided in essence by TV producers, Facebook memes and internet warriors.)] …
    “I hold that the picturist method of resolving disputes is espistemologically corrupt; .... it makes reaching a conclusion on a contested subject not easier, but literally impossible.
    “I do not object to pictures used merely as illustrations, after it has been made clear that the pictures have no evidentiary significance.  What I object to is pictures used cognitively, in an abstract discussion, i.e., pictures used to try to solve, or even help solve, a problem in philosophy or politics.  A picture used in such a manner represents the antithesis of thought, of logic, of rational argument.
    “To understand why, ask yourself what such a picture does to the viewer's mind. ... In epistemological terms it causes you to drop the context. In  other words, the picture seduces you into responding to a concrete example while blithely ignoring all of the surrounding information that would enable you to interpret the picture rationally. ...
    “’Picturism’ is a form of epistemological manipulation of the viewer. He is inveigled into turning his mind passively to an isolated segment of a complex issue, which deflects him from the total.  ...
    “Pictures, let me say, can sometimes be a necessary part of a process of cognition.  The proper pattern here is the one laid down in our courtrooms.  Take the O. J. Simpson case .... In legal terms, the pictures were probative. .... In dramatic contrast to a murder trial, the issues which people dispute in philosophy and politics always involve broad generalizations or principles; ....  In philosophy and politics, a picture is always prejudicial, never probative.  The picture offers perceptual data only .... ”
~ Leonard Peikoff, from his talk A Picture is Not an Argument


  1. Sometimes it takes a picture of a Doctor gruesomely sticking a medical instrument into the head, crushing the skull and entering the brain, of a 7 or 8 month old foetus to show that a living, viable, human is being brutally murdered just so the Mother can show off to her friends how "hip" and "modern" she is.

    Afterall such people's minds are closed to reason.....

    1. No, their minds are reasoning just fine. You want to shut off their reason, with the pictures. And women do not abort perfect, 8 month fetuses, just to show off to their friends how 'hip' or 'modern' they are. The fact that you want to present a FALSE scenario, then wave pictures around to get people to accept the untrue, is proof that you are opposed to reason.

  2. Yes, a picture is not an argument. I often put up photoshop with deliberate intention to influence. You can defy anyone with a well manipulated picture, from the raw original.


1. Comments are welcome and encouraged.
2. Comments are moderated. Gibberish, spam & off-topic grandstanding will be removed. Tu quoque will be moderated. Links to bogus news sites (and worse) will be deleted.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say it, it's important enough to put a name to it.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.