Decisive Moments: Causation and the Aesthetic Admiration of Photographs

Wednesday 3rd June 2015 | 1600-1800 Senate House, Room G35

Abstract: It is commonly claimed that causation lies at the heart of photography, whereas agency and intention lies at the heart of painting. It has also been claimed, by those unsympathetic to the aforementioned picture, that endorsing this causal-intentional antithesis means that we cannot account for our aesthetic interest in photography. I will argue that the role of causation in the production of photographs is ill-understood. I will then suggest that progress can be made if we draw upon Fred Dretske’s distinction between triggering and structuring causes. Armed with Dretske’s distinction, we can illuminate the causal nature of photography in such a way that actually explains, rather than renders problematic, a number of key aesthetic interests we take in photographic pictures.