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  • Writer's pictureXinyi Wen

哲学的视觉性:Susanna Berger "The Art of Philosophy"

2017年Susanna Berger在剑桥出版的博士论文The Art of Philosophy: Visual Thinking in Europe from the Late Renaissance to the Early Enlightenment作为博论来说,应该算是很成功了。她是剑桥的博士,现在系里做图像的老师都经常提到这本书。最近还听说国内有同学在写书评,感觉这本书一直是要火的节奏,哈哈。从材料来说,Berger选取的有著名的老材料,例如利维坦,也有不那么有名的新材料,例如哲学论文、学生笔记中的图示,这些材料本身就是让人眼前一亮的。从方法来说,Berger在尝试提出一种读图像的新视角,“plural image”,也是有点意思。

现在系里做图像的老师很多,但是我对他们的方法有时候有一些保留。我觉得很多老师偏重于分析一幅现成图像的功能 (function) ,例如在论述中起到了什么作用/对记忆有怎样的帮助,但是较少将图像的细节、布局延伸到整个图像学传统中——或者说他们使用的“图像学传统”是少数几幅名作构成的,例如雅典学院、Vesalius的解剖剧场,而不是Photothek那种大量的图像收集得来的。这导致他们的功能性阐释给人一种片面感:解释看起来都reasonable,但是看不到背后支撑这个解释的来龙去脉。从Berger的书中我们既可以看到这个问题,也可以看到对这个问题的克服。

我认为这本书最好的部分是第二章,“Thinking through the Plural Images of Logic“,使用非常翔实的材料探讨了逻辑布局和图像布局的关系,以及第五章的前半部分,分析丢勒关于绘画过程和思考过程的论述。从这里可以导出一种关于思维的图像学:不光单个图像有其图像志,多重的图像、图像的布局也有其图像志,而且与人的思维方式密切相关。第三、四章使用了学生手稿和笔记本作为材料,材料很好,但我觉得可以接着第二章的思路更深入探讨visual thinking的过程,而不是转到“如何学习哲学知识”的层面。同时,在Berger使用那些已经被名家分析过的图像时就能明显感受到一种局限。第一章的plural image方法论铺得很开,从建筑开始,但是似乎没有很好地和史学史联系起来,仅仅使用Yates关于记忆与空间的论点也有所不足。第五章最后分析了利维坦,但我感觉这是一个很知名但未必最好的例子。

下面这篇书评是上个月读文献随手写在Wordpress上的,可以看出我现在的想法延伸了一点,也略有不同,发出来以为记。我的问题主要集中在两个方面:1. Plural image的史学史。Plural image真的是一个新概念吗?感觉作者本来可以从德国图像学开始多讨论一些。2. Visual thinking不等于thinking made visible,这是借用了Matthias Bruhn的一句话。这本书的标题叫Visual thinking,但我觉得如果更深入地探讨一下两者的关系,特别是加强对手稿材料的阐释,可以更上一层楼。

Berger, S. (2017). The Art of Philosophy: Visual Thinking in Europe from the Late Renaissance to the Early Enlightenment. Princeton University Press.

The Art of Philosophy is an insightful work, greatly inspired my current study on illustrated theses. I first heard about this book in 2017 for its amazing illustrations, but only started to read it recently.

The plural image is the key concept for Berger's work. In the introduction, Berger defined plural image as "a work that features this segmented mode of organising space into multiple images that are linked by conceptual affiliations". It's highly related, but different from the concept of tableau or diagram, as the latter usually do not aim to create a whole illusionary space on the surface. Bender and Marinnan's The Culture of Diagram (Stanford University Press, 2010) would be a useful introduction to diagrams with a reference to modern technology. But these concepts do overlap in many occasions, and in regard of the visualisation of thinking and demonstrating, they share very similar functions.

In this book, the plural images and diagrams discussed are highly related to philosophy. Unlike in natural sciences, philosophical plural images and diagrams have a more intimate relationship to the exteriorisation of thoughts and ideas, to the inner, abstract and sometimes private thinking process. Therefore, their functions could be in a similar position as the arts of memory. They made the implicit relations between ideas understandable through dividers, arrows and allegorical scenes, and led readers or the author himself through the journey of thoughts.

One step further from this book, I would like to mention that though incorporated in many cases, visual thinking is not identical with thinking made visible. Just like Matthias Bruhn has pointed out in Technical Image (The University of Chicago Press, 2015): visual knowledge is not identical with knowledge made visible. The two kind of materials in this book, printed theses and personal lecture notes and albums, bear such a distinction. Do these images clarify problems for the author or for the reader? Are these thinkings carried out and organized with images and diagrams, or are they just textual allegories and references visualised? The variety of the schoolboys' drawing of the Tree of Porphyry (one even drew his classmates into the picture) showed us the trace of their own original visual thinking besides merely absorbing the visible knowledge from the books. Another related question is who are thinking visually. Artists, philosophers and printers all have different roles to play in the story of a plural image.

A great advance would be made if we could find a way to unfold the backstage process of the early modern visual thinking and the production of these famous or unfamous visible philosophies. A good example may be Horst Bredekamp's Galileo's Thinking Hand: mannerism, anti-mannerism and the virtue of drawing in the foundation of early modern science (The University of Chicago Press, 2015), in which he demonstrated from manuscripts and archives how the acquisition and practice of drawing skill formed Galileo's vision. When this method works on Galileo, will it also work on philosophers?

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