Some Philosophers on Representation and Related Notions


We all carry the "imago dei", or image of God, within us. For us to be our best means to know that image, to become one with it. The gap between God and humans is maintained (since we only become close to the image of God), but there is still the possibility of transcendence.


In German, the word "Bild" means "form, image, or picture", but carries with it many connotations. "Bildung" refers to culture, or being cultured. For Gadamer, it also refers to artistic feeling (although not the romantic notion of genius).

As well, for Gadamer, this related to tact, which he translates from Aristotle's idea of phronesis. Tact is "knowing the right thing to do or say at the right time." How does this relate to bild? Well, it does relate to culture, certainly. But think also of representation as a kind of repetition. Tact means being able to understand the "spirit" of a situation well enough to be able to reproduce it. A statesman, for Aristotle, can get things done, can make predictable and reliable decisions in the ever-changing world of politics.

Or, think of Gadamer's example of the festival. He argues that we try to reproduce festivals from one year to the next (the 10th annual...). What is it that makes later "versions" the same as earlier? What is it to reproduce the festival? Does one just get every detail exactly the same as before? This would lose the spirit of the festival, especially if people enjoyed the surprise or freshness of the original. Does one just indulge in novelty, then? No, that won't work either. The key is to do it differently, and in so doing, maintain the tradition.