tautologous or contradictory pictures?

Following up on the "Russell and Cubism" post, I have another quick question about 20th C philosophy and visual art.

One way my students and I have been thinking about one of the claims of the Tractatus is as follows: there are no pictures (in the ordinary sense of 'drawings' or 'paintings') of tautologies (logical truths) or contradictions (logical falsehoods).

I was wondering, given the conceptual inventiveness of 20th C artists, whether any of them had ever tried to create a picture of a tautology or contradiction. It doesn't seem possible to me (or to Wittgenstein), but my imagination is limited...


At 23/10/09, Blogger Zvi Biener said...

I don't know of visual art, but I have a vague recollection that early 20th century music (e.g., Alban Berg) was impressed with contradition. Dissonance seems to me more of an example of incommensurablity than contradition, but one can see how arguments can be made.

However, I think you are concerned with representational art, and most music is not representational, so this might be a non-starter.

At 23/10/09, Blogger Kenny said...

I seem to recall that Roy Sorensen had some sort of competition to see who could come up with the best example of a picture of something impossible. (I believe many Escher-style things were judged to be possible in worlds with alternate geometries.) As I recall, Jonathan Ichikawa won. I don't know if there were other aspects to the competition too, and whether contradiction was attempted. Unfortunately, a few quick google searches fail to turn up anything, so it might be best to ask one of them directly.

At 23/10/09, Blogger Chris Pincock said...

Here is some discussion of Penrose triangles. I don't know much about it, but Peacocke draws on this case in Realm of Reason (p. 8) in discussions of taking perception at face-value

At 24/10/09, Blogger Colin said...

Priest on pp.59-60 of Doubt Truth to be a Liar argues that Penrose figures are pictures of contradictions, but the case is at best shaky.

At 3/11/09, Blogger Catarina said...

A bit late in the day, but here it goes anyway. Chris Mortensen in Australia has done a lot of interesting research on inconsistent images -- he is, after all, the author of 'Inconsistent Mathematics'! Check the following link:


Interestingly, I am also teaching on the Tractatus at the moment, and this very discussion also came up. I referred my students to Chris' page!

At 4/11/09, Blogger Greg Frost-Arnold said...

Thanks Catarina! That's a really good resource. Thank you for that link.

(It's interesting that nobody has any tautologous pictures yet... Why the asymmetry?)

At 4/11/09, Blogger Catarina said...

Indeed, what would a tautologous picture look like? How could a picture be such so as to depict a given state-of-affairs *as a necessary fact*? It is not only that it depicts a necessary fact, but also that its being necessary must be read off from the picture itself. So maybe Wittgenstein is right after all in that there cannot be such a thing as a tautologous picture. As for contradictory-inconsistent pictures, I think Chris Mortensen makes a good case for his pictures. The asymmetry is definitely something worth thinking about. If you have ideas on that, let me know!

At 30/12/09, Blogger Greg Frost-Arnold said...

Here's another link to a different sort of impossible picture (a map):


(It has 'You are here' in 3 different places.)


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