Wittgenstein once asked what makes my image of him into an image of him?
The being of someone, of an image, is an example of representation. Philosophy has long aimed, unsuccessfully, to understand the phenomenon of representation. The issue has been with us since Plato’s Cratylus and most of its history is unified by a presupposition: whatever makes it that a bit of language (like a name or a sentence or any linguistic symbol) is about something is, fundamentally, also what makes it that a thought (or idea or image) is about a thing.
The story of aboutness will be uniform—simplex—or so the presupposition has it. But we still don’t adequately understand the nature of representation.
In this lecture, David Sosa proposes and develops a perspective that rejects the presupposition and explains our continuing confusion: there is more than one way for a thing to be about something. Representation comes, ultimately, in varieties.
David Sosa is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin. He is the editor-in-chief of the journal Analytic Philosophy.