Nelson Goodman, "Reality Remade" (from Languages of Art)
Naive view of representation: "A represents B iff A appreciably resembles B", or "A represents B to the extent that A resembles B". But this has problems (see e.g. p. 4). A picture that represents an object refers to and denotes that object, and no degree of resemblance is sufficient to establish reference. So how does pictorial denotation differ from diagrammatic denotation [as in, with arrows?]? Could it be that resemblance makes the difference, so that if A denotes B, then A represents B just to the extent that A resembles B?
"To make a faithful picture, come as close as possible to copying the object just as it is." But the object before me is a man, a bunch of atoms, cells, a fiddler, a friend, etc. "If all are ways the object is, then none is the way it is." So this cannot be the right account.
"The object is to be copied as seen under aseptic conditions by the free and innocent eye." But as per Gombrich, there is no innocent eye.
Do the laws of perspective provide absolute standards of fidelity that override differences in style of seeing and picturing? Short answer: no. So perspective cannot provide an absolute or independent standard of fidelity of representation, as some claim.
Ditto for sculpture: it is not the two-dimensionality of painting (attempting to capture a three-dimensional world) that causes problems of fidelity of representation.
Problem for account of representation. Until now, we've been considering representations of particular things. There may be, though, pictures which are supposed to represent things generally (like the picture next to "eagle" in the dictionary). Also, pictures may be of things which do not actually exist, and which we thus cannot say are denoted by the pictures. But in these cases we still want to say the pictures represent their objects.
"What tends to mislead us is that such locutions as 'picture of' and 'represents' have the appearance of mannerly two-place predicates and can sometimes be so interpreted. But 'picture of Pickwick' and 'represents a unicorn' are better considered unbreakable one-place predicates, or class-terms, like 'desk' and 'table'."
"Some confusion can be avoided... if we speak rather of a 'Pickwick-representing-picture' or a 'unicorn-representing-picture' or a 'man-representing-picture' or, for short, of a 'Pickwick-picture' or 'unicorn-picture' or 'man-picture'." Kinds of pictures which don't represent anything.
Parallel between man-picture and picture of a man, on the one hand, and man-descriptions (or man-terms) and descriptions of men. 'Pickwick', 'Duke of Wellington', 'the man who conquered Napoleon', 'a man', 'a fat man', 'the man with three heads' are all man-descriptions, but not all describe a man. (Comes down to denotation.)
"An object k is represented as a soandso by a picture p iff p is or contains a picture that as a whole both represents k and is a soandso-picture."
"Representations, then, are pictures that function in somewhat the same way as descriptions. Just as objects are classified by means of, or under, various verbal labels, so also are objects classified by or under various pictorial labels."
"Thus with a picture as with any other label, there are always two questions: what it represents (or describes) and the sort of representation (or description) it is. The first question asks what objects, if any, it applies to as a label; and the second asks about which among certain labels apply to it."
If his picture is recognized as almost but not quite referring to the commonplace furniture of the everyday world, or if it calls for and yet resists assignment to a usual kind of picture, it may bring out neglected likenesses and differences, force unaccustomed associations, and in some measure remake our world. And if the point of the picture is not only successfully made but is also well-taken, if the realignments it directly and indirectly effects are interesting and important, the picture - like a crucial experiment - makes a genuine contribution to knowledge. To a complaint that his portrait of Gertrude Stein did not look like her, Picasso is said to have answered, 'No matter; it will.'"
What constitutes realism of representation? Realism is relative, determined by the system of representation standard for a given culture or person at a given time.