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Photography and causation: Responding to Scruton's scepticism

Phillips, D. M.; Wilson, Dawn


D. M. Phillips


According to Roger Scruton, it is not possible for photographs to be representational art. Most responses to Scruton's scepticism are versions of the claim that Scruton disregards the extent to which intentionality features in photography; but these cannot force him to give up his notion of the ideal photograph. My approach is to argue that Scruton has misconstrued the role of causation in his discussion of photography. I claim that although Scruton insists that the ideal photograph is defined by its ‘merely causal' provenance, in fact he fails to take the causal provenance of photographs seriously enough. To replace Scruton's notion of the ideal photograph, I offer a substantive account of the causal provenance of photographs, centred on the distinctive role of ‘the photographic event'. I conclude that, with a proper understanding of the photographic process, we have good reason to re-open the question of photography as a representational art.


Phillips, D. M., & Wilson, D. (2009). Photography and causation: Responding to Scruton's scepticism. British Journal of Aesthetics, 49(4), 327-340.

Journal Article Type Review
Acceptance Date Jan 1, 2009
Online Publication Date Aug 24, 2009
Publication Date Oct 1, 2009
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2014
Journal British Journal Of Aesthetics
Print ISSN 0007-0904
Electronic ISSN 1468-2842
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 49
Issue 4
Pages 327-340
Keywords Photography Philosophy Causation Representation Art Aesthetics Scruton,
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