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Fall 2015




In his study of forms of representation, Nel- son Goodman sought to explain why some representations, like words or musical scores, are considered replicable while others, such as paintings, are not. He named the replicable rep- resentations allographic and the ones we consider nonreplicable autographic (Goodman 1976, 113). His explanation of what grounds this distinction is in his theory of notations (chaps. IV–V). That theory essentially seeks to secure the possibility of identity for representations, as well as the possibility of knowing such identity, by setting out a number of requirements. Unless a repre- sentational practice satisfies the requirements (is “amenable to notation” [121]), the token repre- sentations it produces cannot count as identical to one another or else cannot be known to be identi- cal. That is why we consider such representations nonreplicable, that is, autographic. According to Goodman, written words satisfy some of the requirements for notations (Good- man 1976, 140), with the result that word tokens can be grouped into types whose members are equivalent and interchangeable. Pictures satisfy no notational requirements: “The sketch . . . is not in a language or notation at all, but in a system without either syntactic or semantic differentia- tion” (192). This means that token pictures can- not be classified into groupings whose members are type-identical and interchangeable. In other words, no picture can count as a replica of another picture, and pictures are autographic. In 2012, I published an analysis of digital pic- tures in this journal that cast doubt on Goodman’s distinction between allographic and autographic representations (Zeimbekis 2012). I argued that (i) digital pictures are replicable representations and therefore allographic, (ii) digital pictures are not notational representations, and (iii) there is no obstacle in principle to conceiving of all pictures as replicable (allographic) representations. In a recent article, Jason D’Cruz and P. D. Mag- nus reject points (ii) and (iii) (2014, Section iii). Concerning (i), they agree that digital pictures are allographic, but they argue that they are al- lographic because they are notational, whereas I argue that digital pictures are allographic despite not being notational. To defend these positions, D’Cruz and Magnus have to rebut my own views. However, when it comes to doing this, they mis- understand key parts of my proposal and fail to grasp the proposal’s structure. As a result, they succeed neither in rebutting points (ii) and (iii) nor in justifying point (i).


This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: D'CRUZ, J. and MAGNUS, P. D. (2015), Preserving the Autographic/Allographic Distinction. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 73: 453–457. doi: 10.1111/jaac.12224, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.

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