We are today under the empire of image. After the oral and the written Word, it seems that image acquires an unheard relevance. It determines our life more and more decisively, both our way of seeing the world and the way by which we perform our individual and collective existence. Is this a well grounded appreciation? What is the new status of image, if any? In which way does digitalization transform and renovate the traditional functions of image? (task 3). What after all is image? How has it been thought by the philosophical tradition? What new theoretical approaches have been proposed to clarify its nature? Is image just a means for accessing the concept, just a fragile and evanescent mediator, just a mere appearance? Or, on the contrary, is image an entity, a manifestation or a sensible presentation of a superior meaning which only in it and by it can be seen? How to explain that such a conception of image (as a means in view of an end) could be at the root of the expression "audio-visual means" when, paradoxically, new technologies are one of the most powerful factors that can explain the density of image we witness today? Gadamer (1960) stresses that iconoclasticism is the fear that image may function as an end in itself. Art would have thus been saved in Christian civilization because, here, image was conceived, not only as opening to what it represents (God, the Father), but in a positive way, by its capacity of affirming something which the represented entity could not mean by itself (Christ).

Sacralization of Art would have here its basis, that is, would have been grounded, not in the "copy-image” (simple vehicle for the represented reality), but in an entity endowed with its own power. We could ask whether the recent artistic productions are not the expression of such an extreme valorization of image? And, in the case of Science? Will image have in science more than a simple representative function? If so, what is then its role in Science? Why are images used in science? How are they used? How can we say that one scientific image is truthful and accurate? Can scientific images be artistically evaluated? If so, by which criteria?

We know that positivist History and Philosophy of Science has completely neglected the study of image in science, considering it as a mere illustrative entity. Art Historians, by their side, have only been interested in scientific image in articulation with the aesthetics of its time. Further, the interest of Iconography towards scientific image is strictly technical, totally away from the scientific content those images are supposed to illustrate (Blunt e Stearn, 1994). Now, in the line of Mitchell (1998), we want to study image in science both in internal terms, concerned with the construction of scientific discourse, and external, related to the ideological and aesthetical factors of its production, use and public appropriation. To see, e.g., in which way images produced by science overcome the intentions with which they were created by scientists and are propagated to general culture where they came to configure our image and discourse about the planet, sexuality, race, etc.

On the basis of an interdisciplinary
team, this project takes image as its central object of research. This is to be done by a comparative methodology, always trying to intertwine Art and Science. We want to undertake some CASE-STUDIES able to give us a deeper understanding of the status and functions of image in Art and Science. We propose to do a set of historical studies on some paradigmatic works characterized by the hybrid status of image as knowledge entities endowed with aesthetical value vs artistic objects cognitively oriented (Leonardo, Vesalius, Goethe and Darwin) (task5). We will also investigate the forms by which image is used in the construction of scientific concepts and in the communication/diffusion of science by referring to the systematic study of Portuguese scientific illustration (task 7), and by the exhaustive survey of the place of image in two Portuguese journals (scientific and of divulgation nature – task 6). A main undertaking will be fostered in collaboration with the Faculties of Medicine and Fine Arts of the University of Lisbon. We propose to identify, classify and study the unexplored collection of anatomical drawings of the Museum of Medicine (t8) and to compare those data with the rich collection of nude drawings from the Faculty of Fine Arts (task 9). We hope that the confrontation between the scientific study of human anatomy and the artistic drawing of the human body will have relevant heuristic results. In dialogue with the philosophical tradition and its recent developments (Bachelard, Deleuze – task 4), we will also question the very nature of image and, if possible, participate at the elaboration of a “philosophy of image” (task 1). We propose to analyze the role played by image in some main epistemological and semiotic programs (Leibniz, Frege and Peirce – task 2) and to question the reach of such recent explorations of Neuroaesthetics in science and art in the 90s (tasks 6,7,8,9).

We take on
three main commitments: to give special attention to Portuguese production of image in terms of science and art, to promote an interdisciplinary research with artistic, scientific and philosophical communities in Portugal; to divulgate our data and results (task 11).