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Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.

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What is the treachery of images?

7 minutes

How René Magritte turned philosophy into painting

The Belgian surrealist René Magritte (1898-1967) is known for his startling paintings that often double as philosophical riddles. One of his most stark and provocative works, The Treachery of Images (1929) is an exploration of meaning and language, juxtaposing an image of a pipe above the sentence ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe.’ – French for ‘This is not a pipe.’ A reflection on the fraught nature of words, this video essay explores The Treachery of Images in the context of the work of the influential Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), who argued that the relationship between an object and its name is arbitrary.

Video by The Nerdwriter

Support Aeon

Ideas can change the world

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.

But we can’t do it without you.

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.

No ads, no paywall, no clickbait – just thought-provoking ideas from the world’s leading thinkers, free to all. But we can’t do it without you.

Become a Friend for $5 a month or Make a one-off donation

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