"Meaning is a Physiognomy": Wittgenstein on Seeing Words and Faces


  • Carolina Scotto Universidad Nacional de Córdoba




physiognomy - seeing aspects - experience of meaning -seeing meanings


The second part of Philosophical Investigations and other contemporary writings contain abundant material dedicated to the examination of visual perception, along the lines of similarities and differences manifested in the use of concepts such as “seeing as”, “seeing aspects”, “noticing the aspect”, “aspect blindness”, among other, related ones. However, the application of these concepts to phenomena such as face perception and word perception has not received proper attention in the literature. Our interest lies in identifying the features pertaining facial perception and recognition of its content in order to understand how and to what extent they contribute to shed light on perceptual (and experiential) relationships we have with language, in particular with its written form. In other words, we will try to show in what ways the “phenomenology of facial perception” or “physiognomy” helps to understand the “experience of meaning” and the “phenomenology of reading”. My interpretative hypothesis is that, in Wittgenstein’s view, the features shared by face and word perception are more profound than a mere analogy, and that, in the case of words, these features can explain specific semantic (perhaps, semantic-pragmatic) phenomena that should be included in an appropriate reconstruction of the varieties of use in natural languages. 

Author Biography

Carolina Scotto, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba

Carolina Scotto is Professor of Philosophy at the National University of Córdoba (UNC) and an Independent Researcher at the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET), Argentina. She has occupied many academic positions, such as Dean of the Philosophy and Humanities Faculty (1999–2005) and Rector of the National University of Córdoba (2007–2013). She has published articles and chapters, and she has been co-editor of books on the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, including animal minds, and Wittgenstein’s later thought. Her current research is about iconicity in language and the multimodal character of human and animal communication.