The Face of the Work of Art: Wittgenstein on Expression

Bernard J. Rhie


In this essay I argue that Wittgenstein’s numerous remarks about faces and face
perception hold the key to understanding aesthetic expression. Moreover, I
suggest that by seeing the connections between aesthetic perception and the way
we perceive faces, we can better appreciate the stakes of ongoing disputes about
aesthetic expression: especially debates about whether the expressive qualities
of artworks are real or merely the projections of beholders. What is ultimately
at stake in such disputes, I suggest, is the proper acknowledgement (or denial)
of the expressiveness of the human body: debates about art, that is, serve as
proxies for debates about human beings.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; physiognomy; aesthetics; emotion; perception; acknowledgement; poststructuralism; body; soul

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