On Wittgenstein’s Notion of a Surveyable Representation: Rituals, Aesthetics, and Aspect-Perception

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I demonstrate that analogies, both explicit and implicit, between Wittgenstein’s discussions of rituals, aesthetics, and aspect-perception have important payoffs in terms of understanding his notion of a ‘surveyable representation’ (übersichtliche Darstellung) as it applies to phenomena that are not exclusively grammatical in nature. In particular, I argue that a surveyable representation of various anthropological and aesthetic facts allows us to see, qua form of aspect-perception, internal relations and formal connections, so that the inner nature of a ritual or the solution of an aesthetic puzzle is exhibited. This particular form of seeing both explains why Wittgenstein thought that hypothetical explanations about the origins of a ritual are irrelevant to appreciating its meaning and elucidates his understanding of rituals, which involves seeing ‘internal relations’ and ‘formal connections’. The upshots of the account for work in anthropology are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)825-838
Number of pages14
JournalAustralasian Journal of Philosophy
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022


  • aesthetics
  • anthropology
  • aspect-perception
  • perspicuous representation
  • surveyable representation
  • Wittgenstein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy

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