Wittgenstein’s Forms of Life: A Tool of Perspicuous Representation

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The focus is on two texts by Wittgenstein where “forms of life” constitute the pivot of an extended argument: “Cause and Effect” and the discussion of colour concepts in “Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology”. Wittgenstein’s take on causality is compared with G. H. von Wright’s interventionist account. Wittgenstein’s remark that forms of life must be accepted is a remark on philosophical method. Philosophy is a descriptive, non-reductive enterprise: philosophy aims to identify what escapes reduction in a given inquiry. At the same time, Wittgenstein’s remark is directed against foundationalist conceptions of “the given” – especially, the Empiricist idea of simple experience as the rock bottom of knowledge. A form of life is given, not because it cannot be analysed further, but because it constitutes the form of the given investigation. Thus philosophical focus is shifted from justification to the activities of inquiry as such. Wittgenstein pursues this line of investigation further in On Certainty and in Remarks on Colour. The two currently dominant interpretations of “forms of life” are the “linguistic community” view and the “naturalist”’ view. Neither view has credible backing in textual evidence. Both imply a form of foundationalism, in contrast with Wittgenstein’s idea of a descriptive method.
Translated title of the contributionWittgensteins livsformer: Ett verktyg för översiktlig framställning
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-131
Number of pages25
JournalNordic Wittgenstein Review
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Wittgenstein, Forms of Life, Causality, Colour, G. H. von Wright, Bertrand Russell, Empiricism, Foundationalism, Philosophical Method


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