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Wittgenstein on forms of life : a short introduction

Tonner, Philip (2017) Wittgenstein on forms of life : a short introduction. E-Logos Electronic Journal for Philosophy. ISSN 1211-0442

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Abstract

This paper is an introductory exploration of the notion of ‘forms of life’ in the later philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein. The notion of ‘forms of life’ is central to understanding Wittgenstein’s later philosophy. Even though this is the case, there have been a variety of interpretations of this notion in the literature on Wittgenstein’s thought. In part this is due to Wittgenstein’s infrequent reference to ‘forms of life’. The term ‘form of life’ only appears five times in the Philosophical Investigations, the central text of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy. It is a point of debate whether the notion of ‘forms of life’ commits Wittgenstein to a form of relativism. This paper explores this problem. We argue that it is entirely possible for members of different conceptual communities to engage in dialogue with each other on Wittgenstein’s view. We argue that Wittgenstein was not a cognitive relativist. Wittgenstein’s conviction was that truth is bound to this complicated form of life, or the fundamentally human perspective. His view of truth remains perspectival. Members of different conceptual communities can enter into dialogue. Other ‘forms of life’ are available to “us” and members of diverse groups can change their views.