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Wittgenstein on Forms of Life and the Nature of Experience

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Edited By Antonio Marques and Nuno Venturinha

To what extent is the form of our life fixed, i.e. is there a form of life or forms of life? How does this bear on the nature of experience? These are two Wittgensteinian questions in need of clarification. Wittgenstein on Forms of Life and the Nature of Experience sheds light on a much exploited but rarely analysed topic in Wittgenstein scholarship while addressing central themes of contemporary philosophy. Bringing together essays from some of the leading scholars in the field, the book concentrates on Wittgenstein’s concept of Lebensform(en), and more specifically its evolution in the author’s thought until his death in 1951.

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JEAN-PIERRE COMETTI Aesthetic Experience and Forms of Life 65

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Aesthetic Experience and Forms of Life JEAN-PIERRE COMETTI Aesthetic experience was the main notion of Dewey’s book: Art as experience.1 In more general terms, it was the corner-stone of Dewey’s pragmatism. The role of experience – as Dewey con- ceived it – has recently been revitalized by Richard Shusterman in his books on “somaesthetics”. Nevertheless “experience” is an uncomfortable idea. On the one hand, it means what is happen- ing in the mind (the individual mind) and is strongly related with consciousness; on the other hand, and particularly in Dewey, it means a special and vital kind of relationship, i. e. a relationship between an organism and its surroundings. In this case, the same word belongs to a naturalistic or Darwinian way of speaking, and it contrasts with what seems to partake of the aesthetic realm. But in both cases experience appears as being self-supporting and independent of language. That is why it sounds somewhat odd and inappropriate to the ears of later post-linguistic pragmatists. From such a point of view, it seems there is no room for “ex- perience” in Wittgenstein’s philosophy. However, we need to re- member that Wittgenstein was very concerned with a special kind of understanding in fields other than language – strictly speaking – and its own rules, and this may give us reason to believe that “experience” may have a special – and rather illuminating – mean- ing in his work. From this point of view, we can find in Wittgenstein’s later philosophy an original contribution to aes- thetics that...

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