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Wittgenstein on Forms of Life and the Nature of Experience

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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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ANTÓNIO MARQUES Forms of Life: Between the Given and the Thought Experiment 143

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Forms of Life: Between the Given and the Thought Experiment ANTÓNIO MARQUES So the question is: Would we change our way of living [Lebensform] if this or that were provided for us? – And how could I answer that? Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology – Vol. II Nothing is more important for teaching us to understand the con- cepts we have than constructing fictitious ones. Culture and Value, 1948 If one takes into consideration the frequency with which Wittgenstein uses the notion of “form of life” (Lebensform) it would seem that it plays only a minor role in his philosophy. It is well known that in the Philosophical Investigations it occurs but five times. However, the infrequent occurrence of the notion does not seem to correspond to its real importance: either it means a last, not constructed level of life, a “given” that one must accept,1 or it means what makes agreement in language possible, particularly in relation to our judgments.2 In this sense, “form of life” would always be a fairly broad and general concept, which can be un- derstood as what lies at the deepest level of the limitless set of human activities. Certainly this meaning of “form of life” exists in Wittgenstein, given that our simplest and most primitive language- games lie in forms of life in which we participate since our birth 1 See PI, II, xi, p. 226. The English translation of Philosophical Investigations has undergone several editions since its first publication in...

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