Form of life (philosophy)

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Form of life (German: Lebensform) is a term used sparingly by Ludwig Wittgenstein in posthumously published works Philosophical Investigations, On Certainty and in parts of his Nachlass.[1] Wittgenstein in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (TLP) was concerned with the structure of language, responding to Frege and Russell.[citation needed] Later, Wittgenstein found the need to revise the view held in TLP as he did not resolve issues concerning elementary propositions. Leading up to a revised view in his PI, still concerned with language, but now focusing on how it is used and not insisting that it has an inherent structure or set of rules. Deriving from this that language comes about as a result of human activity.

Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben doesn't take Wittgenstein's concepts in his analysis of the history of Western monasticism in order to rethink "bare life" in contemporary (bio)politics. In The Highest Poverty – Monastic Rules and Form-of-Life, Agamben finds earlier versions of form-of-life in monastic rules, developing from 'vita vel regula', 'regula et vita', 'forma vivendi', and 'forma vitae'. Agamben looks at the emerging genre of written rules starting in the 9th century, and its development into both law and something beyond law in the Franciscan form-of-life, in which the Franciscans replaced the idea that we possess our life (or objects generally) with the concept of 'usus', that is 'use'.


  1. ^ Biletzki, Anat; Matar, Anat (2020), "Ludwig Wittgenstein", in Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2020 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2020-12-13

Further reading[edit]

  • Giorgio Agamben. The Highest Poverty: Monastic Rules and Form-of-Life. Translated by Adam Kotsko. Stanford University Press 2013.
  • Rahel Jaeggi, Critique of Forms of Life. Cambridge, Mass. / London 2019
  • David Kishik, Wittgenstein's Form of Life. London: Continuum, 2008. ISBN 9781847062239
  • Jesús Padilla Gálvez; Margit Gaffal, Forms of Life and Language Games. Heusenstamm, Ontos Verlag, 2011. ISBN 9783868381221 [1]
  • Jesús Padilla Gálvez, Margit Gaffal (Eds.): Doubtful Certainties. Language-Games, Forms of Life, Relativism. Ontos Verlag, Frankfurt a. M., Paris, Lancaster, New Brunswick 2012, ISBN 9783868381719.
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein. Philosophical Investigations: The German Text, with a Revised English Translation 50th Anniversary Commemorative Edition. Trns, G.E.M. Anscombe. Wiley-Blackwell; 3rd edition, 202. ISBN 9780631231271