DOI: 10.3390/philosophies9010004 ISSN: 2409-9287

Wittgenstein and Forms of Life: Constellation and Mechanism

Piergiorgio Donatelli
  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • Philosophy

The notion of forms of life points to a crucial aspect of Wittgenstein’s philosophical approach that challenges an influential line in the philosophical tradition. He portrays intellectual activities in terms of a cohesion of things held together in linguistic scenes rooted in the lives of people and the facts of the world. The original inspiration with which Wittgenstein worked on this approach is still relevant today in the recent technological turn associated with AI. He attacked a conception that treated human activities as material to be examined by external models of rationality. Along with other modernists such as Musil, he saw the danger of losing faith in human intellectual and moral capacities. In contrast, Wittgenstein elucidates and substantively defends an idea of forms of life in which the great normative enterprises, from science to the works of the imagination, are based on our individual capacity to take the next step from a normative authority that rests entirely with us, as agents who can claim it in the name of others, in the name of arithmetic, in the name of our native language, in the name of justice, and so on. Forms of life are the place to look to claim this authority over the mistrust we feel compelled to cultivate in our human endeavors.