Mathematics and Forms of Life


  • Severin Schroeder University of Reading



Mathematics, form of life, Wittgenstein Ludwig


According to Wittgenstein, mathematics is embedded in, and partly constituting, a form of life. Hence, to imagine different, alternative forms of elementary mathematics, we should have to imagine different practices, different forms of life in which they could play a role. If we tried to imagine a radically different arithmetic we should think either of a strange world (in which objects unaccountably vanish or appear) or of people acting and responding in very peculiar ways. If such was their practice, a calculus expressing the norms of representation they applied could not be called false. Rather, our criticism could only be to dismiss such a practice as foolish and to dismiss their norms as too different from ours to be called ‘mathematics’.

Author Biography

Severin Schroeder, University of Reading

Severin Schroeder is Associate Professor in Philosophy at the University of Reading. He has written three monographs on Wittgenstein: Wittgenstein: The Way Out of the Fly Bottle (2006), Wittgenstein Lesen (2009), and Das Privatsprachen-Argument (1998). He is the editor of Wittgenstein and Contemporary Philosophy of Mind (Palgrave 2001) and Philosophy of Literature (Wiley-Blackwell 2010). He is currently working on a book on Wittgenstein’s philosophy of mathematics (Routledge).​


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