Tractarian Form as the Precursor to Forms of Life


  • Chon Tejedor University of Hertfordshire University of Oxford



Wittgenstein Ludwig, Tractatus, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Form, form of life, Natural Science, Picture, Pictorial Form, Logical Form, Representational Form


Interpreters are divided on the question of whether the phrase ‘form of life’ is used univocally in Wittgenstein’s later writings. Some univocal interpreters suggest that, for Wittgenstein, ‘form of life’ captures a uniquely biological notion: the biologically human form of life. Others suggest that it captures a cultural notion: the notion of differently enculturated forms of human life. Non-univocal interpreters, in contrast, argue that Wittgenstein does not use ‘form of life’ univocally, but that he uses it sometimes to highlight a cluster of biological notions and sometimes a cluster of cultural ones.

The debate between univocal and non-univocal readers has generated a raft of intricate, illuminating literature on both sides. If it remains to an extent open, it is partly as a result of the fact that the textual evidence available on this matter, in Wittgenstein’s later published and unpublished writings, is so limited. In this paper, I argue that considering Wittgenstein’s earlier treatment of ‘form’ can help to shed light on his later treatment of ‘form of life’. More specifically I argue that revisiting the Tractatus’ treatment of ‘form’ gives us – perhaps surprisingly – reasons to support a non-univocal later reading of ‘forms of life’.

Author Biography

Chon Tejedor, University of Hertfordshire University of Oxford

Dr Chon Tejedor joined the University of Hertfordshire as Senior Lecturer in Philosophy in 2014. Prior to this, she was for twelve years Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Oxford, where she has retained a Research Fellowship. Her publications include two books: The Early Wittgenstein on Metaphysics, Natural Science, Language and Value (Routledge, 2015) and Starting with Wittgenstein (Bloomsbury, 2011). She is a Member of the Honorary Committee of the British Wittgenstein Society. She is also Director of an international research project entitled “The Ethics of Cognition”.


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