Wittgenstein's Forms of Life: A Tool of Perspicuous Representation


  • Olli Lagerspetz Åbo Akademi University




Wittgenstein, Forms of life, Causation, Colour


The focus is on two texts by Wittgenstein where ‘forms of life’ constitute the pivot of an extended argument: ‘Cause and Effect’ and the discussion of colour concepts in ‘Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology’. The author argues that forms of life are above all Wittgenstein's response to the question what it is to analyse a concept. The remark that forms of life are ‘given’ and must be ‘accepted’ is a natural corollary of Wittgenstein’s antireductionism and his idea of philosophy as a descriptive enterprise. Wittgenstein is, however, not offering forms of life as the ultimate foundation of our statements about causation or colour. He shifts the focus to the questioning activity itself. Our inquiries and descriptions imply conceptions of how to look and what to accept as verification. Forms of life are given, not because they cannot be analysed further, but because the investigation will take them as given. Comparisons are made, on the one hand, with G.H. von Wright’s interventionist account of the concept of causation and, on the other hand, with the two currently dominant interpretations of ‘forms of life’: the ‘linguistic community’ view and the ‘naturalist’ view.

Author Biography

Olli Lagerspetz, Åbo Akademi University

Olli Lagerspetz is Senior Lecturer and Docent of Philosophy at Åbo Akademi University, and Docent of History of Ideas at the University of Oulu. His most recent books are A Philosophy of Dirt (Reaktionbooks, 2018), Trust, Ethics and Human Reason (Bloomsbury, 2015) and, with Kirsti Suolinna, Edward Westermarck: Intellectual Networks, Philosophy and Social Anthropology (The Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters, 2014).