On the Very Idea of a Form of Life
Baker (Lynne Rudder)
Source: Inquiry, 27:277–89, 1984
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. Drawing on writers as diverse as Saul Kripke, Stanley Cavell, G.E.M. Anscombe, Jonathan Lear, and Bernard Williams, I offer an interpretation of Wittgenstein1’s key notion of a form of life that explains why Wittgenstein2 was so enigmatic about it.
  2. Then, I show how Hilary Putnam's criticism of Wittgenstein3's philosophy of mathematics and Richard Rorty's support of (what he takes to be) Wittgenstein4's legacy in the philosophy of mind both require mistaken assumptions about Wittgenstein5's idea of a form of life.
  3. Finally, I consider the extent to which the idea of a form of life is subject to Donald Davidson's critique of the idea of a conceptual scheme.

Author’s Introduction
  1. The idea of a form of life, which occupies a crucial position in Wittgenstein6's later thought, was passed over almost in silence by Wittgenstein7 himself. I want to show why Wittgenstein8 was so spare in his elaboration of the idea of a form of life - explicitly mentioning forms of life only five times in the whole Philosophical Investigations - and how later philosophers, even of the stature of Putnam and Richard Rorty, have missed the significance of Wittgenstein9's reticence.
  2. After discussing the most persuasive interpretation of Wittgenstein10's idea of a form of life, I shall draw on recent work by Kripke and Lear in order to expose some of the difficulties of elucidation of the idea of form of life. Then, I shall try to show how Putnam's criticism of Wittgenstein11's philosophy of mathematics and Rorty's support of what he takes to be Wittgenstein12's legacy in the philosophy of mind both require mistaken assumptions about Wittgenstein13'sidea of a form of life. Finally, I shall consider the extent to which Davidson's critique of the idea of a conceptual scheme is applicable to the idea of a form of life.

Comment:

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